Travel is a matter of taste. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and as such, I think that you should always read travel blogs with a discerning eye. Don’t take somebody else’s word as gospel without seeing a place for yourself and forming your own opinion.
Before I went to Thailand, I had one thing told to me over and over again by people that had been before me, ‘Get out of Bangkok as quickly as you can.’ As a result, I was prepared to want to flee the place as soon as I landed and wasn’t too excited about the 4 days I had booked to stay whilst I made a plan of how to proceed. In the end, however, I found that 4 days was hardly enough and that I could have happily explored Bangkok for a couple of weeks. When I eventually returned to the city to fly out it felt really good to be back, and I will definitely be factoring this for future trips to Asia.
Bangkok is wonderfully mad. There is a certain familiarity in the strangeness of the place though – that feeling of oppressive heat, a sweaty face, lack of appetite, mosquito bites on our ankles, a cocktail of pungent smells in your nose, shouts, noise, busses that look like they wouldn’t get you anywhere people that look like they’ve never been anywhere else…the thrill of being far from home, the magic of a developing country. You can’t let your guard down but you can relax into the madness, lean into the crowd, let the currents wash around you and keep your feet. It’s beautiful, it’s ugly and it’s alive.
So where should you stay? The obvious answer for backpackers is Khao San road, home of debauchery and young travellers from all over the world. If you want to make friends, find travel buddies or just drink a Chang or ten before you head out for some serious diving then this is the place for you. I can recommend Suneta Hostel, where I paid $4 for a 4-bed dorm along with its helpful staff and free breakfast. Another great district for travellers is Pratunam, the clothing and garment district. It’s slightly less touristy and has excellent transport links for airports and the rest of the city. I stayed in the COOP hostel which was clean, cool and very friendly. My room only cost $5 for a 4-bed dorm, but prices vary during high season and I would imagine people pay a lot more to stay here around Christmas and New Year.
Bangkok street food is second to none – you can eat delicious morsels all day long and not spend more than a few dollars on being really full, so that is definitely one way you should spend your time in the capital. Other things not to miss out on are taking a cheap boat down the river, visiting the night markets, visiting a sky bar and taking a trip to Chinatown. Each of these offers you a different perspective on the vast city and you can spend half or a whole day on them if you aren’t in a rush. For those of you who want to keep fit before you hit the beach – hope on a bike or a tuk-tuk to Lumphini Park where runners brave the heat and locals work out on the free gym equipment there.
There’s not much you can’t find in Bangkok, just make sure to find it in your own way and you won’t be disappointed!