Although my time in Bangkok was short, I must admit I am not a huge fan of the city. Look like you are hesitating for about 5 seconds (or walk down the street with a backpack on) and someone will be on you trying to sell you something in a pretty intrusive in your face way. I actually wanted to get a tux made (Harvard has a thing for formal parties apparently) but the feeling of constant pressure and of getting ripped off was so overwhelming that I ended up just abandoning the idea.
It feels like a classic example of the tragedy of the commons: I am sure that if everyone could collectively back off a little bit the “yield” of dollars from each tourist would go up, but nobody can do so individually under the assumption that everyone else will keep pushing as hard.
Bangkok is also an interesting example of what really happens in a place where there are no trademark laws. Because every suit maker claims to offer “Armani” or “Prada” suits and none actually do, one becomes very skeptical of any commercial claims at all. At a restautant or hotel you can see what you are getting but any commercial good that requires the assumption of quality (clothes, watches, movies, software, travel, etc…) becomes very difficult to assess and ultimately something to avoid. This doesn’t feel like the best way to run things.
I did have an enjoyable time walking through the shopping district although a shopping mall is a shopping mall pretty much the world over. I went into a “computer mall” that in another life would have been like heaven – if you like to assemble computers out of their constituent parts, you are in a great place, but that is not me anymore.
I went by the Pat Pong night market and I had a hard time imagining that I wanted anything. Aside from the fact that essentially none of the clothes fit me, the feeling of impending rip-off is just to overwhelming to ignore. I left without buying a thing.
Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t go to any of the “shows” in Pat Pong either. I am not sure if it was just that I was turned off with the whole place but the men with their little lists of physically improbable acts and the ever present sex-tourist farangs with their tiny little Thai “girlfriends” were a real turn off. I ignored them all and went back to Kao Shan (which seemed almost calm at this point) and had a few drinks with the other backpackers. The next day I headed for the Gili Islands.