After completing our last dives and passing our diving exam in Koh Tao, we decided that it was time to hit the mainland of Thailand. We booked a ticket which would take us to Bangkok where we would spend the next three days. Taking a two-hour boat and then an 8-10-hour bus ride to Bangkok meant that when we got there, it was late and so we decided to just go straight to bed. For the first time on our Asia trip, we had all been split up. With one of us having to go back to Koh Phangan to collect forgotten credit cards, and another staying with his girlfriend in Bangkok, it meant that the three of us were all in different areas of Thailand for one night.
We had heard a lot of bad things about Bangkok which we tried to look out for. Many people said that we did not want to spend too much time there because it’s ‘sweaty’ and other areas of Thailand are much better to visit. However, personally, I didn’t think Bangkok was as bad as many made out. Although it doesn’t have the golden sand beaches of the islands or the spectacular mountain views of the north, Bangkok still has a lot to offer.
For our first proper day in Bangkok, we decided to walk around the city and just get a feel for it. Bangkok is saturated with cafes and restaurants, so you’ll not have any trouble eating amazing food wherever you go. Food portions weren’t always that big, but at 50THB (just over £1) for a meal, you’ll never have to break the bank to fill yourself up.
There’s one street in Bangkok that you’ll definitely want to visit regardless of the purpose of your trip. During the daytime, Khao San Road is filled with market vendors selling a variety of merchandise, such as dirt-cheap knock-off versions of designer clothing and more tradition garments. All three of us invested in at least one pair of vibrant shorts or trousers, which are some of the most comfortable clothing we’ve ever had. The trousers are also very light, which comes in very handy in places where you have to cover up, such as the royal palace and a lot of different temples. As well as Thai restaurants, Khao San Road also features some western cuisine, such as an Irish bar and even a McDonalds should you be missing your home “comforts”. However, we really don’t recommend visiting these places, as they tend to be more expensive than everywhere else, and local Thai food is genuinely some of the best in the world.
After dark is when Khao San Road really comes. Bangkok doesn’t let the side down when it comes to a messy night out. The street becomes filled with tourists and locals all with a shared interest: to get off their faces. There are plenty of bars and clubs, but if you really want value for money you can get a bucket (literally a bucket like what you’d take to the beach as a kid) of spirit and mixer for around 100THB and take part in the street rave. The clubs are also a good time, but if you do venture into one be prepared to be searched first, as this is common practice in a lot of SEA nightclubs.
There are many great attractions that you can visit when in Bangkok, and one of the best is the Royal Palace. Although a little overpriced at 500THB per entry (like most, we found most of the Palaces are), the Royal Palace is a grand symbol of Thai Monarchism. It is, however, an extremely touristy attraction and practically impossible to take a picture of the architecture without lots of other people in your shot. You do need to cover your shoulders and legs to enter, which is where the trousers aforementioned are useful as you can just slip them over your shorts while you’re in the palace.
As many of you reading this will already know, Bangkok has temples located practically everywhere around the city. My favourite was Wat Pho – the temple of the reclining Buddha. This temple was quite different from the other temples which seem to all be the same and become quite repetitive. The architecture and building designs were quite obscure and the change was well needed. As impressive as they are (and as bad as this sounds), there are hundreds of temples and after 4 or 5, they all start to look the same. We recommend choosing a few and seeing those, then moving onto something else.
Another thing to add about Bangkok is the weather. It reminded me a lot of Hong Kong (which you can read here) in the sense that the weather changes rapidly. One minute it’s sunny without a cloud in the sky, and the next it’s pouring it down. Although we went in rainy season – so obviously it was going to rain, the humidity was terrible. Visiting Hong Kong and Malaysia beforehand which are countries that suffer from high humidity probably helped us. However, if Bangkok is your first place then be prepared for being sweaty all the time. We found that the best solution is wearing tank tops as much as possible, especially the ones with a low cut underneath the armpits. If you wear your regular clothing in Bangkok you’ll quickly find it quite unbearable!
To tell you the truth, when we got to Bangkok, the rest of our travels were starting to catch up with us. Although we did have a night out, visited the main attractions and ate a lot of food, we didn’t really go off the beaten track. After recently going back to Bangkok for the second time, there is more to a lot more to it than just its temples and the Royal Palace. Bangkok is home to the biggest market in south-east Asia and has a range of spectacular viewpoints where you can sit back with a drink and watch the world pass you by. I would recommend people starting their journey in Bangkok, as it is a good warm-up for the rest of Thailand or the rest of South East Asia. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t stay more than three or four days, as Thailand has so much to offer and Bangkok is just a stepping stone for that.
View the rest of our Thailand pictures here.