Our first ever backpacking trip started well – we made it from Suffolk, through London and to our Travel Lodge near heathrow. Always a good start! And we were spoilt with a friend taking us out for our final fish n chips for a while. Getting to the terminal was fine and the Jet Airways cheap airline via Mumbai was actually very good indeed – especially the first leg. Loads of room, reasonable food and good movies. At Mumbai 1960’s airport, our bags surprisingly made the connection, but Mel had to flash her boobs to the security guards to get though! (honest! Though admittedly not like it sounds)
Arriving at Bangkok was slightly sad as we saw what appeared to be flooding from the air, including what appeared to be another airport under water. That said, the new airport was superb – very modern and made it trivial to get the train in to the city for 45 bharts (£1) each. We opted to walk to the guest house rather than taxi as we wanted to explore. Quite a walk, and Mel was very lucky when a bird “dumped” on her rucksack only just missing her head! Our one and only guest house booking turned out to be pretty good too – decent clean room, bed and clean bathroom – with aircon and breakfast for under £14 a night.
After a few hours nap we went back into town towards the infamous Khaosan road. Expecting the worst we were pleasantly surprised. No more sales hassle than any other tourist area but everyone who says hello and offers “help” seems to be trying to direct you somewhere else (aka Moroccan carpet shops!). Our top tip is to either ignore or give a polite “no” then ignore, and if they say something is closed for whatever reason, its a lie. Our guidebook underlines this tip and in our first 2 days we’ve been given (and ignored) advice of things being closed due to floods and religious holidays – finding both were lies – they wanted us to go elsewhere (tourist shop?).
The markets in the alleys were worth a good look around and again were reminiscent of Morocco souks. We bought some essentials (water and fly spray) and had some beers (£1.20 a pint) and some Phai Thai (fried noodles, with egg and chicken for me) – for all of £1.60 for us both – plus a pineapple desert for about £1.
We didn’t see much sign of current flooding in the city, though loads of sandbags and DIY concrete defences up, and apart from a few places next to the river all seems okay now.
With a bit of jet lag we awoke to a jungle-like dawn chorus and then went for our days outing. Despite tuk-tuks and taxis being everywhere we decided to walk as we find it helps to get a feel of the real city and it is possible to just wander into some great places. Bangkok is a place you need to feel and smell to help to understand. However, our feet tell us Bangkok is massive!
Our first stop was a tour of the impressive Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which is a rare “wow!” site and a must see attraction. Expensive by Thai standards (400 bhats or £8 each) – plus the audio guide – but worth every bhat. We would suggest skipping the audio guide as most of the information is in the leaflet they give you and it stops you speeding through to get the audio guide back on time. Can’t really explain the place much, and the photos won’t do it justice. But the colours, the gold and the craftsmanship everywhere and the story behind was superb.
Our next temple was Wat Pho – the temple of the reclining Buddha. Our top tip is get there between 12 and 1 when the ticket office is closed but the gate open… Again, a must see site – the giant Buddha is – well – giant – with superb workmanship and images around. Amazing.
After there we had plans to head through China town to Silom Pat Pong area, but on our wanderings round Chinatown we found loads of hidden markets. And by loads, we mean we walked for probably a couple of hours and at junctions took a random turn and yet we are sure we missed most off. A hugely impressive area for just amps and speakers; an equally large for electronics with a range that makes Maplin look tiny, and guys outside fixing anything they got. Then material shops, food, fruit and whatever else you wanted. We could’ve easily spent even more time there – and most of the time we were the only westerners in view which makes a change from old Bangkok.
Probably 15 miles walking later we gave up on our idea of going to Pat Pong and headed back via Khaosan Road for some more street food saving the fun area of Bangkok till our feet can cope! En route back we stumbled on what appeared to be a local only night market, with individual sellers selling their items – mainly second hand bits – in a cross between a real market and a car boot sale.
See next installment HERE