Surviving Fierce Bangkok in 3 days.
Filled with mixed emotions, J and I make our way to Gatwick airport in the early hours of a damp London morning. Only left Canada less than a week ago, we dropped off our lives in suitcase at his brother’s house and prepared ourselves for an exciting 5 week adventure to South East Asia – starting with Bangkok! I nervously boarded the plane and quickly calmed down as I was comforted by the luxurious touches by Emirates.
After nearly 15 hours of travel time, bellies full of yummy airplane food (actually really delicious, guys. Emirates is phenomenal), we immediately felt the rush of adrenaline as we walk briskly to Thai immigration. We filled out a few forms, met an officer who made us stare into a camera, said nothing and stamped our passports. Then quickly spotted our bags on the carousel, grabbed it with huge relief and made our way to find a place to buy a sim card for our phones. We were going to be in Thailand for a total of 3 weeks so we wanted to make sure we were connected. I was amazed at how inexpensive a simple data plan was in Thailand. I soon realized this was the norm in Asia. For unlimited 4G connection, we paid a total of $18 CAD for 30 days. The company we went with was Dtac
Connected and feeling like we’re part of society again, we strolled towards the taxi rank. Now, let’s talk taxis in Bangkok. Our hotel was kind enough to warn us about the scams that take place in Bangkok when it comes to taxis ripping off tourists. Even though I knew this, it wasn’t that easy to figure out how to out smart the system. Obviously, if public transportation is an easier and cost efficient option for you, then follow your heart. However, our hotel was located in the older part of Bangkok, close to Khao San Road where the trains did not reach. Unfortunately, we were the victims of a horrendous taxi company. Too tired to care, we haggled down from 700 Baht to 500 Baht, which is actually the normal price for that distance (as per hotel’s advice). To see how to get around and how to deal with taxis and tuk tuk drivers, see “Getting Around” section below
Day 1: First night in Bangkok
Got to our Bangkok hotel, where I was greeted by a nice bouquet of roses. The hotel knew J just proposed and prepared a lovely surprise. The hotel was a gorgeous oasis in the middle of a dense and insane city. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and about a ten minute walk to the infamous Khao San Road as well as a short tuk tuk ride from all of the magnificent temples. We immediately took advantage of the shower, comfort of clean clothes and then jumped into bed for a long well-deserved nap.
Our first meal in Bangkok did not disappoint. We found a local restaurant just steps from our hotel and dove into several spicy dishes that looked familiar to us. We didn’t want to start the food adventure too strong after all. I had holy basil chicken with rice and J had fried noodles. All cost an amazing $2.97 CAD for the lot! I already knew I love Thailand. I’ll write more about my Thai food experience in a separate post.
Bellies full, we made our way to MBK shopping mall. The mall was filled with over 2000 stalls and stores. A tourist’s dream for cheap souvenirs. You can easily practice your haggling skills here. Thanks to J, I ended up with a maxi dress and elephant pants for $14 CAD. We decided to head home and get ready for a nice evening out at Banyan Tree Bar. But to our disappointment, it was closed and on top of our bad luck it started pouring on us. We decided this isn’t going to work out and just tried to go back to the hotel for a meal near by. After much struggles with taxis and tuk tuks, we finally managed to find one who spoke some English and some what knew where our hotel was.
We ended up just enjoying a beer at the hotel lobby and headed to another local eatery down the street. The great thing about Bangkok is that you will not struggle to find a place to eat. Most of the time you feel like you’re stepping into someone’s home while they’ve just prepared a heart warming home cooked meal just for you. We got to enjoy a more Chinese-Thai cuisine where each dish were $1.86 CAD.
Day 2: Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Khao San Road
Woke up feeling well rested but obviously still super jet lagged since it was just before 6 AM. After a cold shower, we were treated to a lovely breakfast in the hotel lobby. We had the choice of Asian porridge, fried breakfast or green curry, along with unlimited fresh dragon fruit, mangoes, guava and plenty more exotic fruit.
Keeping a budget friendly trip in mind, we took advantage of the free tuk tuk service by the hotel. Our driver took us to the Grand Palace where we found ourselves in a swarm of annoying tourists. I imagine the GP is such an amazing place when you have it all to yourself but the herd of tourists definitely made the experience less pleasurable. Speaking of unpleasant, I was told that covering my body with a scarf wasn’t enough for the temples. Here you have to respect the Buddhist customs and cover your shoulders and knees as a woman. Luckily, I had my cardigan with me and just threw that on but wearing that felt like my own personal oven under the Thai sun.
