If one night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble, what do you think two nights would do? Only time will tell.
I flew in from Amsterdam via Moscow. I had a spicy flight, where the Russian pilot said “put on your seat belts, we are crashing”. After some mild panic where I clutched my purse and thought, did I leave the oven on? It turns out he meant turbulence.
Once I arrived at Bangkok airport, not dead, I caught the metro line to the last station. On the website of my hotel, it stated that you could take an Express Line but it turns out it doesn’t exist anymore. My friend who knows airline people suggested I bring cash and exchange it into Baht at Super Rich currency exchange. It has an orange sign and you’ll find one near the ticket machines in the metro area. There is nothing I like more than a good exchange rate and boy, Super Rich did not disappoint. I brought 250 euros with me, which was exchanged for 9300 baht at 37.20 exchange rate. Rates always confuse me so don’t ask me to explain.
When booking my hotel, I tried to figure out the most central area of Bangkok that wasn’t too rowdy because I am apparently 90 and have sensitive ears. I ended up mapping out some places I wanted to go, then found accommodation relatively close by. You end up taking taxis or tum tums also known as tuk-tuks you silly auto-correct, everywhere you go anyways since things are quite far away from each other. And it’s usually 35 degrees and humid, so sweat happens. In my opinion, take taxis with a meter if you want the best rate. You can barter with tuk-tuk drivers but even so, you end up paying more than the taxi amount. When you get into a taxi, make sure:
1. They have a meter and actually turn it on. You sometimes need to say it more than once to the driver until you actually see them press a button until a number reads. This is the base rate. In Bangkok is about 35 Baht.
2. Make sure they know where you want to go. Sometimes they will just drive around trying to find a place and charge you for it
Just outside the terminal station of the metro, a tuk-tuk driver was going to charge me 500 baht to my hotel, I bartered him down to 200 but walked away since I was told by the hotel it should cost 100 or so. Sure enough, with a taxi, it was 90-something Baht. That being said, if you don’t care about a few dollars (although you really should) tuk-tuks are a blast. My driver played chicken with oncoming traffic, pulled ueys on main roads not meant for ueys and turned a corner so fast I almost flew out of the backseat. Wild.
Day 1: self-centred
Although I hadn’t slept for over a day when I arrived at 07:50, I scooted to my hotel, then went to the Grand Palace, by way of ferry. And well, it was grand. One thing though, your shirt needs to have cuff sleeves and your bottoms need to be longer than your knee. I mention this or you could end up walking around in an overpriced, XL, purple shirt with a hippo on it, despite the fact that you lugged around a massive shawl the entire day for this particular moment. Apparently, my top didn’t cover my shoulders so it was a no-go. My dress was just slightly above my knee but the lady didn’t make me buy those baggy Thai elephant pants tourists wear. No, no, those are much worse than a hideous hippo shirt. Basically, when you walk towards the Palace, you need to follow these metal fences set up by police for security purposes and crowd control. It took me probably 15 minutes to walk through it without many people. So that is why, when I got to the front, I just said F it (in my head obviously, so Buddha couldn’t hear) and I went to the clothing store within the Grand Palace complex itself. That way, I didn’t have to walk through that nonsense again. This is one of those rare times where I sacrificed savings for convenience and you bet your bottom dollar I lost sleep over it. When I looked at the selection of tourist shirts I asked for the plainest white one that was a size S. The woman selling them was like no, no, you not small. She then handed me an XL purple people-eater shirt with a hippo on it. THANKS! Tickets are bought inside, just walk straight ahead until you see lines of people, they are 500 baht each, which I thought excessive but still, well worth it. One line does accept visa whereas the others are cash only. So don’t wait in the wrong line, sucka.
After the Grand Palace, I should have gone to Wat Phra Chetuphon. Wat Pho? To see the reclining Buddha of course! Wat Pho is simply another name for the complex. But seriously, I didn’t know about it until later and it’s only a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace.
