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29 January 2011 4,848 views 2 Comments

Grand Palace
long tail boat trip

I didn’t expect to love Bangkok. Billed as a hub city and a chaotic Asian capital I was prepared for noise, traffic, little natural beauty but a gateway to the good stuff. Maybe it’s because Lisa and I were together, maybe it’s because I’d had such a positive experience in Central Thailand, maybe it’s because my expectations were wrong, but Bangkok rocked.

around town

Siam Square

If we hadn’t been staying close by I don’t think we would have gone to Siam Square. It’s all retail – shopping centres next to each other, high street shops & restaurants, and hawkers & food carts along the sidewalks and overhead passes, it reminded me of Tokyo. There’s not a lot to love here, we had some very average meals and some uninspired walks around, BUT the hostel we were staying in, Lub*d, was excellent and Siam Square is really convenient for getting around to the other neighbourhoods.

Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew

Wow, it was bonkers here, so crowded, heaps of people shuffling along in the bright, searing sunshine. Just as in Japan I didn’t really understand what I was seeing… Is that a building of worship or administration? Do you take gifts to the statues or the monks? Is the noise and ceremony like this every day or have we stumbled through a festival? Perplexed we looked at all the important buildings and walked around the important monuments and grounds. Everything was well kept, charming and thankfully punctured with hawkers pitching cold drinks.

Ko Ratanakosin riverside

The river area near the Palace was cool and, apologies for this, authentic. There were some good markets in narrow, scruffy lanes & squares which I liked; the first bit of Bangkok that I found original. In an uncharacteristic moment of map-reading accuracy I got us to Deck, a coffee shop/ restaurant right on the
river that’s also a hotel. In theory this would be a bit like staying in Covent Garden so close is it to all the key attractions but actually Deck is down a quiet lane, the proximity to the river is nice and the views to the temples on the other side are pretty.
Nearby we went to a ferry across the river – they’re a great way to get around – while we waited we popped into this little garden area. It was cute & shady and full of frangipanis, I really liked it.

long tail boat trip

The boat trip was an absolute highlight. Sitting in the low rise, fully streamered long tail it was a nice way to break up a day of full on city sight-seeing cruising around different waterways, feeling the breeze and seeing a wholly different, greener aspect of Bangkok. We passed temples, buddhas, houses, schools, railways, getting a combination of front and rear views! The best bits were the houses right on the riverside with canoes, washing lines and postboxes also hanging over the water.

We encountered a lot of on-water trade on the tour and the main stop was at the floating market. It’s more of a floating food hall in truthfulness but no less interesting or exciting. All sorts of seafood dishes are cooked in huge open woks on boats moored to the market. There’s smoke wafting everywhere, vegetable scraps floating around and massive fish (catfish maybe) flapping all around for leftovers, it’s high drama.

State Tower

One afternoon we prowled around looking for sites and sights that we hadn’t yet explored. We got to the State Tower, Thailand’s second tallest building, and figured it was worth a look. Typical east Asia experience: we were on a crowded street with wooden door tailor shops and we walked into a modern hotel/ shopping centre lobby, a huge, sparse chamber. The clues were there as we waited for the lift but we were distracted… when we got to the top we weren’t allowed in because we were under-dressed. Fortunately no-one proposed wearing a tablecloth this time :)

Sukhumvit Road

We only came here briefly, for one dinner actually, but I thought Sukhumvit Road was an odd little area, sort of a collection of shopping plazas. This really reminded me of Singapore – fabricated spaces with coiffed gardens, water features and high end shops & eateries – so not really my type of environment but it was interesting to see yet another side to Bangkok.


New Year’s Eve

After a major night out on the 30th we weren’t game for much on New Year’s Eve and so our big treat was to chow a quick stir fry and then spend the night in the TV room watching New Year highlights on the 50+ inch flatscreen.


