Here’s another example of expectation differing from reality. A lot of people told me don’t stay too long in Bangkok, it’s just another big (dirty) city. After sleeping on the flight from Japan (which is actually 6 hours), I felt pretty well rested. Going through customs and getting out of the airport all went smoothly, considering I landed around 5:30am and it wasn’t crowded.A lot of people want to lump all of Asia together, when it’s in fact a huge continent and very diverse. Right when you land in Thailand you see the Buddhist influence. Japan is mostly atheist, some Buddhist, and a small percentage of Shinto, while Korea is a majority Christian country. After you get your baggage, you just follow the signs for public taxis (don’t get scammed.) Get a ticket from the machine that tells you which taxi number to go to, and make sure the meter starts at 35 baht. A trip into the city should cost no more than 200-300 baht (about $10), from BKK the main international airport. Tipping isn’t expected, but consider that an extra 20-40 baht (less than $2) might mean relatively little to you, but goes a long way to a Thai service worker.
Stay: Casa Nithra, 4 stars, $98/night! I can’t say enough good things about this hotel. From its location (walking distance to Khao San Road and not far from the Grand Palace), to the rooms, to the service and the rooftop pool, it was excellent. Safes are provided in the room for your valuables.
Eat: Since Thailand is Buddhist, it should come as no surprise that there are vegetarian restaurants. While I do eat meat, I’m really picky about it and only eat white meat chicken and lean beef. I don’t like taking chances with fish sauce and additives with Thai food (shame, I know), though I do like it very spicy. There was a great vegetarian Thai place near my hotel.Papaya salad, my favorite! I didn’t eat the maki rolls because it was just too much food. The green curry and rice was also very good. This Thai iced tea wasn’t the typical (too sweet) condensed milk kind you get back home, it was like a regular lemon-infused iced tea. The whole meal was 350 baht ($11) and I left a 20 baht tip.For breakfast the next morning I went to another place near my hotel looking for more of a Thai-style breakfast than American. I only ate the rice with the egg, the mango juice was very good and fresh, and this Thai iced tea was like the kind you get back home (really sweet!) De O’sha had a really friendly staff with a lot of other western-style items on their menu.
Do: There are so many things to do in Bangkok, I could live there for a year and never possibly do everything. Here’s a few highlights.I first stopped at The Street, a new modern complex with restaurants and stores. I don’t say this to sound offensive, but rather to be informative. Thailand is really a country of new meets old. There’s first world country elements, but still many third world elements, like the poverty and lack of LTE service. My phone service also kept cutting out every few minutes, going dead and then back to 3G. You know a country has gotten very touristy when there’s a Starbucks. The Street is walking distance to Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market, which is why I stopped there.Outside The Street, on the way to the market. There is also a small Hindu population in Thailand.
Thailand is famous for its markets. The country really comes alive at night, I think because it’s so hot during the day. The night markets are open late, this one until 1am.You can get literally anything you can think of here! From trinkets to food to prescription glasses, there’s also bars and you can even get your nails done. Here’s why I say “third world.” It’s sad to me that this pollution is right outside the exit to the market and garbages aren’t just put in place.
Getting around: A great app to use is Grab, it’s like Uber but in Southeast Asia. The rides are so cheap, and it’s nice to know the price and route ahead of time.A lot of tourists like to take tuk tuks, but I’d rather be in an air conditioned car. Those tuk tuk drivers charge too much and try to take you on detours as the sign above says. My 20 minute ride from my hotel to The Street was less than $5.Thailand is a contrast of old meets new, east meets west, and gritty vs. beautiful. You’ll see temples and shrines to the royal family all over the country too. Disrespecting the royal family (who has a new king as of 2016), or threatening them in any way results in severe punishments (3-15 years in jail according to signs, so I don’t think Thai people like talking about the royal family much.)Even though everyone has a hustle in Thailand; there’s the bag snatchers on motor bikes, the tuk tuk drivers and infamous red light district (which I didn’t go to), you will also find some of the world’s nicest people here. Their Buddhist background gives them great respect for all life, I found it touching that at the end of the day this man was feeding a stray cat fruit from his fruit cart and people set up litter boxes on the streets.
One last thing, Khao San Road and The Grand Palace:
I had an afternoon flight out to Chiang Mai, but figured since I was in the area I’d check out the royal palace and Khao San Road. Khao San Road was a 10 minute walk from my hotel, the Grand Palace was a 10 minute ride from there. I’m not a fan of crowds and I’m not a fan of heat. The movie The Beach made Khao San Road famous, describing it as “the backpacker’s universe”; I personally found it touristy, dirty, and while it had the usual street vendors there were also western chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, and 7 Eleven.The walk to Khao San Road. There are lots of tuk tuk drivers and unmetered taxis in this area, beware.I knew the dress code for the Grand Palace was covered legs and feet and no visible shoulders. I wasn’t planning on going into the Palace, but wanted to get some pictures of the grounds. I thought a shawl would be sufficient to cover my shoulders, as it is in temples (it actually covers more of my arms than a t-shirt would), but apparently there’s a “hierarchy of temples” with the Grand Palace being above all, and they were making tourists buy t-shirts to enter. Lines and heat, 2 things I hate! If I had more time maybe I would have, but I said no thanks to the 250 baht ugly t-shirt and 50 person deep line to get it. It was a 20 minute walk through barricades and one way lanes to get out of this area to somewhere I could get a taxi, so I just had no time to do this. Bottom line, if you do want to visit the palace and are female, wear a shirt that covers your shoulders or bring a sweater (not a shawl), and if you’re male, wear pants and socks/shoes, not sandals. It was very uncomfortable walking around in 90 degree heat/humidity in a black maxi dress and espadrilles carrying a shawl.Tourist traps outside the Palace reminded me of the area near the Louvre in Paris, France.The long road out! Sorry to say, this really wasn’t worth it.I used Grab again, apparently drivers are not allowed to stop on that busy road near the Palace exit and the Parliament, so I gave him an extra tip for doing so. I made a very swift entrance into his car! I had to get back to my hotel to get my belongings and head to DMK airport (most domestic flights fly out of here) which is a story in and of itself. To be continued…