Seriously…what a great place!
I don’t actually get how people don’t get it. I’ve been in Khao San…the ‘stingy backpacker refuge’ and had an amazing time, I’ve been around Siam Square, Chinatown, Down the Chao Phraya River, Around the grand palace…to about 20 markets, the Hua lamphong area….and the nicer parts. I have yet to find a place I dislike or am not completely fascinated by.
Khao San–Literally everything you think Bangkok will be, all in one place…with enough tourists to make you feel ‘not weird’ but enough locals to remind you that you’re still in Thailand. There are ping pong shows, 20 baht pad thais, a million smoothie places, singlets/tank tops in every fluorescent color ever with every cheesy graphic and eye rolling pun imaginable. Don’t forget the fact that every building is a bar/restaurant/homestay/massage/exchange/live music venue with a temporary street cart with scorpions on a stick to photograph and its neighbor fresh squeezed OJ. I arrived there at 5am and it could have well been 9pm….the street never sleeps. One street over (parallel) find my favourite place in BKK…the Rambuttri Rd area….way more leafy trees…open air concept restaurants, tons of live music….a little less pushy, a few less fake ID and stolen electronic shops to make you feel a little less like the tourist police will arrest you for walking too slow. Continue across the main road towards the river and find cheaper (no matter what people say), more helpful vendors, tastier and cheaper food, and the used book shops have way better stuff too!….Laundry is also 20B at most of the alley places…sounds sketch, but way better than the bush league rush I got in krabi for 45. Guest houses are nice for 120B a night.
Grand Palace: Head a little further down the river and find the grand palace…do NOT leave Bangkok without visiting!! IT is extraordinary. It also has great old thai medicine shopes if you fancy some cheap as tiger balm, reflexology maps, or just in general voodoo stuff. There are also heaps of English speaking fortune tellers. Beside the palace there is also the royal field where I had my morning runs! I am saying its about an 800m loop….water fountains….clear running and people aren’t creepy. The side of the national defence building has great GREAT night markets…mostly locals though, so be prepared to play sherades to barter/ask questions.
Chinatown: HOLY MAN. Seriously, go down at least one of the ‘Walking Streets’ …they go forever and sell everything you’ve ever dreamed of…and everything the unicorn in your dreams has ever dreamed of. Everytime you see a stereotypical hello kitty decked out Asian at home and wonder where they got their accessories..they are there…in abundance. Part of me though Chinatown would kinda meld into the rest of the city because I’m in Asia…so surely it should all be the same right? no….not at all… that was by far the most culture shocked I’ve been in asia….it was also amazing because the excessive air con from the stores would overflow into the walking street…and I found a stall selling green salads, and mangoes for half price.
Chao Phraya River: Don’t buy the day pass…its only 15 baht to ride no matter how far…you aren’t going to get on/off 10 times unless you are lazy and don’t actually want to see any culture besides taking photos of temples….it is a great ride though, especially at night!
Siam Square/Downtown: When you’re just seeing street vendors its easy to forget about typically ‘Thais’…the ones that are whiter than gingers in canada, have striking fake blue eyes, and have perfectly tailored brand name clothing. There they are….all in one place…I’ve actually stared at a couple for a few minutes trying to sort out their ethnicity….Anyway, it is the metropolitan vibe you expect from a city of 8 million….and you will see way more expats than you expect that have moved to Bangkok for work….nothing like a legit blonde haired white guy rattling off in thai to his colleagues while eating a fried fish head whole off a stick.
Hua Lumphong….the major train station….actually not nearly as skeezy as you’d think…great cafes with free wifi accross the street…I’d find it to be pricy if I hadn’t been to the islands yet, but all things considered…they aren’t that over priced. Sunset over the station is quite beautiful as well.
North of Khao San: theres some major markets, some town hall…and a boxing stadium. the boxing stadium isn’t worth it but the markets included wholesale stores that I thought were pretty interesting….it makes for a good walk at least.
My tips would be to do as much of Bangkok as possible on foot…there aren’t that many ‘monuments’…there are temples galore…and tons of things they think are intersting that arent…but lets face it, they don’t have an opera house equivalent…it is the Culture of Bangkok, which you will get wandering through chinatown, or through markets between temples. Experiencing the ever changing and unique cultures of the city are why it is amazing. And though the traffic is insane…I’ve yet to feel like a place is actually crowded.
Anyway…conquering the thai-Cambodia border in the morning….it is supposed to be terrible, so wish me luck and I’ll report back later!