Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bangkok - 2015


First, my opinion about Bangkok - it is the least favorite place that I have ever visited.  If you are interested in Shopping and Night Life, then spend more time else just get out after a day. 

Highlights and Suggestions

  • The Visa On Arrival fees need to be paid in Thai Bhats and there are no ATM machines that I noticed on the way from the gate to the immigration desk.  Also, if you are getting VOA, please have the return ticket available to be shown the visa officer
  • The public transit system is very good.  From the low cost airlines terminal (DMK), you can get to the Mo Chit Metro station by the bus “A8” and from there go can almost anywhere in Bangkok by Metro.  From the Bangkok (BGK) airport, you can take the City Train to the city.
  • Air Asia provide free shuttle between the two airports and to use this you need to have the upcoming ticket in AirAsia for that day or for the next day.
  • Look at the calendar for the local festivals or holidays before visiting.  All of the pagodas that we visited were very crowded because of the New Year.
  • I didn’t find a single taxi that’s willing use the meter in Bangkok. 
  • Always carry more than one map that you are familiar with and also have a picture of the map in your phone.
  • Go to the 6th floor food court to have the authentic thai food.  5th floor food court is international and expensive.
  • The immigration lines are long and the processing is inefficient, so please allow enough time to get to your gate.
  • Source that I used to plan this trip: Wikitravel, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor forum

Arriving Bangkok

The walk from the arrival gate to the immigration desk is a long walk and the wait to get through the immigration was long.  We arrived on the New Year’s eve at 11pm and the Uber estimate to our hotel was much more than what we offered by a taxi office in the arrival.  Since we were five people and also it was New Year’s eve, we decided to book the taxi in the arrival area.  Paid around $25 to go to the area new Phya Thai Metro station.  On the way to our hotel (Best Western) we enjoyed nice fireworks in the downtown area.  The rooms that got were stinking of cigarette smoke even though we were in the non-smoking floor.  When complained, someone came with the air freshener to take care of the problem :-0  We were tired to fight to move to a different room or floor.

Canal Boat Ride

The Hotel staff interested more in trying to sell services (taxi, tour, etc.) than provide any useful information  Hopefully, it will be different for you, but to be sure please do your research before getting to Bangkok.  The hotel guys asked not to take the Saen Saeb canal boat because the canal stinks.  But we just wanted to visit the canal to see whether it can beat the stinking river in Chennai.  None of the road side stalls on the way to the boat station were open because it was New Year and there are only Starbucks & McDonalds open for breakfast.  We found the food court in Platinum mall but had to wait ’til 10am to get in and the food was good and authentic in the food court.  They found a nice way to make you spend more by asking you pay for the pre-paid card and accepting only that card in the restaurants which made us spend more.  The balance in the prepaid card was refunded to you very quickly in a different counter.

The public boat service is good but don’t try to travel in that one with someone who is elderly or physically
challenged to move fast.  The boat stops for less than a minute and during that time more than 30 people get on & off of the boat on the same side.  I have to literally pull and push my 80 year old father to get inside the boat.  The trip is fine and there’s no stinking small at least during the month of January.  The boat ride was good and we’re able to some of the non-touristy areas on the way to the Wat Ratchanaddaram pagoda.

The pagoda was good and crowded because it’s the New Year.  You can climb up to see the bird eye view of the town but the views are not that great.  You can visit this pagoda if you want to take the canal boat then make it part of that trip.  Don’t think that it’s worth a separate visit IMO.  After visiting the pagoda, we walked to the Royal Palace because we’re not able to get a taxi or Tuk Tuk to take us there.  On the way to the Royal Palace, we came across huge banner all over the place for the King and these are permanent structures.  Also, we crossed Democracy Monument and September Monument before reaching another Pagoda right across from the Royal Palace where there’re huge ceremonies for the New Year happening.  

Royal Palance

Getting into the Emerald Buddha pagoda, located inside the Royal Palace, was a major problem and there’re no lines but just push your way through. But once inside the pagoda, it was fine.  No photography allowed inside this pagoda and the Royals come to this pagoda on special occasions.  After this, we walked around the palace, all over the palace walls there’re paintings depicting Ramayan stories.  I could understand some of the stories painted there but a lot of them are new to me, they may be Thai version of Ramayana.  Hope there’s a publication (there should be) that walks through each painting.  Just outside and opposite side of the Palace, there are a lot of roadside restaurants where we had our first roadside Pat Thai which was very good and cheap.  

