Start of the Bangkok visit – Day 1

15 Oct

For our trip to Cambodia, we had to transit through Bangkok, Hence we  decided to include Bangkok in our travel itinerary and spend a few days exploring this bustling metropolis. While planning for this trip, I read and heard numerous contrasting stories about this city – people either really liked it or really hated it. It seemed like there were only extremes and no in-between views for anyone. So I was quite keen to experience this city for myself and draw my own conclusions.

Anyways, my take after the visit – I did not like Bangkok and for some reason this city just didn’t agree with me, or grow on me or give me  any reason to change my views. We did have a nice time shopping, saw some good things, did some fun stuff, basically everything was good but it was because of the company that I had and not the city, which was a huge disappointment.

Bangkok taught me that any place (no matter how dull or bad) can be fun if you meet the right people and a visit to a good place can turn really bad of you meet all the wrong people. I guess that’s what went wrong for us in Bangkok.

Bangkok Skyline

Bangkok Skyline

For our visit, we had decided to stay closer to the city centre and hence booked a hotel at Sukhimvit. We loved the location of the hotel as it was a quick 2 minute walk to all kinds of public transport, had a 7-11 store opposite to the hotel and some good shopping areas around.

For our first day in Bangkok, we decided to head the farthest and explore the Phra Nakhon and Rattanakosin district. We took various modes of transportation (I have written a detailed section on how to reach various places at the end of this post) and started the day with a fun boat ride on the Chao Praya river to reach the Phra Nakhon and Rattanakosin district. All along the river side we saw numerous high-end hotels, the local China town, other smaller temples etc. All in all its quite a fun ride and really amazing as this is an important form of transportation like a  bus / train to commute for a lot of local people.

Sathorn Pier, Bangkok

Sathorn Pier, Bangkok

View from the ferry ride, Bangkok

View from the ferry ride, Bangkok

We first went to visit The Grand Palace and that’s where things just began to fall apart. There is short walk from the Pier to the Grand Palace and all the way we were accosted by touts telling us that the Grand Palace is closed and trying to put us in tuk-tuks. This got us real irritated. Additionally, as we were going to a temple, we had worn long trousers covering our knees and long tops covering our arms / elbows. But apparently this is not the correct dress code and women need to wear long skirts. They do have an office at the entrance that provides these garments free of cost for a small deposit, but when we went there they had a long queue and after standing in the queue they wanted the deposit in exact change, which we didn’t have. So we came out and started contemplating on what to do but there was a really irritating woman standing there who just wouldn’t let us stand in one corner and decide. She kept allowing some locals who were also in the wrong attire to stand there but kept shouting at us to either go into the office or leave. And she just wasnt ready to listen or let us stand there for 2 minutes and to top it all – was extremely rude. So we decided that we’ll leave and not visit the Grand Palace at all. We then left through the gates, clicked a few pics from outside and decided to walk towards Wat Pho.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Wat Pho is again a short walk from The Grand Palace and we kept dodging touts all along the way. In fact, even fruit sellers told us that Wat Pho is closed. But we finally reached Wat Pho (which was open) and spent a good half a day here.  I have written an entire blog post on Wat Pho at http://wp.me/p29z7S-jF

Around lunch time, we decided to leave this area (as we had had enough of these touts by then) and head towards Khao San Road. Additionally, we decided to not take any tuk-tuk ride (and risk landing up in some place else) but walk all the way.  When we started walking from Wat Pho, on one side of the road, there were numerous local shops with some really interesting local stuff – like wooden massage instruments and oils, chinese medicines, local food stuff, Buddhist religious stuff etc etc. Do take a few minutes and checkout these shops. You can pick up some real cute authentic local gifts and that too at big time bargains.

walking towards Khao San road

walking towards Khao San road

After a short walk, we saw the familiar tuk-tuk hung on the wall announcing that we had arrived at the famous back packer destination – Khao San Road. Now Khao San is a whole world in itself. It’s a long street that keeps branching into various bylanes and there are more streets further from this main street. All these streets have a few things in common – loads of restaurants and pubs to chill, lot of street shopping and some good stores, masseurs on the road and loads of foreigners. For a second you feel that you are in a complete cosmo town where there is a mix of all nationalities and not a city in SE Asia. But here too we met quite a few bad local people who were very touchy feely and this just didn’t agree with us.

