4 Things about Bangkok from our 3-days layover in order of appearance (without too much historical details and price tags, just RAW descriptions of what is there.)
- Taxi Mafia 🙂
Well, we did everything right and got the chance to spend a short winter break at Thailand.
Thanks’ to our dear friends at DISKO DRUGAR putovanja who organized everything we found our self in Bangkok (from Belgrade to Rome – From Rome to Abu Dhabi – from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok). We prayed that our bags came with us, and when they showed on carousel we felt a sense of relief. The crowd at the airport was enormous and overwhelming but we eventually found our way out. First stop – buy Sim Card, trust us you will need it (we got DTac Sim card with crazy package name – Happy Tourist which last for 15 days), second step outside and survive, let me explain this – we came from near 0C to 30+C with infinite humidity level, it was like trying to breathe under water, the third step take a cab to hotel – you find a taxi terminal outside, take a ticket and wait for taxi in parking number stated in your ticket, we were warned that Taxi drivers don’t like to drive by taximeter and that was case. Then after 17 hours of flight, you must negotiate price on English (not sure if he understood us) we were like: “twooooo baaagggsss andddd twwwooo offfff uusssss tooo hottteeeelll, hooowww muccchhh??”, and he was like “600 BHT” for a ride to downtown which was too much. We tried to lower the price but he didn’t want to negotiate so we had two choices, take that cab and enter the hotel room soon, take a shower and go explore or go back to Taxi terminal take another number and wait and hope that next one will ask for less money….. Listen just go with the flow, they must earn their money also, so we agreed on the price and took a looongggg ride to the hotel almost hour and a half, it was rush hour in Bangkok – way worst then we imagined.
You can do shorter rides with famous tuk-tuk`s which are boring as mosquitoes, on every single step you will hear: “Sir do you want a tuk-tuk” – walking is not popular in Bangkok… We took one tuk-tuk ride and it was intense, we were speeding like crazy in the middle of rush hour in the back of make shift vehicle with 3 wheels – it resembles a bike more than a car and their moto is – Safety Last 🙂 Tuk-Tuk`s come in many shapes and sizes, some of them are drivers pride and joy and others are old and rusty, some of them have colorful lights installed and some of them have loud exhaust’s, it is a transportation subculture and unforgettable experience that we strongly recommend and remember they will always try to hustle you to pay top dollar so take a few minutes and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate….
Our top tip is – use Uber as much as you can for longer trips, cars are new with cool drivers and A/C which always comes handy in Bangkok’s sun.
- Don`t worry – you won’t be hungry
A few hours later, we come to our hotel, had a shower and gone out. We were hungry after all airplane foods and without any experience (we were told about Pad Thai and fruit shakes).
Let me tell you something about food, there is every kind of food that you can imagine!!!! Food is on every step, small street vendors, makeshift mobile “restaurants”, food stands on bikes, food stands on the ground, walking food stand I think you can guess where I am going with this… There is variety of Thai food and it is made easy for tourists, you can have meat on stick, many types of Curry (Thai soup) with pork, chicken or beef, noodle dishes with pork, chicken or beef and fried rice dishes with pork, chicken or beef, spicy, Thai style spice (be careful with this I almost got BLIND), not spicy. Sitting on plastic cheers, eating standing in the street from a small plastic tray or in some posh restaurant. Also, there is all kind of “Western food” choices like steak, burgers, pasta, pizza and inevitable Mc Donald’s, Burger King and other junk.
Trust us and try everything you can – including scorpions or bugs, you live once and you have traveled thousands of kilometers to get there so be brave, try Thai style and eat delicious food while crying at the same time, try local curry`s from dirty street kitchens with ingredients you don’t know anything about and you will enjoy!! Everything is fragrant, tasty with exotic flavours like coconut milk, chill’s, lemongrass, galangal something like a really spicy perfume. We enjoyed every single meal that we ordered, everything was “exotic” and unfamiliar but really tasty and comforting, even better with a variety of cheap local bears – our personal choice Chang (Elephant) goes well to quench thirst and to put out the chilly fire.
And after savoury, there is something sweet, fruit. There are countless fruit stands selling to us unknown fruits like passion fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteen, papaya, mango – we knew about bananas, pineapple, and coconut. I know that you will want to try cold, sweet coconut with the straw but be aware that it has totally different flavour than anything we tried from “coconut” before. It had strange almost savory aftertaste but man it goes so well with Bangkok`s immense heat and humidity – from now on our motto is: “Coconut a day (or two) keep doctors away”, it is good for everything – skin, antioxidants, anti-age serum… so be persistent and give coconut a chance and eventually you will love it!! The best way to trick yourself to try something new is to order a mix fruit ice smoothy and enjoy the exotic flavours in scorching heat.
- The obvious one – visit all temples you can (and some other attractions)
Well, first one is first – The Grand Palace in Bangkok – tip: they weren`t kidding about dress code, it is a sacred site and yes, they did deny us entry twice until we were dressed right (covered shoulders, long leggings on the 30C+ it was worth it)!
