Bangkok. It’s one of those cities known by all around the world. It’s notorious for it’s ping-pong shows, tattoo parlours, lady boys and for the sleazy western men fighting for the attention of pretty, young Thai girls. As they say in ‘The Hangover 2,’ “There is a reason it’s called Bangkok, Sweetie.” What it’s not so famous for is it’s culture rich temples and villages only a stones throw away from all that seediness.
It was time for us to leave our little paradise and make our way to the big, dirty city of Bangkok. We booked the boat from Railay and the three buses to Suran Thani through a travel agent on the ‘Island.’ We tried to book the overnight train also but the website had crashed, so we’d need to book upon arrival- being quiet season we weren’t too worried.
Unfortunately for me I awoke at 4am on the morning we were to depart with a very upset stomach. By 8am I was vomiting my guts up.
Note to Self: don’t eat a beef curry for lunch when on an island and their are no cows in sight (and no seafood when inland). I really should have known better, there is no excuse…
I felt horrible but I knew we had no spare time on our itinerary so after Andy kindly packed my bags and carried them to the boat for me we began our journey. It was a hot, long 22 hours of travel and I could not have survived it without Andy looking after me. Luckily for me we scored an empty mini van with seats that reclined for our longest bus, meaning I could lie back and sleep it off.
We arrived at the train station with five hours to kill so after purchasing our tickets we went to the only place we knew would have air conditioning and wouldn’t mind us sitting in for hours on end- McDonald’s.
Luckily the time went fast and before we knew it, it was time for us to return to the station for our train.
Overnight sleeper trains are very similar to those in India. Of course 1st class is supposed to be exceptionally comfortable but we are poor backpackers so 2nd class it was, though we’d heard they were fine. They were more than fine!
When it gets to about 10pm they fold the seats out to a bed with sheets, blankets and pillows and a dark curtain to keep the lights out. They’re quite comfortable, especially the bottom bunks, which we’d all asked for. I went to sleep quite quickly. At 4am I woke up to a noise. I thought someone was touching our bags, but when I looked out of my curtain I saw that my brother was sick. It was now his time for gastro.
The tables had turned and now it was my turn to give out medicine and carry bags. Oh the joys of traveling in developing countries.
The train journey was about 13 hours long and once we arrived in Bangkok train station we bartered for a Taxi. We paid 100 baht to our hotel which was quite far away from the station. One tuk tuk driver wanted 300 baht so of course we walked away, but as we were stopped at the lights he stopped his Tuk Tuk next to ours with a girl in the back and shouted gleefully ‘300 baht for one person!’ With a smug laugh. The girl looked at us with so much fear and confusion. If I was her I would have been so furious at his behaviour I would have only paid him a hundred (which is how much we paid).
We chose to stay at the Rambuttri Village Plaza, which was a little but not too much pricier than a hostel, for two reasons- because of its central location to Khao San Road and because it had two rooftop pools which were so needed in Bangkok’s unbearable heat. It was quite lucky we had chosen this place as it meant Jordan had his own room with air conditioning to recover in.
After spending the morning swimming and showering we caught up with Pom, our Thai friend we used to work with in Sydney. Small, quiet Pom was visiting Bangkok from her hometown of Trang in the South so she could participate in the 2014 protests. The first part of Poms tour was to show us the protestors camp, which had just moved locations after six months in their previous spot. She explained why they were protesting to us, a topic we knew nothing about. To keep it short and simple, they were angry at the government for being corrupt. Everyone in the government is interrelated and use money to get their votes. The link attached below will give a much better explanation for those of you interested in learning more.
Pom walked us through the camp minutes after telling us that assassins murder protestors frequently. We were a little hesitant and concerned for our safety but she assured us we were fine.
Streets upon streets were closed off by the security team of the protestors. I asked Pom if the businesses in these streets were bothered about this but she said that they were happy as they also supported the cause and that they still had business from the protestors.
Pom explained that people donated money so that the full time protestors were able to have meals supplied to them each day.
I will always clearly remember one of Poms Facebook status updates during her stay in Bangkok which simply but profoundly said ‘it’s dangerous to be right, when your government is wrong.’
After our camp tour Pom took us to the grand palace. It was interesting being in a Tuk Tuk with Pom. We thought we bartered well and got cheap rides but it was nothing compared to how much she paid. After that we didn’t pay more than 100 baht to go anywhere.
Unfortunately the Grand Palace was trying to charge almost $20 equivalent entry, a price we just could not afford, so instead we went back to Khao San road for lunch. We still weren’t feeling great so I stuck to a safe western meal of ravioli pasta, but it was actually amazing.
It was so wonderful to be able to catch up with Pom, she’s a friend we love dearly.
That night we visited the ‘infamous’ Khao San Road, and to be honest I was kind of disappointed. I’ve heard how intense and crazy this place is supposed to be, filled with the weird and the wacky. In my opinion, everything was mediocre. I’ve seen better. Perhaps it makes a big difference whether it’s quiet or busy season, whether you’re there to explore or hardcore party or whether it’s just not a place I like as much as everyone loves. Theirs of course sleazy men trying to sell you anything from suits, tattoos, drugs or girls not to mention all those ping pong shows you can attend if you wish, but that’s definitely not my thing. Whilst I’m sure it’s quite a strange and mind boggling experience I vowed to myself that I’d never support anything that exploits women and minors, especially in a country like Thailand. It’s one thing to go to a strip club in a country like Australia where, in the majority, the women choose these careers and have other opportunities and financial help if needed but in a country like Thailand they often have no choice or are quite literally forced into this exploitation.
If we all chose to not support these industries in any way the industry would eventually not exist and therefore these women would not be forced to exploit themselves in any way, shape or form. Travel is a beautiful thing, but tourists who support the exploitation of any person or place have ruined tourism and these once culturally rich places, forever.
We walked around to get quotes on a tour to the floating markets after Pom told us their was no way we could do it on our own. We were pleasantly surprised to be quoted 150 baht ($5) for a half day tour.
We were picked up at 8am and driven for almost two hours before we arrived at the river. We then caught a long tail boat to the start of the markets. From there we could either walk around or hire a little boat to go through. We figured we were only here once… And it was only $2. We were so happy we chose this option. Whilst the only thing we purchased on the boat was some mango for breakfast it was a great experience. (For more info on the best markets in South East Asia click here!)
Upon returning to Bangkok we had a quick swim to cool down and then made our way to Wat Po temple, which only cost 50 baht entry. It was so beautifully detailed. Wat Po temple is one of the oldest ad largest temples in Bangkok. Not only does it house more than a a thousand Buddha images, inlcuding the 160ft (43 metre long) reclining Buddha, but it was also the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage. It is rich in Thai history and incredible to explore.
We heard from a tourist at our hotel that we should visit the Grand China Hotel in China town before sunset. This suggestion did not disappoint. The extravagant hotel sticks out like a sore thumb in the dirty, outdated ‘China Town’ region of Bangkok. But once you go up thirty floors to their rooftop bar the hassle of the journey pays off. All we had to do was purchase a drink from the bar (the cheapest option being a Coke for $4!!!!) and you could stay up there as long as you liked admiring the 360 degree view of Bangkok sprawling below you. Like Tokyo, it amazed us how big Bangkok truly is.
Bangkok was cool to experience but two nights was most definitely enough for us. Go for the temples, the fishing village and the culture but don’t spend too long. In my opinion theres far better places to spend your time in Thailand and it should just be used as a stopover in between exploring other incredible places.
Have you ever been to Bangkok? What did you think of it?
What were your highlights or hates? Tell me in the comments below!