- May 6, 2017
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“Let’s go to Bangkok for three months!” That was his offer and I said “Yes!” How could I not? After travelling around Europe for six months, I was really bored of small cities and I needed a change. Is there a better change than moving to Asia? To Thailand! To Bangkok! So we did and arrived in Bangkok on February 2nd. All we had was a ticket out for May 1st (with a Visa for 90 days) and an Airbnb rental for the first month.
The baby steps in Bangkok were about a new experience. I have read a lot about taxis scamming tourists when you leave the airport (and as I found out later, it’s true that it happens), but what we found was a machine that gave you a number to assign you a taxi, and when we asked, it was a Taximeter. Coming from other continents like Europe, you’ll find that taxis in Thailand are relatively extremely cheap, the meter starts at 35 baht and slowly going up. But, it’s important to know that if you do not insist on the meter or negotiate the price, then they would charge you a much higher price than the locals usually pay. If you just go on the taxi without even asking for the price , then they might charge you whatever they want when you reach your destination.
So, with Taximeter and the highway toll of 50 baht, we got to our first apartment in the district of Chatuchak. We didn’t realize when we booked it, but this was really far from all the main attractions in Bangkok, even far from the BTS Skytrain. We chose it because when we were looking for options, this was the biggest space, with 60 sqm, while the others were usually not more than 35 sqm. I can’t say we made a bad choice. It’s true that every time we wanted to get out in order to explore the city, we had a big issue with traffic and taxis. At night we usually had to pay a fortune like 400 baht (still cheaper than most places in the world), so we had to make it count and be away for a good couple of hours…
Every day was a new adventure. And it was also a comfort zone. The thing about Bangkok was that besides getting to know a new culture and their customs, we were able to do things we just can’t afford in other countries, or you just don’t want to pay that much for it. Like a candle luxury dinner or an oil massage. Suddenly we could do it without thinking twice, and it was amazing.
At some point, we booked an apartment for the second month in the area of Silom, near Patpong Night Market, and for the time we had left, we decided to stay more in the neighborhood. It was actually lovely to stay in a nice residential and local district. It’s much quieter than other areas of the city and we had everything we might need. We found a nice market across our street, that was set up every day for lunch time due to the fact that a Siam Bank was there and all the workers got their food in the market (where you could also find clothes and other products). We also had a shopping center a few blocks away with a nice cinema, where we discovered that Bangkok has the best cheesy popcorn in the world. Another surprise was that before the movie starts, you have to stand up and watch a video in honor to the king. If you don’t get up, you are being disrespectful to the people of Thailand, so you behave like a Roman in Rome. And always bring a jacket because the air conditioner is strong.
The second month was more about getting to know the touristic Bangkok, since it was more accessible from the Silom area. We did our own tours, like taking a speedboat through the Chao Phraya River, going to temples like Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Pho to get to see the reclining Buddha. The boat costs only 15 baht, and another 4 baht for crossing from one temple to the other. A ticket to Wat Arun costs 50 baht, and to to Wat Pho 100 baht, that included a free water, which is very necessary to carry with you everywhere in the heat of Bangkok… It’s important to wear the proper clothes when you are going to the temples. That doesn’t mean that you have to be with a jacket when it’s 35-40 degrees, but ladies, try to cover your knees and shoulders and leave your sexy side for a bit later. It’s worth it, because the temples are an architectural wonder and the atmosphere is impressive. Even if you are not religious, you submerge in a culture that is very different from any other you’ll experience. And sometimes you’ll be lucky and get a free soup or tea!
Later on, if you want to go out and wear a mini skirt or a cleavage, you can try Khao San Road. This is the ultimate backpacker’s area. A walking street with bars, street markets, lot’s of cheap clothes (mostly hippie style) and weird things like edible insects and laughing gas. It’s a complete mess, but a fun one. The music from each bar melts in the street and sometimes it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from. A fun fact is that you’ll listen to the “Happy Birthday” song more than once in the night and you’ll see how happy people get, sometimes dancing on the tables, without caring that it’s no one’s birthday. If you want to escape from the noise, you can do it easily by walking just one more block and getting to Soi Rambuttri (Rambuttri Road). This walking street has lots of colorful bars and massage places. It’s not an expensive place, but you’ll always find cheaper food in the street cars. Still, this is a nice place to relax with a Chang beer (my personal favorite, but you can also choose the Singha, Asahi or Leo). Go for the Chang, trust me.
