After spending longer than I should have enjoying the relaxation of Bali, I was ready to hit to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
The city and its famous Khao San Road area is a love it or hate it destination. I loved it. I left Suvarnabhumi airport and was hit by the heat, the bright lights, the crowds, the colour and the vibrancy of the streets.
If you’re looking for a city that makes you feel really alive, it’s Bangkok. It makes the point with a slap in the face like no other… Maybe that’s an acquired taste.
Taxi – it’s a 45 minute journey, tell the driver before you accept that you will only take the ride if they use the meter. The cost is around 250-300 Thai baht ($8-9USD).
Bus – On a previous visit I took the Airport Link bus which terminates in a random bus interchange where I then had to take 2 local buses. This was a nightmare with a heavy backpack and bus drivers who couldn’t understand my pronunciation of Khao San. I was left guessing where to get off and when to change and wandering aimlessly in the dark between buses. If you’re travelling alone, it’s just not worth it to save a few dollars.
I stayed at The Wild Orchid Villa (8 Soi Chana Songkhram, Bangkok). Great location down a quieter street but still in the heart of the city and a two-minute walk to the attractions/horrors of Khao San Road.
Don’t expect a lift, you’ll need to lug your own bags up the stairs but the rooms are more than comfortable, had air-con and hot water included and cost me about $20USD per night for a double room.
Nobody offered me a glass of snake blood as seen in The Beach movie but you can expect a lot of noise, backpackers from all over the world coming to party all night and an intoxicating mix of Thai Buckets and Hookah pipes up and down the bar-lined road.
Drink prices are much higher than in other parts of Thailand, as you would imagine, but still extremely cheap for the amount of whisky you can expect in your sand-castle bucket!
By day the road is a great place to shop for clothes or gifts. Extremely cheap if you’re any good at haggling – and even if you’re not.
Most of the restaurants have WIFI and will give you the code when you order. You can get an amazing Pad Thai for under 60THB ($2USD)
So, there are two things about this trip
The good side: This is likely to be your only chance to lay next to a tiger, pat it on the head and play with the cubs.
The down side: It’s blighted by theories that the tigers are heavily sedated – thus removing their natural inclination to maul stupid tourists who want to rub noses with them while making a peace sign for the camera.
It’s a personal decision and I won’t lie, it’s an experience I couldn’t pass-up but ultimately I left with a feeling that it was all a bit sad. Having enjoyed a safari in Kenya, my feeling is that wild animals shouldn’t be man-handled as a tourist commodity.
The trip is about 2 hours outside of Bangkok city and it’s considered a temple so you need to cover shoulders and ankles.
‘Temple’, though, is debatable – I have never previously witnessed monks smoking, enjoying a good spattering of tattoos or exercising a remarkable ability to flirt with more game than Casanova. Odd.
Real Temples & The Grand Palace:
Dress code is extremely strict. There is an abundance of stall holders ready to rent you a Hawaiian shirt and some Palace Pants to see you humiliated through the duration for just 5THB.
No skirts, no shorts, no tight clothing, no bare ankles, knees or shoulders.
I am unequivocally and unapologetically non culture-vulture ‘esque. However, I did manage to make it to the Grand Palace. It was the official residence of kings between 1782 and 1925.
History’s never going to be my thing in severe humidity but worth a visit to see the giant reclining Buddha at the end.
Bangkok River Cruise:
The Chao Phraya River cruise gives you a good idea of the city layout. See temples along the waterside and take in all the local shacks perched precariously on the river banks – few with complete walls and roofs but many fully adorned with gleaming white satellite dishes. They may be living off fish from the brown river but at least they’re dining with Judge Judy on demand! Worth a look but go easy on talking and laughing as you’ll end up with a mouthful of suspect river water every time you pass other boats.
Put your life in the hands of a Tuk Tuk driver for a white-knuckle ride around the city, weaving in and out of traffic for a couple of Baht.
Make sure you have a destination in mind and stick to it. Any signs that you are undecided will result in you being driven all over the city and being forced to stop off at remote shops where the driver picks up commission when you feel compelled to buy something you don’t need.
- I travelled around Bangkok alone and felt very safe in the main tourist destinations, even at night.
- The local people were extremely respectful and dignified. Make every effort to cover up when it’s expected and keep the partying to the designated backpacker areas if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
- ATMs are few and far between off the beaten track. As the exchange rate is so good, it’s worth keeping a reasonable amount of cash on you in case of emergency and needing a taxi or to upgrade your accommodation.
- If you want hot water in your room check when booking – some hotels charge extra for this.
- Temperature in the city is reasonably stable and stays around 33 degrees as a daily average with a fair amount of humidity and rarely falls below 24.
- Rainfall is heaviest between May and October.
Have you been to Bangkok? Love it or hate it, let me know what you thought. I’m hoping to get back there again soon and I’d love to see more of the city.