On the surface, Paris and Bangkok are obviously, two completely different cities. Paris is a city filled with European history, food oozing with butter, and famous landmarks. Bangkok is a city of roadside markets, ancient temples and chaotic traffic.
Both are alive with tourists and locals, and top the must-see lists for any traveller.
Up until last year, Paris was the number one tourist destination worldwide. Today it holds the 3rd spot on that list, and in number one? You guessed it. Bangkok.
I have been fortunate to travel to both of these bustling metropolitans in the last month. Here are four observations on the differences between the cities that have really stayed with me.
- Money, Money, Money
Things in Paris are EXPENSIVE! Things in Bangkok are CHEAP! That may seem obvious to you, but with back-to-back trips, the cost of things really leaps out at you. As magical as Paris is, your money just goes so much further in Bangkok (even further in the smaller cities). I like to find a common item to really get the true comparison, so I usually use a coffee as my guide. Average cost of a coffee (in $USD) in a little café in Paris: $6.00. Average cost of a coffee (in $USD) in a little café in Bangkok: $1.40.
Everywhere you go in Thailand, people are friendly and welcoming and just so happy to have you (and your foreign cash). The public transit system is light years better than it was when I was a kid, and there are people everywhere genuinely happy to help the lost “Farangs”. In Paris, I felt the opposite; I felt that I was in everybody’s way. My bad French was met with eye-rolls, where as my bad Thai is met with delight.
- Faking it (Language)
If you’ve taken any French at all in your life, you’ll be surprised by what comes back to you in just a short amount of time. Even if your French is horrible, speaking and reading English is helpful when guessing what is happening in a conversation, or reading a menu. Conversely, Thailand has its own complex alphabet that contains 44 consonants and 15 vowel symbols, so there is no guessing and faking it. Thankfully there is plenty of English, often special English menus and people who speak English.
Both Paris and Bangkok are cities with rich histories. Paris is home to some incredible buildings that play an important role in art, liberty and democracy. Bangkok has incredible temples that date back thousands of years. The difference between the two cities is that Paris defines itself to tourists on these buildings and monuments, and its old world charm with its cute cafes, accordion music and old cobbled streets. It is a major draw to outsiders. On the other hand, Bangkok is caught in a balancing act with trying to catch up to Big Brothers like Hong Kong and Singapore in terms while maintaining it’s ancient history in an exploding population. Travellers to Bangkok can find the history, it is definitely there, however it is not the only reason to come to the capital of Thailand.
So which is my favorite?
Impossible to choose, both cities are alive with colour and flavours so different from each other and from the countries that surround them.
As travel and globalization become a part of every day life, I hope that these beautiful cities are able to preserve what is unique to each of them.