Right now, the government in Bangkok is regulating the street food cars and apparently they want to make it more area restricted. It’s a complicated issue since you can tell that many families make a living from the food they sell in the streets (the cheapest and in many cases the best). I was a regular customer of the fruit cars. For just 20 baht I could get a chopped pineapple, watermelon or a dragon fruit (a must-try in Thailand), very fresh, clean and delicious. On the other hand, it’s true that there is a big problem with the garbage in the city. It’s not uncommon to find giant rats (bigger than kitties) and cockroaches on your way. In general, I found Bangkok to be a clean city, but from time to time you see piles of trash that has a lot of food leftovers. One critique I have is that there are not enough garbage bins on the streets, so people leave their leftovers on this piles that at some point become mountains.
By the third month, we decided to stay near Silom, in Sathorn district. We found it very comfortable and near all the places that we have already got used to. It’s a chaos! But another fun one. If you get out to the streets by lunchtime, it’s almost impossible to walk on the sidewalk. So many people! And the streets are full of cars, taxis, motorcycles, and tuk tuks. About the tuk tuks, it’s important to know that it is the most expensive way to travel around the city. Never get on one without arranging the price, and only use it for short distances and for the experience. For every other occasion, use a taximeter or the Skytrain (BTS) of course.
One of my favorite spots was the Lumpini Park, where I used to go after lunch. It’s a beautiful green area where you are quickly get isolated from the noise and pollution of Bangkok. It’s truly amazing how fast you stop hearing the motors, and just hear the sound of the crows which are really funny. And the best attraction of the park is the Komodo Dragons. You’ll see them swimming in the lake or just taking a walk on the grass. They are huge! But don’t be scared, they are harmless.
At night there’s always something fun to do, on any day of the week. That’s one of the things I like more about the big cities. The only issue in Bangkok is that most places get closed by 2 am, so you have to start early. My favorites were Chinatown, the Patpong Night Market area and Sukhumvit Soi 11. There I always found an amazing food, cheap drinks, fun stuff to see, cool products to buy and great people from all over the world to make friends with. One of my favorite places to go out was the bar Havana Social. This Cuban bar is great to relax with a cigar, Cuba Libre Cocktail and super fun with live Latin music. In this area there used to be a very popular bar called Cheap Charlies, which was closed not long ago. This has to do with the big building complexes that are filling Bangkok at a fast speed. It was sad to say goodbye, but I feel lucky that I got the chance to spend some time in there, while it was still operating.
Shopping can be a new experience too. You can choose between going to more typical shopping centers like Siam Paragon or Central World, which you should visit at least once, or a more different option like the MBK, that resembles more to a street market, but it’s an all-in-one building. Here you can bargain for a lower price, like you would in places similar to Patpong Night Market. If you want to get cheap clothes and souvenirs, you have to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s easy to get there with the BTS, and you can spend a whole day in there, going through the products. Bargain on the prices! Don’t be ashamed and don’t take the first price as an absolute. However, remember to be polite and don’t interpret the Thai’s smile and peaceful nature as an opportunity for a too aggressive negotiation. A rule finger: do not to ask a price reduce by more than 50%. The Thais have their red lines as well, that if you cross, you would encounter a brick wall and assertive answer: “No and go away”.
Don’t forget to try the coconut ice cream with corn and rice. Yes, with corn and rice! Doesn’t sound like something that goes together, but it really does and it’s the best! If you don’t dare, then try the sticky rice with mango (comes with a coconut milk). Or anything with mango, at least a smoothie… With the warm weather you are going to love it. Thai food in general is awesome. You have to be careful with the spicy food if your tongue and lips can’t take it. Make sure to order “not spicy” or a “little spicy” (“Mai Phet” or “Phet Nitnoy” in the Thai language), and stay away from the spicy papaya salad (“Som Tham”). If the menu doesn’t say “spicy”, that doesn’t mean it’s not spicy, trust me on this one. I made that mistake more than once and ended up in tears. A good thing is that in general, the food is super healthy. It always has some meat, some vegetables, good spices and ingredients. I am very careful with my weight and I was concerned that the dishes usually have rice or noodles, but the portions are very normal. Some people might even find them small, so it’s hard to gain weight in Thailand, especially with the constant summer weather that goes from hot, to really hot, to really really hot.
A great plan would be to begin a night on a rooftop bar. There are many in the city for all sorts of budgets. In general, they are expensive, but it could be worth it because the view of Bangkok it’s incredible. The sky, the buildings, the lights, the cars, the roofs of the temples. There’s not one spot of the city that doesn’t impress you from a terrace. You can enjoy the sunset or delight yourself with the city lights at night. Or both! It’s up to you.
This doesn’t cover all what you can do in Bangkok in three months, but it sums up a little of what you need to know. In my experience, this city was exactly what I was looking for. In my past, on every chance I had to explore a little more of Thailand, I was always happy to come back. And it always felt comfortable just like at home. The three months are up, and I had to leave, but one thing is sure: I’ll be back for more!
Author: Camila Roel
Are you planning to move to Bangkok? Then this story in for you.
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Photos by Jmnphoto
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