Bangkok is the starting point for most travelers, party place, shopping and a Thai massage hub. It also hosts many temples, the Royal palace and Museums. This city is filled with backpackers, so much so that I felt I was there to attend a backpackers congregation.
Here is a detailed account of my travel, followed by the important points and Gyan gain sections.
My long narrative (for important points, please scroll down).
Arrived at Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok at around 3:30 am. Visa on arrival was a crowded affair and took about an hour. We were unable to take the public transport as the connecting bus to the train station starts only at 7:30 am. There are direct buses to Khaosan road which run every 30 minutes and costs 150 baht per person. This service starts at 9 am.
We took the taxi to Bangrak road, as that was our only option. We reached our hostel at around 6 am, left our luggage in the common area and headed out to buy train tickets for our next destination. Normally my first task at any location is to book bus/train tickets to the next destination followed by planning out the day. We needed to book train tickets to Chiang Mai and that could be done only at the train station.
Our first day planning was not good (rather no planning at all). This was because we hurried to buy train tickets to Chiang Mai based on feedback from Youvee at Glur reception that it sold out quick (she was right) and decided to wander around and return mid day. But we did not realize that she might be the only (almost) English-speaking help we would have for the day. There were very few tickets and only upper berths left. After booking our train tickets at Hua Lump Pong station we headed out to get some breakfast.
We had American breakfast at Cafe 511, what a non local way to start the trip you say! Well, we do have 65 more days to have everything local. Food was the need of the hour and anything edible would do.
We looked at the map that we had picked from the airport, for places to see. Asked the cafe owner for suggestions. What’s here to see? He says ‘nothing’. You like getting lost?!.. just walk around, take a taxi back or keep getting lost….just relax, don’t plan, don’t stress ..you are not here to plan!
And yes he was right. I was getting restless about what next ? And where next? Well, hello my dear mind! You are here on a vacation, all the planning and bookings needed for visa were done anyways..at least let each day be nomadic!
This was my learning for the day, to just chill. Well it did change by the end of the day..you will see why!
We had food at leisure, watching the owner invite passers-by, who were looking for a place to eat. He used the same dialogue on everyone…’Pretty lady you are very beautiful!’
He sat with his police friend on our table having tea and conversing in Thai. When I asked what his name was, he said handsome. Me : Hahaha what do your parents call you? Him : they call me Paul handsome!
We did finally manage to get directions to the Wat Phra temple, he told us that it was a 15 min walk to the pier and then ferry taxis are the best way to go.
We headed off in the direction as directed. And as we walked up with a map in hand, a friendly local insisted on helping us and told us that the pier was way too far and that we should take a tuk-tuk. Additionally he insisted that we go out to the floating market (which did not have a floating market, it being a weekday) and get back to the Wat Phra temple later as it is closed from 11 am to 1 pm. Based on this information we decided to go back to the hostel and get to the temple after 1 pm. We walked towards our hostel area. Strolled around taking in the local views. Tried local roasted bananas on the way, they call it Gluay ping.
We asked a local for directions to our hostel. Although the street name matched, he told us in his language that the address we were looking for was way off. It was Buddhist festival that day and he asked us to visit a local temple called Mahapuerttharam temple. He said because it was a special day the Wat Phra temple would not be open from 11 to 1 pm. He stopped a tuk-tuk for us, and asked him to take us to the temple and to the ruby exhibition. Am not sure why he was such a big ruby fan and wonder why he wanted us to buy rubies! Backpackers without our big bags, may be we looked like we had big bucks! 😉 we anyways decided to go with his plan and then get back to the hostel only after 2 pm (check-in time).
Wat Mahapuerttharam had a huge Buddha sleeping in Vishnu (Hindu god) style (I.e. a reclining idol) covered in gold paint. This was our first Buddha visit in Thailand.
We asked the tuk- tuk to skip the ruby center and drop us at the pier so we could get to Wat Phra. He said he had no time (that’s what I gathered from his tone and body language) and left us outside the Ruby center. He told us that it was a 5 minute walk (sign language), we walked for sometime and checked with a local shopkeeper.
After several failed attempts to communicate we decided to take a taxi to the pier. It was far more than a 5 min walk. We took the ferry taxi which was at 13 baht one way. We were lucky to have got into the cheapest ferry taxis, after this we never got into the 40 baht ferry taxis. Oh yeah we felt like smart travelers when we saw others getting into the 40 baht ones!!
We got to the Wat Phra temple, the temple was very much open (from 8 am to 5 pm) and there was no indication that it was closed between 11 to 1 pm. We spent a couple of hours at the temple and the surrounding area, had lots of cut fruits (20 baht a pack) with tons of free sunlight (read hot summer day).
We got back to Glur hostel by getting to the Sapha taksin pier. We asked for a tuk tuk for the hostel and he smiled and said that we were too close. We were actually really , really, really close. And it was a blonde moment (half a day actually)!!! If only we had come back to the hostel after buying train tickets to Chiang Mai, am sure Youwee (lady at Glur reception) would have told us about the ferry pier!!
With some struggle and over-spending on tuk tuks and taxis we did get around. It was a day of surprises and meeting extra friendly locals, figuring out our way, walking, taking the tuk tuks, taxis, ferry taxis and buses!!
We spent the evening at Bangrak market and then had dinner at Khaosan road.