Broom Beating

The Sleeping Buddha pagoda was nice but very crowded.  A Buddhist monk was blessing everyone by beating everyone’s head with small broom, and there’s a long line to get the blessing.  It’s good and bad in visiting the pagodas and temples in an auspicious day, good because you get to see the different customs and the crowd makes it bad.  We walked to the boat dock to catch to go the Wat Arun another beautiful pagoda.  The boating dock is a nice place to see the beautiful sunset and it’s a quick boat ride to the other side of the river where Wat Arun is.  It’s a nice place to chill and enjoy in the evening.  The pagoda is very beautiful from outside and my readings indicated that there’s nothing special going on inside, so enjoyed the pagoda from outside.

Boat Ride Back to Hotel

The line is long to get into the boat to go to the pier to get the ferry to go back to the hotel.  The problem was no signs or announcements on the ferry that arrives in the pier, and make sure that you ask before boarding on the ferry.  We got into the fast ferry that doesn’t stop in the pier to get closer to our hotel, and I didn’t realize that before boarding :-(  so ended up in some other pier but luckily it was closer to the MRT.  In the ferry ride, I lost my map and couldn’t identify the neighborhood of our hotel in other maps. After asking few people to look at their maps, I was able to find a map where I could find our hotel to take the right station to get off.  On the way back from the MRT station to the hotel, we couldn’t find roadside stalls to eat, so after leaving my parents in the hotel, I left to get the dinner.  There’s a night market very close to the hotel, which we realize and we had very good local food there.  The information given by the hotel was that all of the places would be closed because of New Year and advised us to eat in the hotel…so pissed with their service.

Gaming the System by TukTuk Driver

We absolutely no idea what to do the next day.  The only place left to go was the floating market and there’s nothing to do there during the day time, so we decided to the Siam area to eat and hang around in the MBK mall.  When our hotel Tuk Tuk dropped us in the main road at 9am, we met a funny Tuk Tuk driver who was talking non-stop.  He mentioned that all of the eating places and the mail will open only at 10am so he wanted us to go to the Art shop before the mall drop off.  He agreed to drop us in the mall for $3 but we have to go to the Art shop and he requested us to spend 10-15 minutes there showing interest in the things so that he’d get 5 liter petrol from them.  Since there is nothing much to do ’til 10am, we decided to go for the 15 minute ride through the local neighborhoods and the King’s home to the Art shop hearing his non-stop stories and advise on things to buy.  After spending about 15-20 minutes in the Art shop looking at different handicrafts, jewelry, etc., we went to the MBK for breakfast and to kill our time.

Cowboy Street

After wasting the whole day walking around the mall, we took the Air Asia shuttle to DMK from BGK to take our flight to Myanmar wondering what to do in Bangkok when we return back in one week.  Exactly after a week, when we landed back in Bangkok, we stayed in the Siam area.  Siam area has a lot of roadside places to eat where we had our dinner before going back to the room to chill.  We had to take care of a number of things related to work and personal emails to take care after being shielded (limited) from Internet in Myanmar.  The next day, after leaving my kids in the airport, I returned to the hotel.  In the evening, I walked around to see what the night life is in Bangkok.  Walked around the Cowboy Street and the surrounding areas to see complete commercialization of sex in Bangkok.  The number of older man walking around with young woman is a lot in the Siam area.  Wondering how the people working and living in the Siam area bring up their kids (especially girls) with this kind of environment.  All I can say is that Thailand may be beautiful in the North (mountains) and in the South (beautiful beaches), but Bangkok is the least favorite place for me. 

1 comment:

  1. a wonderful daytrip from bangkok is to mueang boran, ancient skytrain to the end station,bearing, then by taxi or 2 busses (change in pak nam). entrance 700, then rent a golf cart or bycycle, huge area of beautifully landscaped gardens ,over 100 landmarks and monuments from all over thailand, several restaurants. i have been 10 times there in the last 30 years, i still remember the entrance fee of 50 baht, 1 day is not enough to see everything. go back by songteo to pak nam, then by bus