This is our personal account of our journey to Bangkok.
Let’s first start by saying that there are two ways to experience Bangkok.
- The first rings very true to images seen in The Hangover Part II. This version of Bangkok is riddled with ping pong shows and red curtains. (Our hostel was right next to one of these colorful neighborhoods and we might have wandered down a street or two)
- The second version of Bangkok is the one you will read about here – a family friendly, historic city filled with humongous markets and smelly street food.
Arriving in Bangkok was easier than we thought. Getting the train into the city and finding our hostel was fairly simple. It did not take but a couple minutes, however, before both of our shirts were dripping with sweat. After dropping our bags at the hostel, we went out exploring.
Our first destination on foot was Lumphini Park, which is similar to Forest Park, an oasis among a concrete jungle. On the way to the park, we hear someone yell Dan’s name…sure enough it was two of our friends from St. Louis in a cab. What are the chances!? After a short stroll to Lumphini Park, we discovered it was empty during the day and continued on. Dan went running each morning and discovered that Lumphini Park comes alive in the mornings with aerobics, tai chi and other multiple activities.
The traffic is insane here at all hours of the day. We’ve literally been dodging cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks left and right. The street stalls lined the streets and were filled with very pungent and unidentifiable fried foods. After many failed attempts at working up the nerve to order meat on a stick, we found our way into a little inside restaurant with air con that seemed fairly reasonable. Dan FREAKED OUT when his diet coke was poured over ice and immediately thought he was going to have parasite belly. Thankfully, when back on Wi-Fi, he read an article that assured him that the ice was safe.
We made our way to the infamous Khao San Road, the backpacker haven of Bangkok and Southeast Asia. What we thought would be a strip of bars overcrowded with ex-pats and travelers alike, turned out to be a much different experience for us. Dan was bombarded every 10 steps by men selling suits tuk-tuk drivers making popping noises with their mouths and pressuring passerbys into ping pong shows. We had the cheapest meal thus far, pad thai for less than a dollar accompanied by a couple Chang beers. The food was cheap but the beers were overpriced. After dinner and a few drinks, we headed out.
Our second day we took the ferry up the river to see The Grand Palace. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king and his government were based here until 1925, but the palace is still used for royal ceremonies and state functions. The grounds were huge and the architecture was so impressive and detailed. In the largest building on site was The Emerald Buddha. We were required to take off our shoes and watched as Thais and other Buddhists from around the world bowed and payed respect.
After walking around the grounds of the crowded Grand Palace, we headed back down the river to China Town. The vendors and market spread for miles in every direction and we got lost in the alleys of vendors selling Hello Kitty accessories, dolls, jewelry, rubber duckies, and literally anything you could ever imagine. We finally conquered our fear of stall food in China Town with a couple of spring rolls. This was a small first step but would set us up great for the next day.
After a long day exploring the Grand Palace and getting lost in China Town, we went for a relaxing dinner at the Siam Center. We had only been in Thailand for two days and Dan already found his chicken wings. Siam Center is one of the largest malls in Asia and we were able to explore for a couple hours.
Our last day in Bangkok was spent at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This market is the largest market in Thailand with over 8,000 stalls. We snaked in and out of different stalls for hours finding everything from clothes, housewares, puppies and even baby squirrels. Both of us were tiring on the markets at this point and agree that the highlight of this market was the food. For lunch we split green curry with chicken got over our fear of street food and once and for all.
After the Chatuchuck Market we went to the train station to prepare for our 14 hour ride north to Chiang Mai. Stay tuned for a post about our time in Chiang Mai.