The very first day I arrived in Bangkok, I went to 7-eleven, of course. I needed some water and Oreos to cheer up my jet lag. At that time I didn’t know that we had a water machine, standing right in front of our building, where you can just fill up your bottles with drinking water, so you don’t have to walk all the way to 7-eleven in 35C degrees heat just to get a bottle of water.
But it was the first day, and I didn’t know that. I didn’t know much about Bangkok at that time, but that’s exactly why I choose Bangkok fro my semester abroad. I wanted to go to a place that I’ve never been to before. I wanted to try something new and different, something exciting and exotic, and already on my first day I got a taste of my new exotic life.
I was walking to 7-eleven, feeling very sorry for myself. 7-elevens are literally everywhere in Bangkok, but obviously the closest one to Nonsi was around 15 minutes away, and according to Bangkok-7eleve-distance standard, 15 minutes is pretty far.
So, I’m walking to 7eleven, thinking how hard my life will be if I will have to walk every single day FOR 15 MINUTES back and forth with heave bottles of water.
And than I saw people who’s problems in life were probably much bigger than distance to 7-eleven. People who lived only 5 minutes away from me, but it seemed like our lives were separated by 10000 kilometres.
People who lived in poverty. Their houses were made of tinware, wood, pieces of fabric, looking like they could fall apart any minute. There was a lot of mess, all kind of objects laying around, tires, broken furniture, trash. There were animals, dogs, cats, chickens running around, and children. Little kids playing on the sidewalk. Everything covered in dust and dirt from the road.
I went to 7-eleven, got my water and Oreos, and went back home, trying not to stare too much on the way back.
My curiosity felt out of place.
The next day was my first school day, and I discovered a completely different side of Bangkok. My school was located in the central area of the city, amongst shiny skyscrapers, where the streets were clean and modern, grass was looking green and fresh, and people passing by looked nothing like the people that I saw living on the side of the busy road on my way to 7-eleven the day before.
It was a very different Bangkok.
In Chula majority of my teachers were educated abroad, I had teachers who went to Harvard, Yale, Oxford. Many students went to international schools, all were very well traveled, everyone spoke English perfectly. In the evenings we would meet many of them in clubs and bars we went to. In Demo, one of the favourite nightlife spots of Chula students, drinks and entrance costed pretty much the same as it cost in Copenhagen, and drinks and entrance in Copenhagen are definitely far from being cheap (that’s why international students went to Demo mainly on Wednesdays when the entrance was free).
I learned very fast that Bangkok is a city of many faces, it’s a city of contrasts.
It’s a city of rich and poor. It’s a city of new and old. It’s a city where people can have a very good life or a very bad life. It’s full of modern skyscrapers, infinity pools, luxurious rooftop bars and people who can afford a little shopping trip to Siam Paragon for a new Ferrari, and people who couldn’t even dream of entering the centre. There are people in this city who have a couple of thousand bath dinner on top of Banyan Tree, and people who can only afford a simple street food meal for 50 bath.
My Bangkok was the new Bangkok. I lived with a bunch of foreigner from all around the world, we went to a western supermarket nearby where you could get a proper European cheese (little piece that costed as much as 10 Thai street food meals). The supermarket was always full of other foreigners, looking tanned and happy, getting their bread and cheese. In Chula classes had the most modern equipment. We would have gust lectures from Thai entrepreneurs who made billions building high-rise apartment buildings. Student were driving expensive cars to school, and on the lunch breaks went to the nearby mall to have sushi that costed 10 times more than lunch in school’s canteen.
In my Bangkok life was really good. It was always warm and sunny, I went to a nice school in my nice uniform, I had friends and a pool to jump in after classes, but whenever I would pass the houses of people who were living on the side of the busy road next to 7-eleven, I would think how lucky I was, not everyone got so lucky.
I talk to you soon,
check out my videos if you want to see more of my life in Bangkok 🙂