Return to Bangkok



My friend Howie S. sent this letter and photographs to me and to all his friends after he paid a brief, but fulfilling visit to Bangkok





March 24, 2019

Dear Friends,

After I left Bangkok in July 1999, I vowed I would never return. 

Bangkok was one of the most frightening places I had ever visited, so much so, that my traveling companion Howard, who is visually challenged, held on to my arm so tightly that my circulation almost stopped. 

Everywhere we went people were intercepting us, pointing to the direction we were going and telling us not to go there: it was too dangerous. 

So why did I wind up going to Bangkok again? 

For me to get to Hong Kong from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I needed to change planes in Bangkok.  There were no nonstop flights at decent times.  Also, a friend of mine from the U.S. moved to Bangkok several years ago and had been urging me to visit.  He assured me that Bangkok was nothing like I remembered it to be, so I decided to book a hotel for two nights. 

I arrived on March 21st which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Purim.  This holiday commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a plot by its leader Haman to kill all the Jews in a single day in the 4th century BCE. 

My friend Jan is involved with the Jewish community in Bangkok and I suggested we attend the Purim festivities.  I expected to see a small group of people in celebration. 

We hired two motorbike taxis and took off.  After about twenty minutes of swerving through crazy traffic we arrived at a large hotel, took the elevator up and entered a ballroom filled with over 600 people.  And as part of the Purim tradition, more than 200 children were dressed in all sorts of costumes.  It absolutely blew my mind. 

Who would have thought? 

One whole side of the ballroom was lined with tables of every kind of food you could imagine, and the food was constantly being replenished.  I also found out that the hotel had a kosher kitchen.

So what about Bangkok? 

Bangkok turned out to be NOTHING like I experienced in 1999.  It is a vital, modern, exciting and safe city. 

In 1999, the overhead rail system (BTS Skytrain) was in its initial stages of being built.  Now it is a massive system which covers large sections of the city.  It is built very high above the ground, so the streets below have plenty of sunlight.

In addition to the Skytrain, there is an extensive modern and clean subway system called the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit).

I walked all around the city, felt very safe and enjoyed every moment including a beautiful religious ceremony.

I also got high…that is walking high above the busy traffic below on the amazing elevated walkways which cover the congested Siam business area of the city. 

I was able to walk for several miles not only on the walkways but also on connecting bridges which weave in and out of four huge shopping centers and into the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and the National Stadium.  The same music was being played through every shopping center, and on the bridges and all the walkways

I did find it interesting when I spotted one particular government building on my walk through the city.

So, as I said, Bangkok turned out to be absolutely fabulous and a city that I would definitely consider visiting again.




Howie sent an additional comment: Jan, Just need to let you know that I have such great memories of being in Bangkok and spending time with you as well. Thank you. I loved the whole Jewish experience, meeting Rabbi Kantor, and just walking all around the city. I also loved the motorcycle taxi. I loved being out in the open and scooting through the crazy traffic and trusting my life to the driver. FANTASTIC!!!

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