I would be lying if I said that I was excited to go to Bangkok. I’ve never been a fan of big cities and could easily get by in smaller cities. Something about the rat race that seemingly comes with big cities, all the people, the traffic jams, the higher prices, it just doesn’t appeal to me. That said, we had 8 days in Bangkok and I didn’t mind my time here at all. Now if you’re wondering “You say you don’t like big cities, why are you spending so much time here?” Well we originally were supposed to house sit for someone and look after their dog from Nov 2-8. After we had already booked a hotel near her house for the 1st so we could be close, she canceled. With our flight booked for the 8th and we had a package coming to our hotel for the 1st, we didn’t have much choice.
Naturally we just did what we do best and rolled with the suckerpunch. We booked a nice apartment on AirBnB using the credit on our account to offset going over budget and saved 50%. We picked a place with a kitchen, laundry machine and a pool. This way if we don’t want to hang out in Bangkok, we don’t have to.
Muay Thai/Thai Boxing
One of the biggest attractions in Thailand is the Thai Boxing or Muay Thai fights. I wanted to go but knew that it isn’t something that interests Kristi so spending 1000B on a ticket to go just doesn’t make sense. With the power of positive thinking on my side, I got a Facebook message within a couple hours arriving in Bangkok. The following day there is a weekend market and about a 10 minute walk away are televised fights for FREE! Yes Free!
We found our way to the fights and sure enough they were free as advertised. Trying to get an idea of how the gambling and betting works is insane. There are hand gestures moving quickly, a nod or a shake of the head then money gets passed. Sometimes as much as 1000B heading down the line from hand to hand to the Bookie. I wanted to make a bet but I wanted to bet between 50-100B. It was good that I couldn’t figure it out because I pre-selected the wrong fighter every time. I would have left a couple hundred baht poorer. Because it’s a televised event, you’re not allowed to take pictures. We played the tourist card and not understanding well…
We got to see 5 fights and some of them were pretty good. The crowd makes the experience. You also get a pretty good idea of who everyone bet on as they cheer every time a strike is thrown as though they are trying not only rally the fighter but also sway the judges into believing their fighter is winning. The atmosphere is incredible and it was easy for Kristi to enjoy herself too because who can complain about free?
One thing I still don’t understand is in two of the fights, there were scenarios where both fighters thought they had won the fight already so they spend the entire 5th round dancing around the ring with their arms up and not fighting. Even more confusing, the crowd doesn’t boo them. They just accept and continue to cheer. It would have been great to have a local that understands the fight more to explain why this strategy is acceptable.
Super excited to have a our apartment, the first thing we did was laundry. Then with the excitement of having a kitchen, we jumped in a taxi and went to a nearby mall with a supermarket to buy some groceries. Eggs and oatmeal for mornings. Fresh baked whole grain bread. Linguini, mushroom soup and ground chicken to make stroganoff. Words can’t express my happiness right now.
The Royal Palace
The #1 visited attraction in Bangkok is the Royal Palace. They have a “strict” dress code of long pants and shirts with sleeves. Don’t worry about coordinating a nice outfit, nobody else does. I find it funny that I can’t wear shorts or a sleeveless shirt but it was fine for a guy to walk around in a t-shirt that read “I F*** on the first date” uncensored of course.
Inside the Royal Palace is a temple that is considered to be one of the most sacred/holy temples in all of Thailand. Inside the temple perched high up on a pedestal is an emerald Buddha. Supposedly found in Chiang Rai in the 1300s where a King brought it to Chiang Mai. In the 1400s a Laotian Prince made special time with a Chiang Mai Princess but left to take over his fathers Throne in Vientiane (Capital of Laos). He took the emerald Buddha with him. 200 years later, Siam (Thailand) attacked Vientiane and took the city and came across the emerald Buddha. Now it sits here at the Royal Palace. It also wears different outfits depending on season it is (Summer, Winter, Rainy). You can’t take pictures inside the temple with the emerald Buddha. Did I mention that it’s made of Jade and not emerald?
To enter the complex of the Royal Palace is 500B per person which seems quite overpriced for what it is. We weren’t terribly impressed with what it had to offer. For an additional 200B each you can get an audio tour. They also offered guides at the front door but I’m not sure what they cost. We probably should have paid for an audio tour but having already paid 2/3 of our daily budget just entering (not to mention the 150B taxi to get there) we opted to pass. The detail and everything is quite beautiful but nothing any more special than some of the other temples we visited for free in Thailand. At the end of the day, we were not impressed with the value for our money but I still feel like it is something you have to see when you’re in Bangkok. It’s currently the most visited tourist attraction in Bangkok (not to be confused with ranked #1) so prices certainly won’t be dropping.
