Usually I like to be prepared and organised when taking a trip, this means that by the time I leave I will have pre booked my accommodation for a minimum of 2-3 nights, I will have pre-arranged my transport and will have a clear idea of the must Dos in the location I am travelling to.
Bangkok was a different affair. After having spent a lot of my time in the previous weeks planning, organising and booking my trip back home to the UK and visit to Romania I had depleted my researching energy. As a result, I decided to channel my inner sense of spontaneity and not book anything other than a one way ticket to Bangkok and 3 nights of accommodation for when we arrived (we meaning my boyfriend and I).
This is how it all turned out and what we got up to...
As usual I had a look at Hostel World and Booking.com to find accommodation. I found that picking the accommodation for Bangkok was a little more overwelming than for other places I had travelled to. Be it that it is a city, there are various areas you can stay in rather than a single 'city centre', often the more choice you gave the harder it is to choose.
For that reason the criteria I based my choice on was cost + reviews = value for money. Although reviews are subjective and some people really do complain about the most ridiculous stuff sometimes, I find that reading about other people's experiences really does help gain a better idea of what to expect and if your personal priorities will be met - for example we didn't want to stay in a place that was popular with backpackers/groups and partygoers because we were after a quieter and more relaxed experience. For that reason we chose KAMA Bed & Breakfast, (2600 BHT, 2 people for 3 nights) although a little further out of the main hustle and bustle this place had great reviews - and rightly so. It was clean, modern, had a great roof top, attentive staff and Chris the owner was friendly and helpful. Getting to the temples was easy by Ferry and a cheap (if your negotiating skills are on point) taxi or tuk tuk ride got you into busier areas of the city.
The breakfast in the morning was also delicious, not included in the price and not as cheap as some other places but definitely fresh and worth the money.
We found that one of the cheapest and quickest ways for us to travel into town and especially to temples such as the Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the reclining Buddha) & Wat Arun was by Ferry. Bangkok traffic is terrible, so this both more relaxing and you get great views of the city from the water (if you are on a budget a great way to save money on a River Tour).
> You can buy tickets on the ferry (cash only)
> Costs around 15 Bht
> Can distinguish different ferries by the different coloured flags they display
> Blue flag ferry is the Tourist Ferry. slightly more expensive than the blue but quicker as it only stop at the main tourist destinations along the river.
> Orange flag ferry, cheapest option but can be slower because it stops at all the stops (I would recommend this option as the ferry is not much slower than the alternative, but allows you to get on and off at more locations.)
TIP: They don't announce the stops so pay attention to where you got on if you are planning to return there and count the stops between your departure point and your destination. Some of the attendants speak english, if you are unsure where to get off ask around (thats what we did)
We didn't use these, but we have been told that they are meant to be cheaper than taxis. They are technically closer to a multi-person taxi as the vehicle doesn't have fixed stops. I doubt the drivers will speak much english so I am not sure how easy it is to use one of these especially if you don't know the name of your stop in thai.
NORMAL BUS - They run quite frequently and are cheap. Again, we did't use them so I can't advise but we mostly saw locals on them so probably not the easiest travel option either if you don't know exactly where you are going.
TAXIS - Oh, where to begin. Our experience, and that of other people we have spoken to was that if they can get more money out of you they will. We were quoted 500 BHT for a ride that on a meter ended up costing us just over 100BHT. Insist to put the meter on and don't be shy about it, actually watch them put it on as they often use the language barrier as an excuse not to. Even with the meter on, we experienced taxi drivers driving around the block a few times to rack up some milage - again, that's the nature of the beast. Thankfully they are still reasonably cheap (even when you are being ripped off).
TIP - Taxi drivers don't use GPS and don't know all areas of Bangkok (even if they tell you they do) It helps to have the name of your accommodation and possibly the directions written in the local language to show the drivers. Your accommodation should be able to provide this for you.
TUK TUK - Last but not least, the infamous Tuk Tuk. They can be cheaper and faster than taxis but no meter so you will have to negotiate and agree the price before you get on. Worth taking at least once for the experience alone. The drivers are crazy...get ready for a good rush of adrenaline.
I doubt there is ever a dull moment in the streets of Bangkok. Market stalls selling anything from street food to gadgets and clothing, line most streets. Mopeds fly past you more often than you blink, the air smells of food, waste and polution, it is loud, it is hectic, it is unique and charming in it's own awesome way. It is BANGKOK!
We visited the below temples all on the same day as we didn't have that much time in Bangkok. They are all pretty close together so it is definitely doable, two of them (Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of emerald Buddha) & Wat Pho (Temple of the reclining Buddha) are on the same side of the river. Wat Arun is on the other side, but a quick ferry ride (or walk across the bridge) will get you there in no time.
TIP - You will NOT be allowed into the temple with clothes which don't cover your legs and shouldes. We learnt this the hard way and like ignorant tourists had to go on the hunt for some more modest and respectful clothes. Thankfully, we weren't the only ones so there are vendors in the streets close by to the entrance who will sell long pants and shirts for 100-200 BHT per item.
WAT PHO (TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA)
GRAND PALACE & WAT PHRA KAEW (TEMPLE OF EMERALD BUDDHA
On one of the days we stopped for lunch and a walk in Chinatown. As you would expect it was also a very busy area of the city. Enough markets to form a labyrinth and enough food stalls and restaurants to make it impossible to choose. In the end we walked into a hole in the wall type of place and had the most delicious noodle and fish ball soup I have ever had (well in all honesty it was my first but I can't imagine they can taste better than that!). Best thing was it only cost 60 BHT!!!
KOH SAN ROAD
On one of the nights we couldn't help but follow the crowd and visit the infamous Koh San Road. It was everything you would expect it to be - a street full of backpackers getting drunk and paying money to eat insects that they wouldn't dream of even touching back at home. Loads of market stalls, bars and cheap street food.
It was touristy, fun and surreal all at the same time.
We saw this place mentioned on a blog and then came across it whilst exploring the area around our hostel. This area was in stark contrast with the rest of the places we visited. It was very modern, clean and swanky. Full of shops, restaurants and entertainment like Mai Thai Boxing Fight shows, bumper cars and a Ferris Wheel.
Our time in Bangkok flew by, and after 3 days we took an overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Bangkok was definitely a city worth experiencing, but it was far too hectic for my liking. I am looking forwards to seeing what else Thailand has to offer :)
Stay tuned to virtually find out with me!
***FYI on 25/01/2017 100 BHT = £2.30/$3.70 AUD/ $2.80 USD