Its taken a while for my feelings about Bangkok to settle, it is a crazy place in which forced modernity clashes with old cultures, seems similar to every other city you go to right? This one is so heavily condensed that it is difficult to catch your own breath yet alone take everything in, but if you can find a nice bar buy a beer, sit down and take a step back then maybe your on your way to enjoying yourself.
On arrival to Bangkok airport we learnt our first valuable lesson, don’t get a taxi, you will be ripped off (even if you take lonely planets advice and say ‘metre’ in the most aggressive tone you can muster after 2 consecutive 8 hour flights and no sleep between them). If you do get a taxi, you will be ripped off, so just be aware of it, taxi’s are great until you have to pay the driver far over the odds! There are other great travel options available, the underground and skytrain networks are great and you won’t pay more than 50 baht a pop (50p). Where we stayed we were isolated from the skytrains which made things a little more difficult for us, we were forced into getting Tuk-Tuk’s and taxi’s almost everywhere we went but we managed to avoid most of the scams, not because we are super savvy, more likely we were just extremely lucky!
We stayed near the Kho San Road, it’s a late night kinda place and turns out is mot as central as we had hoped, but if you like that show ‘boozed up Brits abroad’ then you are probably not that far off the truth. With this in mind the road we actually stayed on was really nice, a few good bars, the one opposite us had great live music every night. We had a few too many there on our arrival in Bangkok and had a great time.
We met up with a friend of mine I met in America – Ern, we had a few drinks and went to a place we would never have found without him, Brick bar. Inside there was a great Thai ska-punk band playing some great tunes (neither of us recognised them, but Ern seemed to know what was going on, so we went with it and had a great time!)
Getting a train 101 – All the advice I can give you on getting a train in Thailand is contained in the next sentence – Know where you want to go, go to the train station and hope for the best!
Our experience of Hua lamphong train station is a beguiling tale of mystery and treachery, well thats what it felt like, we left the station with our train tickets, but also somehow they had managed to sell us our hostel and a hiking trip in Chiang Mai. The travel agents here ‘scalp’ the tickets – honestly not as bad as it sounds…. it means they buy the tickets and sell them on as part of a package in order to increase there commission on a sale. All in all I think we came out with a reasonable deal! But there was no escape from Hua Lamphong without what felt like a step into the soviet Ukraine in the 70’s. Everyone in the station at precisely 6pm came to a stop and stood in silence, it felt like a flashmob… of course in time we realised that it was the national anthem that was playing, we were still confused, especially when everything carried on as normal afterwards!
All in all Bangkok was a tough way to ease yourself into Asian culture, but from later experience I realise that it is probably the easiest!
Its a fact that in Bangkok you –
Will be scared to cross the road
will be ripped off by a taxi driver
will realise there is a more efficient way to get around the city
will be offered a new suit
will be asked to attend a ‘ping pong show’… Use your imagination, you will work it out
will drink a few too many Chang before looking at the alcohol content
will eat more pad Thai than you knew was possible
and finally, you will want to move on asap, but trust me, you will remember it!
See you in Chiang Mai