From Pai, I braved the journey back down and spent a couple more days chilling out in Chiang Mai before heading south to Bangkok. I should note that this is very much a mini rather than comprehensive post – I’d not actually planned to spend any time in Bangkok after the reviews of many fellow travellers who’ve been there as a touristy and chaotic place without the shabby chic of places like Ho Chi Minh City. However, thanks to Air Asia cancelling my afternoon connecting flight onto my next destination, I found myself with an afternoon and an evening to kill in the capital.
On my last night in Chiang Mai, I met up with some Canadian guys I’d met in Pai for some drinks before we all went separate ways. I got in a little later than intended, so only had about 4 hours sleep before I had to get up for the airport, but somehow managed it…
Safely in Bangkok, I met up with another of the American ladies I’d been with in Chiang Mai and Pai. She’d left Pai earlier and headed to Siem Reap for a few days to see Angkor Wat as she was just on a 2-week holiday, but was flying back home out of Bangkok so we had the same layover. We’d booked to stay in the same hostel room so we met there and dumped our bags before heading out to explore the city. We stayed at NapPark Hostel, which whilst very nice and quite sociable, did feel a bit overpriced in comparison to similarly nice places I’ve stayed elsewhere – I think you probably pay a premium for the location round the corner from Khao San Road, the main backpacker area. I also had my Birkenstocks stolen from the shoe rack outside which left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, so take care of your belongings…
The obvious choice for a bit of Bangkok culture in our very limited time was the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It was incredibly hot and humid, particularly in our shoulder and knee-covering outfits, so we sweated our way down to the palace from our hostel to do battle with the tour groups. It’s an easy 25 minute walk from the backpacker area, so I wouldn’t bother with a taxi unless you’re feeling particularly lazy!
We elbowed our way down to the ticket booth and went first into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It’s actually a complex of different temples and it’s quite a sight to behold. Each building is flamboyantly decorated in a different style; some gold, some floral, some in shiny mirrored tiles. They have different temple ‘guardians’ outside, some courtyards and some grand painted corridors – it looks almost like an architectural exhibition rather than anything that could be functionally used as a place of worship. We tried to take a few photos of the amazing buildings but they didn’t come out brilliantly as too many people kept walking between camera and photographer – I think the only place as busy as this that I’ve been on my whole trip so far was Angkor Wat! I’d recommend you get up bright and early and head there before the tour groups, this might offer a slightly less rowdy elbows-sharpened experience.
Having woven our way through the temples we followed the crowds through to the royal palace. It transpired you can’t actually go inside which was disappointing, but it was another impressive building, very commanding in its size and decoration. It’s easy to see why this is the heart of the city.
On the way back to the hostel we got caught in a rainstorm, which we felt was needed to relieve the humidity a little. We sheltered in a 7/11 with one of their famous cheese toasties for company. Back at the hostel we weren’t really in the mood for socialising after our early morning flights, so we just chatted in our dorm before going out for an early dinner on the ‘colourful’ Khao San Road. This is the main tourist area, and it’s quite honestly a bit horrible in my view – something of a strip of bars with neon signs and street vendors selling miscellaneous light-up objects. It wasn’t really my vibe, but if you’re up for a party and with a good group, I can imagine it’d be a really good night out. If you’re in Bangkok for a little longer and want to avoid the neon nightmares of Khao San, we heard that Chinatown is a good place to go in the evenings instead.
Khao San was, however, a good place to people watch, so we sat at a little restaurant overlooking the road’s activities and had a tasty Thai bun and a beer. When we’d finished, we wandered back through the road finding souvenirs for my friend, and headed back for packing, Netflix and an early night. ‘I guess that’s why they call it sin city…’
Until next time,
Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: 3, including the guy in 7/11 who noticed I was buying my second cheese toastie of the day…
Interaction was: somewhere between empowering and humiliating. Probably the latter.
One Woman and her Backpack x
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