Is Bangkok nothing more than a cesspool of drink, debauchery and degeneracy that would put Sodom and Gomorrah to shame? That is certainly the reputation that the city has amongst some people at least, and others even go as far to say the city has nothing else to offer. But is that right?
A recent article has suggested that Bangkok isn’t good for anything other than drinking and having sex, and literally has nothing else going for it. This obviously prompted a storm of responses in defence of the city.
Like so many others who judge Thailand on a small percent of what happens there, the article is wrong.
Bangkok does have sex tourism and nightclubs yes, of course it does, just like many other major cities around the world; but if all you are going to salaciously judge an entire city on a thin, stereotypical sheen, then I would suggest the author of that article is missing the entire point of travel and should perhaps learn to appreciate the culture of the places they visit a little more.
It wasn’t simply that the author suggested that Bangkok has sex clubs, nightclubs and overly touristy areas. Of course it does, the fact these exist within Bangkok is undeniable. Bangkok is famous for it’s nightlife and a part of it at least is a huge focal point for the backpacker and gap year industries, any traveller visiting the famous backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road will tell you that.
It was the fact that the article quite clearly stated that this was all that there was to Bangkok. That this was nothing more than a touristic city, that there was no point in coming to Bangkok at all unless you wanted to get drunk or laid, or both, because it has lost all vestiges of any culture it once had. This is insulting not only to Thai’s and to Bangkok, but to every backpacker out there.
I would suggest this article was written not only by someone who – by his own admission – had not spent much time in the city, but could not even be bothered to move far from the westernised ghettoes surrounded by other western backpackers and comfortable, familiar food in KSR or the scantily clad ladies in certain bars, just like any typical package tourist on a short layover. Yet he still has the audacity to call himself a traveller? One who can judge the whole of Bangkok – and by extension Thailand – on this short visit alone?
Bangkok has so much more going for it and so many things to see and do. Even in the relatively short time he did deign to grace this magnificent city with his presence, he could have quite easily gotten away from the tourist trail and the bars.
He has seen less than a very small percentage of an extremely large and vibrant city, and fallen into the same stereotypical trap as the narrow minded people who have never even been to Thailand still manage to judge the country on.
I love Thailand, and have been to Bangkok quite a few times now over the last fifteen years. Yet as a predominantly solo traveller and one who also happens to be male, whenever I told people where I was headed or where I had been I received those condescendingly knowing looks, that wink and the nod, the ‘Oh yeah we know what you went there for!’ This makes me so angry, angry that people are judging me in the same context as those often fat, middle aged sex tourists, angry on behalf of the Thai’s who are an amazing people with a deep and rich culture, angry for the narrow minded people who judge the whole of Thailand on such a narrow minded attitude and angry that they are lumping me in with those sweaty, perverted losers!
Of course Bangkok has some of the best clubs and bars in the region, and of course the red light districts there are perhaps among the most infamous in the world. Some tourists do undoubtedly go there for those experiences and I am sure if you want to party then Bangkok will absolutely accommodate you and then some.
But if you don’t like that sort of thing – and frankly I can understand that because I don’t – and still visit Bangkok, that is fine. You don’t have to frequent those bars, you don’t have to spend all of your time on KSR surrounded by other backpackers. Just don’t head to those relatively small areas of the city that offer nothing but clubs, sex shows and bars?
It is the all encompassing ‘that is all it is’ and ‘that’s all anyone goes there for attitude that annoys me.
Not everyone who heads to Bangkok goes there for that experience, and it is as wrong to suggest that all travellers do, or all travellers leave with that impression, just as much as it is wrong to suggest that that is all Bangkok has to offer.
Because Bangkok is far, far more than that. Sure, it may take a little time to get to know this notoriously multilayered city, but it will reward your efforts tenfold if you do look beyond the surface.
The shopping alone is some of the best in South East Asia, with traditional floating markets mixing with glass and chrome megamalls. The culinary scene is world famous and the food markets alone are worth a trip or two, and that is even before you start to explore the plethora of lesser known temples and shrines beyond the confines of the Grand Palace and the cultural aspects of the city that comes with that exploration. The Thai’s are an extremely patriotic and deeply traditional people, I wonder if the author even took the time to understand the vaguest thread of the rich cultural tapestry in Thailand.
So if you go to Bangkok, by all means enjoy the tourist trail, enjoy a few drinks on Khao San Road with other backpackers and visit the Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha like everyone else, they are amazing places and popular for a reason, but make an effort to explore the wider city too. Don’t judge an entire city on just a few streets. Take the time to scratch beneath the touristy surface of Bangkok and you will discover a deep, rich well of cultural heritage bubbling underneath the surface, just waiting for anyone with an open mind to discover it.
So what do you all think, is the article right? Is Bangkok not worth going to because its culture has been lost? Does everyone just go there to get drunk and laid? Or do you think like I do, that Bangkok has much more to offer than that?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or please join in the discussion on my Facebook or Twitter pages, and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons and spread the word.
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