Pumping music, neon lights, ultra modern malls, uber modern technology, a skytrain, metro system, fun seekers looking for a short time or a long time, parties, skyscrapers, backpackers, flashpackers and everyone in between. A hedonistic paradise intertwined with Buddhism, temples, shrines, deities and a firm nod at a stunning history. Oh. And Khao San Road. Bangkok has been tempting foreigners for decades and is now laying stake to being the beating heart of SE Asia. A claim which is hard to deny.
Everything in Bangkok is fake, I’d question even my own mum’s authenticity if she was there. The best malls are the tourist driven MBK mall, a place geared to fleece tourists, but still offering up good prices, for more local prices head to ‘fashion mall’, which might possibly be a portal to China. If you are looking for tech head to ‘Pantip Plaza’ just down the road. Bangkok is the city of giving, if you want something and cant find it. Ask and watch it become instantly available.
Driving in and out of Bangkok is a nightmare, for a large part of the day the city is a traffic jam, but taxis booked through Grab are insanely cheap. I’m talking a 40 minute ride being the equivalent of $5. The metro and skytrain are a gift, but are regularly rammed. Bangkok for all its modernity has yet to come up with a slick way of knocking out tickets and unbelievably, if there is more than one of you, might actually be more expensive than a taxi.
Every tourists should hit up some history.
A great place to start is Wat Rakangkositaram, don’t expect to get a decent photo as there is also every other tourist in Bangkok is there. Then hop on a boat across the river to Wat Phra Chetuphon to see the golden Buddha, an epic sized rendition of Siddhartha himself. Wade through the tourists up to the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha. Ensure you allow 100 Baht for the fleecing at the entrance, unless your attire conforms. Then, head to one of the many, many street food outlets and get the obligatory salmonella. It’s happened to me. That tasty, moist looking piece of chicken on a stick that has you drooling, will very soon have you on the toilet. For three days. Maybe four.
If you are a backpacker then you will likely find yourself on Khao San road. No longer the seed fest it was a few years back. Formally it was a dread lock, mosquito bitten, baggy trousers type place where people were out to meet people, fuelled by alcohol. It is now a boutique style place dotted with a bit of neon and filled with middle class kids that believe air travel was invented for them and that Khao San was designed with their homecoming in mind. Expect vowels to be extenuated and shady looking henna to abound. A reminder that you are still in Thailand is regular thanks to the frequent grey haired, portly British guy with a T shirt way too tight for him, arm in arm with a Thai girl way to young for him. Money talks in Bangkok and opens more than just doors.
Baling Bangkok is easy. Head to 12Go Asia and input your details. Alternatively, find one of the zillion tour operators in the city and continue onwards. You will pay more, have more hassle, and likely hate every second of the journey. But the Thais are good, honest people. If they say they will get you to Ko Samui, they will get you there.
When you consider Bangkok has hotels that cater for every budget, restaurant and food vendors that wing out food for as little as a few pence, a 7-Eleven on every other corner and a Family Mart on those in between, it has cinemas, world class malls, and an access to everything any human on earth could ever want. It is ninja cheap to get around, is brimming with history and has a fab climate. It is hated by many, and loved by so many more. Though all things considered. It might just be the best city on earth for backpackers. In fact. It probably is.