Everybody talks about it, but how many people will actually go get their passports, and fly more than 8.000 miles out of their comfort zones to an unknown land?
They call it “The Land of Smiles”. I call it the place where they secretly flip you off, and you don’t notice it until you edit the footage on your computer.
There aren’t many places you go where you know when you come back, you won’t be the same as you were before you left. Thailand is one of those places. So, naturally, my anticipation for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime was growing quickly, especially when I stepped off the plane at 1 a.m into the 90 degree weather(they call that a cool night).
Getting there: there are no longer nonstop flights to Bangkok from the U.S, so you have to connect via the airline’s hub you’re flying. I flew China Eastern from Chicago to Bangkok via Shanghai(see my post about that).
Bangkok has 2 airports: Suvarnabhumi(BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport(DMK). More than likely your point of entry to Bangkok will be Suvarnabhumi since it’s the main international airport. Don Mueang International Airport is mainly used for budget airlines flying within Thailand and within Southeast Asia.
No visa required if you’re there for less than 30 days.
Getting into town from the airport: you can book a transfer in advance(I used expedia). Upon arrival, a driver with a sign with your name on it will meet you at arrivals, and they will take you to your hotel,no matter what time you arrive in Bangkok. You can also use taxis.
Speaking of driving, the traffic in Bangkok is HORRENDOUS! Think about Los Angeles traffic on steroids, and you’ll get Bangkok traffic as a result. It’s THAT bad.
Money: Thailand uses their own currency called the Baht. 33 USD equals 1 Thai Baht. Like Tokyo, Bangkok is pretty cash centric, so if you plan on buying street food, or shopping at markets with your card, you’ll be out of luck. There are ATMs on every corner in Bangkok, so you’ll be fine.
Speaking of food, the street food in Bangkok is LEGENDARY. There are so many flavors and tastes that your taste buds and senses literally come to life. To use the term “sensory overload” is a HUGE understatement. Everything from sweet, tangy, salty, spicy, smokey, soft, chewy, crunchy, crispy, gross looking, creamy, cold, hot….but most importantly, it was ALL fresh. Taste it ALL Your mind will be blown. I guarantee it.(that’s what she said) It’s all cheap too. You don’t even need to go to a restaurant in Bangkok. You can literally live off the street food. You can get a nice plate of pad thai noodles and chicken for 50 baht(1.50 USD)
One more thing. Mango and sticky rice. It’s like a party in your mouth and everyone is invited. Even people you don’t like are invited. It’s THAT good!
One MORE thing: Durian fruit. It’s shell is spikey and intimidating, its flesh is sweet like nectar, and creamy like butter. While some dislike the pungent smell or the pudding texture, a durian is now my all time favorite fruit. Sorry pineapples. You’ve been replace by a FAR more superior piece of heavenly goodness.
What to see and do:
Grand Palace: arguably the most iconic structure in Bangkok. The intricacy of this building is absolutely mind boggling. There is a strict dress code(no bare legs or shoulder for both men and women), so dress modestly. It’s also a good idea to have your passport on you because security can be tight. Entrance fee is 500 baht(about 15 USD) Save your ticket because you can use it at some other temples within 7 days at no extra charge. You can rent clothing for 200 baht if you’re out of dress code.
Wat Phra Kaew: known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, this houses the emerald buddha which is a seated Buddha said to have originated from India. Unfortunately, no photos or video allowed, but be sure to visit when you’re on the Grand Palace grounds
Wat Pho: home of the golden reclining Buddha, and also the birth place of the Thai massage. The golden buddha is a site to behold. Shoes must be taken off prior to entering. Entrance is 100 baht(3.20 USD)
Wat Arun:known as the “Temple of Dawn”, this temple is absolutely gorgeous. What sets it apart is all of the porcelain decorations against an all white background. If you want some good views, be prepared to climb a shit ton of stairs. It’s currently under restoration, so the entrances to higher points of the temple are blocked off.
Chatuchak weekend market: as the name suggests, it’s only open on weekends. This market is literally a flea market on steroids. I spent 6 hours here! It has more than 15,000 stalls, selling everything from clothes, jewelry, home decor, penis candles, random shit, and more street food.
Khao San Road: famous for street food, amazing shopping, ladyboys, and crazy nightlife. One one to describe it: LIT!! It’s also a mecca for backpackers. It’s LOADED with hostels and other budget friendly accommodation. I got stalked by a few ladyboys there. Lol. Oh, and scorpions on a stick. I tried it. It tasted like really salty friend chicken skin. I’d eat it again
Get a thai massage. For about 7 USD for 60 mins, it’s the most painful(ly) relaxing massage you’re EVER going to get. After flying for 20+ hours, you’ll definitely need it, and feel pretty damn amazing afterwards. Prepare to get your body stretched and pounded, and your fingers and toes cracked, No happy ending included 😀😀
If you want to escape the madness of Bangkok:
Take a day trip to Pattaya. Pattaya is about an hour(more if you include the horrible traffic) from Bangkok. I took a taxi there for 1500 baht for the whole day.
What to see and do there:
Sanctuary of Truth: as ancient as this building looks, construction only started in 1981. It’s design is all wood from top to bottom, and it’s based on ancient concepts, giving it its ancient appearance. It’s still under construction, won’t be completed until about 2025. You can ride a horse, elephant, or an ATV around the complex as well.
Wat Phra Yai: also known as big Buddha hill, this area is fantastic. It’s home to a giant Buddha statue, surrounded with smaller Buddha statues, monks offering prayer rituals, and amazing views of Pattaya. The stairway leading up to the giant Buddha has 2 golden snakes on each side, allowing for some amazing photo opportunities.
Walking street: like Khao San Road, Walking Street is full of neon lights, ladyboys wanting to stalk you, and crazy shit.
With Bangkok being a cheap travel destination, be prepared to be scammed hardcore.
If a tuk tuk driver at the Grand Palace says it’s closed for the day, they’re lying. Check operation times online.
Another thing with tuk tuks is that if they offer you a tour around the city, don’t do it. Instead, they’ll take you to random suit stores and pressure you to buy shit instead of taking you to your destination. Just be assertive as to where you want to go.
Taxis can scam you too. Negotiate the price and you’ll be fine.
While in Thailand, you’ll notice that it has some sort of cultural dichotomy thing going on, where the old ways of the east are now crashing with the new ways of the west. and I hope this review helps you on your journey to becoming a philosophical anthropologist like I did while I was there.
Thailand……you ruined me forever for the better. I already wanna go back.