A New Friend
A girl from Vancouver who now lives in Ubud, Bali has a mutual friend with us. We were supposed to meet 5 months ago but she was busy with work and we were easily distracted so we never got the chance to meet in Ubud. Thankfully, some good does come out of social media as I sifted through vague statuses about how people hate their jobs and what they ate for dinner, I see a post saying that she will be in Bangkok at the same time as us. We arrange to meet and something got lost in translation and I thought it was tomorrow… turns out is was today and now I feel terrible for standing her up. Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be. She ended up changing her plans and sticking around Bangkok and we got to meet up 2 days later.
Super cool girl who has stepped away from the conventional lifestyle and is now running her own online business from wherever has a WiFi connection. She truly is living life the way she wants. A happy person who laughs at almost anything, it’s nice to spend time with all that optimism.
We went for sushi and watched John Wick our first night. Thai movie experiences are good. One thing that Thailand and Malaysian movies have in common is seating is assigned so you can pick whatever seats are available. Think of how many times you’ve gone to a movie at home on an opening weekend. You bought your tickets online but you couldn’t find parking so you got into the theater a bit late. There are 3 of you but good luck finding 3 seats together in this theater. I am immediately a fan of the assigned seats. This way you aren’t rewarded for showing up early but rather rewarded for paying and committing to the movie early.
Wednesday night in Bangkok is movie night which means 100B ($3.50) tickets. 30 minutes of previews and then before the actual movie starts, they play this awful video for the king. As if it were the National Anthem, you have to stand up and remove you hats but instead of signing you have to watch this painfully bad video. It’s not even in high def. You just watch this oversized, stretched out, pixelated picture video… I think my picture videos that I made in 2 hours on my tablet are higher quality. Thankfully the movie was up to quality standard. John Wick is great if you want something that is all action with minimal storyline. I went in with low expectations and actually enjoyed it for what it was.
Loy Kratthong Festival
On November 6, in Chiang Mai and Sukhotthai, there was the lantern festival and I won’t lie that I was incredibly disappointed that we had missed it. Luckily, bangkok had its own festival called Loy Kratthong. We met up with our newest friend where we met one of her friends who lives in Bangkok right now. This wasn’t as cool as the lantern festival but it had it’s own charm to make it special. We took the boat ferry up towards Khao San Road. Near Khao San rd on the water was the festival. Everything with live bands playing, food stands and lots of Kratthongs for sale.
We bought a couple cheap ones as they seemed to range from 25-100B for 1. We lit the candles and incense and made a wish.
Then you walk over to the water and put them on a platform and a guy lowers them into the river where they float away.
The water was quite rough so a lot of the kratthongs go out quite quickly. Either way it was a really cool experience and to our understanding, it only happens once a year. Tonight happened to be that night! One of the neat things about it is that it wasn’t overly crowded because the festival occurs wherever there is water.
Khao San Road
We had to go see the famous Khao San Road in Bangkok. Since we were in the area, once we were done with the Loy Kratthong Festival, we went for a walk over there. A busy and brightly lit up street, I was worried that Khao San would be a lot like Pattong Beach. I am happy to report it wasn’t nearly as bad. The vendors aren’t as pushy as they are in Pattong beach and it’s actually pretty relaxed for such a busy place. We can say we’ve walked it now and I would probably walk it again.
A Couple Tips & Observations for Bangkok
-The MRT/BRT/BTS skytrain system is a great way to get around Bangkok and we used it when it made sense. However, if there are more than 2 of you, it’s cheaper to take a metered taxi. If a taxi won’t run the meter, simply get out and hail the next taxi. In more touristy areas they will try to convince you that there’s a traffic jam and they won’t run the meter. Just keep trying if you don’t want to spend the extra money on transport.
-The skytrain system is also used by a higher class than what you see in Vancouver. If you’ve ever walked around Surrey Central, you will find yourself very aware of your surroundings with the hopes that you don’t get robbed. I felt incredibly safe on the Skytrain in Bangkok. Everyone wore business clothes and if you gave them a smile, they give it right back. It’s actually quite a welcoming environment.
-Electronics in Bangkok are more expensive than North America. A camera that we wanted to buy is $350cad but in Bangkok it was 16000B ($500ish cad) There was seemingly a mark up on all electronics here. Though some places will let you claim the taxes back when you leave the country. Just ask them if they offer a VAT rebate. They should have a chart that will tell you how much you will get back.
-711 has the same prices as grocery stores and even lower prices than a lot of the market stands.
-There are a lot of Apartments for rent that cost less than hotels in Bangkok. Ours even had laundry!
I had a bit of a love hate relationship with Bangkok. I hate the heavy traffic but am fascinated by the reckless organised chaos that is their road system. Bangkok offers a different vibe than anywhere else in Thailand. I think I would gladly go back to Bangkok for a couple days at a time but wouldn’t spend more than a week in one visit. We had an amazing 60 days in Thailand and I would love to visit again some day.
Next up: Hanoi, Vietnam! Time to start practicing a whole new language.