I was super excited to finally come to Thailand! It’s where my backpacking adventure was initially meant to begin but I moved the dates around so I wouldn’t come here during the hottest months of the year. My first stop was Bangkok. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Some people hate BKK and some think it’s ok. I had surprised myself by falling in love with Ho Chi Minh despite it being very hectic so I was interested to see how I would feel about BKK.
We left Battambang in Cambodia in a cramped taxi to get to Poipet, at the Cambodia – Thailand Border, which apparently is the busiest border crossing between the two countries with people having to queue for hours in the heat. This crossing also has a lot of complaints about extortion with border officials charging you “exit fees”. Deciding not to pay these fees results in a Mexican standoff that can last hours. We decided that if it came to it we will wait it out. But as luck would have it, or may be coz we’d left super early, we finished the exit formalities in under 5mins and got our visas for Thailand in another 10. And there was no demand for “exit fees” as well! So that was easy peasy.
We then took a minivan from Poipet to BKK which took about 5hrs. Just like when we crossed into Cambodia from Vietnam, we could tell that we were in a different country soon after we crossed the border. The roads were significantly better, the cars bigger and faster and I also saw a Tesco on the way (which is a chain of supermarkets in the UK)! Once in BKK, one of the first few shops I saw was Boots which is my go-to store in the UK for any toiletries and cosmetics ! I was so excited to have these familiar names and shops around me. I actually sort of screamed when I saw Boots as did this other Brit who was traveling with me. I was already liking BKK. I knew that I was in a third world country but it didn’t feel like it at all. It’s not exactly London but it sure as hell ain’t Phnom Penh either.
For me BKK is all about walking around and taking in the vibe. On the 2nd day I did a big loop around the Royal Palace, the Wat Pho, the river and back to the hostel. I didn’t go into the Palace coz I didn’t want to pay$16 for it but I did visit Wat Pho which was just beautiful.
It was nothing like the Cambodian temples which are (or at least) look much older and are in different states of ruins. This temple was very well maintained. Also, unlike in Vietnam and Cambodia where you are not allowed to enter temples if you are not appropriately dressed, in Wat Pho there are skirts and scarves for women to cover up for free which I think was very considerate.
BKK is an attack on your senses for sure. The tuk tuk drivers, the taxis, the bikes and cars, the hoards of tourists and travelers, the street side markets selling everything you can imagine and more is just wonderful!
Khaosan Rd, the backpacker area, was a bit too much though. During the day it’s a calm street with food and clothes stall set up like anywhere else in the city but come night it transforms into one big party street. The music is so loud that you can feel it in your bones! There are people dancing on the street drinking beers and god knows what else from small buckets (yes buckets!). I much preferred the Ram Buttri street, which is just one street up and had everything minus the madness of Khaosan.
All in all, I really enjoyed BKK. It is a wonderful lively city but I’m sure the pace would get to me after a while so spending 3 days was just about right.