After Lise left I was sad and lonely :( The antidote to feeling mediocre in Thailand is to invest six dollars on a massage. I went to an upmarket place that was all woody scent, talcum powder & chimes and had a beautiful last massage.

nights out


We stayed at both of the Lub*d hostels in Bangkok, one on Siam Square, the other in Silom. Both had good little bars and outdoor terraces to watch passers-by. Basically you’d had a good night before you’d left home.


Patpong, the ‘entertainment’ centre of Bangkok’s nightlife was absolutely magnetic to us. Irresistible with its cheap alcohol, car-crash people watching, pop-trash music, naughtiness at every corner and easy-exit tuk tuks, we went back night after night! We ploughed through SInghas and shots so contentedly that we kept arriving at strip, sorry entertainment bars after they’d closed, dam :)

late night dining

Generally the food we had around Bangkok was a bit average but some of that was definitely owed to our bad planning. Aaanyway, who wants to hear about the bad stuff, the good stuff included the all night Turkish cafe where we had plates of hommous & falafel with shisha at 5.30am, the Mexican restaurant – Coyote – where we ordered individual pitchers of sangria and the al fresco Italian place.

roof terrace cocktails

Somewhere deep in the bottom of our rucksacks Lise and I found our nicest dresses and some eye liner… we were going to the rooftop bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel.
Despite putting our best effort in I was still stopped at the door for inappropriate dress code :) But they have have spare apparel that you can borrow, but (again) it’s hideous. I was given a pair of slip on white shoes to wear that were so terrible it was funny. I also saw a girl who was given a ‘skirt’ trying to find a way to wear it nicely. She failed. I guess the bar can call the shots but personally I’d opt turn people away rather than have them wandering around in all this rubbish. The point was soon mute though because outside it was dark, the rooftop bar awash with barely more than star light, it was lovely. The styling was beautiful, the view was excellent and the drinks & bar snacks were really good. The crowd was very up market – reminded me of Hong Kong – and the chat (that we listened in to) was distractingly faux.
Following this slice of classiness it was time to get back to our scene… we cabbed it to Patpong (careful not to let the door man hear us!) for cheap cocktails, kicks & giggles.

Khao San Road

On the night that we’d ‘done’ Patpong earlier than usual we headed to Khao San Road, the legendary backpackers’ drinking district. Oh wow, it was hideous. Hideous and sort of awesome. Cheap, cheap bars everywhere: “we don’t ask for id”, “our cocktails are killer”, “all drinks THB150”. Plastic tables, plastic cups, plastic merch everywhere. It was of course crowded with people, tourists of all nationalities, hectic as you like. We hit up an Irish bar – our first of the trip – and had another completely easy, fun, bubbling night. Good on ya Bangkok.

Italian flavours

I’d read about Capri an Italian restaurant that had a great review because of the quality of food. And they weren’t wrong; it was almost a bit strange having such good pizza and olive oil in Thailand!

Patpong back again..

We decided it wouldn’t be a night out in Bangkok without hitting our ‘usual’ bar, then we decided to wander and see if there was anything, aaanything in Patpong we’d missed. Yes. We had not yet been to the gay bars in Silom Soi 4. The tables & chairs outside the bars are facing each other across the street, so you sit at your table checking out/ staring at the people in the bar opposite. It might not be social but you quickly find out who’s where. We had a few drinks and then went back to the hostel feeling a bit under-partied. It comes to something when you’re drinking double vodkas at 1.30am in Bangkok’s gay district and consider it a lame night out…

Bangkok rocks

I figure we must really have loved Bangkok because in a short space of time we kept coming back here! Admittedly we hadn’t planned our travel route very well and so we kept looping back to the capital, but I actually think we were quite drawn to the place. What I really loved was how fun and easy Bangkok was. Yes it’s busy, yes you get lost (completely, utterly, clueless-ly lost), yes the traffic & transport are a challenge but it is easy-going, there are pockets of easy-to-find excellence and the partying is awesome.


river crossing

long tail boat trip

floating market


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