In this post I’ll give you some insights on how I perceived Bangkok and some helpful tips in case you want to visit it yourself. Everything is based on my own opinion!
So we started our trip through Asia recently. On 27/08/18 around 8am, we arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport after an 11 hour flight from Munich, Germany. You have to fill out an immigration card to enter Thailand. In our case the staff at our airplane handed them to every passenger but you will find them at the airport as well. Thailand just wants to know some basic information about you and especially how long you plan to stay. After handing the immigration card to the staff of the immigration office at the airport, you’ll get back a part of it with a stamp and the date of immigration on it. You have to hand that piece of paper when you exit the country, so make sure you don’t lose it! That way the government makes sure you don’t stay longer than you said you would. Remember: if you don’t have a visa you are allowed to stay 1 month. Sometimes you read on the internet that they may want to see a proof that you plan to exit the country soon. We can’t confirm that, we had no problems at all!
We were soo hungry we had to stop at a restaurant right inside the airport first. The food was great but also expensive. We were aware of that but we thought after such a long flight we could treat ourself a bit. After that we tried to take a taxi to our airbnb, which was more complicated than we thought. And here’s why…
Taxis in Bangkok
Usually you just stop taxis on the street. At the airport, however, there is no traffic as it’s located just outside the city. If you follow the “taxi” signs inside the airport you get to the outside area where many taxis are waiting for you on the opposite side of the street. Every taxi stands below a sign that displays a number so you can’t just walk up to any taxi you like. First you have to pull a number from one of the touchscreen-terminals you can find on your side of the street.
One thing you have to know about taking taxis in Bangkok: Every taxi has a taximeter that counts the distance you already drove. That’s a good thing because the price displayed is the correct price! Taxi drivers however try to sell you unit prices and justify that by sentences like “Too much traffic today. I make you a better price”. You can assume that this is a lie in almost every case and you will be paying too much. Golden rule: FIRST ask the driver if he uses taximeter and only get in the car if he does! Another interesting fact is that the taxi drivers in Bangkok technically have the duty to drive you through the law. So if a driver pretends that he doesn’t understand you or doesn’t know the location you want to go to, you can assume they just don’t want to drive there or want to call it a day soon. But hey, if they don’t want your money, just look out for another taxi. You’ll have plenty of options in the streets of Bangkok or at the airport. If you have the possibility, ask the hotel, hostel or airbnb you plan to stay in for their address in Thai. Many taxi drivers seem to have problems understanding english.
Where to reside in Bangkok
We stayed in Bang Kapi, one of the 50 districts of Bangkok. It’s located east of the city center but was not less crowded and loud.
For us it was the perfect location because
a) Right in the city center, everything is designed for tourism and so the prices are. In Bang Kapi you’ll have a hard time seeing any western face and the Thais know that which is why the prices of streetfood or clothes are quite low.
b) Our airbnb was right around the corner of The Mall Bangkapi. It’s a giant shopping centerwhich is very much like western malls are. So if you’re looking for a game center, a cinema, a Dunkin’ Donuts, shopping at H&M or western style products from the drugstore or the grocery store, this is the place to be. (Pro tip: While Starbucks, for example, is just as overpriced as it is in western countries, Dunkin’ Donuts is very low priced here. We grabbed an XXL cappuccino and a donut for only around 70 Baht!) Right next to the mall there’s a place called Tawanna Market. It’s like a giant flea market that takes place every day till around 9:30 in the evening. Here you can get all those fake products Asia is so well-known for. Just grab yourself a Nike t-shirt for 80 Baht.
c) We resided next to the canal Khlong Saen Saep which leads right to Bangkok downtown. If you want to visit other parts of Thailand’s capital, you’re looking for options to beat the traffic, because taxis can get very expensive if you’re stuck in traffic for a longer time (and the traffic in Bangkok is horrible!). The canal, however, offers a great opportunity: you can take a boat! A ride from “The Mall Bangkapi” to “Phanfa Bridge” (pretty much from one end to the other) only costs 17 to 19 Baht (depends on the time of day). You just have to allow additional time as the boat ride takes around 40 to 50 minutes. Just get on the boat and someone will walk up to you to collect the fee. You can get more information about the stops and routes on the official website of the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat.
