Bangkok is a curious place, it has an air of calmness about it; the people seem happy, transactions are always gentle and light-hearted, and even hawkers are keen to converse with you. Contrast this with the mental traffic, ping-pong shows flaunted on Khao San Road, and the rows and rows of bright neon lights around the city, and you have quite the mix. The first four days of our wanderings have been spent in this magnificent city and we’d like to help you get a feel for what it is like to come here.
One of the first things you will notice in Bangkok is the traffic; bustling doesn’t quite do it justice. The amount of tuk tuks, taxis and motorbikes that seamlessly weave in and out of each others’ paths is insane.
At the start of our time in Bangkok we used tuk-tuks. These are great fun, especially when you’re new to the city. However, if you are going to use this form of transport, you need to make sure you barter with the driver as they will try to charge you a high rate.
We found that taking ‘Taxi-Meter’ taxis was a cheaper alternative. When using taxis, make sure you get the driver to put the meter on otherwise it is unlikely to be fair price; particularly if you’re an unseasoned traveller. It tends to be the case that drivers do not like to use the meter; they lose money from a journey they could have set a higher set price for.
We found this out the hard way during a visit to Bangkok’s China Town. We hailed almost 20 different taxis over a period of around 30 minutes, and only found 1 willing to use the meter. When you’re on a budget though, those extra Baht you save from being patient can really help you out later on.
One day, we used a local longboat service along the Chao Phraya canals. Tourists don’t seem to be too aware of this service so we thought we’d highlight it. It cost 12BHT per person and is quite a unique experience.
Many people, tourists and locals alike, also use the BTS Skytrain, however we haven’t needed to use it because of the centrality of our hostel.
REMEMBER: Be patient, and keep calm. Eventually, you will get what you want.
Buddhism is the primary religion of Thailand. You will notice that images of the Buddha are everywhere, often accompanied with signs forbidding you from photographing them. The Buddha is extremely sacred to many Thai people and cameras are sometimes prohibited in certain areas of Temples.
We visited two temples during our time in Bangkok. The first of these was the beautifully impressive Grand Palace. We enjoyed our time here, the palace is very splendid, the history is unmatched for palaces in the city and they offer free, ice cold water; but the whopping entrance fee (by standard temple prices) of 500BHT, we didn’t particularly think it was worth it.
If you do visit, beware of people outside trying to scam you. They tell you the temple is closed and trying to sell you clothes to wear, you can get these for free inside.
Instead of the Grand Palace, despite all its grandeur, why not visit Wat Pho? This was by far our favourite temple, the host of the colossal Reclining Buddha. This temple is truly incredible, is a lot more chilled and relaxed, and is only 100BHT. We’re glad we saw the Grand Palace but, given the chance again, we may have missed it and gone to Wat Pho instead.
KHAO SAN ROAD
We personally expected Khao San Road to very expensive. Although this is definitely the area in Bangkok where western and eastern meet; it is relatively cheap and you should visit at least once.
Depending on where you go, the food is very cheap. We found ourselves eating here on many occasions, including street food which only cost b
etween 30-80 baht. Even main meals in restaurants only cost around 100 baht. For the adventurous traveller – or just for the photos – you can eat insects and other creatures including scorpions (ew!!). The drinks are also fairly cheap as bars have to compete to gain customers.
If you’re struggling to meet other travellers in the hot mess that is Bangkok, then this street is a great place to do it. On our first night on Khao San Road, we met two Dutch girls who were on their last night in the city. We were lucky to get lots of advice about places we will be visiting, and to share stories of where are from.
I would definitely recommend staying in SamSenSam Place. Most rooms are double rooms rather than dorms, so it is great for couples. SamSenSam is very clean and has excellent facilities; although you may find the odd bug lying around, that is par for the course for this type of establishment.
The receptionist, Lek, is lovely and very helpful; she even booked our night train tickets to Chiang Mai for us. The hostel is in a great area; extremely central, and within walking distance of Khao San Road, but far enough away for some peace and quiet when you feel delicate the day after (like Katherine).
The only thing slightly letting this hostel down is the social aspect. If you’re looking for a place to meet other travellers, or perhaps have some drinks of a night, then this perhaps is not the place to do it. There are places to sit but the social atmosphere isn’t buzzing. We are really looking forward to getting to Chiang Mai to meet other fellow travellers.
There is a plethora of markets in Bangkok, and I am sure we will come across many more in Thailand, including the night market in Chiang Mai which we are really excited about. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit the various Floating Markets in Bangkok, but from what we have read and heard, they supposed to be something worth seeing.
One thing we perhaps wouldn’t do again is visit the shopping district in Bangkok. We went to CentralWorld which we had heard very good things about. However, we were disappointed as the centre, although impressive in scale, was very much like a huge shopping centre in the UK; we simply did not have the money, or space in our rucksacks, to buy anything.
If you are making the trip to Thailand, you really must visit this city. Especially if you are on a long trip, and this is your first stop, or if you’ve not visited countries with such a visibly vast difference in culture and wealth distribution to those in Europe. It is a humbling, bustling, bubbling city and we would definitely visit again.
What is your experience with Bangkok?
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