So first up, you’ve noticed something different right?! We have our own original domain name now: we are purely gohemiantravellers.com – getting oh so professionale! Yaaay!
But anyway back to the business of Bangkok! Yes, we are now in the land of smiles – Thailand!
There’s a reason this city has the word ‘bang’ in it – because this place has got that kind of ‘kapow’ that you only get in big metropolitan cities. The world is seemingly given a seedy, bleak image of the city, but while there are seedier areas that do exist (more on that later), that image is really all wrong, in my opinion!
We watched the Hangover 2 in Goa and that movie confirms Bangkok’s less than glamorous image. They wake up in a grimy hotel, party in a crazy part of town, are filmed in dirty streets. I’m not saying those places aren’t there, but, well, we didn’t see them!
My first impressions were of a sleek, modern airport, a nice air-conditioned metro service and masses of modern skyscrapers. After being in India for so long, Bangkok just seemed so different and I was really excited by it.
It has that super cool London/New York feel to it. Everyone is dressed fashionably (especially in short skirts and shorts – which I found extra shocking after being in India, where anything short is considered bad, bad, bad). There are colourful posters everywhere advertising glitzy malls and latest trends. It kinda took my breath away – it was just so, so different but so wonderfully familiar at the same time.
The thing that really made me happy though, was getting on the city’s slick skytrains and no-one batting a an eyelid or even caring about our presence. That was wonderful. After being stared at constantly for pretty much 6 weeks and always feeling that bit on edge and uncomfortable, as a result, it was the best feeling ever! Haha! Now I know I’m a city-gal, I really like to be ignored by everyone and to be in the hustle and bustle of it all!
Especially after our experience leaving Mumbai – let me tell you, we were happy to be somewhere a bit different. It was a nightmare! You have to be ruthless with taxi drivers there, absolutely ruthless! They will try every trick in the book to rip you off. We ended up getting 2 cabs from the train station to the airport, as the first one was determined to charge us an extortionate amount, so we had to get out. So then the second one tried to overcharge us too. As you can imagine, we then arrive at the airport feeling pretty irritated and with a much higher blood pressure than we started with! We then find we have to try to sleep in a waiting room for 4 hours. But as soon as we got inside we were on edge again because we had groups of people gawping (and I mean GAWPING) at us, from the moment we sat down. To say we were feeling a bit fed up, would be an understatement. So, Bangkok, in comparison, was really quite heavenly.
We stayed at a very cool little guesthouse just out of the of the city, in Wong Wian Yai. The U-Baan guesthouse is run by a petite, young, bubbly Thai girl called Joy. She makes staying there very fun as she’s so sociable. She will sit and talk to you for hours and she will get you talking to everyone else for hours too. She always invites you out for dinner and encourages everyone to go out together. So we definitely made some very nice new friends in Bangkok, thanks to Joy.
We met Tanja and Chrisi from Germany and Pete and Faye from England after us all going out for a Thai hotpot meal.
We met Matias from Germany, who came out with us to see the seedier side of Bangkok. When you’re in this city you have to go see the seedy side of things. It’s like going to Amsterdam and not having a peek at the notorious red light district. Joy knew someone who runs a strip club that does ‘ping pong’ Thai style. It’s not for the faint-hearted that’s for sure, but is very educational. Be prepared to be amazed yet horrified, impressed yet appalled.
The women we saw, we’re not young, attractive ladies either (so expect your jaw to drop but not in the way you expect). These ladies were overweight, over-the-hill and looked bored out of their brains :/ but if you have a sense of humour about it all, it is a lot of fun.
If you don’t want to see anything too naughty in Bangkok, then I recommend just walking down the streets of stripclubs and bars – just to get a feel for it. The atmosphere is pretty electric and even just taking a peek at the ‘menus’ on offer for the many sex shows that go on, is pretty eye-opening. So definitely worth a visit.
I really recommend checking out the gay part of town too (in Silom, Soi 4) – Bangkok ain’t only about the girls ya know We had a great time in a funky bar there and met a lovely guy called Chai Pinit who told us about his past career in Thai Boxing and how he survived awful abuse as a child. He wrote a book all about it – he is an amazing guy (check it out on Amazon ). He was a wonderful guy and a big GaGa fan (so we got on very well hehe). So I really recommend going there and giving him a visit
Wondering what else to do in the city?
