Last year, around May time, I made one of the best (if not THE best) decisions I have ever made. I’d always wanted to travel outside of Europe (previously the furthest I had been from the UK was the Canary Islands as a child) but I’d never managed to find a friend who could a) afford to go, b) negotiate the same holidays from work that I had or c) agree with me on a destination and length of time. And then it dawned on me. I could, just maybe, go alone. Crazy. The girl who had never left the UK alone, never mind the continent, jetting off on a solo adventure to Asia for three weeks. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought; actually this could be brilliant.
Three months later I walked out of arrivals at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, with my first stamp in passport, a huge rucksack on my back and a hotel reservation for the next two nights. I didn’t have a particular destination in mind when I was trawling the STA Travel website in May. Somewhere that fitted my dates and where I would meet other like minded travelers was all that I asked. Thailand was the perfect fit.
I wanted to visit Chiang Mai and the hill tribes in the north, and the national park and islands in the South. I would fly into Bangkok and travel from there. I’d seen the photographs and heard the reviews of Bangkok; a backpackers paradise, apparently. But the busy streets, traffic and humidity – plus the droves of young brits drinking buckets of alcohol down Koh San Road – wasn’t the Thai culture that I was looking for. Nevertheless, as the starting and ending point of my adventure, I would spend a couple of days seeing what it had to offer.
On the 13th August, I woke up in a hotel room in the Thai capital. What followed in the forthcoming days was unexpected… I fell in love with Bangkok.
Bangkok is a vibrant, bustling city, filled with the kindest people. I was thousands of miles from home, a 22 year old girl in a new, unusual culture but I didn’t feel lonely. Thai people have this knack of making everyone feel welcome. From the tuk-tuk drivers, to the masseuses, I didn’t meet a Thai person that I didn’t like. The temples (or ‘Wat’s) are beautiful, there are so many and they’re all breathtaking. The smaller, less visited ones are also worth a visit – so very calming and peaceful. The food, especially the street food, is wonderful. There is fresh fruit and coconuts on every other street corner, all for a fraction of the UK price, with triple the flavour. There are also beautiful, green parks -excellent places to relax and read a book in, especially if you get a sunny day.
So, without further ado, here is my personal list of five things that I would recommend doing if you are lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Bangkok.
Five: Pick up a map and explore on foot (and maybe get a little bit lost).
Exploring a city on foot, especially when you don’t have a set destination, really gives you a good feel for a city; finding hidden streets and local gems that you may not have otherwise seen. In Thailand, you also have the added benefit that you will find amazing street food on every corner (don’t be scared of this, you’ll have stomach upset no matter what you eat – damn our western stomachs!). If you ever find yourself completely lost or want to find a specific place, you can easily hale a tuk-tuk or taxi and get a cheap ride to somewhere more central.
Four: Take a boat along the Chao Phraya River.
Discover homes built on the canals and take a quick insight into the lives of the people who live along Bangkok’s canals. Purchase souvenirs (or just bread to feed the fish) from local tradesmen and women, who sell items from boats as they. Or maybe just take an hour to relax at a slower pace than the rest of Bangkok.
Three: Visit a sky bar and explore nightlife away from Koh San Road.
Yes, they’re expensive. Even by UK standards, they’re a little pricey. But just look at that view. The cocktails are also particularly good. Also, I’d like to point out here that I spent a couple of nights on Koh San Road and it can be a lot of fun. But I also want to point out that it isn’t your only option. Above is a (slightly blurry) picture taken as I was leaving the Saxophone Pub. If jazz bars, or any kind of cute, quirky bars are your thing, visit here. Cocktails here aren’t to be sniffed at either.
Two: Wat Pho
It’s just breathtaking. I think the pictures say it all. It’s even better up close.
One: Chatuchak Weekend Market
My favourite part of Bangkok yet, amazingly, Chatuchak Weekend Market is the one place that I have no photos from. I was too busy shopping, eating and soaking up the atmosphere but a quick google search will show you far better photos than I could have possibly taken anyway! The market is wonderful and about so much more than shopping. I hate shopping in the UK. Trawling the high street for longer than an hour leaves me wanting to cry, but this is a completely different kettle of fish. A favourite with the local people, Chatuchak offers delicious food, snacks and drinks around most corners and beautiful, intricate stalls around every other. The food court seems like mayhem, with what I believe to be waiters, competing and shouting across the tables, yet all food arrives quickly and promptly. The market is a maze of stalls selling clothes, stalls, souvenirs, ornaments, flowers and so much more. There is the possibility that you will get lost and lose track of time. If you’re in Bangkok at the weekend, jump on the train and visit. You won’t regret it.
And thus, my post about one of my beloved Bangkok ends with these words of wisdom: don’t judge a book by its cover – or a city by the photos you see on your Facebook feed.