A street corner in Bangkok

9 Jun

I’m standing at the intersection of four wide roads.  The heat is overwhelming.  An invisible boiling water soaked blanket, smothering the city.  I’m so hot that I feel as if I’m standing in a steaming shower, fully clothed.  Even the belt on my shorts is damp.  A dark stain creeping across the leather from the pool of sweat collected in the curve of my lower back.

High rise buildings fence in the surrounding streets, trapping the heat, noise and smells.  A gold and white temple, all curved lines and painted statuary is an exuberant juxtoposition against the the flat, straight, blank towers.

As I breathe in the clammy humidity, the first thing to hit my nostrils, making me gag, is the sweet stench of  rubbish rotting in the heat.  The nausea inducing smell of decay is cut with the heavy, perfumed fragrance of incense burning at a nearby shrine and the woody smoke of the food vendors’ charcoal burners.  Cooking food, exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke from the people hurrying past join the already heady mix.

The food vendors have set up stall along the length of the pavement.  They squat beside their buckets of fire, cooking a inventive array of snacks and meals, boiled eggs, baked bananas, pancakes, soups, stews, animal parts on sticks, sticky rice steamed in little banana leaf parcels.  Charcoal flames are fanned with one hand while pancakes are flipped with the other.   Customers get their food to go, or perch on tiny red plastic stools, slurping savoury, lemony, soup from large bowls, fiery ringlets of chili floating on the top.

On the opposite pavement, there are a row of fruit vendors.  The ready peeled, chopped and deseeded fruit is arranged in the vendors’ glass carts, like colourful gems in a jewellery shop display case.  Next to the fruit vendors are carts selling drinks.  Bottles of warm, lurid, sticky, fizzy liquid, their colours an artificial counterpoint to the fruit.  Drinks the colour of Smurfs, yellow day glo legwarmers and red London buses.  When you buy one, it is poured from the valuable bottle into a small plastic bag, which is swiftly converted into a drinking vessel with a knotted elastic band and a straw.  I would love the relief of adding ice to my drink, watching drops of condensation form, but I’ve seen it being dragged along the street by men with ropes like icebergs floating down a canal, picking up the detritus of the city along the way.

Life in Bangkok is never quiet.  A cacophany of beeping horns, revving motorbikes, the chirping song of caged birds, waiting to be bought and released for good luck, bouncy Thai pop music spilling out of shops, rhymic chanting and clanging bells from the temple.  And over it all, the soft lilting voices of the inhabitants, a thousand conversations in their melodical tonal language, sentences ending with a polite upbeat “krup” for men or a gentle falling “kaaa” for women.

I stand at the intersection, people rushing around me, bodies brushing past mine as they hurry on their way.  As I absorb the sounds, sights and smells, I know that this is why I travel.  To feel alive.

For this week’s Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop, I chose the prompt “Write about one moment with all of richest, imaginative sensory description you can muster.”


20 Responses to “A street corner in Bangkok”

  1. Muddling Along Mummy 09/06/2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Wow that is evocative – reminds me completely of visiting Bangkok

    Fabulous post

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 10:13 am #

      Thank you 🙂

  2. jfb57 10/06/2010 at 8:45 am #

    I knew as soon as I started reading that this was a post for WW! you have certainly given us all the senses one needs when visiting such a vibrant place. You are going to have so many more of those soon!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 10:14 am #

      Can’t wait!

  3. PK 10/06/2010 at 10:26 am #

    WOW great description – took me back to my time working with drug addicts in Hong Kong. The smells, the heat, totally amazing experiance. Thanks for recreating the memories!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 10:52 am #

      You’re very welcome!

  4. Nappy Valley Housewife 10/06/2010 at 10:50 am #

    This was wonderfully evocative. Great post. I felt like I was in Bangkok–tasting, smelling, touching, feeling. I love travelling too, especially in Asia.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 10:53 am #

      It’s such a huge contrast isn’t it? I love contrast.

  5. shar13 10/06/2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Well, you’ve described it SO well, I feel as if I’ve already been there, fantastic!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 6:56 pm #

      Thanks 🙂

  6. Paula 10/06/2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Excellent stuff! Bangkok is exactly that, and terrifyingly so….loved the imagery, I remember feeling so obviously ‘new’ amongst all that activity, feeling like it screamed out of me. Would love to go back xx

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 6:52 pm #

      It’s one of my very favourite places in the world. I do like a good city.

  7. Nickie@Typecast 10/06/2010 at 2:57 pm #

    *writes BANGKOK on “places to visit” list*

    Great piece – love it – I’ve never been but know what to expect now 🙂

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 10/06/2010 at 6:51 pm #

      Heat, and lots of it. That’s what to expect.

  8. scribblingmum 11/06/2010 at 9:36 pm #

    I loved reading that! As you know I spent time in China when I was younger and from there we then spent a year in Bangkok and this brings back lots of memories – spot on. I found myself saying ‘kaaa’ out loud!

  9. Josie @Sleep is for the Weak 12/06/2010 at 11:39 am #

    You know I don’t think I need to travel. I just need to read your blog because it takes me RIGHT THERE.

    Genuinely, you are one of the best descriptive writer’s I have ever come across. And I’m really not just saying that.


    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 12/06/2010 at 11:47 am #

      Well thank you very much. That really means a lot.

  10. Suzy 18/06/2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Wonderful narrative yet again. I felt like I was smelling and tasting Bangkok. Feeling alive while you travel is an emotion that is sometimes forgotten. Great message.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 18/06/2010 at 7:53 pm #

      Thanks Suzy!


  1. Carnival of Cities for 30 June 2010 | Perceptive Travel Blog - 30/06/2010

    […] Thailand Victoria Wallop presents A street corner in Bangkok posted at It’s a small world after […]

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