Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bangkok: Cityscape

Bangkok is full, like an overstuffed suitcase.

Everywhere you look, the space is fully occupied, with humanity spilling out over the edge into the street. Look up, and the skyscrapers, shopping malls and Skytrain rails compete for their own piece of skyline.

Look down, and you need a verbal machete of “excuse me”'s and “sorry”'s to hack your way through the jungle of narrow streets, pavement food vendors, three-deep market stalls and their non-stop throng of customers.

Looking down from our 67th-floor room at the Baiyoke Sky hotel it's almost like studying an ant farm.
See the Johnnie Walker ad on the tower? Our room was about at the end of JW's coat-tails

Being behind the ad picture, city photos taken from our window were a bit fuzzy.

What seems at first a static vista becomes, on closer inspection, a labyrinth of hustle and bustle with tiny dots scurrying back and forth, hurrying as if to meet some anonymously imposed scurry quota.
Just being here is tiring.

Another striking image is all the wires. Some eccentric city planner seems long ago to have had the bright idea of stringing all the power cables and telephone wires along the street, about ten feet off the ground. So between the undergrowth of human jungle and the soaring canopy of concrete towers, you have this tangled nervous system of black lines pumping conversations, light, and information around, like a network of veins protruding from the skin of this monster city.

When the Thai people have had enough of jostling for position on the pavements, they jump into or onto a vehicle and do battle on the roads. When we first arrived I saw many buildings along the streets that were soot-blackened, like scarred victims of a long-extinguished fire, but the soot is from the incessant belching of thousands of exhaust pipes as they pass by or, more often, stand in gridlock waiting their turn to creep forward another few feet.
But more of traffic another time.

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