I’m not going to lie, Bangkok is not one of my favourite places in Asia. It’s quite grubby and super busy. It was a place that I’ve always wanted to go nonetheless. I’ve been three times now, the first was my first stop in a quick trip around Thailand, and after being quite unimpressed with Thailand’s capital, the next two visits were purely for stopover purposes.
After booking 9 short days in Thailand on my return home from Korea, I was extremely excited to explore the country and it’s capital city. I’d heard and seen so much about it, and I really wanted to visit the Grand Palace. I was going to Bangkok alone and then meeting my friend Caitlin on the islands, so I wanted to stay somewhere social, and close to the main attractions. This made Khao San Road and Old City my area of choice. I didn’t want to stay quite on the main road, so stayed in a road adjacent to it, so I’d be able to escape some of the madness if it got a bit much.
Arriving in Bangkok your first battle is with the taxi drivers. All of them are sat waiting, baying at you to ride with them…and let me tell you can they can smell a new tourist a mile off. I spent a good half an hour arguing with many taxi drivers, to only just reduce the amount I was getting ripped off, but it was 1am and I really wanted sleep. The key is to do your research and really stand your ground, act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. I spent the next day exploring the sites and the city. I walked around everywhere that day, and found that everything was pretty walkable for me. I went to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (or the giant reclining Buddha), before getting a boat across the Chao Phraya River to visit Wat Arun. Sadly Wat Arun was under construction when I went, so I didn’t pay the entry fee to walk around a temple hidden in scaffolding.
Feet tired from walking, I returned back to my hostel. Turns out that it wasn’t so social, so after my sightseeing I decided to brave Khao San Road on own. I went to a live music bar, so not the usual party party scene. I think if I wasn’t alone I would’ve liked to have checked out the more ‘real’ Khao San Road experience. And of course I had to try some street food, and what better dish to try than Pad Thai. Best. Thing. Ever.
My underwhelming experience the first time round meant that I wasn’t bursting to go back. My flights are usually quite cheap to Bangkok, due to Air Asia having a big hub there. I opted to stay in Sukhumvit this time round, which was more readily accessible via public transport than Khao San Road, thus avoiding money thirsty taxi drivers at all costs. The only reason I was happy to return to Bangkok was for the street food, which really is the best I’ve tried. I heard China Town was one of the best places in the city to try different street foods, so I chose to dine there on my first return, again choosing pad thai, so to avoid disappointment. There was a huge crowd around one stall selling some kind of sweet dessert, so I ordered myself one, intrigued by why it was attracting such a crowd. Turns out it was just a dollop of custard whacked in a burger bun…oh. It’s like the Thai equivalent of an iced bun, at the end of the day it’s just a bread bun with something sweet whacked on top, and let’s be honest, buns should be left for barbecued meats only.
My hostel told me about Terminal 21, a shopping mall close by with a really good food court. Food court…hmmm. Didn’t sound the most appealing or authentic Thai experience, but she insisted it was really good and cheap. And boy was she right. The food court on the 5th floor of Terminal 21 is a must go if you’re in Sukhumvit. You simply load money on a card and then try the delights of the many food stalls on offer. There’s sweet and savoury dishes, and all at amazingly cheap prices. I read somewhere that the owner doesn’t take rent from the vendors, so to keep the food prices cheap, and the customers returning (which of course I did). My second hostel in Sukhumvit was amazing. It’s called Hom hostel and cooking club, and is in the top floor of Nana square shopping mall. It has it’s own kitchen and rooftop garden, and the beds are the comfiest I’ve ever slept in in a hostel.
I’m sure I’ll end up in Bangkok again for some layover or another, and when I do pad thai lady I’m coming for you! I also want to do a rooftop bar if I get the chance, and some of the infamous ‘shows’. For now I’m happy to see what other places have to offer first.