Bangkok is… well, let’s just say it’s a busy city! Bangkok is to tourists/backpackers, what a beehive is to bees, or a seedy club to under 18s on a Friday night. You remember the place? Good! That is essentially Bangkok with westerners.
I’ve been to touristy places before, but never anything like this. Westerners are herded like sheep through the entrance gates of temple after temple, to see amazing, wondrous things, whilst surrounded by thousands of other gawking westerners! Ok, so at this point you can point out the huge hypocrisy of this post. I am of course a tourist! My camera hanging eagerly around my neck, sweat dripping down my reddening face as I gaze upon the wonders laid before me. However, I am also British! Which, if sticking to stereotypes, allows me to have a moan from time to time. For that reason, Bangkok was a little bit of a huge disappointment!
So instead of an insightful post into the many attractions and delights of Thailand’s capital, here are my top 5 tips on how to survive it:
1. Just buy the damn suit
For anyone who has been to the legendary Kao San road, I’m sure one of the main things that stuck with you is the delightful suit salesman. Oh yes, in the million degree heat these guys will joyfully come to you and charm you into their shops with the promise of air-con and a cool drink, only to discuss business attire which you’d surely drench on your walk home. This may not be so bad if you weren’t stopped 50 times in the same 300m stretch.
Now, you can barter these guys down fairly low (which makes me think they still make a killing), and I guarantee when you get home and receive that wedding invite you’ll wish you had. So, my advice, buy the suit and walk down that street like a boss! Who’s gonna’ stop you now!
2. Middle of the market
Along with Chinatown, the best part of Bangkok was easily the Chatuchak weekend market (also spelt Jatujak). This is the largest market in Thailand at a huge 35 acres. With over 15,000 stalls you’re truly spoilt for choice, and can easily get lost. But before you worry about losing your way, head a little deeper into this shopping heaven and you will be rewarded as prices drop dramatically.
Yes that’s right, even just 2 to 3 rows behind the outer stalls, you can get similar or even the same products for half the price. I can only speculate that the sheer number of tourists on the outer edges has made the stall owners immune to standard bartering techniques. They just don’t budge! In the middle however, you’re treated to lesser crowds, cheaper goodies, great food, and some pretty interesting artworks!
Delicious paella in the Chatuchak market
Monks for sale
3. Beg, borrow and
Ok, so forget the last one… and the first for that matter, but hear me out. For those of you who haven’t been to Thailand before, you may not be aware that you need to cover up before entering many of the temples, and the palace. This is just one of the many cultural differences you have to accept when visiting another country. However, what you needn’t accept is the extortionately priced pyjamas that are sold opposite all of these sites.
This is a great trap for panicking tourists, worried that they won’t get to see that golden Buddha, or the inside of the Grand Palace. Now I know you’d look fantastic in those elephant print, cotton genie pants… but are you really going to wear them when you get back to your dull everyday life? Didn’t think so!
The truth is, that many of these sights offer genie pants (not sure of the real name) and/or scarves FREE to borrow whilst you look around. Yes, that’s right! You don’t have to pay 5 times the entry price for a cheap pair of trousers you’ll probably give as a joke gift.
Not quite the stairway to heaven
Attention to detail in the Grand Palace
Rooftops, the Grand Palace
4. Tik-tok Tuk Tuk
There are a few ways to get around Bangkok. The cheapest, if you forget walking, is the bus. Of course, unless you know the routes these can be very tricky. The tube offers a service to some areas, but is lacking where the main sites are concerned. So, that of course leaves taxis, and the famous tuk tuk.
Tuk tuks are fantastic fun, and a great way to see the city, but unless you find ones that will take you to 3 or 4 sites for an agreed upon price, they can be costly. I had drivers quoting me 150 baht for a short ride. If you hear this, just say no and laugh it off.
Taxis will do much the same, unless you get yourself into a meter taxi!
Meter taxis are easy to spot. They’re the ones where the driver doesn’t shout numbers at you. My first 2 days in Bangkok I was oblivious, and just thought that was the cost. However, after a ride in a meter taxi costing 30 baht (150 baht the day before) I was finally educated. Save your money for the markets, and look out for this taxi!
5. Get out!
If you like being over charged, herded about, sold stuff you don’t want or need, and you enjoy they constant fear of being pickpocketed, then by all means stay in Bangkok!
However, if you agree with me, the best advice I can give you is to get out by any means necessary!
Thailand is an awesome country, with so much going on. You could venture north to Chiang Mai, and experience a bustling city with a fraction of the tourism, or lose yourself on one of the many islands that litter the coasts. Whether it’s by bus, plane, boat or train, get out and enjoy Thailand, and don’t base your opinion on Bangkok!
Koh Chang sunset