The journey to Bangkok was a pretty painful one. A 16 hour trip of ferries and uncomfortable buses – anyone heading to Thailand should definitely choose the train over buses. Every time. If there are no other options, go with the VIP bus companies because we have heard good things. SongSerm, the company we went with because everything else was booked, was not so good. We arrived in Bangkok at 4.30am confused, sleepy and inundated with cab and tuk tuk drivers surrounding us asking where we want to go and giving quotes. It is here we learn the first lesson of cabs in Bangkok – if they won’t turn the meter on and simply quote you a price, don’t get in the cab. Arriving at the inn which had no rooms available until midday we walk around aimlessly before deciding that sleeping at the airport would be a good choice because my brother was flying in at midday. It was cold and uncomfortable, but it was sleep!
So that was our first day in Bangkok and the following 3 days did little to impress. Khao San Road was fun with all of its bars, busker’s and massage parlors. We did have a great experience visiting one of the Wat’s (temples) where an ex-monk offered to walk us around the grounds teaching us about Buddhism and the monks that studied at the monastery. Wat Pho – the 40m reclining Buddha was amazing as were all the other ceremonious activities throughout the grounds to promote good luck. My favorite was where someone gives a donation and in return they get to write what they wish for on the underside of a roofing tile. The roofing tiles then get used on the various refurbishments in the grounds and will stay with the Wat forever. Very cool.
The nightlife in Bangkok had something for everyone. I had really wanted to check out a rooftop bar and in search of one we lost an entire night with tuk tuk and cab drivers driving us around the city in miscommunicated circles. The second night we managed to find the Bangkok State Tower and, with a Lamborghini parked at the bottom we were sadly informed that 7 scruffy backpackers were not welcome in such a fine establishment. Instead, we found an ice bar. On the last night we went to have dinner in Chinatown. Why go to Thailand to eat in Chinatown I cannot answer, but before the table had finished ordering, food was coming to the table – it was amazing. It was also pretty scary seeing a number of shops selling shark fins. Afterwards, this time with the name and address of a different bar translated into Thai we went to ‘The Nest’ rooftop bar.
The bar wasn’t as classy as the State Tower yet still had an awesome view ‘buckets’ were served in crystal, instead of the plastic we had become so familiar with.
The most amusing part of the nightlife for me had to be that as soon as the sun goes down, every tuk tuk driver you pass walks up to you and asks ‘hey you, ping pong?’ whilst making creepy popping noises and smirks. Anyone not familiar with what a ping pong show is, I’m not going to be the one to inform you. However, walking down many some of the districts like Pat Pong you get a glimpse of how big (and scary) the sex tourism industry is. Even some of the hotels had signs warning against it, and more specifically child sex tourism.
I’ve only got a few tips from Bangkok for anyone interested in going but here they are:
- If a travel agent tells you that the train, to Chiang Mai for example is booked out. Don’t believe them until you shop around. Agents make a bigger commission from pushing people onto buses and the dodgy ones may try this.
- Prices around Khao San and other major backpacker areas are very inflated, so bargain hard.
- Always negotiate tuk tuk prices
- If someone tells you that a Wat is closed for the day, don’t believe them.
- tuk tuk drivers will do almost anything if you offer a 50 – 100B tip. Including popping a wheelie.
Overall, Bangkok was an interesting place but not one I’d like to see again. Not once did I feel unsafe like the news may make it seem, yet there are plenty of people ready to rip you off.