Travel

Thailand Part 1: Bangkok

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For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit Thailand.
Strangely of all the places in the world, over 50% of my family have all chosen
Thailand,
many for multiple trips.

First was my uncle, over 30 years ago, aged just 18. He and
a friend backpacked around the world (well, they made it to Australia and
ran out of money), something that was pretty unusual back in the day. With no
mobile phones or email, he kept in contact with family back home via hand
written letters, which still to this day my Grandma cherishes. Descriptions of
the idyllic Koh Samui which sounded more like a deserted desert island rather
than the tourist-swamped mobs who lay row upon row on beaches packed with sun loungers
to bake in the sun, along with a story including hitting a pig with a stick
which would come along to eat the faeces as you tried to do your business
whilst he stayed with a family in Chiang Mai.
Next were my parents, who in 1989, visited Bangkok, Phuket and Koh
Phi Phi for their honeymoon. Seeing my photos now, they can’t believe how much
it’s all changed, but are still keen to visit again.
My uncle (the pig-hitting traveller) and aunt, who are now
based in Sydney,
visit most years, along with their two boys, who have also travelled from North
to South a number of times. Other cousins, aunts, uncles and even my Grandma
have also taken trips, loving nothing more than haggling with the locals at
Patpong night market.
But now it was my turn. Filling a rucksack with bare
essentials (I tried my hardest!), my best friend and I boarded our flight to
Bangkok one cold morning in February, equipped with maps, sheets of booking
tickets for hotels, hostels and internal flights ready to discover what makes
Thailand stand out from the crowd.
Flying with Emirates was always going to be a pleasure. I
never quite understood why they hand out hot towels after take off, which turn
to ice in less than one second. The passenger next to me took full advantage,
scrubbing his sweaty pits before handing it back to a rather confused air
stewardess. Latest blockbusters and Disney classics kept us entertained along
with the complimentary drinks (hello free wine) and two meals. I was provided
with gluten free options (a request you can order prior to your flight), so had
no worry that I was going to feel ill half way through the flight.
Upon landing, we grabbed our bags and headed to catch a
taxi. Without doubt the local taxi drivers will assess your knowledge of Bangkok by just a quick
glance and a few questions. Excited by our arrival, which proved obvious by our
ghostly pale skin and beaming smiles, we were happy to answer that this was in
fact our first trip to Thailand
after landing from London.
In hindsight I realise this was stupid, as they no doubt tripled the taxi fare
to our hotel. But how were we to know? My best advice is to shop around and
speak to a few taxis, haggle and settle upon a price before leaving. We only
realised we’d been over charged after our taxi back cost just 500 Baht, whereas
the original came to over 2,000. Oops.
The next two days were filled with exploring the bustling
city, visiting temples, markets, massage parlours and hunting out great places
to eat. With the protests at the forefront of our concerns, my friend made a
map with areas to avoid using travel blogger Richard Barrow’s Twitter page for
handy hints and places to avoid. Luckily we were fine, but we did keep our eyes
fully open at all times watching carefully where we were visiting on the map.
Wat Arun temple towered high above the river, providing a
great view of the city from the top. Beware however that to complete the climb,
you have to be pretty brave with not even the slightest fear of heights. The
steep steps make it a little frightening once you reach the top and realise you
have to make it all the way back down again, taking extra care not to get
caught up in your harem pants, topple over and fall head first down a vertical
descent.
The weekend market at Chatuchak was another favourite.
Offering everything from tiny wooden elephants, to handmade notebooks, boutique
clothing, designer knock-offs and some rather interesting looking street food,
this was the place we managed to  stock up
on gifts for family, friends, and of course, ourselves.
Transport was simple – walk, tuk tuk, taxi or metro. We opted
for a selection, haggling with tuk tuks for the right price, but opting for the
Metro and Sky Train (underground/overground network) when we were feeling less
flush. Even then, a tuk tuk would roughly cost 200-300 baht (£4-6) depending on
where we were visiting, but when the Metro worked out around 50p-£1, it was
worth saving the pennies.
A trip to Bangkok wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Khao San Road, where backpackers gather, drink bright coloured cocktail buckets, share stories, and if you’re feeling brave, eat a fried bug or two. We did all three of course, mainly listening to stories rather than telling our own having only been in the country just one day. After building enough dutch courage, it was bug eating time. Feeling like a member of the I’m a Celebrity gang, the only way was to chew as quickly as possible – fried grasshopper isn’t the nicest flavour, but what’s worse is the flaky texture which breaks apart, scattering across your mouth securing secret spots you only stubble upon hours later. Not long after, we had a half an hour foot message where my friend was unfortunate enough to find part of the grasshopper’s leg wedged somewhere in the roof of her mouth. Lovely. Even worse was the fried meal-worm. Using the ‘chew fast’ technique was a failure as when the bug was pierced with my teeth, it exploded like a Basset’s bursting bug – just replace the sugary sweet centre with gunk. I can’t even remember the flavour as my fast reflexes spat it to the pavement. Check out my friend’s video of our time in Bangkok which includes the delightful bug eating scene here.
Resting our heads after a long day of sightseeing, shopping and strong cocktail buckets was made far easy with a stay at FuramaXclusive, a 4* hotel in the
centre of Bangkok.
All hotels we stayed in across the two weeks were great, but Furamaxclusive was
my favourite. A huge king size bed filled the room with far more floor space
than we would need for just one night. Of course being messy pups that we are,
we took full advantage of spreading across the room as far as possible, with
emptied rucksacks littering the room. The bathroom was huge, with a large walk-in
shower, and the room of course included the two key essentials – mini fridge
and air-con. These became out best friends as we realised adjusting from
freezing London to sizzling Bangkok wasn’t going to be as simple as we
thought.

Look out for the next post which will feature Chiang Mai and a hill-tribe trek.

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