I was not sure about Bangkok. I didn’t really think I liked it when we got there first. But the longer we stayed and the more we explored, my affinity for it grew. We saw Bangkok in few small increments. We stayed at three different neighborhoods, in two chunks of time. We first got there when we were going to pick up Biniyam from the Bangkok airport and fly to Krabi. Of course, due to some issues with border crossings, our plans changed a bit. We came back to Bangkok 3 days later, picked up Biniyam from the airport and found our hostel in town. We stayed there for about 48 hours – then we left for Angkor Wat. We came back for a night and took a mini-van to Hua Hin. Finally, we came back from Hua Hin and stayed for another 48 hours right before leaving Thailand and heading to Hong Kong via Singapore.
Our first stay was a bit away from the main tourist spots. We stayed close to the Victory Monument in a quiet hostel that I really liked. Victory Park Hostel was ran by a super-friendly Thai guy who worked on Disney cruises for many years. Now he has settled down back in Bangkok and is running the hostel along with his sister. He helped us with planning and gave us great suggestions for Bangkok.
We have decided to start with some major sightseeing – the Grand Palace and a couple temples. We ended up not getting on the palace grounds because the boys had shorts on and there was a dress-code that disallowed shorts. It is a ridiculous rule in a city that is notoriously hot and humid and where it is fine to go to most temples in shorts. But that’s the rule. Honestly, we were not too disappointed. Crowds in front of the gates and the number of tourists everywhere were staggering. We stood in a mob similar to a rock concert just to cross the street to get to the main gate. It was hot and humid – almost unbearable. We gave up the palace without too much of a worry. Instead we visited Wat Pho. It is a complex of religious buildings – home to the reclining Buddha. It was great and beautiful but a very sunny and hot day…
Later we visited Khao San Road – a famous walking street full of stores, stalls, and street vendors. In almost every store, one can get a t-shirt or a tattoo. Your choice! We did come to Khao San Road with a tattoo in mind. We found a great tattoo studio on-line and the address took us to the Khao San Road. Max Tattoo is a small shop full of super talented tattoo artists. We made an appointment for a week later when we are done with beach and swimming to get tattoos for all three of us. We were giddy with excitement.
Bangkok is known for a horrendous traffic. We had a few opportunities to experience it, but that afternoon we opted for a water bus from the old town to our next destination – a new night market just south of China Town. The water bus ride was thrilling. We passed lots of Bangkok on a river with the crew super efficiently docking the boat in about 16 docks on the way. They flew both through the river and through the stops. We loved it! Our stop was in Asiatique.
Asiatique is an area with a nice night market, a mall, a ferris wheel and a lot of river front restaurants. It was different from most of the night markets we saw in SE Asia. It was very well organized, clean, new and just a bit preppy. It seems to me that this is a Thai and expat spot to play. Not too many tourists were there. We walked around, stopped for a really good pizza and hang out until later evening. After our fun outing we tried to catch a bus to our hostel but the bus listed on the bus stop simply didn’t stop there and was nowhere to be seen. So, we went back to our reliable mode of transportation and ordered Uber. The traffic at night was the same as rush hour. Took forever to get back!
The tattoo experience in Bangkok was a great one, too. Antonio and I had already got tattoos in Tokyo at the start of our trip. Now we wanted another one to commemorate the trip and to include Biniyam in the process, as well. Max Studio was excellent. The process was swift, but clean, safe, and full of fun. We had three tattoo artists working on us for various amounts of time. My tattoo is the smallest and cutest (my opinion). Antonio’s was the biggest and Biniyam had a medium one. Here are some picks.
When we came back to Bangkok for our tattoos, we stayed closer to Khao San Road on another pedestrian backpacker-type tourist street. It was a very fun neighborhood with lots of street food, street bars, and night markets. We stayed at a really inexpensive place called Lamphu House. It was ok, but not my favorite. Food was super cheap all around and we loved the vibe. In the evening, we stumbled on a bar with live music (every bar has some sort of live music). This one had an awesome reggae band from south Malaysia. We spent the entire evening with them enjoying great music, camaraderie, and few drinks… It was a perfect end to our Bangkok experience.
The day of departure, we hang out in the city and finally stopped at Chow bar in Hotel Metropole. The hotel kept our bags and the boys played pool for a couple hours… it was time to say good-byes… We left for Singapore and Biniyam had to go home to Addis. Good byes are always hard, but we all felt that we will see each other again very soon. Now we will work to actually make it happen.
Overall Bangkok was great. It is a very big city and it has its problems. But it is a super friendly place, it has good bus system, it’s inexpensive and it offers lots of various ways to spend time. I would love to visit again!