Another day and night spent travelling; hopping from one plane to another, mountains to desert to jungle, the world changes around me as I skip across its surface. And now here I am, my first morning waking up in Bangkok. The air is warm and sweet, the smell of city streets and flowered palaces, of putrid canals rolling past temples with incense rising listlessly into the exhaust thick air. It is an Asian breeze. Not since Beijing have I awoken to an air like this, but that is where the similarities with China end. Everything about this city is different from the Chinese metropolises I've seen. Despite the fact that the city is wracked in revolt, there's a vibrancy alive in the streets. China is a country under the yoke of technocrats and force-fed progressiveness, a nation enslaved by its own development.
Thailand, on the other hand, sweats its freedom out of every pore. Bars drip from the deluge of Europeans and Americans, their hawkers in the street competing to draw the crowd, their weapons are cheap drinks, funky decors and guitar acts swooning streetwalkers with familiar american tunes sung in nasally Thai voices. Taxi drivers pimp girls on the street corners with laminated menus of services rendered. Old white men with wedding rings on their fingers strut down the sidewalks with young Thai girls on their arms, their holiday wife-for-hire. A city of vice- dirty, libertine and profitable. Welcome to Bangkok, where all your desires are only a few dollars away.
My arrival in Thailand coincided with the day the protesters had called to shut down Bangkok, but even their revolution had a certain festivity to it like no where else in the world. The train was packed with celebrating protesters, dressed in protest shirts and wearing Thai flags as bracelets and scarfs. Across from them police officers stood about nonchalantly, bored or smiling along with the protesters. It was a stark contradiction to the hyped up fears promoted by western media outlets. The day I left Europe the State Department issued an advisory warning urging Americans to stock up on two weeks' supply of food and water. A military coup is said to be imminent but that's not the feeling on the streets. A rickshaw from the train station brought me through the protest as he tried to navigate his way through blocked off streets as he worked his way towards the hostel. Behind the shouting protest organizers on the stage a band was tuning up. Streets vendors smiled as they peddled their wares in the festival like atmosphere. Bangkok, a town like no other.