Arriving Bangkok from India was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We had a 6 AM flight to get there, which meant we only slept a couple hours before the flight and I got no sleep on the flight itself. On top of this, it took four hours to go through customs (I guess I never appreciated the organization of Indian airports). When we finally reached the city, we were completely out of it, but looking around, it was clear that there were many things that were very different than the last few months had been.
The most notable difference was skin. Everyone was wearing shorts. Girls were wearing short shorts. This was a big change from the much more conservative sarees and salwar kameez that we had become accustomed to seeing. And Westerners. So many Westerners. Westerners dressed like they’re at the beach. Westerners walking with locals. Westerners holding hands with locals (the sex tourism industry in Thailand is alive and well). In india, you would never see a local woman engaging with a foreign man like this in public.
We were so shocked by these aspects of Thailand that we barely noticed how clean things were. There was no trash on the streets!
Another crazy characteristic of Bangkok hit us pretty quickly: MALLS! The malls in Bangkok put suburban America to shame. These guys are not messing around when it comes to shopping–their centers are huge and sparkling and plentiful. We went to one six story mall where each floor had a different city as it’s theme. They had Tokyo, London, Paris, San Francisco (We’re now definitely west of the US).
The culture shock took several days to get over and the most difficult thing to get used to was the number of foreigners. I found myself staring at foreigners as they passed. Who are they? What are they doing here? I finally began to understand why Indians stared at us so much.