Go to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (near huge mall MBK), it has amazing collections of Thai, western and modern art. This place is perfect to visit when you want a culture fix and definitely when you really want to escape the heat.
Then check out Siam Square – it’s full of shops, market stalls, cool cafes. It is the coolest place to shop in Bangkok. Everyone is dressed in very cute (or Kawaii) outfits – it is very cosmopolitan. But it is very busy, so prepare for the hustle and bustle. Quite a lack of Internet cafes around here though (especially if you want to print something). But if you just want to browse, then check out the True Coffee chain. We went in a particularly big store and it was pretty impressive. Great coffee and snacks, a huge computer area (just lotsa bad music to listen to).
Go to Lumpini Park to get back to nature for a while. It’s a nice large park with a huge pond/man-made lake inside. There are nice places to sit and take in the view…and also to spot the park’s huge Monitor Lizards. The first time I spotted one, I jumped out of my seat, thinking it was a huge snake in the water. When I realised it was a huge lizard (think Komodo Dragon) I pretty much ran a mile. Luckily they don’t seem phased by humans but boy are these fellas big! But it did make an everyday visit to the park, that bit more exciting!
Chatuchak weekend market is awesome! If you have money to burn it’s even better! Everything you want is here – very cool clothing shops, food, drink, music, antiques, puppies, paintings, souvenirs, plants and randomly lots of cowboy-related clothing shops. Yup. There is plenty to see but do try to go on a cooler day. When we went there it was over 40 degrees which made it not so fun, but kinda hard work :/.
Ride a riverboat and see Bangkok from a different angle. We got on the boat and just let it take us as far as we could – it was the PERFECT thing to do on a boiling hot day. It’s cool, the views are great and you get your Bangkok bearings a bit better (ha! That was a lot of B’s).
Go to Chinatown and enjoy the red and gold displays, the beautiful temples and most importantly; the food! It’s great!
Go to the Siriraj Medical Museum (nicknamed the museum of death), it is incredible! Inside you will find exhibits on forensics, the tsunami disaster, parasites, specimens in jars and medical history. It is fascinating, located inside a real hospital and is a little bit gross. Personally I’m fascinated by all things gory and a little bit gross and weird, so I loved it! The forensics exhibition is gory, showing real images of bodies after horrific accidents and crime scenes. There are cabinets full of evidence from crime scenes – ranging from bloodied clothing, to ropes used for hangings, to a dildo (lord knows!) – eeeeek!
But even more fascinating/gross there are real decaying bodies of famous Thai serial killers to look at. The bodies have been coated in a brown wax, but are definitely still decaying. The bodies are stood in vertical glass coffins that are hilariously sealed shut, with just some of your everyday office, Sellotape (or sticky back plastic to you Blue Peter fans!). Yikes! The worst thing was that some of the bodies are leaning precariously against the glass, pretty much ready to fall out (so I hope that Sellotape is damn strong!).
One of the bodies is of a notorious Thai cannibal called Si Quey who preyed on children in the 1950s.
He had no front teeth, but his canines, ironically, really protrude so he looks like a vampire. Creepy but soooo worth a visit!!!!
By now your stomach is rumbling right? Haha!
Well in that case, you’ll be happy to hear that the street food in Bangkok is great! That is another wonderful thing about Thailand – the food is incredible and oh-so cheap! After cooking all our own meals in Goa (because eating out was so expensive), we were so pleasantly surprised to find all these wonderful stalls on our doorstep, selling all this wonderful food.
Some places will not offer menus/signs with English translations and this can make ordering tricky. So try to find a place which does have the dishes written in English for the first few times, so you can figure out what you (don’t) like. Then, later, you can just point to what you want or even better, try and learn some basic Thai and order authentically (I really recommend the Learn Thai language app for iPhone/iPad/iPod by the way).
Another great thing about Bangkok is that public transport is refreshingly cheap. In fact taxis here are cheaper than the tuk-tuks (as long as they put the meter on). The only thing to watch out for is when the deal really seems too good to be true – they tell you they will take you wherever you want for 20B, with 1 stop. This means they want to take you to their friend’s shop, you look, they try to get you to buy, then they take you where you want to go. The driver gets commission and free petrol tickets – it is not worth it. Only go where you WANT to go.
We will be returning to Bangkok so there will be more to report soon. It is a very cool city, with loads to do – so don’t believe what the movies tell you and get your butt to Bangkok!
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Love and sweet soda pop Em xoxo