Firstly, if you’re a new visitor to LoveCandD then welcome, glad you found us! Whilst you’re here feel free to have a look at some of our other posts. If you’re a regular reader then welcome back, we love hearing from you too!
Before you read on we would like to make the following point. This is absolutely not, a “Top 10 things to do…” or a “how to spend a week in…” type post. This is simply our story, of how we arrived, what we got up to and perhaps some lessons to be learnt from our week in Bangkok. If you’re still interested in reading then great, here we go. If not, thanks for visiting and perhaps some of other posts will be more what you are looking for.
Day 1 – Arrival
As you may know we have spent the last three months travelling through North America. Our last stop was San Francisco, and it was from SFO international that we would be flying to Thailand. We flew with Korean Airlines and it was a perfectly fine flight. The minor delays didn’t really impact us; it was a comfortable plane with lots of food and drink; and of course, there was the in-flight entertainment.
The flight itself wasn’t the issue. It was the fact that after 12 hours of flying, we had a connection in Seoul, South Korea. It was then a further 6 hours onto Bangkok. During the flight we crossed the date line which played havoc with our body clocks. We arrived in Bangkok just before midnight, but to us it was 8am in the morning – Ahhhh! Luckily we hadn’t really slept on the plane so we were happy to fall straight into bed, at a budget hotel just down the road from the airport.
The next couple of days
Cut to the next morning; after a western style breakfast in the hotel, we were bussed back to the airport to begin our journey across Bangkok, to our next hostel. After frantically trying to find a cashpoint that would a) accept our card and b) not charge us an extortionate amount for a withdrawal, we discovered some leftover Canadian currency in our bag, which just covered the cost of the Sky Train tickets – Result! Once we reached the end of the line, there followed an hour long walk in the sweaty, sticky heat of the Thai capital to the hostel (we are too tight to fork out for a tuk-tuk or a taxi).
Once we arrived, we dumped our bags and decided to go for a walk to check out the famous backpacker’s paradise that is Khao San road. For us it offered nothing particularly special, being countless food stalls selling the same dishes, a few shops selling tat and cheap clothing, and some cafe’s/bars.
Anyway, we were hungry so we stopped and grabbed (what to this day still is) the best Pad Thai we have eaten. We were both tired, still being affected by the jet-lag, so we headed back to the hostel. The rest of the afternoon passed in the form of a nap and what turned out to be a mild case of food poisoning. In the evening, to have a break from the dark and slightly claustrophobic hostel room, we went for a walk in search of dinner (for me). Purely due to price, I opted for another Pad Thai but from a different stall and it was horrible! C, still struggling from tiredness and illness went for a banana pancake. We then strolled back to the hostel and fell back into bed at an embarrassingly early time of around 8.30pm – we are such party animals!
The next day didn’t include any excitement either. We didn’t leave the hostel until lunch time, mainly because C was asleep and still feeling under the weather. This time we headed to Soi Rambuttri. A more leafy version of Khao San road and I ate yet more Pad Thai (you’ve seen a pattern emerging) which was enjoyable, but not quite up to the standards of the first one. Other than stopping for a quick drink in a cafe, that was our day done. Back to the hostel and back to bed. We were both suffering badly from the effects of jet lag, to the point that by 7pm we were both fast asleep and slept through to the next morning!
Day 4 – The sightseeing begins in earnest
On our third full day in Bangkok, we finally got out to actually see some of it. Our first stop was the Grand Palace, one of the most famous landmarks in Bangkok. As well as being the official residence of the king, it is also a religious site and therefore respectable dress is required (i.e. no shorts, no short skirts, shoulders must be covered etc). Knowing this, we had dressed appropriately; C was wearing a strap top but had brought a scarf with her to wrap around her shoulders. However, after successfully making our way through the crowds of tourists and buying our tickets, (which cost over £10 each!), we were turned away by the guards.
