The night before I set my alarm at 8 am. My flight was due at 10.45. I planned to have breakfast and use my return half of the airport bus ticket. Little did I know….
I am still not sure, what happened, but the fact was, I woke up at 9.36. 1 hour and 9 minutes, before the flight!!!!! Fortunately I didn’t unpack my bag, so it was easy to gather my staff. I put on the first thing I saw, checked out (dumped the key at the reception) and ran, as if the devil himself was following me. The train and the bus where out of the question, of course, lucky for me there was a taxi, parked right next to the door. I quickly explained, that my plane was living in an hour, and I needed to get to the airport ASAP. The taxi driver looked at me, as if I was mad and told, that the registration was probably finishing at that very moment. As if I didn’t know it myself! Still, I decided to try my luck, and go to the airport no mater what. I have to admit, that the driver really placed himself in my shoes, as he was driving so fast, that I was dangling on the back seat like a puppet. I also realised, that I didn’t have any HK dollars left, but kept quiet, in case he would kick me out. We got to the airport in record time, I handed the driver 35 American dollars and told to keep the change. The driver said, that they normally didn’t take them, but there was clearly nothing to be done.
When I entered the airport and started looking for the screen, it hit me, that I forgot to put my contacts in. Squinting desperately at the screen, I managed to read, that the plain was already being boarded. Still, I ran to the Air Asia counter and explained my situation. The assistant was kind enough to register me and print my ticket out, but explained, that he didn’t guarantee, that I would make it. As it happens, my bag was stopped at the security check, all my stuff taken out and inspected, and I had to shove it all back. HK airport was the worst airport to be late at. I had to use numerous escalators, than, as I found out, a train to the departures. And to top it up – a shuttle bus to my particular gate. You can run as fast as you want, but you still have to wait for the bloody train and the shuttle bus! At my gate the air attendants were waiting for me, and whisked me inside as soon as I approached. It was 10.41- 4 minutes before the departure. If it wasn’t a pre-Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.
On a serious note, I couldn’t thank Air Asia staff enough, what a customer service from a low cost airline! Well done!
I arrived in Bangkok 2 hours and 40 min later. If arriving through the airport, national of some countries automatically get a visa-free permission to stay for 30 days. The situation is different, if you cross the border by land – you will only get 15 days, therefore should apply for a 30-60 day visa in advance at the embassy, if it’s not enough for you. Getting into the city from the airport was a piece of cake. Note, that I arrived at Don Muang airport, where Air Asia relocated all its fleet to.
You need to follow the bus signs, exit the terminal, and right there you will see A1 bus stop. Slightly to the right of the exit. The bus took me to Mo Chit, where both metro trains and Sky trains serve all parts of the city. The bus journey costs 30 baht, the train fare depends on the length of your journey, but is also very cheap. I payed only 40 baht for the metro trip from the first stop of the line to the very last – Hua Lumpong. That’s, where my guest house was – Cosy Bangkok place. It was 5 min away from the station, but tricky to find, as it was in the side streets. A word of advise- look under your feet! There are a lot of dogs in Bangkok, and they leave little presents. I was so busy looking around, that stepped right into a dogs do-do. Luckily, I was still wearing trainers, and not flip-flops.
The place, where I stayed, had very good reviews and cost 400 baht for a single room with air con. It was, indeed, very cosy, with shiny wooden floors and a little fountain. It also had cooking facilities, a washing machine and a PC downstairs. Wi-fi signal in the rooms was a little slow, but worked fine in the lobby. My room was pretty small and had no windows, well, it had windows looking into the corridor(???), so I don’t count them as actual windows.
I spent 4 blissfully happy days there, but not nights. It was impossible to sleep! Absolute 0 sound isolation! The whole 4 storied house was made out of thin wood. If someone was snoring in the next room, I heard it, as if that person slept in my bed. I heard people walking above me on the creaking floor, or people talking to each other on the ground floor. There were earplugs on my bed, when I moved in, but they didn’t salvage the situation much. Still I was very glad I stayed at this hotel, as it was situated in a real Thai residential side street. There were absolutely no tourists there, save for the residents of the Cosy. On the streets I could see loads of dogs and cats, all very well fed and looked after. And all heavily pregnant….
Everyone was saying hello in Thai and smiled, when I passed by. I especially liked the area in the evening, when family members gathered together to have dinner. They never closed their doors, and I could take a sneak peak. I wish I could take pictures, but I didn’t want to intrude.
I have been to Bangkok already 2 years ago, and have done everything a text-book tourists do. I visited temples – Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew. Also the Grand palace and the zoo, had a river and canals cruise, had loads of massages. Bangkok temples are a must see, I’ve never seen so much gold in one place before. Attention to details is superb. Also I recommend hiring a private long tale boat and explore the canals. Bangkok was once called Venice of Asia. In the canals you will see the hidden life of the city – women washing clothes, kids swimming, men fishing. You can also glance inside of tilted shacks standing on the water, just like they were hundreds years ago. I had the whole boat to myself and it cost me 1000 baht.
This time, however, I had no pressure to see everything. My idea was to adjust to local time slowly, have vaccinations and stuff as much food into myself as was humanly possible. 4 days of pure relaxation.
