Lessons learned in Bangkok

25 Jan

So, here we are, in a ferry on our way to the Phi Phi islands. A flat-out brilliant place if one is to belive the three-quarters Thai postcards that seem to be photographed there. But so far, all I can see is deep blue bliss. The scenic way of getting to the pier in Phuket from Bangkok starts with a 15 hour train ride to Trang. We cheated. We opted for the 1.5 hour AirAsia flight for 80 euros a person instead. To properly rub in how poor backpackers we are, the first persons we met by the ferry in Phuket were a Dutch couple in their sixties who had CYCLED down from Bangkok. Well, well. Next time.

Nonetheless, here are a few tips and things we figured out while in Bangkok:

  • Pedestrian crossings are just stripes on the road. Think of them as decorations rather than a signal for cars to stop. In order to cross what is normally a four or six-lane street the key is to wait for lots of Thai people. Lots of them. At one point you will be so many that you can simply start walking and force traffic to stop.
  • Sidewalks are not for you, they're free game. Watch out for scooters.
  • Best of all, go to the cinema. Obviously because the cinemas are ultra luxurious, but mostly because of the pre-film film. Before your film, the royal anthem is played along with a film of the king, talking to the masses, holding the hand of a poor person kneeling in front of him, and going down a river safari-style camera in hand. While this is played, you have some time to reflect over the massive billboards with photos of the king across Bangkok and the national halt twice every day at 6pm and 6am. At these times, the royal anthem is played – on the streets, in shops, in schools – and everyone stands still. Offending the king or any other member of the royal family or criticising the monarchy itself is an offence, lese majeste. A journalist was sentenced to 10 years in prison this week.
  • When you do go to the cinema, remember to nip by H&M first. They sell woollen scarves… Think of the cinema as a big fridge and dress accordingly.
  • Find a hotel next to the skytrain, an elevated train that takes you between skyscrapers in the new part of the city. While the skytrain will often cost the same as a taxi if you're travelling with someone, you avoid exhaust fumes and traffic jams.
  • If you're in Bangkok during the weekend, make sure you visit Chatuchak market. YouTube it!
  • If you are wondering if you're a proper backpacker or not, head to Khaosan Road. We went there for an hour or two one evening. I told my boyfriend to take me home when if I ever become one.
  • Take a boat trip. The major (5-star) hotels along the river provide small boats for their guests and aren't difficult about giving people who are lost a lift as well to the larger ferry stop? (No idea what this is called – this was yet another random boat we took.) When you get to the larger water taxi/ferry stop, find the free ferry for Aquatic – a stylish Thai version of Covent Garden.
  • And the best for last. We found the best Pad Thai yet in a small side street opposite State Tower:

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