The smell of food on every corner you turn to.
That, for me, is mostly what Bangkok is about. Admittedly, I am not well-travelled across Southeast Asia but you just don’t get quite as many food stalls in Japan or China (but at least more common in China than in Japan). It makes a city feel completely different, with so many more people out on the streets.
Bangkok is my first stop on a bit of a whirlwind trip across Asia. I’ve come to realize that I’m a very very different business traveller than holiday traveller. In the latter, I’m happy staying somewhere cheap, figuring out everything myself, etc. But now, I feel my focus for the next two weeks is the work that I’ve come here to do: making the most of attending the CSR Asia Summit, and building my local networks in China stronger alongside gaining much more knowledge on CSR developments. And I don’t want the distraction of having to find a hotel, or realizing that I’m in a very crappy hotel, or lugging around a suitcase in search of a metro.
Another difference is that if I’d be travelling for a holiday, I’d never cross these distances and spend so little time in each place. At the same time, it also feels good to be doing this as I think I’ll get a much clearer idea of each city and be able to compare each of these four much better. This is, of course, slightly helped by the fact that I’ve been to all of these cities before (though ranging from 14 to 1 year ago) so that means I’m not totally lost in a new place.
It’s been good getting used a little to Bangkok again – which was, in fact, 14 years ago since my last visit. Finally meeting one of my LinkedIn contacts in person for drinks and dinner led to plenty of interesting CSR & Asia topics to talk about. And we tried out a pretty good example of I guess a social enterprise in Bangkok (though it seems to be doing quite well): Cabbages & Condoms. Good food, for a good cause: the man behind these projects is Mechai Viravaidya, a former minister and founder of the Population & Community Development Association (PDA). The association aims to promote family planning through innovative programs and approaches to make the use of contraceptive a less sensitive matter in Thailand. The restaurant is only one way of raising awareness, with proceeds from the restaurant going to PDA’s social projects. Daphne has some more extensive information about the man and his work.