Sawasdee Ka Bangkok!

Okay, so this post is more than a little overdue. I’m meant to be in the process of packing to move ‘down saff’ tomorrow, with train tickets to book, things to wash / dry / pack and a general spring clean of my life to do, but instead procrastination has brought me full circle back to WordPress. In the name of avoiding all things practical therefore, let me finally start to tell you about what we got up to in Thailand.

First stop, Bangkok. If you’d listened to some of the descriptions of BKK I heard from friends and family, you might believe that Bangkok as a city could be visually summarised somewhat like this:

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One smelly Nelly.

However, not only did this turn out not to be true for us, but our Bangkok  experience was awesome. We loved the place. This could be a result of a mixture of low expectations (the phrase: ‘get in, get out’ having been bandied around by former travellers) and getting royally ripped off from the Airport to our accommodation (arguably a rite of passage) being counterbalanced by an incredible hostel, amazing cheap shopping districts and a surprisingly nifty public transport system. Add the fact that Thai people are possibly the friendliest, most chilled and hospitable bunch you ever did have the pleasure to meet and we were both very pleasantly surprised by our visit to the Thai Capital.

That said, we made sure we picked the right place to stay. Khao San Road is the usual backpacker haunt, but after hearing one horror story too many, we decided to stay well away and chose to reside in Silom instead, Bangkok’s financial district. Described by Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a Shoestring guide as more of a ‘flashpacker district’, Silom is definitely pricier by Thai standards but the entire atmosphere is much more relaxed (plus its still cheap by western standards guys). We made the excellent decision to book in at boutique hostel ‘Lub D’, a play on the Thai for ‘Sleep Well’, which made local hotels pale in comparison. With it’s modern architecture and pragmatic design, Lub D provided a safe haven that seemed miles away from the busy metropolis outside. Add to this the excellent laundry service available, cinema room, luggage holding facilities, air conditioning, amazing shower facilities, travel agent, cafe, free wifi and organised nights in/out and its really worth forking out some extra baht for. In fact, we returned for the end of our trip! Dorm rooms, twin sleepers and double rooms are available whilst a female only dorm (complete with security key system to the entire area) is available on the top floor. Plus with a Hostel International membership (well worth the purchase) you get an extra 10% off. My photos really don’t do it justice, so I’ve included their promotional video below:

Lub D Silom staircase

Lub D Silom staircase

After arriving at 3am and rushing round Suvarnabhumi Airport to find one another (turns out booking seperate flights from Australia may be cheaper but can result in one of you arriving at a different airport with no mobile coverage) we unfortunately lost a large part of our first day trying to make up for lost sleep. We did however discover the Hindu Temple just down the road in a quest for food along with some excellent night markets with wonderful vietnamese noodles. One thing I really have learnt to appreciate is all the different types of fruit and vegetables available worldwide that we simply never pay attention to in English Supermarkets. It’s funny, once you know what they are you can’t help but notice them everywhere! Needless to say therefore, I spent quite a lot of the evening puzzling over different types of vegetation at the market before slowly slinking back to bed again in a jetlagged stupor.

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Hindu Temple in Bangkok

Luckily the next day turned out to be a bit more eventful. Getting up bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing, we set off in search of a few more of Bangkok’s sights. Lub D is delightfully close to Patpong’s Markets (best at night) and the red-light district which also houses all of the city’s major clubs and bars. As a result, there were some comedic bar names to be had along with some instantly recognisable sets from The Hangover 2 (AWFUL FILM). Following the road we walked down to Lumphini Park, usually a rare slice of tranquility in the city centre. We happened to walk in right in the middle of a political rally however (it was the Queens Birthday the next day, which is a national holiday), so had to make a quick dash round before the crowds got too much. Once past all the people, it was a really nice park. Complete with artificial boating lake, running lanes and very ghetto looking outdoor gym.

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Old School

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Lumphini Park: Overlooking the lake

If you’ve ever been to Bangkok, it’s more than likely that you used the BTS Skytrain to get around. Situated above the city streets (hence the name) the Skytrain makes the tube look like the runt of the litter with its freakishly clean platforms, electronic gates and inbuilt televisions on carriages (the adverts on these can be hilarious). The raised platforms have the added bonus of providing a well-needed breeze to waiting passengers too. Super cheap and easy to navigate, we caught the Skytrain over to Siam and National Stadium, two of Bangkok’s major shopping districts for some retail therapy. I also had my very first authentic Pad Thai! 😀

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The many, many floors of MBK – complete with a picture of the Queen.

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A BTS Skytrain Platform

Having booked our PADI diving course in Koh Tao to commence two days after, that was all we had time for in Bangkok to begin with! The next day consisted of a mad rush of buying a fake 55l Lowe Alpine rucksack to replace our bag that was falling apart by this point (500 bht / £10 – YES!) , booking a bus through Lub D’s travel agent and jumping on said overnight bus in Khao San – the rest of the afternoon was therefore devoted to sitting in crazy Thai traffic. After arriving in Khao San, I could suddenly see why some people might get a bad impression of Bangkok. Suddenly, the cries of ‘Tuk tuk – you want tuk tuk?!’ started rumbling once again. Our exit was well timed and our impression of Bangkok remained unscathed.

Before I go I also feel I should also clear up another few things for fellow travellers who may have heard one or more of the following:

1) Bangkok is mega hot – The heat in Bangkok really isn’t that bad, I was surprised!

2) It rains all the time – We went during Monsoon, rain didn’t cause any problems for us (hardly saw any for the first few days)

3) The traffic is crazy – Traffic also, comparatively I suppose, is very civilised in comparison to say, Delhi. People generally follow traffic light signals here although you will get stuck in jams, just like any major city. If in doubt, take the train!

4) You can’t move for people and its so busy you can’t get anywhere- Bangkok is super easy to navigate, thanks to the reliable BTS skytrain and about a gazillion little travel agencies everywhere who can get you in and out with ease. Just don’t fall for the old ‘For 10 Baht you can go anywhere’ tuktuk scam – 20p for a whole day in a tuktuk? Sounds too good to be true! That’s because it is. You will be scammed and it will be your own fault. If you jump in a meter taxi make sure you get the meter turned on and always leave plenty of time for random traffic jams.

‘Til next time,

Liv xxx

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