They refused to accept the scarf covering the shoulders and demanded C wear an actual shirt. And so ensued, us barging our way back out through the crowds to rent, yes rent, a shirt from a shop just outside. Then we had to go through the barging all over again, to get back in. The architecture and colours within the Grand Palace complex are beautiful and, if you get the chance, you have to go. Learning about what each structure was for or represented, what the colours meant and the history behind some of the buddha statues was very interesting. On our way out to return the shirt, we discovered that just inside the gate, you rent clothing for free. So frustrating!
Having spent a couple of hours walking around the palace complex in the blazing hot sun, desperately taking cover when we could, we headed just down the road to Wat Pho (the temple of the reclining Buddha). Wat Pho was very similar to the Grand Palace in terms of the buildings and colours, just without a palace! It was still very impressive, especially the giant reclining Buddha statue. However, by this time we were very tired, hungry (we probably should have stopped for lunch) and dehydrated. As a result, strolling round the Wat became more of an effort than an exciting new cultural experience.
The rest of the day involved endlessly searching for some food C felt up to eating. Then an evening dinner which whilst delicious, was too spicy to finish; in hindsight, not a great choice for the first proper food C had eaten in a couple of days.
Day 5 – An emotional rollercoaster
Even on day 5 we were still suffering from jet lag. So we were both up super early, like 4.30am early. We checked out of the hostel, which we wouldn’t be leaving with any fond memories, and made our way (yes, we walked again) across town to our new hostel. A brief stroll through Chinatown, stopping beforehand to snap a photo of the Giant Swing: not as exciting as it sounds, and we made it to the hostel, which was brand new and retained that stark quality that goes with it.
Our first activity for the day, was doing something we had talked about last time we were in Bangkok. We went to Jim Thompson’s house. This is a basically a house museum; Jim Thompson was an American who moved to Thailand after being stationed here during the war. He fell in love with the country and decided to promote Thai-made silk. He constructed a house in traditional Thai style, but with Western elements. We were first given a tour by a Thai school girl, who used it to improve her already excellent English skills. We were then allowed to explore the grounds and outbuildings ourselves. All in all a very interesting, serene and picturesque place, located amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.
We then headed to one of Bangkok’s well renowned malls, MBK, to grab some lunch in the food court. There were so many options to choose from, but the main reason we chose here was for the vegetarian stand. Naturally all the signs were in Thai, so we pointed at some dishes and hoped for the best. C was reasonably satisfied with her choice but mine was disgusting. It was cold, flavourless and close to inedible. I was not happy to say the least.
I think food and my emotional state are closely related. Not being able to think about how nice my food was (my usual thought pattern whilst eating), coupled with on-going jetlag and lots of uncertainty about our future, resulted in somewhat of an emotional breakdown. Our next stop was Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s very own Central Park.
Here we sat down on a bench next to the lake and I cried. A lot. Over the last few months we have turned our lives upside down. From being settled in a full-time job, with a house and a cat, we are now across the other side of the world, living out of back packs, trying to earn some income online and thinking about our plans for the future. Wow! That is crazy, and far too much for my mind to process, especially after such awful food (one of the things I was most looking forward to about Thailand).
Thankfully, after a chat, I regained my composure and rugged external appearance (jokes). I fully began to enjoy the calm surroundings of the park. With greenery, a lake you can boat on and some exotic wildlife, it really is a retreat from the busy-ness of the surrounding city.
The evening would bring a delicious meal at an extremely popular little restaurant, at which we were lucky to get a table (Tealicious – you should definitely eat here). Later, we had a stunning view from the Skybar made famous by the Hollywood movie The Hangover 2. Our visit to the Skybar was short, sweet and felt a bit “naughty”. We were ushered in and shown to the balcony; offered seats with free snacks; and given a menu. However, at more than £6 for a coke we quickly decided this was out of our budget and made our getaway. Awkward? Yes, a little. Thrilling? Definitely! It was a great end to an emotional day.
Day 5 – Our Last Day
After our first great sleep since we arrived, we were determined to make the most of our final full day in Bangkok. Following a bizarre, free breakfast from the hostel of bread and ham/chicken paste, we set off.
