Last year some 21.47 million people descended on Bangkok; officially the most-visited city in the world. And I was one of them. I think my senses are still heightened from the experience. I remember my first, stiflingly hot evening like it was yesterday. On a chaotic street near the backpackers’ paradise of Khao San Road, my friendly guide, saw me admiring bundles of fresh jasmine for sale. Unbeknownst to me, he bought me some.
When, moments later, he presented them to me, I found the act so unexpected and generous (indeed, Thai people are known for such qualities) that, in my jet-lagged state, I got quite emotional. Then, when I inhaled the thick, perfumey scent, my eyes actually glassed over. I know, I know. Embarrassing, right?
Amid the blare of traffic, the swarms of people, the clusters of black wire hanging like crawling roots above me, I discovered a fleeting inner peace. This, of course, was swiftly interrupted by a stray moped, or colorful tuk tuk, or some such distraction. For me, this moment epitomises the intense, meandering energy of the Thai capital, founded in 1782. A staggering metropolis of 8.2 million people, it has a vibrancy and unpredictability that provokes strong emotions. And emotion hangs heavy in the air here, since the death last year of the exalted King Bhumibol Adulyadej after a 70-year reign.