bangkok (part 1)

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on August 11, 2009

I decided to fly from Krabi to Bangkok, instead of making the 1000 km. journey by train or bus. I booked a cheap Air Asia ticket online, got a bus ticket to the airport in Krabi and off I went. I arrived at the Bangkok airport at around 6.30 pm.

I had called a few hotels from the Lonely Planet guide, but they were all full. If I arrive at night, I usually like to have my first night booked so I have somewhere to go.  In this case, I took the airport bus to Khao San Road and just started hunting. Well, I had already heard about this, but being there confirmed it. Khao San is loud. Really loud and it’s an all night long affair, so I just started walking to find something in the side streets. The first few hotels were full. One of them, the Lamphu House was one I really wanted to stay in, but they had no rooms. I looked further up Soi Rambuttri and found the Siam III guest house. They had a room. I checked in. The room was nice enough and it was quiet, yet still in the heart of a very lively area.

Soi Rambuttri, the street where my hotel is located in Banglamphu.

On my first day I decided to walk to Siam Square, in the new part of Bangkok. The subway/sky train service doesn’t extend to Banglamphu, the old area of Bangkok where my hotel is located, so I decided to walk. I knew it would be about 4 kilometres but I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see something of the city. Well, I did. I got lost and ended up in Chinatown. Then I discovered the secret to Bangkok’s road system and maps. Every intersection has a number and once I’d discovered that, it was very easy to make my way to Siam Square. However, just before Siam Square I found the MBK mall. After all, I was on a shopping mission for five things; underwear, flip flops that don’t hurt my feet, a raincover for my backpack (very much necessary here in Thailand in the rainy season), B&W film for my camera and books.

Bangkok is heaven for shopping. I managed to find everything I needed. And except for the film, everything was very cheap.

My walk through the old part of town was lovely. As soon as you get out of the tourist ghetto of Khao San you’ll see the real Bangkok. Lots of little alleys with people sewing, selling all kinds of food and other stuff and just going about their business.

The new part of town is just hell, in my opinion. Lots of bigger stores with loud music, lots of concrete, traffic jams and fast food outlets.  It’s just anonymous to me. Might as well be in Blok M in Jakarta, the business district of Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong. It all looks the same to me and I have no interest in it. The older parts of said cities are wonderful, though. So I’m sticking to that.

The Skywalk around Siam Square Station.

At night I went out in the streets around my hotel. Lots of little stalls with t-shirts, food, bars and restaurants. Very very lively and very busy. It has definitely much more of a backpacker vibe than any other place I’ve been to so far. With backpacker vibe I mean people who do not have a bunch of toddlers in tow or those resort types that tend to hang out in packs and crowd the sidewalks.

This morning I checked out of my hotel as I had found a room at the Lamphu house. While I was having my brekkie, I saw Sarah, the woman from SF who was my neighbour in Phi Phi! That was really cool. We had a nice chat, talked about what we both had done since we left Phi Phi (we left on the same boat).

At noon I checked into my room and it is absolutely fantastic. Wooden floor, contemporary asian furniture and everything very light and airy with a huge balcony. I don’t mind roughing it for a couple of days here and there, and I have, not even being able to take a real shower for days, but when I find a nice room, it certainly is bliss. Living out of a backpack is slightly unsettling and being on the go all day, every day for months at a time is a killer. It is nice to be able to read and relax in a comfy room. Like today. My feet are still hurting from my approximately 10 km walk yesterday. It’s not just the long walk, it’s also the stifling heat, humidity, traffic noise and air pollution that adds to it. I’m taking it real easy today and mostly enjoy my room.

One of the many street food stalls on Soi Rambuttri. You can have a pad thai and 2 spring rolls for a buck at these places.

I just went for a walk around the Banglamphu market and I saw the river and then I decided to walk back and just spend the rest of the afternoon writing my blog and reading my book (Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’. It’s good.). Tonight I’ll go out for a stroll in the area and tomorrow I’ll hit Chinatown when my feet aren’t aching so much anymore.

One rainy morning on Khao San Road.

Bangkok is cool. I’m really enjoying it here. I’ll have three nights here at the Lamphu before I head to Kanchanaburi (three hour train ride north east) but I know that I’ll have to come back to Bangkok before heading to Laos so I might even stay more than one night next time.

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