Two of the things I was super excited to see, were a floating market and some of the Khlongs (canals). These two would give access to see some “real life” at a local level.
We decided to combine the two with a visit to Taling Chan floating market. The majority of the market stalls were on dry land next to the water. But there were a number of large pontoons which contained “cafes” for lack of a better word. Low tables were laid out with menus on boards. and diners sat cross legged on the floor or on really low stools. The food was cooked in long narrow canoes in the water alongside the pontoons and once done, was passed up and served. I absolutely loved this! Seeing whole fish and giant prawns being cooked over little grills on the boats was brilliant (not so fun for C).
Despite the array of smells and flavours, I disappointingly chose to eat another Pad Thai. It was delicious and did have one big prawn on it, but I am annoyed at myself for not being more adventurous!
There was also a jetty with colourful long boats continuously pulling up to pick up or drop passengers off. You could hire a private one however, being the budget-minded travellers that we are, we bought a ticket for a shared boat tour.
Whilst a little touristy, the boat trip was great fun. The longboat sped along the brown-green water of the Khlongs, showing us slanty wooden shacks on stilts, lived in by many Thais and local children jumping into the water to cool off. We stopped off at a Wat for a brief look round, stopped again to feed a gaggle of fish which the water is swelling with, before returning to dry land.
A great morning and early afternoon were then soured with our first bad transport experience. Tuk-Tuk drivers are well known for taking tourists to alternative destinations from those requested, in an attempt to get commission, such as suit shops. When we got in a taxi we wrongly assumed we were safe from this tactic. Initially we had asked to be taken to Wat Arun (temple of the dawn) before asking for an earlier stop on the Chao Praya river. We wanted to take the boat taxi down to the temple instead. To enjoy seeing some of the city from the river. However, when we admitted that we had never been on the ferryboat before, the taxi driver saw his opportunity.
He ended up driving way past where we wanted to be dropped and down a small alley. At the end of the alley were a number of men with clipboards and boats, waiting to sign tourists up for private boat tours, for which the taxi driver would earn a commission. If this wasn’t annoying enough, he didn’t give us any change from the cost of the journey. So not only did he take us where we didn’t want to go, he got a tip out of it!
Incensed we stormed off, ignoring the clipboard wielding rep’s call of “where are you going”, to find the ferry dock. We paid just 3 baht to get across the river and went to see Wat Arun. We were expecting an impressive sight, but unfortunately the main central part of the Wat is under restoration and was therefore covered in scaffolding (like Washington all over again!) It was disappointing and the Wat itself was tiny, such that it probably wasn’t worth paying to go in. You could see most of it from the outside. We then got a ferry back across the river to catch the boat which took us down to Central Pier. From there we trudged back to the hostel. We should point out that we were basically the only ones staying at the hostel – it was bizarre.
Our final Bangkok experience was eating a delicious dinner in a small restaurant called the Siam House Cafe. It was very busy when we got there so the owner set up another table outside, just for us. I was basically sat in the road! But the food was great, the atmosphere was nice. The street stall banana pancakes on the way home were a lovely touch to end the evening.
So our week in Bangkok didn’t get off to the best of starts, having done nothing but eat and sleep for the first few days. But by the end, and despite both an emotional break down and being taken advantage of by a taxi driver, we had seen nearly everything we had originally intended to. There is still so much to see and do in Bangkok, but we only had a week! Next stop, Chiang Mai.
Lessons we have learnt:
- Drink lots of water –we got so dehydrated it affected our enjoyment of the sights
- Act like you’ve been there before –never admit it’s your first time or you may get taken advantage of
- Research up to date information on places you’re visiting – just in case there is an ad hoc closure, or in our case construction.
- Be assertive with taxi drivers – don’t just sit quietly and then moan about it afterwards, like us!
Have you been to Bangkok? What did you get up to? Is there anything you would recommend for our next trip? Get in touch below.