Bangkok is certainly one of the harder places we have traveled to, to sum up in a few words. Hot, beautiful, overwhelming, fascinating, fast, tranquil, delicious, odd, amazing are all some that come to mind, lots of oxymorons, I know.
The first impression we had of Bangkok was Milk Tea, coming off a 12 hour flight that is a welcome sight and who doesn’t love milk tea! Jordan is more traditional, Milk Tea and Boboa. Laura rolls with just plain taro….and the bags, virtually every drink in Bangkok comes in a little carry bag!
We arrived to the Continent Hotel on Sukhumvit Road which is one of the main thorough fares in Bangkok a bit too early . We decided it would be a great idea to go walk the city while the hotel finished our room. That made for a HOT day, not Florida hot, like depths of satans arm pits hot.
Spring in Bangkok is the hottest part of the year so plan and pack accordingly.
We ended up on a tuk tuk, which was probably our biggest travel headache to date. I would avoid the tuk tuks in Bangkok as transportation, as a tourist gimmick, go for it. We got ringed into a little scheme, where we were told it would be $200 baht to take us to the main temples in the city on the tuk tuk, but first you had to stop by their friendly suit maker which they conveniently left out. After the suit maker you are off to the boat dock, where the tuk tuk drivers buddy will take you to the temple for $1,500 baht….as the tuk tuk driver claimed there was no way to get to Wat Arun by land. We told the tuk tuk driver to forget it, gave him his $200 baht and set out on foot. That was a mistake and a blessing in one. We had got out of the tuk tuk in a commercial/porters part of town, we were the only Westerners we saw in the area until we got near the temple. While it was neat seeing parts of the city most don’t, it also meant we had a 5 mile, relatively uncharted (for us atlas) hike ahead.
The hike was worth it though, as we were rewarded with pure beauty and tranquility…and bottled water!
Wat Arun and the smaller surrounding temples were breath-taking. The time and craftsmanship that was put into these temples was a testament to the high value the Thai people placed on their Buddhist beliefs.
There is also a delicious side to Bangkok, with their cheap beer, fresh tropical fruits and countless street hawkers. Similar to Seattle where every corner has four Starbucks, Bangkok has 4 vendors dishing out street fare that is out of this world. We did miss out on the Sukhumvit Nigh Market due to Songkran but there was plenty of other snacks to be had. (Jordan got his Rambutan)
You can also stumble upon a seedy element to this city. Jordan always tells people about the time he was propositioned by two different lady(boys)s, were not sure, at one intersection at 5 a.m., on a coffee run. Our Hotel backed up to Soi Cowboy which seems like a lawless land of sorts, with escorts and alcohol flowing freely. We took a walk through one night and were amused by the elder women out front of the establishments accosting male patrons for the money they owed. While its not a place who’s services we recommend, it is an interesting part of the city and one worth visiting for a short amount of time.
After that though you’ll need some more Buddha in your life….or to wash off the filth of Soi Cowboy with a water gun fight!
Bangkok and Thailand host a nationwide watergun fight every year, Songkran. Songkran began with the buddhist washing their holy statues every year in a “cleansing” ceremony, which then turned in to a playful and cooling way for locals to beat the Thai heat. Songkran is a blast, most fun you’ll ever have with water as an adult! The shops and restaurants are mostly closed during Songkran, so all can join the fun, make sure you give yourself some time in the city away from Songkran as well.
The most important thing to a good first impression of Bangkok is to remember, not to be close minded and most importantly…have fun!
Jordan and Laura