Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sawatdee Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok in the early evening after our marathon journey from the central coast of Australia to south east Asia.  Our bargain flight turned out to be not such a bargain after we discovered that we wouldn't be fed so we had to purchase drinks and snacks on the plane.  We survived the 9-hour flight on a ham and cheese sandwich and a bar of chocolate.  Tired and hungry we made our way through the airport to find a ride into the city.

Several failed attempts to secure a room over the phone from Sydney Airport meant that we didn't have a place to stay yet so we just decided to head to the famous (infamous?) backpacker mecca Khao San Road in hopes that we'd be able to find a place to crash.

After dodging a number of aggressive touts trying to get us into their cab/bus/hotel we paid 300 baht (about $10) for two tickets for the standard airport bus into the city.  The ride in took about 30 minutes and gave us a glimpse of what was to come in Bangkok - skyscrapers, billboards, traffic, and seas of humanity at every turn.

Once at Khoa San Road we spent a good hour walking around trying to find a decent place to stay.  After we were turned away from a couple of places and with our patience wearing a little thin we finally found a place that was recommended in our Lonely Planet book - generally a good sign.  Luckily the New World Lodge ( had a room for us and we took it right away.  As usual though, first night in a new country we paid waaaay more than we wanted to.  Still, it only cost us as much as we were spending per night in Australia, but rather than staying in a dorm room we had a huge private room complete with our very own private bathroom and balcony overlooking the Khlong Canal.  We even had the luxury of satellite TV which Lee was particularly happy about as when we turned it on there was a football match on.  Courtney was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow and Lee managed to get to half-time before turning in for the night.

Although lovely, New World was a bit above our price range so, after a much needed night of rest, we set out in the morning to find somewhere a little cheaper to use as a base to explore the city for the next few days.  After some rooting around online we came across Suk 11 Hostel, a place located just off of Sukhumvit Road, a busy commercial area in eastern Bangkok.  The Suk 11 website was pretty sharp (don't just take our word for it:, the hostel itself looked like it had a ton of character and it was in our price range so we decided to book 3 nights there.  We weren't disappointed.  Suk 11 is great.  We would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Bangkok.  Beautiful building, clean, spacious rooms (AC available if required) and a great location.  Breakfast is included with the room too and it's great - fresh fruit, toast, tea and coffee and a different Thai style offering everyday such as fruit-rice pudding.

All settled at Suk we decided to do some sightseeing.  Many of the main tourist attractions in Bangkok are along the Chao Phraya River which is often translated as River of Kings, so traveling up and down it by boat is generally the most efficient (and pleasant) way to see everything.  Traffic in Bangkok is a nightmare so we decided to take the relatively new Skytrain or "BTS" as some call it, a 10 year old monorail that runs through the newer parts of Bangkok and conveniently stops at Central Pier where you can jump in a boat to take you up the river.  Nana Station was only a 2 minute walk from our hostel so it was perect.  A one-way trip to the pier cost us 35 baht each (about $2 in total) and we were at the pier in about 20 minutes, a fraction of the time it would have taken us in a taxi.

We decided to buy day passes for the Chao Phraya River Express which allowed us to take unlimited trips up and down the river all day.  Each pass cost about $5 (150 baht).  It seemed like a good deal until we realized later in the day that we'd only be taking about 4-5 trips total and a single ride only cost 25 baht!  Oh well.

One of many beautiful buildings at the Grand Palace

The chaos of Khao San Road

Traveling by boat we visited the Grand Palace, Bangkok's biggest tourist attraction and definitely a must-see, and Khao San Road just to see what all the fuss was about.  We planned to visit a couple of other temples also, Wat Pho and Wat Arun, but spent so much time wandering around the Grand Palace that we were too hot and tired so we headed back to the hostel.  We'll be back in Bangkok again before we leave Thailand so our plan is to see what we missed then.

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