It’s become a lot cooler by the river in Bangkok since we’ve been gone. I don’t mean that the Chao Phraya, that slinking equatorial cocoa-coloured serpent that curls through this city of almost 11 million and is also the city’s grand aquatic superhighway, is the place to escape the enervating heat.
Bangkok, after all, is officially the world’s fourth hottest capital and a miracle cool breeze wafting up from the Gulf of Thailand is as rare here as a toned-down street hawker’s tom yum goong.
No, what I mean is that Bangkok has become cool in another sense entirely. Hip. Happening. Arty. It’s the sort of culturally-driven coolness that could go a long way to transforming its at times seedy international image.
And this is largely all occurring right beside the river, still lined with teetering, ramshackle teak houses and towered over by eclectic religious pagodas, steeples and minarets. These homes, many now converted into restaurants, cafes and bars, seem poised at any moment to tip into the river full of circling cat-fish, absurdly plump from their diets of the unspeakable contents of the notoriously befouled Chao Phraya.