“One night in Bangkok”…”Holla, city of squalor!”
And that’s about where my knowledge of Bangkok stopped. That is until our rickety train came trundling from the darkness into Bangkok Station. I am loathed to form an opinion on a place purely from other people’s opinions, especially when so many people had told me how terrible Bangkok was.
Bangkok is like any other big Asian city so far – loud, dirty and brash – but why that has to be a bad thing, I don’t know! Even after arriving at 8 o’clock at night, after one hell of a travel day, I could absolutely still see its charm.
The day had begun in Koh Samui – the island in the Gulf of Thailand. We had arranged for a taxi to pick us up from our resort at 5:30am, in order to meet the 6am ferry back to mainland Thailand. As is quite typical here in Thailand, the resort offered to make us a “breakfast in a box” as we would obviously miss the buffet leaving so early the morning. This “breakfast in a box” is great in theory until you open it to find 2 slices of the odd-tasting sweet white bread that is common around this part of the world, a tub of pineapple jam (?!) and a soggy looking banana. Soggy. Safe to say, I skipped breakfast that morning!
After the ferry journey, which only took about 90-minutes, we were met by our pre-arranged transport at the Seatran dock (you buy a ferry and train station transfer ticket from the ferry terminal on Koh Samui). This was a 12-seater van that was to take us, and a bunch of other locals and travellers to Surat Thani, about a two-hour drive away. We lucked out and got seats in the front, so could watch the world go by quite easily, bumping along next to the driver.
Our train departed from Surat Thani station at 10:30am, so we had just enough time to grab a snack from the 7/11 (cheese toasted sandwich to the rescue!) before boarding.
Again, loads of people had told us just how bad the trains in Thailand are – and again, lies! This train was comfy and had air-conditioning. Now I’m not stupid, I’m aware this is probably not the train most people were talking about when they said it’s horrendous, and I know there are worse options (no air-con, not enough seats, etc) that you can travel on for less cost. However, this 10-hour journey cost B608 each ($US17.50) through 12GoAsia.com, so I didn’t see the point in paying any less!
So here we meet the beginning of this tale, in Bangkok, with the train arriving just after dark. Bangkok train station is simple, but has everything you need – and is quite easy to navigate, despite being super busy. We walked out of the terminal and were hounded immediately for taxis and tuktuk’s to take us to our accommodation…
Now, I can’t imagine doing a South East Asia trip these days without the luxury of a smartphone, and the hundreds of apps for every little thing that we have available to us. I also wrote this post on my favourite travel apps. So instead of obtaining a taxi from the hoards of gropey men out front of the station – we used Uber. Mainly because Uber quoted B90 ($US2.50) to take us to our accommodation. The only thing close to this we bartered for at the station was an open air tuktuk (two people plus our two huge backpacks on a half hour journey) – and the cheapest he would do it for was B150 ($US4.30).
And, to make things even better, we scored the absolute nicest Uber driver in the world – a lady who gave us loads of tips about the city, and ended up under-charging us (for some reason!?) only B65!? I’ve never before wanted to get in touch with Uber and ask if they can charge us more for a journey!
We were staying in the Ban Phan Thom area of Bangkok, near by Khao San Road which was nice and convenient to the markets and loads of cheap restaurants. Accommodation was on the expensive side here – but big cities tend to be like that. Being that we arrived in late, and had been travelling since 5am, we hit the hay immediately upon walking into our small, but thankfully clean, room!
The next day we spent touring around loads of temples in the city. It was by far too hot to trot around the city, so we were left haggling with each tuktuk driver we came across. We first had drivers try to pull the scam on us where they mention that whatever temple we wanted to go to is “closed today, for celebration”. It’s mainly so that they can tempt you with a different, much longer sight-seeing tour, and so they can take you to specific tourist areas where they most likely get a kick back.
We insisted that we still wanted to just go directly to this one specific temple and have a look anyway, even if it might be closed – and, lo and behold, it was open – no celebration! It’s all about exerting yourself to get what you want, and not being drawn in.
We even made it to the Seashell Museum (as you do!) – but I’m not going to lie to you, it was basically because it was air-conditioned!
Overall, I loved Bangkok, and would go again to spend some more time exploring. As long as you’re prepared for busy streets, crazy muggy heat, being hassled at every corner, cheap and delicious street food, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, you’re going to love Bangkok!!
Did you love or hate Bangkok? It seems it’s one or the other for most people! Let me know what you thought!