21 March 2010
It was sometime during the latter part of last year that I finally got the chance to revisit Bangkok. My first time to be in that wonderful place was in 2008, that was the time when I went on a mini backpacking trip across Bangkok, Siem Reap and Vientianne with some college friends. Admittedly, our schedule (as well as budget) back then was a bit tight which was why I was really very keen on coming back even for just another short visit. An airline sale was all it took for me to revisit the City of Angels. This time, I would want it to be a more relaxed trip.
Just for a start, Bangkok is the capital of Thailand as well as its largest city. It has a population of more than 11 million people which is almost triple that of the Republic of Singapore. This place is certainly very well know around the world for being the mecca of backpackers (more on that later!) and its delicious food.
We left Singapore just before sunset taking a Jetstar flight that took just a little over 2 hours. Despite the fact that it was raining so hard when we landed in Bangkok, it was a fairly quiet flight and I just sat still on my seat for the whole time while reading a copy of the inflight magazine and Alex Garland’s The Beach.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is as stunning as how it was when I first visited. We passed by a lot of shops along the way since the docking bay for our flight was at the extreme end of the airport complex. It took more than five minutes of walking before reaching the immigration gate. As per previous experience, Bangkok immigration officials are not so quick in processing immigration formalities and true enough, it was still the same this time around.
Immediately after clearing Bangkok immigration, we headed to the nearest money changer inside the airport to get our SGDs converted to THBs. It is very important to know the current fx conversion so as to have an idea whether the exchange rates are favorable or not. I was correct in assuming that the rates were not good so I just exchanged enough THBs to cover the taxi fare going to the hostel.
In Bangkok (and maybe all over Thailand), one of the things I really don’t like is the language barrier. Most applicable especially on the taxi drivers, as they have a hard time in understanding or in speaking the English language. A good way of getting around this “Lost in Translation” scenario is to have the name and address of your destination printed out beforehand. Doing it this way should greatly reduce the chances of you being brought to another destination far from where you intent to go. Getting a taxi was not much of a problem, we just headed to the designated counter and paid the “booking fee” and immediately got ourselves a ride going to the city.
The ride going to Decho Road took more than 20 minutes, a very fast one that is since we were using the expressway. The taxi driver dopped us off at the lobby of Lub d Bangkok Hostel. This was also the same accommodation which I used back in 2008. We did a quick check-in (thanks to HostelWorld, we were able to book in advance and was able to avail of a stay 2 night and get the 3rd night free in their private double room) then immediately headed out to find something to eat as we were already starving at past ten in the everning. The initial plan to stay just within the Silom Road area for dinner did not materialize because we did not find any place interesting to eat. It was a weekday then, so I surmise the establishments around the area closed much earlier than their weekend schedule.
I hailed a cab and asked the driver to take up to a place with good food. No such luck as we were “Lost in Translation” – I then decided that we visit visit Khao San Road. There was no problem upon hearing the word Khao San Road, we got there in less than 15 minutes – the infamous traffic of Bangkok was practically none existent that night as it was quiet late already.
This short street in Central Bangkok is world famous and is considered as the gateway to Southeast Asia. It used to be a rice market; the past 20 years however saw it transformed to become a backpacker’s ghetto. Cheap accommodations, travel agencies, pubs, souvenir items, fake Lonely Planet books, cheap food – you name it and definitely you can see it in Khao San Road.
A Pad Thai Noodle stall in the street was too tempting for us and we each got ourselves one serving – at a ridiculously inexpensive price of just 25 Baht. It was prepared right before our very eye; preparation time was less than 2 minutes. Apart from being very cheap, it was simply the best Pad Thai Noodle that I have ever tasted. One thing that is really nice when you visit Bangkok is the plethora of affordable and delicious streetfood that can be found all over the city.
After finishing our food, we continued our stroll along Khao San Road. People from all walks of life were there; some were eating, some were drinking, and some were shopping. Yep, this is also a night market where you can get anything you want that can help you out in your travels – including fake identification cards.
An hour was enough for us to walk and feel the atmosphere of Khao San Road; not the cleanest place in Bangkok but definitely this place has its own charm which can keep you coming back for more. The reason perhaps is because I know for a fact that whenever I am in this area of the world, I am with kindred spirits – a lot of them!
We stopped by a 7-11 store to get some water and noodles (as breakfast is not included in our accommodation) before flagging a pink Toyota taxi that took us back to our hostel.