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Bangkok

Few cities have the notoriety of Bangkok. The world over, it’s a city associated with heat, sex, booze, and drugs. Indeed, it can be a weird place. Walk down the street in Patpong or Khao San Road at midnight absorbed in a sea of drunken tourists and transvestite whores and you’ll feel one hell of a long way from Kansas.

The police and municipal government have tried their best to put down some control over the tourist hordes. For a while, most bars and convenience stores were required to stop selling booze after midnight, although as recently as February, 2009 these rules seemed to be pretty lax.

In reality, Bangkok is one of the world’s loneliest cities. It’s a place where everyone seems to be selling something, and all the foreigners are so hung up on themselves and their drunken binging that there’s little room for friendly conversation or human decency. It’s a place where you can grab a big bottle of booze and sit in the street getting hammered and no one will bother you or even give you a second look.

The best thing to do in Bangkok is wander around at night. Beyond the hedonism of the tourist areas, the traveler can often stumble across amazing things in Bangkok at night. Take for example the giant gold plated statue of the Buddha not far from Khao San Road… or the temple complex just outside of the Royal Palace. During the day hundreds of pale skinned tourists will be clambering through snapping pictures, drenching themselves in sweat, but at night, the traveler can sit in quiet contemplation and solitude in the middle of a garden surrounded by temples and relax…

Nighttime seems to take the edge off of Bangkok and put a softer face on it, especially outside of the tourist areas. Indeed, the nighttime is the only time to go walking around. During the day the temperatures and humidity are enough to bring the hung-over traveler to a heat stroke. In general, Bangkok is a very safe city with regard to violent crime, so female travelers should have no trouble walking around alone at night just about anywhere.

Going to Bangkok is just inevitable. It is in virtually every aspect the center of SE Asia, and the mobs of foreign tourists are a testament to that. Some people will stay around for a few days, some may even like the place, but there are certainly better places to go in Thailand.