Following in the footsteps of hordes of backpackers before us, we arrived in Bangkok to start our trip around Asia. We didn’t know at the time that we’d love it so much and we didn’t know we would end up spending over 18 months in Asia.
We also didn’t know that on our final night in Bangkok we’d find ourselves sat in the back of a cab with two old Thai hookers… so I guess it’s not all sunflowers and rainbows.
Anyway it was Rick’s first time in Bangkok and I’d only spent a couple of days here before. So we were both excited, fresh and naive to everything Bangkok had in store. We had 3 nights here before our flight down south to the much sunnier and beachier island of Phuket.
So here’s what we got up to…
Night Markets and Karaoke
After a stressful last few weeks at the summer camp in Romania, we felt like treating ourselves to a fancy hotel room – our standard is usually the absolute cheapest, shittiest hostel bunk we can find on hostelbookers. So we splashed out on a nice hotel with a swimming pool (harder to find in Bangkok than you might think), costing around 1500 Baht per night. Coming from Europe this seems like an absolute bargain, but it’s actually not. It’s obviously cheap, but in Bangkok you can get decent rooms for less than 800 Baht or a hostel bed for 200, and it can be much cheaper elsewhere in the country. This is still the most we’ve ever spent on a room in Asia, so keep that in mind on your first trip, especially if you’re on a backpacker budget.
I don’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed in and I won’t bother looking it up, because I can’t recommend it. The hotel was just OK. The room was fine, it was nice having a pool (even though we only used it twice), but the location was awful. It was in a remote residential area on the west side of the river, pretty far away from Khao San road and the other touristy areas.
If you don’t already know… getting around Bangkok SUCKS! The traffic is crazy, the buses are confusing and the MRT is only useful if you’re near a station. The only way for us to get around was by taxi, which for a westerner in Bangkok is a massive pain in the ass. The taxis themselves are crazy cheap when they’re on the meter, but first you have to fight to get them to go on the meter. I’d rather not have to deal with that shit every time I wanna go somewhere.
If you’re not familiar with Bangkok, then just know that you probably want to stay near Khao San road or the Silom area, as these are where the main backpacker / tourist areas are, with all the hostels, restaurants, bars etc. If you stay elsewhere you might just find yourself stuck in a dead zone like we did.
On our first night I was keen to show Rick some classic Thai night markets and street food. We took a cab over to ‘Asiatique the Riverfront’ on the recommendation of our hotel staff, but I think they misunderstood what we wanted. This place was a super nice, modern indoor mall. It was fancy and westernised, with chain stores, Italian restaurants and even a Ferris Wheel… We wanted something more along the lines of shitty little traditional Asian food carts on the side of the road.
Luckily we found exactly that on the street just over the road from Asiatique, so we went over there for some proper street food grub instead. There were several of those scooter/food cart hybrids that you see all over Thailand, selling all the usual stuff; pad thai, curries etc. We both bought a Thai Green Curry from a cute older Thai lady who was laughing the whole time because she couldn’t speak English and we had to do a whole lot of pointing. To this day, that was probably the best Thai Green Curry that we’ve ever had and the total cost?.. Just 40 Baht!
This is when we really discovered the best thing about Thailand – the street food! Not only is it a fraction of the price of the fancy western restaurants, but in terms of taste – it blows them out of the water. Every one of my favourite Thai meals has been bought from a random vendor on the side of the road, cooking over a hob attached to their scooter. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on it from being too shy or too paranoid about hygiene standards. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be able to see what they’re doing with your food when they’re cooking it right in front of you?
After dinner we went on a little adventure, wandering around some side streets to see what we could find. We ended up in a tiny local bar wedged in a narrow alley and filled with drunk locals singing their hearts out on karaoke. Obviously we sat down for a beer.
We soon got the attention of two friendly Thai women who had no problem in flat-out asking us to buy them drinks. But I didn’t mind because they were fun to talk to, spoon-fed us some tasty shellfish and got the crowd behind us out when we sang a Thai song on karaoke later on. They seemed to lose interest soon after we told them they were barking up the wrong tree though. What’s wrong with just being friends huh?
The Grand Palace in the middle of the city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok. We went to see it on our second day and yeah, it’s awesome!