So for us Bang Kapi was the perfect place to stay while we were in Bangkok but of course we’ve only seen a fraction of the 50 districts. I’m sure there are plenty more options and way more beautiful parts of the city. There were many more things in Bang Kapi that looked interesting enough to visit them but of course we only had 4 nights in Bangkok and spend the first two days to recover from the jet lag. Just look at Google Maps or check reviews on the internet to find really cool stuff! One of the coolest things I ever saw was the airplane graveyard right in the middle of Bang Kapi. Just look at that…
Thai people are really polite and friendly all the time. Well, most time they are because they want to sell you something and you have to be careful not to fall into their trap. One example: When we passed a busy street right in the center of Bangkok (near the great palace) some security officers made sure we can cross the street safely. We talked to them a little and they said they are really big fans of Germany (they actually were able to say “Good day!” in german) and gave us a map of Bangkok for free. How nice of them! As we told them we wanted to go to the great palace, they said it is closed till 1:30 pm and we could do a boat boat trip before. The boat would take us around the city and show us so much. We thought “okay, if the great palace is closed we got the time to do that…”. They said we should buy the tickets at pier no. 7 because the tickets at the other piers would be more expensive. We should tell the guy at the boat ticket office that they send us and we’d get a discount. The officers even called a TukTuk for us and made sure we only pay 40 Baht for the ride to pier no. 7. At the pier a man walked up to our TukTuk and tried to sell us a 1-hour boat trip for 2400 Baht!!! When we didn’t wanted to he dropped the price 50% but even that was too expensive for us. He walked away, visibly upset. We asked the TukTuk driver to take us to the great palace (which was like half the route then the way we came) and he wanted 100 Baht for that! Of course we said no and walked. You see what happed here? The security officers get money for leading tourists to the guy at pier 7. I think they get a part of the money we would have paid there. And why the hell would the great palace, a place that is visited by thousands of tourists every day, only open at 1:30 pm? They just needed a reason for us to first do the boat tour. So scams around every corner in Bangkok (or Thailand in general) because the people here know that tourists have much money and they want a piece of the pie. Understandable though, when you see how some of them live.
But I’d never say the people in Thailand are just nice because they want to sell you something. Thailand is called ‘the land of the thousand smiles’ and I can see why. People are smiling at anytime. Some of them look poor and pitiable but it seems like they’re happy. We bought some watermelon from that lady that had a small fruit stand beside the road and she looked so happy with what she was doing. Maybe they have a different view of life then we do. They live for the moment and enjoy the people surrounding them. And I think western people could learn from that. Just being open and nice with each other and respect everyone could make a huge difference in quality of life and may lead to great new things.
We actually didn’t visit the great palace after all because it was a very hot day and we just came to Thailand so we weren’t used to the climate, yet. We visited one of the many buddhist temples you find in Bangkok, though. Most of them are definitely worth a look but as it can get quite expensive to visit too many of them (and maybe a bit boring after a while, as well) I suggest to google for pictures of the temples and choose the ones you like the most or check tripAdviser for example. Of course peoples opinions are different but maybe you look for the most recommended ones. I actually was pretty angry about the fact that we had to pay to visit one of those temples because I thought a holy buddhist place that exists like hundreds and thousands of years should not be abused as a way to make money out of tourism. But then I saw a little sign that said that Thai people (who actually come to the temples to pray and practice their religion) can enter it for free and of course the staff that cleans the place or watches after the tourist’s behavior have to get paid, too. So I think that’s quite reasonable. By the way: most temples have strict regulations about women’s clothes. While men can pretty much wear what they want, women should hide their backs for example or wear long pants (which is the reason there are so many sellers outside of temples who sell long pants – they know tourists don’t know the rules and don’t bring a long one with them). So be aware of that.
Did I enjoy my stay in Bangkok? Not really. Would I visit Bangkok again? Yes! And here’s why: I came from Germany with thoughts about vacation, beaches and hammocks. I was exhausted and just wanted to chill and Bangkok as a giant city maybe wasn’t the best destination in that case. I also had like 2 days to explore Bangkok because as I mentioned the jet lag hit us quite hard and you definitely gonna need more time or even more visits to see everything this city has to offer. What we saw was like the everyday life of the underclass and very much rubble and ruins – which is pretty interesting, don’t get me wrong here! But as I said, it wasn’t what I was expecting before or what I wanted to see in the beginning of my chill out vacation. Bangkok is crowded, loud and busy. So my tip for everyone visiting Bangkok is to be aware of what you’re going to experience and prepare your mind for that. Because one word is definitely suitable to discribe Bangkok – diversity.
We left Bangkok on 31/08/18. We took a 1 ½ hour flight to Krabi International Airport that we booked over the Internet some days ago for around 30€ (I had no idea how cheap flying could be!). And so we arrived in Ao Nang, Krabi…
To be continued in the next blogpost!