There are many things I like about Bangkok, including its generous people and its rich cultural heritage, not to mention its world-renowned hospitality industry which I have experienced first hand in hostels and hotels across the city. However, more than most other places I have visited, I have been made starkly aware that much of the city live in poverty (by western standards), which in turn brings potential problems when dealing with tourists.
It is accurate to proclaim that hygiene standards in some parts of Bangkok are subpar. In fact, be it a coincidence or not, I suffered my worst ever illness and travel sickness due a bug I picked up somewhere in the city. An unenviable 72hrs followed after picking up that bug, and to this day I still do not know how it happened. I believe I may have inadvertently swallowed some of the water from the Chao Phraya River flicking up at my face during a cruise down the infamous Klongs.
Everybody here wants your money, and some people can be aggressive in attempting to receive it. I can vividly recall walking around a market very close to the Grand Palace and beside every market stall I could see beggars with genetic mutations, including some with three arms, trying to persuade me to part with some of my Thai Baht.
Many of the highly touristy areas of Bangkok are actually the worst examples of poverty, as naturally the locals will amalgamate in these areas in the hope of conning tourists out of some cash. Not everybody is like this obviously, but you need to keep your wits about you, especially if it’s your visit to the country. For example, at Wat Pho, one of the finest attractions in Bangkok, there are multiple signs in the vicinity stating that you should be wary of pickpockets, yet these signs explicitly state that the pickpockets will not be Thai, rather you should actually be more wary of other tourists.
Just walking the streets of Bangkok is a real challenge. You will see poor electrical appliances with wires hanging free overhead and this gives the streets a much more scarier look than perhaps they would have otherwise. The areas around the perennial backpacker hangout in Khao San Road is perhaps the best example of this. For an example of what is on offer in that area, please check out my experience at Khao San Road.
Much like Delhi in India, Bangkok also has a stray dog epidemic and it is wise to avoid these dogs at all costs as one bite from them may transmit the Rabies virus. Also in comparison to India, the tuk-tuk drivers can be particularly aggressive to solo travellers who may happen to walk past them in the road. I find a firm “no” usually does the trick but I do find they can be persistent. Put simply, they just want your money.
Despite all this, by no means do I want to put anyone off coming to Bangkok, for there is much to admire here. The various Wats (temples) of Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Saket, Wat Traimit, and of course the Grand Palace will provide you with a lot of fun temple-trampling! Then there are the day trips from the city to historically beautiful places such as Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Sukhothai. The food is amazing, too! Just keep your wits about you and remember than scams are unfortunately rife in this part of the world (they are just as common in neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam, too).