After spending ten days in Hong Kong (a little too long in my opinion, see my post about it here) we arrived in Bangkok at around 3am and immediately took a taxi to our hostel, Baan Nampetch which which was around a ten minute walk from Khaosan road. As we arrived so early in the morning we couldn’t check in and there wasn’t anyone there to allow us to drop our bags off, so off we went to find somewhere to sit down which happened to be the main McDonalds near Khaosan road. It was the early hours of Saturday morning and the steaming clubbers had all poured out from Khaosan, many of whom ended up in the McDonalds; it was here that I realised that when people go on about Thailand having a lot of ladyboys that it is not an exaggeration, we saw at least fifteen with our first two hours in Thailand, not that this was a problem I was just surprised.
One thing I can recommend to do in Bangkok is visit a floating market, we visited Taling Chan, this market doesn’t have the old world feel of a floating market, not everything is for sale is on boats, the majority of the market is on solid ground. The market does offer a bit of everything: people on boats cooking really good food, the opportunity to take a boat down the river and stop off at a temple and places to relax. There is enough of everything, the place has a good feel, we didn’t bump into any scammers and is less than 15km from Khaosan road – what more can you ask for?
Our first impression of Bangkok was that we weren’t going to like it at all, however, when we woke up the next day and did a little exploring we found we enjoyed it a fair bit more but this enjoyment seemed to subside after a few days and the constant rowdiness of the Khaosan road area with the hordes of bros bouncing down the street, self righteous hippies floating around in elephant print pants we found that we had enough of Bangkok.
I didn’t much rate Bangkok and what sealed the deal was the shear number of Thai locals trying to scam us, on almost every corner there was somebody looking to try and rip us off, here are a few of the more common ones:
- Tuk tuk drivers attempting to charge double or triple the going rate.
- Taxi drivers not turning on their meter. Despite this being a criminal offence which can incur a 6,000 baht fine for the driver, nine times out of ten the driver refused to turn his meter on refusing to take me on a ten minute journey (which should have cost around 80 baht) unless I paid 200 baht.
- People waiting on street corners who will engage you in friendly chat then direct you to the ‘government run Thai tourism office’. This isn’t government run at all and once in the office they will pretty much berate you into purchasing a poorly operated tour package. Although we didn’t fall for this it was attempted three times during our time in Bangkok and we were a fair distance from Khaosan road.
- Mobile phone SIM scam. Now this one is a little more rare but it very nearly happened to us. We were out on Khaosan road having a few beers in the street with a nice couple we met, out of the blue an Ethiopian man joined in the conversation and he seemed friendly enough so we didn’t mind, shortly after I popped into the 7-11 to pick up a couple of beers and when I retuned to the group the Ethiopian man had gone and Becky told me he offered to go and pick us up a local SIM card from the 7-11 (I wouldn’t have agreed to this if I was there but Becky was being polite and didn’t see the problem and even to me it didn’t seem like a scam at the time). When we got the SIM home we both had reservations and sure enough Becky did a bit of digging found that the ‘new’ SIM already had numbers in it, this is a type of phishing scam where the SIM will act like a realtime key-logger sending data as you type to the scammer.
During my time in Bangkok I seized the opportunity to take my camera to the Canon Service Centre in the MBK Centre for a full service. My camera is around six years old and has never had a service so it was well overdue. If you own a Canon camera and would like to get it serviced in Bangkok I can fully recommend the Canon Service Centre on the fifth floor of the MBK Centre, it cost me around 2,000 baht for a full body service and a full service on the lens as well as replacing a wire in the lens. The camera was functioning quite poorly prior to dropping it off and now it is like brand new. The service took four days and as a result I did not have my camera for most of my time in Bangkok, hence the lack of photographs.
Seven days in Bangkok was a bit too much I think, I also haven’t met a person since who thinks it’s worth spending more than a few days in there; we really got a feel for Thailand and really started to love the country when we left Bangkok via train to the ancient capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, which was so beautiful and had such a relaxing vibe to it.
We visited five temples during our short stay in Ayutthaya, we could have maybe visited ten or more but I find that sometimes less is more as I would prefer to visit a few and take in my surroundings and really appreciate each one rather than taking a whirlwind tour around many of them and have them all go by in a blur.
The first temple we visited and perhaps my favourite and the most highly recommended by our hostel owner was Wat Phra Sri Sanaphet which I think has the largest grounds within Ayutthaya and is the most significant Wat within ancient Ayutthaya. The Wat was built in 1492 by King Rama Thibodi II, the three chedis within the wat contained the ashes of King Rama Thibodi II, his father and his elder brother – all three were raided by the Burmese.
My second favourite was Wat Ratchaburana. Within the grounds you will find some ruined columns and chedis. The main attraction is the very well preserved prang in the centre, you can climb up the stairs where on a hot day you can take advantage of the nice cool breeze that flows through the prang before heading down into the lower and upper crypts, in the lower crypts you will find intricate and well preserved paintings on the walls believed to have been produced by the Chinese who migrated to Ayutthaya. This Wat was built by King Boromracha in commemoration to his two elder brothers who died in a duel for the throne.
After visiting Wat Phra Sri Sanaphet and Wat Ratchaburana we jumped on our scooter and made the short journey to Wat Mahathat – most famous for the buddha head in the tree which we didn’t actually see and for us we weren’t too bothered, as with many of these ‘highlights’ they are often bigged up to the point they dwarf the truly magnificent sights
Wat Thammickarat was my least favourite of the main temples on the island that we saw.
The good news is that since leaving Bangkok things have gotten better and better, as you can see we had a good couple of days realaxing in Ayutthaya, from there we took a train to Pak Cheong which is the closest city to Khao Yai national park which is one of the few habitats where wild elephants roam free, from there we took an overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai which is where I am currently writing this post from.
My next post will be on Khao Yai which was an amazing place so stay tuned for a lot of photos and hopefully I will have put together a video by then too.