After we had our fill of the temples and royal buildings, we took a short walk to Wat Pho. Wat Pho was absolutely stunning. It was filled with colourful pagodas where you can easily lose yourself just staring at the details. Here you’ll find the Temple of Reclining Buddha – a giant golden statues of Buddha laying down on his side. At this point we decided we had enough extreme heat and headed back to hotel where a traditional Thai massage was waiting for us. I won’t go into much detail of our Thai massage experience but let me say this – it’s not relaxing!
In the evening, we wandered over to Khao San Road to gorge ourselves in some cheap Thai street food – and gorge ourselves we did! We had plates and plates of freshly cooked pad thai, mango sticky rice, cheap beer, spring rolls and more – all under $2.00 CAD per dish. It was easy to get carried away with the fun of KSR. The streets felt like one giant rave that did not seem like it was going to end. Vendors offering you massage by suspicious looking women or ladyboys, fried insects and critters, questionable cocktails and the list goes on. It’s a place where you can quickly lose yourself in any vice of your choice.
Day 3: Train Market and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
We woke up early to join a guide tour to the train market and Damnoen Saduak floating market. It took about an hour and a half to get to the train market from our hotel. The train market is famous for a train literally passing through the market a couple times during the day. It was an astonishing sight to see all of the market vendors tuck themselves into the walls while allowing the train pass by. Fruit and vegetable vendors along side meat and fish vendors all strategically pulling their products and carefully protect it from getting completely demolished by the passing train, ourselves included!
After successfully surviving a train from hitting us, we were driven to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market. Right away you can tell that this place was a complete tourist trap. There was nothing remotely exciting or unique about this floating market as it was filled with stalls just selling the typical Thai souvenirs. We did enjoy being able to order street food off the boats as they float by. I had the best boat noodle soup from one of the boats. If you do find yourself at this floating market, then do try this boat noodle soup (as long as you’re not a germaphobe).
Public transportation is quick and easy in Bangkok. We never took advantage of it but many of the people we’ve spoken to, who have been to Bangkok, suggest taking the trains. We simply did not find the need for them for the places we wanted to visit. We just took taxis, uber, tuk tuks or walked.
If you ever find your self trying to take a taxi, here are tips on how to avoid getting scammed:
- Just say no and move on to another driver
- Ask to turn on the meter, if they refuse, see tip 1
- Always haggle down, if they refuse, see tip 1
- Try a tuk tuk instead, they tend to be cheap. If you have trouble with them, see tip 1 & 3
- Uber is your friend. Yes, Uber is fully available and the easiest way to get around the crazy streets of Bangkok. We ended up using Uber most of the time
We went in the heart of monsoon season. It was extremely hot and humid but we were quickly cooled down by the intermittent torrential down pours. Which was actually really nice. Summer wear is highly recommended but be prepared to get wet!
Based on 2 people, 3 days, 3 nights) – All in Canadian Dollars:
- Accommodation: $63 per night for 4 start boutique hotel
- Meals: If you’re not picky and don’t get grossed out by street food and greasy spoon restaurants, then you can have really good and filling meals for under $3 a plate. Cheap beers too. If you’re looking for a sit down meal, it’s still relatively cheap probably $10 per plate.
- Alcoholic beverage: under $3 per pint of beer under $4 for cocktail
- Coffee: roughly $1- $2, $2- $3 for Thai Iced Tea
- Misc. expenses: Entry fees range from low to high depending on the place you’re going to. Most temples charge under $10 per person. Souvenirs like magnets are $1, elephant pants under $5 etc. Make sure you bargain for the best price!
Temple tips – Both men and women cannot show their shoulders or knees. Women, no tanks, shorts or mini skirts. Men, no shorts or tanks. They either let you rent a shawl there or give you one. You need to take your shoes off before going into the temple. So have a plastic bag for them so you can bring them in and not leave it outcside for someone to steal. You need ID with you to go to the Grand Palace…they do security checks.
Overall, Bangkok is a city where your eyes are widened by new sights and taste heightened with new flavours. However, the novelty of the city wears off quite quickly. For myself, even though I am a city girl, Bangkok was just simply that – a novelty. Once I got my pagoda and Pad Thai fix, I was ready to spend my time in Thailand elsewhere.
What were your Bangkok experiences? Leave me a comment!