Khao San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road, Bangkok

We then spent an entire afternoon walking and exploring the various streets, discovering quaint stores, shops, cute gift items, loads of T-shirts (some where you could even get these personalised), bags, flip-flops etc etc. You name it and you can get it here. And when you get tired you can just plonk your self on any of the street side masseur and get a foot massage at dirt cheap rates. And if you feel hungry then you can sit in one of the numerous restaurants / coffee shops /pubs and rest away. It goes without saying that we spent a lot of time here and had a blast.We wanted to visit Wat Saket known as the Golden Mount (that offers an amazing view at sunset with a 360 degree panoramic view of Bangkok) and from there walk all the way to the Pakklong Flower Market. But we were too tired by then and the humidity had really gotten to us. So we decided to call it a day.

On the way back we quickly saw the Wat Arun temple which seemed gorgeous from outside but we didn’t have the time to go in and see it from inside. Still I completely recommend it to everyone who has the time to explore it.

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Tips for travel within Bangkok – 

How to reach Grand Palace / Wat Pho – Take a BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. Walk out of the station and you will see the Chao Phraya Boat station – Central Pier (Sathorn). From here take a ferry to Chang Pier and then walk straight onto Na Phra Lan Road to Wat Pho. If you are staying at Khao San road, then you can walk up to the Phra Athit (N13) Pier and take a ferry from there to Chang pier.

Wat Pho to Khao San Road – It’s a 20 – 30 minute pleasant walk and you look at the local map for directions.

How to reach the city centre from Khao San Road – Walk upto the Phra Arthit pier from Khao san Road and take the ferry to Sathorn pier. From here walk to the Saphan Takshin BTS Skytrain station and take a train for your destination.

Tips for the trip –

  1. Check on the dress code required for Grand Palace in advance and dress accordingly to avoid any issues at the gates.
  2. Check out local shops near Wat Pho on the main road. They have some really interesting local stuff and you can pick up some real cute authentic local gifts and that too at big time bargains
  3. Beware of touts and do not believe them when they say things are closed or try to put in a tuk-tuk. This is a scam.
  4. Take care of all your belongings in this place.
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23 Responses to “Start of the Bangkok visit – Day 1”

  1. Induced Chaos Photography October 15, 2012 at 23:08 #

    If you go to the Grand Palace just wear jeans. They will let you in. You can also buy a quick wrap for about 100 baht in the various shops before the Palace. The wrap would have covered your legs which is the biggest issue. Even though the royal family is never in residence its considered rude to show you legs.

    As for touts, oldest scam going in Bangkok is that the attraction is closed. You can just walk past them and ignore them. If they get aggressive just saw Mai Aw Krap or Ka depending if male or female and it means no thank you.

    Piece of advice, don’t argue with a Thai. The wall will care more and you come out looking worse in the end to the Thai way of thinking. You can shrug and smile and say mai pen rai which has lots of meaning but in this case it means whatever and walk away.

    Excellent pictures and I hope the rest of your trip turned out better in Thailand. It’s a great country and the people are great once you get away from the tourist areas and see real Thailand.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 10:54 #

      Hey, thanks for your tips.. On the Grand Palace dress code – we were in jeans and were not allowed inside and were told that we need to be in long skirts. Guess must be some recent change… But your tips are very helpful and I shall follow these if I ever visit Thailand again. Are you ok if I add these tips to the section – Tips for the Trip – in my post?

      Also, I want to visit Chiang Mai sometime. Heard its very pretty and a must visit place..

      Like

  2. Raunak October 16, 2012 at 00:11 #

    The thing I enjoyed the most in Bangkok was bargaining at the all night flea markets…what an experience. It was there that my wife acknowledged the fact that I’m a real good bargainer 🙂 We bought a lot of stuff from there. Also got a lot of suits and shirts stitched. I think I got a really good deal on them too.
    The boat ride along the canal was fun too..we didn’t make it to the Grand Palace though. Maybe next time.

