Welcome To Bangkok: The Beautiful Insanity

Posted: February 28, 2014 in Thailand, Travel Tips
Tags: , , , , , ,

So far so good. I’m on my first day of my trip and I thought why not give some very early impressions and advice about this magnificent, insane, friendly and chaotic city. I’ll start from the beginning.

I arrived at 1215am and the airport was an absolute breeze. Security and customs were quick and painless, naturally my heart was racing a little but what a great feeling when I heard that stamp hit my passport. Once through security I immediately traded the last $80 CAD I had into Baht at an exchange booth then took out cash from an ATM. Some tips…trade your cash abroad, you get a much better rate then at home. ATM’s are also plentiful and reliable. There is a 150 Baht (a little over $3 CAD) charge for all foreign transactions. Be aware that most Canadian banks will also charge $5 for foreign transactions, that could mean $8/transaction. I have an account with RBC that waves those charges at all PLUS system ATM’s, I also get my $120/year annual fee waived for my RBC Infinite Avion Visa. Check with your bank and see if they are with PLUS or Cirrus and check your options before traveling. I will use PLUS ATMs whenever possible. $5/transaction will add up over a few months. With my financials out of the way I headed to baggage collection, of course my bag was one of the last causing my brain to go nuts. From there I went immediately to the AIS phone kiosk. I got a SIM card and package that gives me a Thai number and 4GB of data for 1050 Baht (roughly $30 CAD). They took care of putting the new SIM card in and doing the activation. Be sure to have your carrier unlock your phone before traveling. Once that was done I called my hotel for a pickup. Due to flying in so late I got a room at a hotel near the airport just for the one night. I spent about 8 hours there but for $20/night including the pickup it was well worth it. I stayed at the Airy Hotel and I highly recommend it (read my review HERE ) for anyone in the same situation or if you were flying out early. The hotel was clean, the staff friendly, AC and shower were great and there was free WIFI. In the morning I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, nothing to rave about but it did the trick. Now was my time to explore, with a few hours before having to check out and a few hours before I could check into my next hotel I decided to take a walk to buy the toothbrush I forgot and see the area. The front desk gave me directions to the nearest 7-11 and thought I was crazy for walking the 1Km walk. I was in a part of the city with no tourists and I guess me wanting to walk as opposed to renting a scooter or take a taxi surprised them. By the way, I never found the damn 7-11 but I did find a toothbrush at a mom and pop shop. I’d prefer to give them the business anyways. I enjoyed the walk, it was calm and nobody was trying to sell anything to me. People were working their shops, having coffee at cafes and the happy yells of children could be heard from the nearby schools. I’m sure everyone noticed the only short white dude walking around but people are too busy with life to care, some gave friendly smiles and hellos, I replied in Thai as best I could with sawatdee-krap.

Once checking out I got taxi and gave him the address. I insisted on a meter as per previous advice but of course once I was in he insisted on a flat rate of 400 Baht. After some back and forth I agreed as I knew it would be nearly and hour trip and less than $15 was fine with me. The driver got a call from the hotel two minutes after we left saying I left my stainless steel water bottle. He turned around and I felt like an idiot. Kudos to the hotel though! The driver was great. We spoke of where he was from, where I’m from, he pointed out some sights and we just made small talk. I had Google maps on my phone going and when he deviated from the route my heart  raced for a sec, he explained that the road was closed to due to the protests, indeed it was. Police were blocking the road and in the distance I saw walls of sandbags six feet high. Once at the hotel the driver went into the washroom before I even paid which was nice, it told me he trusted me. Although I was 45 minutes before check-in my room was ready. I’m staying at Roof View Place, it is located in a fairly quiet area and only a 10 minute walk to the debauchery and awesomeness of Khao San Road. So far so good at the hotel (read my review HERE ) The room is very basic with a single bed but the AC works, shower is good, there is a safe, a mini fridge, a balcony and again there is free WIFI. There is also breakfast included and they offer Western and Thai options. Once I got settled in I decided to walk to Khao San using Google maps and it was dead on right down to the most obscure alleyways. As I got close my spidy senses were tingling. Sounds, sights and most of all smells. My senses were in overload and I was loving it. I wandered around the alleys and side streets looking for knock off Oakleys or Ray-Bans, like the 7-11 I didn’t find them. Touts and tuk-tuk drivers were relentless in trying to sell rides and suits and other crap that would look great on you sir! Just say no and keep walking. One guy grabbed my arm and I gave him the stink eye and told him not to touch me. He was gone pretty fast. Admittedly I was overwhelmed, overwhelmed and hungry. I found a food stall on Khao San that had a few foreigners eating at and I made my move. Pad Thai in Thailand! Cross that off the bucket list. It was delicious and I slurped up every noodle and bean sprout with my chop sticks as I continued to add more chili sauce the deeper in I got. I was in heaven, even the touts coming up to me couldn’t spoil my mood. Here I am in Bangkok eating street food, people watching, soaking up the relentless sun and yesterday I was in Canada hiding from the cold. Not bashing Canada of course, it is my one and only home. I will be in Bangkok for four nights and I know that will be enough and I’ll be ready to make my way North. I’ve experienced Toronto, Montreal, New York, San Francisco and Havana but none compare to this. This city is a kaleidoscope of great foods, foreign languages, smells that invade your nostrils, sirens, horns, yelling, beautiful buildings, slums and people everywhere. There is no explaining Bangkok, there is only experiencing it…and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface.

Tonight comes the Bangkok after dark. Wish me luck!

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