Haunted House
Haunted House

Bangkok, Where Pleasure is King

The mood of Bangkok is very special in Southeast Asia. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, for example, is a whirlpool of frustration; a capital in orbit around anti-colonial slogans. Singapore is energetic, engaged in a puritanical revolution; Kuala Lumpur, in Malaya, is easygoing, a capital with Arabian Nights architecture, where the work manages to get done every day. Bangkok, though, is a rejuvenating tonic; the people seem to have found the magic elixir. Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.

Theirs is a land of joi de vivre, where every moment seems worth celebrating. Convivial gatherings for snacks, eight or nine times a day, are considered sanook (joyfully pleasurable), as are the kite fights taking place at the Pramane Grounds. Gossiping is sanook. So is television. A bottle of Mekhong, the raw whisky made here, is sanook di – doubly pleasurable.

Bernard Kalb, The New York Times, April 15, 1961.

Yes, folks, it’s as true today as it was when Bernard Kalb wrote this for the NYT. In Bangkok, pleasure really IS king. Everything is sacrificed to sanook, including timetables, customers, and personal safety. You have been warned.

In Old Bangkok: River Scene of Glorious Confusion. A wonderful era!

From The Eastern Seas, by George Windsor Earl. 1837: We now threaded our way amongst junks, boats, and floating houses, jumbled together in glorious confusion and totally concealing the banks from our view. Hundreds of small canoes, some not larger than clothes-baskets, were passing to and fro, many of them containing talapoins, or priests, paddling lazily from house to house, collecting presents and provisions. The occupants of the floating houses were taking down the shutters which formed the fronts, exposing their wares for sale: printed calicoes, pater umbrellas, sweetmeats, fruits, pots, pans, etc., being placed in situations calculated to attract the notice of passersby. This occupation was carried on entirely by the women, the men being seated on the platforms, smoking their cigars or making preparations to take a cruise in their canoes. At this period of the year, when the river becomes swelled by the rains, whole streets of floating houses, together with their inhabitants, sometimes break adrift from their moorings and are carried down the river – to the utter confusion of the shipping. These floating streets, nevertheless, possess their advantages. A troublesome neighbor may be ejected, house, family, pots and pans, and all, and sent floating away to find another site for his habituation. In Old Bangkok: River Scene

Read more stories from old Bangkok at Amazon.

This is how I remember Bangkok when I first visited it in December, 1967: In Old Bangkok: River Scene

More about Bangkok..

But..here comes the new rail line that will link Bangkok to Singapore and Kunming, China.

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