We had travelled through Bangkok a few times en route to other places including Cambodia and Phuket but never actually spent any time there. Our schedule did allow for a few days on our return leg so we thought why not! We left Ho Chi Minh City and travelled with Air Asia back to DMK Airport (Don Mueang). This was the most uncomfortable journey thus far with a very cramped plane. Upon arrival, we were unable to book a transfer to the accommodation with them directly and therefore used the Taxify App to book a transfer from the airport.
The accommodation we had chosen was the Rambuttri Village Plaza; a reasonably priced choice just a short walk from Khaosan Road. We paid £91 for a 3-night break including breakfast which was reasonable given the location. The room was extremely basic and a little small but there was also a swimming pool on the roof. All in all, for a budget choice it was ideal for us; breakfast was fine although very popular and the pool was a welcome respite from the blistering heat of Bangkok, and one we took advantage of every day.
The area we were in was bustling with pubs and market stalls. We determined the road we stayed on was actually Chakkra Phong Road, adjacent to Khao San Road but was very popular and busy none the less with some unusual food choices, such as crocodile (from a stall hilariously named BangCroc) and the usual South East Asian fare of deep-fried scorpions, tarantulas, cockroaches and snakes. Due to our late arrival, we found a live music bar just down the road and had a meal and a couple of drinks locally before heading back for the night.
Nigel had read about Lumpini Park in Bangkok where you can see monitor lizards and he was keen to visit so after breakfast and a morning swim we headed to the park to have a look around. It was swelteringly hot but the park itself was really lovely; there were shady spots and a big lake but more importantly, we found the lizards… and they were big! The lizards don’t pose any risk to humans and are actually quite shy; they will move away from you if you approach. Never the less we got some great shots of the lizards and the park. Definitely an oasis in the madness of Bangkok and a lovely place to take a picnic and chill out.
We headed from the park towards the Grand Palace as this was marked as a top tourist attraction; however when we arrived there were big queues and despite being modestly dressed in t-shirts and minimal leg showing we were informed we weren’t dressed appropriately and that we had to pay to cover up either by buying clothes or using clothes for a fee. We decided against the visit due to not only the crowds and cost but also the heat although did take some pictures from the outside. The Palace was built in 1782 and was home to the Thai King for 150 years. The entrance fee was 500 THB (approximately £13)
Instead, we decided on a boat trip which would be a great compromise and allow us to see other sites around the area. We negotiated a price with a local vendor of approximately 500 BHT and took to the water.
Now here came the con…..so the boat didn’t drop us where we started…instead we were dropped at a private jetty opposite Wat Arun and charged a fee for us to exit. Despite our protestations, we had no option but to pay; it was a small fee of around 65THB (less than £2) each but what a profit these guys must be making! If you get a tourist boat in Bangkok make sure the drop off is the same as the pick up. It was, however, a very pleasant boat trip and we had enjoyed it. We just ended up about a mile further down the road than we anticipated. We made our way back to our accommodation passing several buildings including government buildings on the way.
We headed back for a sunset swim by the pool and in the evening decided we would venture to the madness that is Khao San Road. It was pretty crazy with lots of bars and restaurants offering deals (including cocktails which were served for an expensive fee in small, cheap, plastic cups) and market traders looking to entice you into their stalls. It was a fun experience but not something we would fancy too often.
The next day we were pretty chilled having a pool day before heading out in a Tuk Tuk to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. If you are in Bangkok you should at least once have the fun of having a tuk-tuk ride; just ensure that you agree on a reasonable fee upfront. We had as it turned out a very long ride due to our driver getting lost, or at least he had misunderstood our destination and headed off somewhere else completely different; however, we still enjoyed it although it was a little hairy at times. Just be sure that your driver is 100% sure where he is going and that all your belongings are secure in case of theft. A journey in a tuk-tuk in the heat of Bangkok and being stuck in nose-to-tail traffic can only be endured for so long, so eventually, we cut the journey short and ended up getting out at Patpong.
Patpong for those of you who are unfamiliar is where you will find ‘ping pong’ shows or rather ladies who can do strange and noteworthy things with their vaginas for entertainment. Men walk around the market with menus of ‘Pussy Shows’ trying to tempt you into a show and one of the most famous tricks include ping pong balls. Others include knitting, razor blades, blowing out candles and using chopsticks! Whilst we are very broad-minded we decided against seeing a show because we were aware of what rip-offs these places are and how you are charged extortionate fees for entrances, exits and drinks.
We did, however, do some shopping in the market and have a couple of drinks in the bars there. Thailand has changed financially over the last 5 years or so, and now it’s really difficult to drive a bargain at the markets. Several times they wouldn’t accept our best offer, so we walked off, and they let us! Not so long ago any potential customer walking away would have been chased down the road and negotiations would have continued until a price was agreed. In other places, we play the game and have a laugh but here they will not budge. One funny incident was when Nigel told them they offered him a lower price for a bag next door and they actually went to check and came back and put the price up. Rather than negotiate they will just say no and walk away which we found quite surprising but given the number of tourists there I guess they can afford to.
We grabbed a bite to eat in Burger King before grabbing a taxi to our original destination, Baiyoke Sky Hotel. The hotel, located in downtown Bangkok is Thailand’s tallest hotel standing at 88 stories and offers panoramic 360 views of Bangkok. The public observatory is on the 77th floor and has a revolving floor; unfortunately for us, we got there quite late and it only moved slightly before they turned it off. Never the less we were able to walk around and get amazing views across Bangkok. We also found there is an annual race up the tower steps and whilst the current champion is a Kenyan, an Englishman called Harry Jones won in 2016 and 2017 and still holds the fastest time.
The next day we were set to leave so this was our last night in Bangkok. We had enjoyed it although it was hectic and very very hot. Our main concern in Bangkok was getting ripped off, there are copious scams going on one of which we were caught with (the boat trip). We also had an aggressive taxi driver who got very upset when we wouldn’t pay him more than the going rate and there were even cons around the drinks we bought. You do have to be very careful not to get scammed here but we were in the main tourist area of Bangkok which we were well aware of.
Again we had trouble with ATM’s so is always worth making sure you have plenty with you. This was surprising considering we had been to Thailand before and this hadn’t previously been an issue; however cards were more readily accepted here which was good. All in all we did enjoy ourselves and the accommodation suited us just fine especially given the extreme heat we encountered there. If you know what to expect and are well prepared then it is a great place to come but just make sure you research everything well first.
Time to leave Thailand to head for our final adventure of the holiday before getting home….a night in Beijing!