Second day was more relaxed with no surprises. We felt like a pro traveler waiting for the 13 baht ferry taxi while the others took the 40 baht ferry taxis.
Bangrak market is just outside Glur hostel and does have street food, it was an easy get away for us for some lively time. Although Khaosan road has better choices of food and clothes and is also more livelier.
1. Visa forms are on the left side, fill them and queue up at pick a queue counter to verify your documents.
2. 4×6 photo is the specs. But they do accept 3.5 by 4.5, so don’t worry. They also have instant photograph counters at the right side, if you have missed carrying a photo
3. USD is not accepted for the VOA fee. Exchange counters are right there, carry some smaller denomination USD for exchange. Or carry 1000 baht (visa charge as of Mar 2016). Don’t exchange higher amounts at the airport as the exchange rates outside are better. There was a difference of about 4 to 5 baht per dollar.
4. Return ticket is verified in detail at the VOA counter. I had a Nok Air ‘fly + ride’ ticket, with a flight to Udon Thani and then a coach to Thai Lao friendship bridge, into Laos. The officer at the document checking counter, pointed at the coach and said ‘bus no ok’. I showed her the flight number in the same itinerary, she again pointed at the coach and asked for the flight number. I showed the itinerary number and tried convincing her that it was part of one ticket. After some discussions among other officers, she accepted it and stamped VOA on the passport.
I had read up in travel blogs that the return ticket rule is more stringent for Indians. And from this experience I can confirm that a Bus ticket or no ticket wouldn’t have worked for me. So if you are an Indian, make sure you have a return ticket (even if it’s dummy). Mine was a real ticket though 😀
5. Airport mini bus starts at 7:30 am which will connect you to the sky train station. And the train starts at 6 am. There are direct buses to Khaosan road starting at 9 am, priced at 150 baht.
6. If you arrive earlier or traveling in a group, take a taxi on meter. There are lots of colored taxis, we were told pink ones are the cheapest.
7. Taxi to Bangrak quoted 400 baht. This was inclusive of the toll charges (70+30 baht). So make sure to check if the price quoted by the driver includes toll fees.
8. Purchase tickets onward to next destination early to ensure the train doesn’t get booked out. Upper berth is cheaper by 100 baht.
9. You can book train tickets at Hua Lum pong station to your next destination. And for tickets to Kanchanaburi (weekdays travel) you will need to go to Thon Buri station
10. Buses are cheaper and takes longer. You can take Bus #15 from Bangrak market to Khaosan. Fare is 7 Baht one way.
11. River taxis are an easy option to visit the temples and grand palace.
There are a lot of private boats running at 40 baht for one way. Wait for the local taxi which costs 13 baht per ticket. That’s the cheapest. And you can ask the staff at the pier (dressed in dark blue uniforms) for 13 baht boats. They will let you know when it arrives.
– To cross over to Wat Arun from pier 8 called Tha Tien it takes 2.5 baht one way.
– Lots of fresh-cut fruits are available at most piers. It costs 20 baht for a small pack. If you are a fruit lover it will not escape your eye anyways!
12. Cover your knees and shoulders for all temples. This applies to all temples of south-east Asia. A lot of tourists carry a sarong to wrap around.
13. Tip for shopping – when bargaining, quote ridiculously low prices. You will be pleasantly surprised when they agree.
1. Wat Mahapruettharam temple [ Reclining Buddha]. This was my first Buddha visit in Thailand. Skip this if you aren’t a temple fan.
2. Wat Phra temple [Reclining Buddha 15 meter high and 46 meter long. The temple structures are covered with colorful glass work adding to the beauty .
Warning : could result in Buddha overdose as there are countless Buddha idols.
3. Khaosan road – Lively street with lots of food choices including fruits. Pad Thai is a must try! The street has lots of shopping options for clothes and trinkets, tattoo and massage shops.
4. Wat Arun also known as the Temple of dawn is a beautiful temple and has a nice cafe to chill out at. It closes at 5 pm, so plan accordingly.
5. Bangrak market for shopping and street food. It’s a night market stretched out on one small street.
6. The Royal Palace
1. Wat means a temple. All temples here start with a Wat.
2. The traveler crowd at Bangkok made me realize that there is a dearth of affordable travel locations.
3. Just relax!!! Don’t plan, Don’t stress ..you are not here to plan..it’s a holiday!!!!!
4. On the contrary if you don’t plan on a budget backpacking trip then you will be over spending !! So by the end of the first day point #3 changed to – ‘Relax!!!, don’t stress about places to see and don’t cover locations for the sake of it. Talk to the locals and know all your options to make informed decisions on travel options and making local location choices’
5. Everything needs planning and decision-making, including having fun! 🙂
Next up: Chiang Mai
See Pictures: Bangkok and North Thailand
Duration: 2 days and 1 night
Stayed at : Glur hostel, Bangrak road.
Short review : Clean dorm beds with individual curtains. A/C was not good enough, it was too hot. Friendly staff, great common area. Free 24×7 breakfast (bread, cereals, chocolate milk, coffee) and drinking water
Travelers: Two female backpackers
Loop: Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Ayutthaya -> Kanchanaburi -> Bangkok -> Udon Thani
Duration : 8 days
Country Loop : North Thailand -> Laos -> Vietnam -> Cambodia -> Myanmar -> Malaysia -> Philippines -> South Thailand -> Back Home