As I write, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in a mall in Bangkok. American Starbucks cappuccinos and Thailand Starbucks cappuccinos taste exactly the same. I’m wondering if I’ve failed as a traveler.
This is my first time traveling internationally by myself, and I picked Bangkok because I heard it was traveling on easy mode. Most service-people spoke conversational english, everything was cheap, and the culture was different enough where you felt like you were actually travelling.
I can confirm these statements to be true. Most moments talking with locals went by smoothly. While I couldn’t be expected to talk about complicated matters, I certainly got by on day-to-day tasks. I’ve found that it’s really easy to communicate, as long as you’re doing what’s expected. If I go to a 7-Eleven, people expect me to buy something. If I go to a restaurant, people expect me to eat. If I go to a gym, people expect me to exercise. As long as I stayed within these boundaries, pure body language alone was sufficient.
Cheap food is also fairly true, and very abundant. I had full and delicious meals for a little over a dollar. Green curry, noodles, chicken rice, there were plenty of cheap street food stalls. I loved the aesthetic of ordering something from these stalls, and sitting on a plastic chair nearby, watching as cars pass by. My only touch up on cheap food is that it’s very possible to spend a lot of money, if one wants to. This city will find ways to part your money from your wallet if you let it. I imagine it’s the same with all cities.
The culture was interesting too, but surprisingly not surprising. There were definitely cultural differences between Thailand and America. Bangkok has pictures of royalty everywhere. America has (more) orderly drivers. There are definitely differences in values, but the people aren’t as different as I expected. People talked about their families, their jobs, their friends. Same concepts, but different approaches.
If I had to do it again, I would probably have tried to talk more with the locals. The language barrier has certainly imposed a challenge for establishing deeper connections, but hey, nothing usually works the first time around. Until next time.