On the plane to Bangkok, my mind was racing. The little tidbits that I did know about Bangkok came from watching The Hangover 2 and talking to friends who had previously visited. Accurate or not, I was a little intimidated. For me, Bangkok seemed like a complete sensory overload.
So what were my first impressions?
I was definitely right on Bangkok being a sensory overload. At almost every twist and turn, there’s a street vendor selling random oddities (I have seen some weird foods to say the least!), tuk tuk drivers harassing you to ride with them, people driving like maniacs (you swear sometimes they are actually trying to hit you)… It’s pure chaos.
And you know what?
I kind of like it…
Bangkok has an incredible street food scene, where you can eat anything from fried crickets to delicious pad thai.
Oh. My. Lord. The food here is good.
In fact, it’s mind blowing. I have eaten the spiciest food on gods green earth from these crazy street vendors!! English is limited and none of the menus are translated so I can’t even begin to tell you what I ate! Just that my stomach felt like I had seen off 10 shots of absinthe!! Be wary, but if your open to trying anything go ahead and fill your boots!
Once I’m back in England Nandos will be able to hit me with their best shot.. I’ll be spice queen!
I have always been a fan of Thai food, but I now know that what I have been subjected to over the past 24 years has been “Westernised Thai food.” You simply can’t compare it to the real deal. And in Bangkok, the real deal only costs about 50 pence!
It became apparent to me very quickly that Bangkok is a shoppers paradise with markets around every corner selling a huge variety of things from fresh fruit and veg to clothes, house hold stuff, I’ve even seen the odd pig head!! Variety is the spice of life people!
We spent one of our days lost in the Chatuchak Market. Its apparently one of the world’s largest weekend markets and that’s not hard to believe. It covers an area of almost 30 Acres, is divided into 28 different sections & contains more than 15,000 booths selling goods from all over Thailand. You can imagine my face when I stepped out of the BTS train and saw this huge market…jaw dropping.
The Chatuchak Market is a very popular shopping destination for Thais but has also become very popular with tourists. Each day, about 200,000 visitors come here (30 % tourists). It sells EVERYTHING from books to antiques to live animals and plants. Of course I bought some clothes, which meant I had to throw some out, it’s a hard life this travelling with a rucksack malarkey!
When I think of Bangkok, one of the main things that springs to mind is Khao San Road. Well known as the tourist ghetto I was eager to witness this famous road. What I had pictured in my head was not what I saw when we stepped foot out of the taxi. It’s crazy yes, but much smaller than I thought, the streets are lined with market stalls selling cheap clothes, sun glasses and jewellery which repeat themselves as you wander down the road. It’s teaming with people all of which are western, which was funny because wandering around other areas of Bangkok we have not crossed paths with one other westerner.
People amble around this street because of the cheap food, clothes and accommodation that lines both sides of the street.
I’ve over heard many young travellers saying that it’s only possible to stay on Khao San Road for a few days before it starts to drive you crazy, and just by spending a few hours there I can see their point.
We opted to stay at little further away from the madness, at Siamaze Hostel in Dindaeng Dindaeng. We struck gold with this hostel which is more resort hotel than anything else. And at a mere 350 Baht, £6.50 per night for a four bed dorm we HAD to extend our stay from 2 to 4 nights.
Scams are a big thing in Bangkok and many tourists are always being caught out. So far, touch wood we have been lucky however I know a lot of people who haven’t! On Khao San Road especially, you are constantly approached by Tuk Tuk drivers pleading you to go on a tour with them for a very reasonable price – it seems! Be wary of these tours!
Saying all of this we did agree to go with a Tuk Tuk on a “tour” around some of the local attractions including the Big Buddha, Golden Mount and The Grand Palace. What we actually saw was the dilapidated back roads of Bangkok, we spent time in two separate suit tailors as a favour to the Tuk Tuk. (If the driver brings customers to these shops they are awarded with fuel). We had to visit two! I was very impressed with Alec’s killing time skills though and at both pit stops I actually thought he was going to get himself measured for a suit!!
We eventually got to visit the Big Buddha, not worth the trip, and then the Golden Mount. Both strange Buddhist places of worship, heaving with people but with very little to look at!
Once we eventually completed the drivers errands we asked him to take us to The Grand Palace. “Oh it closes at 15.30” he says, time now, 15.20 – Great! However, we were told to ignore any drivers that tell you tourists sites are closed and ask them to take you there anyway. Turns out the guy wasn’t lying and it does close daily at 15.30!! He tried to convince us to stay in his Tuk Tuk and visit two more tailors with him, Alec was all out of blagging skills and Fran and I had had enough of the crazy Bangkok traffic. It was time to walk abit. We paid him the agreed 30 Baht and promised never to run in to him again 😉
The name of this blog comes from another scam tourists need to be aware of. That is those taxi drivers that quote you a price for a journey and refuse to turn on their meter. THE METER WILL ALWAYS BE THE CHEAPER OPTION. If the driver refuses to turn his meter on, get out of the taxi and find another one!! This has become tedious a couple of times but you do eventually find a driver that will agree to the meter – use that one!
The Grand Palace is the former home to the King and Queen of Thailand, and what a place to live! It’s a sight not to be missed and took both myself and Fran’s breath away. The scale of the grounds are incredibly gigantic and took us a while to take in its splendour. The craftsmanship and beautiful architecture of each of the four individual buildings were mesmerising to us both! Each building looks as if they have been painstakingly handmade with mosaic tiles covering every square meter of the walls!! Either the restoration job they do there or the building work the first time round was so sound that the Palace still shimmers in all it’s glory from dawn till dusk (well it shuts at 15:30).
In both Fran and my eyes it’s a must see while in the city of Bangkok! Never have I seen such history beautifully maintained.
Our next big move is to Cambodia once our Thailand visas run out on the 20th March. The main options of travel over the border are bus, train or plane. I thoroughly researched the bus options which is complete head scratcher and seems unnecessarily complicated with about 3 different modes of transport including bus, Tuk Tuk and taxi and a lot of walking.
It’s a hive in scams as well, with transport known as the ‘scam buses’ a lot of people get charged way too much for the journey and then double or even triple the amount to purchase the visa, it should only cost $20.
After a day of researching I folded and we’ve booked a flight instead. I know it’s cheating but we couldn’t deal with the hassle, the early start and the hours of travelling.
I swear to drive across the border between Cambodia and Vietnam though, I’m sure it’s an experience not to be missed!
As for right now, we’re waiting to bored a night train to beautiful Chiang Mai! A 14 hour train journey, but with beds and A/C surely nothing can go wrong….