L’Observateur : Bangkok Edition

Long Live the King

In Thailand, it is now the year 2554.

Thais call Bangkok “Khrung Thep.” Ex-pat residents call it “The Big Mango.” So, I guess that means only non-Thai non-residents call it “Bangkok.”

Thailand has the longest-reigning monarch in the world in King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been in power since 1950. The royal family is protected by the country’s strict lèse majesté laws, which make it an offense to insult the monarchy, to the point that if you badmouth the royals, you might spend some time in jail. In fact, the Thai government is so sensitive about the subject, that you can’t access the King’s Wikipedia page from within Thailand.

According to Wikileaks, there is some concern among Thais about the Prince (and probable future King) because he is a womanizer. Also, there are currently photography exhibitions by two of the Princesses up at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. [Review redacted].

The street food scene in Bangkok is outrageous and fantastic. There is no way to report the breadth of this experience, so I won’t even try, but it is worth noting that we ate at least five times a day and never once came close to getting sick. Again: It is totally safe to eat street food in Thailand. Do it. The only downside is that sometimes you smell sewage while you’re eating.

You can’t mail parcels larger than 500 grams from Thailand to the United States. When asked why, the Thai postal officer told me: “Not my country, YOUR COUNTRY!” Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have a way to x-ray for bombs ... or there are Muslims in Thailand (the latter). Also, it is inexplicably verboten to mail a package of any sort from Thailand to an American P.O. Box.

Thai cigarette packages feature extremely graphic images to keep you from smoking. What’s with the foot?:

There are TV monitors on the Bangkok Metro that show cat cartoons.

Chatuchak Weekend Market on the northern edge of Bangkok is rated by some as the best street market in Asia, and there is a foodie paradise called the Or Tor Kor market adjacent. Highly recommended.

On two separate occasions, a Thai person told me they had just returned from a vacation in Laos. When I asked why, they both said “trees.”

I have now circumnavigated the globe in my lifetime. The route goes something like this: Austin to Newark to Paris to Cairo to Bangkok to Hong Kong to Taipei to Los Angeles to Austin. Take that, Magellan!

Thais don’t honk much.


  1. When you say "honk" do you mean in their cars, or do you mean "smell"?