    You are absolutely right that good people are so important for a fun trip. I’m sure your next trip there will absolutely rock!

    Thanks for sharing your trip and bringing back memories 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 10:58 #

      Thanks Raunak… We didnt visit the night markets but went to Khao San road and the Chatuchak market… Loved them… I also loved the fresh fruits and coffee that was available at numerous street stands all over the city… We couldnt shop much for stuff here – because of the weak rupee and pathetic exchange rate nothing was cheap in Bangkok… 😦

      Like

  3. Niranjan October 16, 2012 at 00:27 #

    Nice captures, especially Wat Arun.

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

    Like

  4. Juliana Lightle October 16, 2012 at 00:56 #

    It has been a long time since I spent nearly a week in Bangkok. I did not do a lot of touristy stuff because I had friends who lived there. We went out to dinner on the river on a boat and to a restaurant they liked, but they did recommend several things I did not my own: Rose Garden, a floating market, and I ended up way out in the country with a cobra wrapped around my neck. One of my favorite foods is a Thai street food. Since three Thai exchange students have lived with me recently, I can always go back and visit them. It does help if you know locals. Next time go to the mountains in the north, to Chang Mai and Elephant Camp.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 11:09 #

      Thanks Juliana… I guess its always good to know some locals in places like this as you get to see some places that are normally not a part of tourist guides and you also know what to avoid… We couldnt try a lot of street food in Bangkok as we are vegans / veg … But I guess it was one of those trips that pretty much went wrong weherever possible…Guess it just happens…

      Also Chiang Mai and Krabi are on my list and I hope to see that soon..

      Like

  5. Juliana Lightle October 16, 2012 at 00:56 #

    I meant did on my own.

    Like

  6. pubnknit October 16, 2012 at 01:39 #

    Thanks for this. I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy Bangkok or not when I go for Songkran next April. I keep reading mixed reviews as well. But I guess I’ll find out! Your pictures rock.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 11:10 #

      Thanks pubnknit… Well all I can say is travel prepared and I am sure you will have a nice time .. 🙂

      Like

  7. miladmaymay October 16, 2012 at 06:23 #

    Ahhhh, memories 🙂

    Like

  8. pommepal October 17, 2012 at 09:59 #

    We loved Bangkok but you have to be very patient. A smile is always helpful and “mai pen rai” really works…

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 11:40 #

      Thanks pommepal… You are right and I guess its also some trips at times that things just go wrong. So I guess this was one of them 🙂

      Like

      • pommepal October 19, 2012 at 11:51 #

        Yes even if you travel back again and again to the same place it is always a different experience. Like you commented the people you meet or are with make a big difference

        Like

      • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 12:24 #

        Hey pommepal… That is so true… And you are better prepared and can always check out newer things during the second time…I think I will give Bangkok another try… Its also pretty close to Mumbai so its not that difficult… Thanks pommepal 🙂

        Like

  9. sarahinguangzhou October 17, 2012 at 14:52 #

    Yes the dress code thing at the palace is annoying. I dressed ‘conservatively’ but failed to realize that legs had to be covered to the ankle and below the knee wasn’t good enough. It would be easier if they made it clear what ‘conservative’ meant to them.
    The touts are also annoying, I think BKK is a state of mind though and as long as you’re aware of potential danger you can just enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s one of my favourite cities but it did take a while.

    Like

    • getsetandgo October 19, 2012 at 11:59 #

      Hey, from all the comments that I have received on this I have realised that you need to give Bangkok more time and understanding… I guess thats where I went wrong… And also I think some trips just go wrong and it was this one for me…

      Like

  10. Cindy G October 18, 2012 at 21:55 #

    Very cool! Have fun on the rest of your trip! 🙂

    Like

  11. RDoug November 13, 2012 at 05:06 #

    Some nice photos you have here, Snigdha. Good job.

    Like

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