Khlong Toey, Bangkok's Scariest* Market.
I’d seen things online about Khlong Toey. How it’s located in shanty roofs in Bangkok’s biggest slum. Keep your bag in front of you. It said, online. They’ll be frying baby chickens, it warned.
But I needed vegetables to stock up for all the Thai food I’ve been cooking and plan to cook - and this was also the biggest all-day “wet market” (one with vegetables and meat) in town.
So I got on the train (goodness, Bangkok has an awesome public transit system), walked a few blocks, and after some wrong turns and missteps, entered Bangkok’s scariest market.
And you know what? It was full of really regular Thai people, just like the folks I’ve been interacting with every day I’ve been here. Yes, people were butchering chickens and wriggly fish. It’s a food market. That’s what happens there. But in every noticeable way, this could have been any little market I’ve run into, from Phuket to Chiang Mai. I walked all through it, disappeared down tiny alleys and didn’t for an instant feel unsafe.
In fact, the only difference was how much bigger it was, how good the fresh veggies and fruit were, and the huge variety of foods that were available. I picked up all the semi-obscure ingredients I needed, a pretty nice knife, and a mug for my daily iced coffee addiction, no sweat.
Almost a week in, I still feel like I’m trying to make sense of Bangkok. It’s supposed to be this chaotic, overwhelming tumult of a city, everyone out to get you, every turn awash in color and smell. One night in Bangkok and all that.
But mostly, it just feels like Thailand. A big city in Thailand. I’m certain that if I’d just stepped off the plane from Beverly Hills, this world would seem insane, falling apart, unsanitary. It’s the power of everything is relative, the truth of culture shock.
But in truth, things actually seem significantly saner here. People focus on the stuff that matters. Eat good food. Make a living. Be good to your family and friends. Be kind to strangers.
Everyone stops what they’re doing to coo and play with passing children, smiles at one another, shows joy at seeing a friend they haven’t in a week. And any chance they get, you’ll find people finding a reason to laugh.
Welcome to Bangkok. Welcome to Khlong Toey.
You know what slums are filled with? Good people.