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Health & Safety

Pollution is an inescapable part of Bangkok life. The smog creates a permanent haze over the cityscape to remind everyone just how unhealthy breathing in the city is. Many Thais have come up with their own solution to smog by wearing surgeon masks while walking or driving. It’s a scary apocalyptical sight but anything goes in Bangkok.

The pollution is largely from the endless traffic congestion that bellow smoke into the thick swamp air. There is no escape in the city, so travelers with asthma might want to make their trip short. Don’t feel like a wimp, the king himself moved from his Bangkok palace because of the smog.

The rivers run an awful shade of brown and usually carry trash along with them. Although some of the city’s poorest bathe in the main river, the Chao Phraya, it’s really quite disgusting. The smaller waterways are the worst, though, a cesspool of everything diseased including dead animals, trash and sewer runoff. Just make sure you don’t fall in returning home drunk in the early hours.

Street food is pretty safe as things go though eating rice that’s sat around all day can be risky. In any case, it’s all so good that it would be criminal to miss out. It’s cheap, healthy and eating on the street is what Bangkok is all about. Thais eat about 6 times a day.

If you do get injured or sick the best bet is going to a private hospital. These hospitals cost much more than government hospitals but it’s worth it. Think sponge baths versus lines of cots and sick people coughing on each other. Pharmacies largely self prescribe so if you know what you need just look for a red cross over a store. It is possible to buy some prescription drugs like Valium from some of these stores without a prescription, just keep asking. A popular trend in Thai hospitals is pumping patients up with enough antibiotics for zoo animals and cattle. Be wary if you don’t know what you’re taking.

A little secret if you find yourself in the Siriraj government hospital and school. Go the little known museum in the basement and check out the grossest collection of body parts ever, including the entire embalmed body of a Thai serial killer that ate his victim’s liver. Only in Bangkok.


Bangkok is a safe city to wander and explore in terms of crime. Women can also walk around without worrying too much. Thais are a tough bunch but generally friendly and calm, just make sure not to make them lose face by touching them on the head or pointing the soleof your foot in their direction.

Life is cheap in Thailand, however and you may need to team up with a few others as a human shield each time you cross the road. Safety guidelines don’t mean much in a city where using opposite lanes is common driving procedure. You take your life in your hands in particular if you ever take a motorcycle taxi where the side mirrors are angled so the driver can check his hairstyle.

Alex Loeb

Alex was a Road Junky intern for a while and then disappeared into the Alaskan fishery scene never to be heard from again.