Welcome to Bangkok! Upon arrival to Suvarnabhumi Airport, I could not find the Airport Express Bus service mentioned in both my Lonely Planet book and online. Turns out it was discontinued in June 2011! So instead I hired a bright pink taxi to take me to my hotel. I was worried about the crazy driving I’d heard about, especially since there were no seat belts, but the driver was actually pretty good. And the trip only cost 330 baht ($11) including the airport surcharge and tolls. Not bad!
Sivarin Guesthouse was a great place to stay and I highly recommend it. It is located about ten minutes from Khao San Road and is also within walking distance of other major attractions such as the Grand Palace. My room was spacious, cutely decorated, spotless, and most importantly had AC! The wifi worked well and the staff members were helpful. There were only shared bathrooms, but that came in handy on my last night when I had already checked out but wanted to use the bathroom and take a shower! I booked through Agoda.com at a rate of $22 a night. The only downside was it didn’t include breakfast.
I only had one full day in Bangkok so I didn’t get to see too much. Plus it was so damn hot. If you go in March I recommend only going out in the morning and evening. Seriously! This is me with my “I hate sweating” face on:
I ended up going to Khao San Road three times during my short trip! I thought I would hate it, but I loved the cheap mango smoothies (40 baht), pad Thai (25-50 baht), foot massages (100 baht for half an hour), and shopping (I got four tank tops for 100-150 baht each, elephant pants for 200, a necklace for 90, and a purse for 100). Remember than $1 is around 30 baht.
I thought the Amulet Market sounded cool so I decided to check that out. There were lots of monks out shopping so it was interesting just to wander around and observe. I kind of wanted to buy an amulet but (a) I’m not Buddhist so I don’t think it’s right and (b) I remember reading some book when I was a kid about an amulet that had an evil curse attached to it or something… And I just can’t forget about it. LOL.
On my way to the Grand Palace, a con artist found me!! He said he was a teacher, that the Grand Palace wasn’t open until after 1pm, and that there was a nearby temple with a standing Buddha that I should check out instead. Luckily, I had already read about this trick which apparently leads to a “gem scam”. I hightailed it out of there!
The main attraction that I saw in Bangkok was Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. I seriously debated not going as the entrance fee was so steep (400 baht or $13) but it was so sparkly and shiny and just drew me in! Unfortunately it was too hot for me to enjoy it. I was dying. Even after drinking four bottles of water and two smoothies in the previous two hours. Seriously, don’t go to Bangkok in March. Also, no need to buy or rent pants or shirts on the street to enter the premises: you can rent them there for free (200 baht deposit for each). Note that you can’t just wear a scarf over your tank top as I tried to.
Wat Phra Kaew means Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Apparently it is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha itself is not that big and is housed in a building where you can’t take photos of it. But the grounds were stunning. There were many structures and statues that were elegantly decorated and embellished with bright polished tiles. The Grand Palace was the official residence of the Kings of Siam/Thailand from 1782 to 1925.
Lastly, I visited the Santi Chaiprakarn Park simply because it was near my hotel and I hadn’t seen the Chao Phraya River yet. The park was lively and full of hula hoopers and jugglers (mostly foreigners). It was also right next to the Phra Sumen Fort, which was beautiful.
Just a few more tips:
- Tuk-tuks in Bangkok are a rip-off. Take a metered taxi. I took one from the Grand Palace back to my hotel for 45 baht ($1.50).
- On my way back to the airport I had the hotel book a shuttle van for me, which cost 150 baht ($5) and took a little over an hour.