Bangkok would have to be the absolute least suitable place in the world to go running. Unfortunately, however, that's exactly what I was compelled to do this evening — when I was being led on foot to my next tourist bus, and I suddenly realised that I'd left my small bag on the side of the street near Khao San Road, I had no choice but to sprint back for it. The city's searing heat — and, far more pertinent, its horrendous air pollution — left my lungs feeling somewhere in between a wheezing petrol pump and a burning car tyre. And that was after a mere five minutes.
I've been in Bangkok for one (jetlagged and sleepless) night; and if there's one thing I've already noticed to death, it's this: the air pollution here is horrendous. This is one seriously polluted city: you can see it, smell it and even taste it 24/7. Mexico City is peanuts compared to this place. Bangkok's sky is permanently marred by a greyish haze: this becomes particularly foul and unmissable around dusk, when the sky's colour turns a disturbingly nuclear-ish shade of purple against the hot Thai sunset. The constant heat in the city doesn't exactly help, either — what with the smog, the dryness and the sweltering temperatures, water and air-con is the only way to live around here.
Catania is Sicily's second-largest city (after Palermo), and one of the island's most crowded and traffic-infested. It's not high on the average tourist agenda — but like so many big and ugly cities, it's often near-impossible to avoid. This morning, my route up the east coast of Sicily led me through Catania: and I decided that seeing as I was in the area, I might as well at least check it out, and see what the place has to offer. So I came, I saw, I got lost, and I eventually found my way out.
The first thing I noticed about this city, when I started exploring it, is that the air is much cleaner than I thought it would be. I've always heard that the air pollution is among the worst in the world here, and so I was expecting the worst. But it's really not that bad.