Walking toward the palace we got approached by an overly friendly Thai guy, who was keen to let us know that it was closed and we should instead go for a tuk tuk ride with him to some other tourist spots. I might have believed him if I hadn’t had the exact same thing happen to me the last time I was here. That time I fell for it, only to find that the tourist spots he took us to was a long string of souvenir and suit shops (because who doesn’t want to buy a new 3-piece suit in 35 degree heat and 100% humidity), the Palace had been open the entire time. So we politely smiled, ignored his bullshit and joined the other 2,000 people who were walking through the main gate.
Once inside we were amazed! The buildings are beautiful. Most are decorated in the elaborate golden style of the temples all over Thailand and even if you’ve been in SE Asia a while and you’re suffering from temple fatigue, the palace is still impressive. Rather than describe it, I’ll let the photos do the talking…
Drinking By The Bucket
On our final night we went for a party on Khao San Road, which is pretty much customary for anyone visiting Bangkok.
Khao San Road itself is a few hundred meters strip of bars, restaurants, market stalls and tattoo parlours all catering to western tourists. While the area is purely focussed on foreigners drinking themselves into the ground, with cheap drinks deals everywhere, it’s probably not as tacky or as sleazy as you might think. Many of the best bars in the city are around here, with tonnes of live music and it’s generally family friendly. There are a few hawkers touting Bangkok’s infamous ‘ping-pong shows’, but the vast majority of the sexploitation industry is concentrated in bars on the other side of town in the Patpong district.
Just like in the rest of Thailand, you can buy your drinks here by the bucket. As in… an actual bucket filled with vodka & coke, rum & lemonade or pretty much whatever you fancy. They’re ridiculously cheap (~200 Baht) and ridiculously strong.
So to do our bit for improving the image of Brits Abroad… we found a bar, bought our buckets and quickly set about getting wasted!
Rather predictably a lot of that night is now very very blurry, but I do remember having about 3 more buckets each before heading to ‘The Club’ (that’s the name) on the same road with a few fellow Brits that we met in the bar. Unfortunately, soon after arriving in the club at 1:30am and buying another bucket each, the lights came on and the music stopped. Turns out the club and bars around here close weirdly early considering how busy and party this place is.
After that my memory is a complete blackout, but Rick filled me in on the embarrassing details of what happened after that. I wish he didn’t.
Apparently, we found a woman on the street outside selling laughing gas balloons. We then tried buying all of the balloons from her and even negotiating for the entire gas canister… After putting up with our shit for too long, she eventually sold us literally as many balloons as we could hold between our fingers. As if we hadn’t made enough of a dick of ourselves, we then had no idea how to actually ‘use’ laughing gas balloons properly and just inhaled them all stupidly while complaining about how shit they were. Yeah… we’re cool.
Anyway the whole time this was going on, we’d attracted the attention of two Thai hookers around twice our age, who had clearly smelled a meal in the form of some drunken foreigners. They swooped down on us quickly got to suggesting that we all go back to our hotel. Only then did we realise that we’d just spent every last Baht on those fucking balloons and didn’t even have enough for a cab ride home… Not to worry though because the hookers said they’d pay and we could pay them back at the hotel. And somehow, thanks to all those fucking buckets… we thought this was a brilliant idea!
So they negotiated a ‘locals’ fare with the cab driver we all jumped in the cab back to our hotel. On the way they started to get a bit more than friendly and we started to realise we were in the shit and hadn’t really thought this through. We had absolutely no intention of doing anything other than getting a ride home, so Rick and I eyed each other desperately (drunkenly) trying to think of an escape plan.
The cab pulled up outside the hotel and we stepped out. While the hookers were paying, we realised that there was only one thing for it … RUN!
We legged it down the street and didn’t look back. Eventually we stopped and ducked down to hide behind a car and catch our breath, hoping that they wouldn’t come looking for us. Luckily the girls seemed to have gotten the message and when we stood up a few minutes later, they were gone and we went to bed.
So yeah… that happened…
Not a great start to our Thailand adventure, but it did get a whole lot better. I hope that doesn’t give you a bad impression of us, we’re good guys really.
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