After a quick jaunt back to my hotel to check in and wash the plane grossness off me, I again took a ferry, this time to Wang Lang. Now, this ferry situation is a riot. There are 4 colours, 2 of which will take you to the main places you want to go. It reminds me of a riddle, not unlike the one Hermione needed to solve with the potions to get into the chamber of secrets. The blue boat is a tourist one and it costs 50 baht for a single journey. It stops at the pier nearest to the Grand Palace called Maharaj. The blue boat is the only one that stops here “apparently”. I say apparently because I’m slightly suspicious that the orange boat stops there as well. The other, much cheaper, not named tourist boat is the colour orange and it costs 15 baht for a single journey. This one stops basically everywhere. There is no system for lining up or knowing which boat is the one you’re supposed to take. It’s kind of a free-for-all. The blue tourist boat should only take the tourists who paid for that expensive ticket, whereas the other boats should be for the 15 baht rate. But the first and only time I bought the tourist ticket, they sent me on an orange-coloured boat with people who paid the 15 baht rate. Long story short, just buy the 15-baht ticket no matter what.
Wang Lang boat stop has a busy food/clothing/ everything market right when you get off at the dock and it’s quite large. I didn’t go to the weekend Market Chatuchak, which is the largest market in Thailand according to one guy who told me but Wang Lang market was big enough for me (insert sexual innuendo here).
I then took the ferry (after waiting 45 minutes for no apparent reason) to Wat Arun. This temple you can pay 50 Baht to get into and again, you need to dress appropriately. That being said, I didn’t, so I didn’t go inside. But from the outside it was stunning and there was some sort of festival thing there. So I ate instead, which is really more my taste anyways.
Night 1: still self-centred
Day 2: humble
I woke up bright and early to head out to the Taling Chan Floating Market. It opens at 08:00 but when I arrived at 08:40, 70% of the stalls were still setting up. I bought a 99 baht tour that visits 3 ish floating markets by boat. Me being humble now, I ran into some other Canadians so they joined me for the tour. I’ve seen chaotic photos of people in boats buying food and non-food items from other people in other boats. These photos are taken at the tourist trap known as the Damnoen Saduak market, about 2 hours outside Bangkok. Although I never went, many people said the prices are exorbitant. There are so many boats you can’t even count them. At all three floating markets I went to, I could count them. The answer is 2. The term floating market is clearly used quite loosely. It basically means there are massive amounts of food stalls on solid ground, next to a small waterway with one or two people actually cooking in a boat. Still awesome, still delicious, just not so much floating. The tour took us to:
1. Taling Chan (the one we started at)
2. Khlong Lad Mayom
3. Some unknown thing where ten food stalls were there with one person on a boat. And a free toilet where you had to take off your shoes.
It was still good since it departed at 0945 and returned at 1230 and the boat ride itself was really cool. You got to see all the houses along the waterways.
From Taling Chan I took a taxi to Wat Benchamabophit. It is a marble temple. Beautiful from the outside, unknown on the inside since I didn’t go in (dress code strikes again).
From there, I went to Golden Mountain. I had a hell of a time trying to get there by taxi since no one knew what I was talking about. I would recommend showing the Thai name since I think the English translation is totally off. This place is super. It’s 50 baht for tourists only (I knew I should have been born Thai just for these savings) and you walk up some 350 stairs to get to a nice view at the top. There were bells and a gong along the way, which you can gong. I don’t know the word for making noise with these sorts of chimes, ringing isn’t the correct word. So I’ll just write a word that doesn’t make any sense instead.
Next stop, the giant swing. It was okay. It’s next to a temple complex but I don’t think you can actually swing on it, so it just looked like an archway to me.
I walked back through Khaosan Street, which has bars and food and flashy signs. It is okay but not as much stuff lights up at night as I would have thought.
Night 2: more humble
Day 3: even more humble
Wat Pho was on the lineup since I was a silly Billy and missed it on Day 1. There was a Buddha and it reclined so check it out fo so. Honestly, it was epic. It costs 100 baht. It says it opens at 08:00 or 08:30 depending on what website you see and I arrived at 08:20. I bought my ticket with no wait times and headed in. The reclining Buddha is in a temple, which they opened the doors just after 08:30. I highly recommend getting there at this time since I was one of 5 people inside. I went back in after an hour and it was mayhem.
Overall, solid time in Bangkok and I’m super humble now. Win, win.