During our travels around Asia we’ve spoken to lots of other backpackers about the places they’ve been and Bangkok has never really had glowing reviews. Often it seems to be the city they first fly into from Europe and then just pass through to some of Thailand’s more scenic destinations. Coming from a western city straight into Bangkok would be a big culture shock and as we’ve found out, the madness of big Asia cities takes a bit of time to get used to!
Bangkok was a bit of a pass-through for us as well. After leaving Chiang Mai in the north (more on that in a minute) we were heading towards the tropical islands of Southern Thailand. However, to get there we had to pass through Bangkok so thought we’d better stop for a couple of days and see for ourselves what it had to offer.
Train travel is pretty cheap in Thailand and for about ₤25 each we were able to get a first class cabin on the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Now I know what you’re thinking, 1st class means larger seats, complimentary drinks, a free newspaper and maybe even one of those
nice little tables with the reading lights. Well, not quite. Whilst we initially thought we had our 2-birth cabin to ourselves, it didn’t take too long to realize we were in fact sharing it with a little family of cockroaches - nice! We got the train attendant to give the cabin a blast with his bug spray but as we were getting into our beds we could still spot the occasionally bug scuttling around. Liz didn’t really sleep much on this one. I dread to think what second class would have been like!
Bangkok wasn’t quite as intimidating as we imagined it might be. After dealing with cities like Beijing, Xi’an, Hanoi and Saigon we are pretty well versed in dealing with huge Asian cities. Never take the first offer of a taxi, never take a really cheap Tuk-Tuk as they will always go via a friends shop, remember to smile when you say “no I don’t want to buy your wooden frog/fake designer suit/jade necklace” and most importantly cross the road with confidence!
During our first day we checked out Khao San road which was made famous by the film “The Beach” and lives up to its
reputation of being loud, bright and busy. It’s only about 500m long but lined with countless bars and small shops/stalls. As you walk along you get approached with offers for custom made suits, cheap Tuk-Tuk rides (see above) or, among other things, to have your fortune read. Apparently, I’m going to have a very lucky September but would have to pay him to find out about October… I’ll take my chances! After all that excitement we needed to cool off so found a nice air-conditioned Ice-cream shop called Swensen’s. Without really realizing (or maybe I did?) I had ordered a 4 scoop monster of an ice-cream and not to be outdone promptly devoured the whole thing. Yes, what a fatty…
On the second day we checked out the other main attraction in Bangkok which is the Royal Palace. As we hadn’t read much about it in advance we didn’t know what to expect but once inside we were both pretty amazed. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking but needless to say it’s one of the most impressive temples we’ve seen on our trip. The amount of gold used is incredible and all the buildings are kept
in perfect condition. We managed to tag along with a free English language tour and then whiled away a couple of hours just wondering around being drawn to everything shiny!
After all that culture during the day, in the evening we managed to find a bar showing the Formula 1 so promptly went there to have a couple of beers and watch the Belgium Grand Prix. At last we’ve actually been able to watch a race. For what’s supposed to be the most watched sport in the world it seems those stats don’t include anywhere in Asia!
Just before catching our onwards train out of Bangkok (wondering with fear in our hearts what wildlife would be there to greet us) we went to a small veggie restaurant that was near to our hostel and recommended by Trip-Advisor (our online bible for places we should visit!). The restaurant is also a cooking school and as we walked in the dozen or so students for that day were all being taught traditional Thai dancing by the owner. We were the only customers in the restaurant and I’m not sure who was the most embarrassed!
Next stop is the small
island of Ko Toa which is about 30 miles off the east coast of Thailand. It’s famous for being the place where more people learn to Scuba dive than anywhere else in the world. I’ll leave you to guess what we’ll be doing…
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