I didn’t know what to expect when first exploring Bangkok. One thing for sure is that there are many different parts to explore. I stayed in a hotel not far from the airport (Floral Shire Hotel) basically picking it because it was easily accessible from the airport AND they offered a free shuttle, so can’t go wrong there! I stayed for two nights, which turned out to be a good call since I barely had any sleep on the flight over and was dead tired when I arrived. So technically my first day there was spent catching up on sleep!
From the air Bangkok has the look of Houston (industrial and HUGE with lots of a large variety of buildings) yet as if it was set in southern Florida (tons of wet fields and watery canals/rivers giving the land a swampy look). Upon landing, the air smelled like San Jose, Costa Rica (thick jungle air with the scent of a city nearby). Honestly there were times I had to remind myself I was in Thailand and not back in Costa Rica as the plants and animals also reminded me of C.R. with loads of banana trees and geckos (love those little chirping buggers!!) crawling all around the walls and ceilings chasing after bugs. Oh, and there was the veggie truck that came by each morning by the hotel advertising fruits and veggies for sale. It brought a smile to my face once again being in place that felt easy going with simple living:)
Before going into my day there, I wanted to give my overall impressions. Bangkok is an interesting mix of life. There is obviously poverty there and it has a very dirty feel to it (literally dirty as you could feel the street on your skin after a few hours of walking around and at the end of the day my snot was black! Too much info?? Lol!). People are everywhere, all around working away or moving about, bumping into you (not rudely, just the nature of crowds) or simply minding their business with whatever task they are into. Yet, for as sketchy as the surroundings looked and for the amount of people coming closely in contact, I felt safer there than anywhere I’ve been so far. I can’t speak for all people who’ve traveled or will travel there, and I did get scammed a bit, but I never felt unsafe. Strangely there were times I wandered with my camera in hand (I NEVER do that! It’s always packed unless in use) or walked through areas that at a glance you would think “don’t go there!!”. But my senses never felt any danger or real threat, so I went where I wanted watching the life of Bangkok unfold. That’s the feeling I came away with from Bangkok… Before moving on I have to say I’m not at all a fan of the scent of Bangkok… It’s fish mixed with dirt, car pollution, stale standing water, industrial oil and what smells like a toilet somewhere. Not everything can be peaches! 🙂
Moving on to my day: as I’m not a huge fan of big cities, visiting downtown Bangkok took a bit of a kick in the rear. I kinda dreaded having to navigate such a large place, especially given that the language was SO different than anything I’d been used to before. As it turned out, one DAY in Bangkok was enough for me!
Before heading to town I did a bit of research on what to see/do and came across a website that outlined the top 9 things to do in Bangkok in one day… Perfect! Sounds like a plan for me and it got me excited to head into the city! So I jotted down all the necessary information (where and how to get there) and the next morning headed out.
That was about where everything went NOT according to plan… The first thing on the list was a floating market which thankfully also mentioned it’s only open on the weekends. So #1 was off the list. On to #2, the temple of dawn: Wat Arun. I asked the receptionist to get a taxi so I could be taken to the Airport Rail station to head to town (as always I figured I would walk from there or get another cab if needed to where I wanted to go). She however, suggested I just have the taxi take me into town (“much easier”). Ok, fine. Why not? So I get into the cab and we start heading to town. On the way he starts telling me about “boat”. “Boat trip down river”. I responded with “nice, ok” not realizing that he took “ok” literally and proceeded to take me to a boat tour place. Once I figured out what was going on I insisted that no, I wanted to go to the Grand Palace (a teeny boat trip across the river from there would get me to Wat Arun). He then said that wasn’t possible because the Grand Palace was closed to tourists due to the Kings Birthday being tomorrow (December, 5) which was actually true. “Too much traffic there” is what he also stated.
We ended up at the Oriental Pier just north of the Taksin Bridge where they gave boat tours. 2000 baht for 1 hour… Which equates to almost $61… No thanks. I would rather spend my time walking around than one hour on a boat taking typical tourist “picture, picture, picture” (how the tour lady explained the boat trip). It also turned me off that she tried to negotiate the price with me. To me, the original price is either worth it, or it isn’t. I’m happy to pay the full price of something IF it’s worth it to me. This wasn’t, so I declined all the way. 15 minutes later after finally succeeding in explaining to my taxi driver that I wanted to pay him (375 baht in total damage) and just walk to town from there I headed out on foot.
I was definately NOT in the touristy part of town… I was in the Hangover Part II, back alley, so-many-car-fumes-in-the-air-you-could-barely-breathe part of town. I was so off the map of where tourists “should” be that I never even ran into another gringo until I got to China Town. It is amazing to see how people live. Food markets and street food kiosks were everywhere lined right up along the edge of the sidewalks where cars and motorcycles (which by the way they also use sidewalks to drive on) zoomed past. There wasn’t anywhere to be able to stop for a break unless you sat for food and bathrooms? Hope you have a big bladder because you won’t find one for a while in that area! But then again, as I said I was off the perhaps “normal” path for a bit.
I made it to China Town along Yaowarat Rd. where they were having some sort of itty bitty car show! There were tons of people wearing yellow shirts that at first I thought were part of a tour of sorts but later realized yellow is the color of the King, so just about everyone was wearing a yellow shirt to honor his birthday:) I ran into my first English speaker since leaving the hotel who confirmed I had been walking the right way for the Grand Palace (phew!!!).
Now, normally when navigating my way around places with a map and my feet I always think after the fact “gee, those distances were a lot shorter than I would have thought based on the map”… This is NOT so with the Bangkok map! Everything is quite a bit further than the maps would lead you to believe… One block on a map seemed to be 5 in reality, lol! After about 4 hours of walking I was getting a bit tired. According to the map I was ALMOST there so I kept trucking… And this is where the scam occurred…