People I know who have been to Bangkok before called it ‘crazy’, and that’s certainly the expectation that I had when I arrived.
I was impressed with the airport – anyone who travels often knows that some airports are the gateway to hell (United States, I’m looking at you). So it’s always pleasant when your experience is not too stressful and you can find everything you need. I found the platform for the Bangkok Sky Train and waited patiently, though an officially-dressed woman made full use of a whistle to tell people off for standing too close to the edge of the platform or not queuing properly in the right place. Little did I know this was an indication to come of how much Thai people like to blow whistles. Loudly.
Like Hong Kong’s metro system, I found the Skytrain fast, clean and efficient and very well used by the city’s population – it was never anything less than packed, regardless of the time of the day. My hotel looked to be close to a station so I thought I’d get off and walk the rest of the way with my suitcase. I regretted this decision almost instantly, stepping off the air conditioned train into searing, 35 degree C humid heat and discovering there were no escalators down to street level. Thankfully, a kind British man carried my case down the stairs for me. Sadly for you, dear readers – I did not offer him sexual favours in return.
The next question I had was, ‘WHY are the pavements about 2 feet high in Bangkok?’ What should have been a simple stroll down the street to my hotel actually became a step class for my suitcase and I (both of us could do with the exercise, to be fair). Every few feet I had to stop and haul my case up and down the high pavement, with bemused Thai street vendors looking on and clearly wondering why I hadn’t taken a tuk tuk. Eventually I reached my hotel and experienced the warm, polite charm of Thai hospitality.
I was impressed with my room, which was actually referred to as a studio – it had a lounge area and small kitchenette. The hotel also had a stunning rooftop pool overlooking the city which I took full advantage of during my stay.
I’d like to tell you that I spent hours walking the streets of the city, exploring different areas, visiting temples and other ‘must sees’, but I didn’t. As someone who rarely feels the cold and dislikes excessive heat, I found it just too hot and sticky to do too much, so I largely stuck to the area around my hotel, plus some nearby shopping malls, which actually did great food.
I’ve heard people rave about Thai street food and there were plenty of stalls near my hotel, but I didn’t try it out. Some of you will know I have a microbiological background and used to work at the Food Standards Agency, specifically in food poisoning. This basically means I cannot risk buying food on the street when I don’t know where it’s been, especially meat. Yes, I’m sure I’m being overly cautious and am missing out, but there you have it. I don’t want to make a date with a dicky tummy, especially as you have to be careful with the water in Thailand anyway. You can tell me I’m mega boring when I see you next.
I am a big fan of rooftop terraces and bars as you might have gathered, so I decided to spend my last night in Bangkok on top of the highest building in the city – the Lebua Sky Bar. I did not regret this decision – the views were simply superb, and good timing meant I was up there to watch the sun go down over the city. I also made a new friend – a young lady from Vienna who was also spending her last night in the city at the bar. We chatted all evening, took photos of each other and enjoyed the great cocktails.
I went back to my hotel rather nicely drunk and had to pack for a 7am flight but I’d had such a great evening, my mood could not be soured.
The overwhelming things I will remember about Bangkok are the noises and smells, which change every few metres as you move around. Some things are constant, though – the chugging of the thousands of motorbikes, the whistles of officials as they aim to keep the city moving, the drilling of the many building sites dotted around. The city’s smells can range from utterly divine to vomit-inducing within a few steps. One minute you’re smelling sizzling street food or freshly cut fruit and the next…you get a nasty whiff of a sewer.
But as a first time visitor to Thailand, I now see why so many people return year after year. The hospitality of the Thai people is simply wonderful. Polite, simple and charming. I will definitely be back soon.
NEXT STOP: Koh Samui.