Along with rivers of tourists we finally entered the palace and right away we were amazed by the sight, master craftsmanship, architecture it is something totally different then we used to see in Europe. Long and wide stairways, gold and emerald everywhere, towers that touch the sky, this can be a real sensory overload especially if you had only 3h of sleep for last 2 days 🙂
To keep the long story short, Grand Palace is made of two parts the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the royal residence. What can we say, The Emerald Buddha is really amazing, and it answers the obvious question, yes, it is made from one single block of jade (all green with gold plating), be prepared to lose your shoes in makeshift shoe racks and to wait for a looongggg longgg line to see it. Interesting facts about The Emerald Buddha, it is dating from 15th century AD, nobody is allowed near except his majesty the King, Buddha’s robes are changed 3 times a year to reflect winter, summer and rainy season.
The Grand Palace construction started in April 1782 BC by the order of King Rama I and was the royal residence for generations until 1925. Today The Grand Palace is partially opened to the public as a museum, but it remains a working palace, with several royal offices still situated inside.
There are guided tours in English so we advise you to join one and learn many interesting historical and mythological facts about this magical place!
After spending a few hours in The Grand Palace, we used the map to navigate to Wat Pho also known as Temple of Reclining Buddha which lies directly south of The Grand Palace.
Well no surprises here, after roaming the temple complex we came to see the Reclining Buddha, and let me tell you something – we saw pictures, travel guides, vlogs, blogs, etc. but when you stand in front of the 46m long golden statue you feel overwhelmed and humble. There was some strange knocking and metallic noise echoing thru the temple and we found out that behind the statue there are 108 bronze bowls that represent the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha and it is believed that you will have good luck by dropping coins in these bowls.
We were burning daylight fast so again map in hands and straight to dock on Chao Praya river which lies behind a small market – just follow the crowds 🙂
There is a boat which transfers you across the busy river to Wat Arun and even from the river this temple looks majestic, it kisses the sky with its sky-high domes all plated in gold. Temple got its name from Hindu “sun god” – Aruna, so in our personal interpretation it could be “the temple of rising sun”. The main feature of Wat Arun is its central tower which is decorated with colourful porcelain with the height of about 70m. The main tower is surrounded by 4 smaller towers forming a square base with each tower representing different cardinal direction. We managed to climb the “smaller” temple using very steep stairs just to take a view on Bangkok from this different perspective. It was getting dark so it was time to find our way back to hotel, ferry boats have their time schedule and there a few stations in a vicinity of the temple for different boat routes so it is very useful to remember where did you get off and to trace your path backwards at the end of the day or you could end up running and wavering like crazy to catch the right ferry (like we did 🙂 )
Another day, another chance, map out and straight to Wat Saket “Golden mountain”. Let`s put it like this – it is an ancient, 77m high, manmade temple hill which was built by generations of rulers. When you arrive at the entrance you will be greeted by not so steep 300 steps which travel thru a kind of magic forest. First part is in shade with many small statues and figures which bring mythological stories to life. Another set of stairs brings you to reasonable high and there you can start to appreciate a view and the last set of stairs brings you to the top in the temple which houses Buddha relics and it’s a sacred place which attracts worshipers from all around the world.
Panoramic view, light breeze and chanting from the far, very good way to escape Bangkok’s hectic streets and to find some peace of mind and soul!
After an hour of Wat Saket “therapy”, we were back on street level and trying to find a boat to take us around the city by an intricate network of canals. People in Bangkok use the canals and rivers for transport every day so we joined the boat ride. Canal water is murky and really smelly but it was really fun because boats are going fast and everybody is holding tight and tries not to get splashed by waves. There are several bridges so the boat must lower the whole roof to go under and it was a really good opportunity to see large monitor lizards on the banks of canals peacefully enjoying the sun.
Only stop for us was the house of Jim Thompson, as soon as we left the boat and after 5 minutes’ walk, surrounded by skyscrapers and tall buildings lies this garden of Eden.
House was built in 1948. by Jim Thompsons Thai Silk Company Limited. Jim was an American businessman and architect who moved to Bangkok to establish silk manufacture and trade. He was also a passionate collector of secular art from the whole region, Laos, Cambodia, etc. Jim mysteriously disappeared in 1967. but you can find out more during guided tours (no photos inside the houses). As the part of this complex, you can find a restaurant and exclusive clothes shop (branded Jim Thompson)
We really recommend using canal boat, get the map, plan your trips and you can visit a bunch of popular sights by canals fast.
- Myth busting – Thailand is not “dirt cheap” as they say
Like many of you we`ve heard stories of “cheap” Thailand and something like:”… just get a ticket and there you can live with little to nothing…”, well how to put this in a nice way – wake up! it was just a dream (or maybe just some thoughts of people who have never been there).
Yes, best things in life are free, but if you want to eat, sleep, ride, see and have some kind of “luxury” you have to pay. Well you could eat every single day od the street standing in the heat, carry large bottles of water from supermarkets, hustle price for every single ride or purchase and then you could get away with shoestring budget but if you are in time crunch then you have to think how to make the best of your time available and that means taxi`s, restaurants, hotels, fast boat transport.
So, prepare yourself and enjoy this “Asian Perl” as you are meant to, it is your holiday – you deserve it!
Our story continues, as we visited beautiful and wild island Ko Pha-ngan so stick with us, more stories soon! 😊