Talking about vaccinations, I have already had some done on the NHS – Hepatitis A,B, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio. Others, that I needed, could only be done privately, and quite expensively. Japanese encephalitis jabs alone cost £200, same did Rabies for three shots. Add to it a totally unnecessary nurse consultation for £45. By having all this done in Bangkok I saved £400. I simply walked into Thai Travel clinic, close to Victory monument station, filled in the form ( they require passport), payed for my jabs, had two very professionally done injections, and was sent on my way. Instead of a course of 2 or 3 JE vaccinations as in London, they use a different live vaccine here, that requires only one shot and last two years. Rabies vaccination still came in a course of three – on a 1st day, a week later, and on the 21st day. I had my first done that day. The other two can be done anywhere else in the world. They gave me a little patient book, stating, what vaccination I had and when. All in all it cost me £20. JE cost £8, rabies – £7. The rest was for the nurse’s services.
One more advantage of my hotel was its proximity to a mini night market, that consisted of approximately 30-40 little trolleys, where food was cooked and served. As soon as it got dark, they would appear out of nowhere, like little gods of indulgence.
I never knew, what to pick, everything looked so appetising. After having dinner, I was already looking forward to the next day, so that I could come again, and sample more dishes. I just love street food! If you are not squeamish, had your Hepatitis A jab done, and want to try something new – it’s your gastronomic haven. The food is fresh, unusual, full of flavour and very cheap. Thais very often eat there as well or buy food to take-away. Among the interesting things I tried was boiled duck intestines and gizzards with spicy sauce.
All I can say, is that I’m glad I tried it and would never have to do it again. It’s not even the fact, that I was eating someone’s intestines, that put me off. Or the fact, that they looked like tape worms. The dish didn’t offer much in terms of flavour or texture. Just rubbery bits, that squeaked on my teeth, when I was trying to chew them. A gizzard is an organ found in the digestive tract of a bird. Similar to a stomach, it is used to grind up the foods the bird eats. Gizzards are considered a delicacy in certain cultures. The ones I had were extremely chewy, definitely not suitable for weak teeth. Another curious dish was offal soup – brown, spicy liquid, with noodles and pieces of shredded stomachs, hearts, livers and a little block of jellied blood. That one tasted really good. My all-time favourite Tom Yam goon had been voted by people as one of the ten most delicious dishes in the world. Pigs trotters were a popular product on the streets, which sent me over the moon – I’m a huge fan. They were super tender and just melt in my mouth. If I went to little cafés, I tried to choose the places, where they had no menus in English and Thais were the main target audience. I found it very amusing and at the same time discomforting, how sometimes local food sellers would seat down next to me, watch me eat and smile. Street food prices range from 30 to 100 baht, 40-50 being the most frequent one.
These days you can buy any desserts you like in Thailand, thanks to Western influence ice cream, doughnuts, cheesecakes and waffles are readily available. Traditional desserts, however, may seem a little strange to our refined palate. How about Khao lam? Sticky rice with sweet red beans, sugar and coconut milk, stuffed into hollow bamboo cylinders and then slow-roasted over charcoals until ready? The dessert was tasty enough and also very, very filling. It reminded me of our rice pudding, only drier. It was a perfect breakfast, in my humble pinion.
The other one, that I saw a lot was paper-thin, rice flour pancakes with sugary filling, resembling dolls hair. I didn’t care for that one much.
Transport in Bangkok is very well developed and cheap. Sky train and metro can take you pretty much anywhere. It is also very easy to cross the river by boat for a modest fee. Taking a bus can be tricky, as everything is written in Thai, and they don’t announce the stops. I knew which one to take, only after a local person told me. I also asked the ticket lady, when to get off. The tickets are always purchased on the bus, as there is a lady selling them. My trip cost only £0.12. Other transport options are taxi-meters, tuk-tuks and motorbike taxi. Taxi-meter is the most straightforward one and often a cheaper one. Tuk-tuks are undeniably fun, but the driver can quote you any price he likes. It also depends on how good a haggler you are. I’m rubbish, I just walk away, if the price seems too high. A few days ago one tuk-tuk driver told me, that it would cost 300 baht to get to my destination, while the other one offered to drop me off for 200. I heard one driver offering – “20 baht anywhere in the city, madam””. It’s a scam, they will waste your time by taking you to their tour agents and jewellery stores. Motorbike taxies seem to be cheaper, but they are not for faint-hearted, as you wear no helmet, and the driver cuts through the traffic and overtakes cars like a Formula 1 pilot.
Bangkok, just like any Asian megapolis, can be overwhelming and chaotic. Crossing a busy four-lane road is always an adventure. The way I see it, I’d rather stay in a non-touristy residential area, within a walking distance to a train station. Staying in popular areas is stressful for me. I did it already two years ago. First of all, there are just too many people for my liking. Secondly, it’s always more expensive. Thirdly, I couldn’t make a step without anyone offering me a massage, a tuk-tuk, to buy something from their shop, inviting for a Ping pong show. If you don’t buy or don’t spend enough, you are bound to upset someone. If you are in a Thai area, on the other hand, wherever you go, you are always appreciated, they smile and thank you by bowing their heads. Language barrier has never been a problem for me, I could always explain things with gestures. As long as you don’t have to explain to a confused sausage seller, that you need an emergency blood transfusion, you’d be fine! I would always point at something with my finger and give the money. I was never overcharged, just because I was a tourist. Regular Thais are very honest and genuinely good people. Can’t say the same about those spoilt by tourism.
Bangkok is a great palace to visit for a couple of days, it offers a sufficient amount of entertainment, both cultural and naughty. Its night life scene is probably one of the best in Asia. Could I spend there more than a few days? Probably not.