Part way through my 6 week stay in awesome Thailand I found myself in Bangkok, one of the cities you think of when people say “Crazy Asia.” Its a fascinating city of 6 million that like other Asian capitals has an obvious gap between rich and poor. My stay was short (one week) but I enjoyed every moment of it. How do you experience Bangkok?? Here is four things that I did in Bangkok.
The people in Thailand are so incredibly friendly. Considering this is one of the more touristy countries in the world I take my hat off to the Thai people who continually welcome strangers into their country. Thailand is an example of how a country can embrace tourism in a friendly welcoming that warms your heart. Sadly I’ve visited countries where you feel alienated and unwelcome and I wish that these countries could take a leaf out of Thailand’s book.
Check my other blog posts from Bangkok and Thailand if your interested.
Khao San Road is in the middle of Bangkok and is where a lot of the tourists that visit the city stay. I stayed at My House Guest House that is just a few minutes walk from Khao San Road its self and was the cheapest place I found in the area. I payed 180 Baht ($5USD) for a small private fan room with a small single bed. And 250 Baht ($7USD) for a twin room with my mate.
During the day time Khao San Road is lined with stalls selling anything from clothing to souvenirs to food and there’s lots of people walking up and down. But its at night when it really comes alive. By midnight the music is loud and people are dancing in the street. If you want to sit down you can buy beer for about 70 Baht and sit at tables on the side of the street or just buy from 7/11 for 56 Baht and sit on the sidewalk. People start dancing in the street, the alcohol flows and the Pad Thai is cooked fresh. If your adventures why not try some beetles or grass hoppers!! They actually taste quite good I thought!
To me a visit isn’t complete without meeting someone on Couchsurfing to help you experience Bangkok, preferably someone who lives in the city, preferably locals my own age. 5 Days before getting to Bangkok I sent about 10 message to locals and got 2 very short disappointing reply’s. Almost the worst response I’ve had. So I sent 15 more and got about 10 really keen reply’s offering me places to stay and events and fun things to do! Much better. I hadn’t actually stayed with anyone for a year or more so decided to stay with a local girl Tarn and her friend on Thursday night and another Thai girl MoA for the weekend.
Tarn has hosted a couple of times before and lives in a 3 story house just outside the city limits. After battling the terrible traffic and public transport in the city I met with her and her friend and another Croatian guy who was also staying with them. The next day Tarn drove the 4 of us across town to visit her University and to visit a really cool market along the shores of Tha Chin river where we had an amazing lunch of fresh fish, Tom Yam soup, Papaya Salad, vegetables and rice. They insisted on buying us dinner the night before and they would only let us pay half of the lunch.
They left me at one of the BTS (metro train) stations sadly I left them to find my next host for the next 2 nights. With difficulty I found MoA in the busy crowd of another train station it turned out she is living on the 23rd floor of a 30 floor brand new apartment building in central Bangkok. I think its the highest I’ve ever couchsurfed off the ground! The next day she showed me around the crazy Chatuchak market!
I also went to the Wednesday weekly meet up where I also made friends.
There’s about 22,000 people on Couchsurfing in Bangkok and its very easy to find hosts or just meet to explore different parts of the city. Unlike some other busy cities in the world like New York and London you don’t have to send out requests far in advance.
One of the “must do’s” in Bangkok is a visit to Chatuchak market. Sadly its only on the weekend but if you pan ahead just make sure your in Bangkok on Saturday or Sunday. Its 27 acres of park, sectioned into 27 sections and in total theres around 15,000 stores selling almost anything you could ever want at very low prices. You wont be the only one! Over 200,000 people visit each day of the weekend, 30% foreign people. There are almost everything can be found here at a bargaining local price (not a tourist price), and most vendors actually come from local factories, like antique wood carving, clay handicrafts, local souvenirs from every parts of Thailand, Buddhist amulets, wooden furniture, hand made decorated flowers, plant, ceramic wares, Thai Bejarong, Chinese wares, garden decorated plants, stones, trendy fashions, silk, hill-tribe outfits, fluffy dogs and much much more.
I first herd about Chatuchak when I was in Malaysia and I decided this would be my shopping day. (My last shopping day was in October in Minneapolis so well over due).
I was luckily enough to have a local guide MoA who was my couch surfing host and she knew the market well. She showed me around to some of the different sections and in 5 hours I feel we still didn’t see a fraction of the place.
I spent 500 Baht ($14USD) and walked away with almost a whole new wardrobe, 2 Pairs of shorts, 5 T-Shirts and a Hat. And of course a day in Thailand isn’t complete without a banana milkshake and a fresh espresso from local grown coffee!
This fascinating market is located about 1 1/2 hours drive by shuttle bus from the centre of Bangkok. I caught the shuttle from Victoria Monument with a couchsurfing friend and it cost us 70 Baht ($2USD) each way. I assume its the cheapest way because the shuttle was full of locals also paying 70 Baht. You catch the shuttle from a carp park under the freeway on the north side of the Victoria Monument roundabout.
The shuttle drops you off about 5 minutes walk from the market its self.
The market is about 150m long and runs along the rail way lines. People have their goods right up against the tracks and the only way to walk through this market is to actually walk along the tracks themselves. When the train comes they seem to know the time and everything vanishes from the tracks just before the train comes through. Then as fast as it disappeared it all comes back again. Apparently the train comes through about 6 times a day and when its incredible how it fits through the tight gap between buildings and people.
Just a shot 5 minute walk directly south there’s a cool temple that you can visit also while your there.
You can read more about the Maeklong Market on this blog.
So there were my favorite places in this extraordinary city. Its huge so take your time. If your backpacking I recommend you give yourself a few days to experience Bangkok and really get to know the place. I stayed a week and will certainly go back again for another week or 2.
What else did I do in Thailand…. see my other posts:
Dont forget Chinag Rai: What we did in Chiang Rai
Leaving to the north: Crossing from Thailand to Laos