When I first got to Bangkok, my ‘Funky Flashpacker’ friends and I had been on a right mission to get back on the road again. We had to book a new bus ticket from Cambodia as we missed our first 🙄👍, sort out our Thai Visa’s on the border, search for our driver amongst the stench of sewage and piles of rubbish and I even had to physically run back to that dodgy border to retrieve my phone as I stupidly left it on the side of passport control! Not the smoothest journey I’ve ever written home about 🙈 – but naturally the length of it had us itching for a strong beverage…
Queue Koh San road…
Bright lights, lady boys fluttering their eyelashes with calves chiselled from stone, shady men flashing their ping pong poster at every opportunity, scorpions on sticks, salty and crispy from the sweat they’d oozed from being cooked alive, street dancers practising their killer moves, drunk men with no shirts, drunk girls with no shoes…and my clan which consisted of the turquoise-haired twins, Kate & Kaylei, the brilliantly outspoken little Kayla, and Nathan who is always up for the sesh and usually showcases it by sporting one of his many pub-crawl vests.
We walked down Koh San road like we were starring in our own version of The Hangover – ready for Bangkok and prepared to get lost to it all: to the buckets, to the dancing, to the cheap thrills, to the city charm and of course to the showgirls with the impressive vaginal strength👀…
We attended a Ping Pong show the night after our first in Bangkok, after meeting a guy in our room, Nick, who’s birthday it was…and what better way to turn 25 than to watch a woman catapult things from her vagina, right? 🤔 After negotiating the deal down to 500B each (£11.45), we boarded two Tuk Tuk’s. There was some high-speed racing down the back streets, which featured some competitive mooning as we sped past each other and our silly ways meant that we were in great spirits when we arrived. We stumbled out of our wagons and were quickly ushered into a dark dingy room where women were walking around with very much make-up on, but with very few English skills.
My mood soon dampened when I tried chatting to a worker to suss out her situation. But, she seemed scared of me and quickly scuttled away…which made me question everything.
Is she okay? Why is she here? Actually…why am I here?😬
The girls on stage tried a little harder to put on a show and make the whole production normal, amusing even, as they encouraged whoops and cheers from the audience. It was like watching a football match seeing them shoot out balls from their under-carriage with great force to make a score into a shot glass 😯. They also wrote letters, busted bottle caps… and I’ve heard that baby chicks crawl out from that dark hole sometimes 😱! It’s such a bizarre way to use your body and I must admit that it’s a part of their culture I’ll never understand.
Honestly, the extreme XXX of Bangkok was all a little too much for me – yes, that’s shocking if you know me and maybe I should lighten up and accept it for what it is – but I just couldn’t stop thinking about the desperation you must feel to begin a job like this. Do these women have to do it to survive? To support their families? Or is it by choice? Without them speaking to me, I suppose I’ll never know 🤷!
Funnily enough, the thing I thought I’d hate most about Koh San road – devouring a scorpion on a stick – actually ended up becoming my favorite part. Am I the only person that would admittedly eat one of them again out of choice?!😳🙄
What I wouldn’t choose to do again though is attend one of those Ping Pong shows…
I had a verrrry different experience when I visited Bangkok for the second time though. First time round, I really enjoyed the company of my clan, and travelled with them to Phuket afterwards…. but I walked away from the city with little love for its culture – especially the night scene. But hey, I made the typical backpacker mistake of only seeing the seediness of Koh San road and to top it off, I had a bad experience in a dodgy massage parlor. There’s no need for me to get into that as the Western culture differs greatly to that of the Thai people BUUT I just want to take a second to urge female tourists to check with their accommodation for rated parlours before getting a massage. Don’t just walk in from the main street, however professional it may seem👍.
So like me, many tourists come to this unique city every day and only witness the nightlife. I’m the first to say that Bangkok isn’t a place to marvel over on a hang over – so naturally you bury yourself in your duvet until nightfall again😖. But if you walk farther than Koh San road, you’ll soon realise how much there is to see and how much the city has to offer!
3 weeks later, when finding myself back in Bangkok again with my older bro, it felt like I’d entered an entirely parallel universe. We set out early and clear headed (without any reminense of a hangover) ready for our day sight seeing.
Little did we know that it was a special day for the Thai people. Their New Year’s Day falls on the 4th January, meaning Tuk Tuk drivers charge a fraction of the normal price which was an absolute win for us🤗. Usually for a whole day, you’d be looking at around 500B each, but on NYD, the government gives a petrol tax coupon to all licensed drivers so the general rate is lower. A Thai officer helped us out with securing a driver for just 50B (£1.15) each! Happy New year indeed🙌!
We got a taxi boat for 100B each (£2.30) one-way to the Royal Palace which was a fun new way of travelling the city; although the holes in its woodwork didn’t exactly fill us with confidence 🙄 ha.I was slightly worried because we had our passports with us, but you can’t enter the Palace without them. Regardless, whilst bashing along the rivers waves, we enjoyed gazing at the city’s unusual skyline of crawling sky scrapers and old 19th century hotels that were crumbling and gray.
The Palace didn’t open until 1pm because Buddhist monks were praying and bringing in the New year, so instead we visited the Marble Temple and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We appreciated the regal beauty of the building’s – the red, the gold, the clean crisp white – and when entering the most impressive rooms (which were beautifully decorated with oil paintings to tell a religious tale) we stood before the different Buddha’s to wish our loved ones good health and fortune throughout 2018…
All warmed up for the Palace, the scale and magnitude of the architecture and history really impressed us; the juxtaposition of styles and colours looked as though every Buddhist culture had been taken into consideration to create an unbelievable place of worship! All this was created by King Rama I for his Queen to let her know her worth and what a jewel she must have been. Someone care to create me some architectural eye candy? 🙋 (Entry: 500B)
A five minute walk away from the Palace lies one of the largest Reclining Buddha’s in the world; definitely worth a look at. He watches you intently as you walk down the corridor that lies next to where he does. Take a really good look at his feet too – which are always my favorite part of this particular Buddha – because they are a detailed map of the story he has to tell.
Other factors to consider:
Lub D Bangkok Silom: A chilled hostel, perfect after a long journey. Basic rooms, but very comfortable beds with lots of space to pre-drink in. Probably the nicest shared bathrooms I’ve had during my trip, with lots of clean cubicles available, suds, mirrors and hair dryers. There’s also kind staff with a list of recommended parlours, so they’ll point you in the right direction if you’re looking for a spot of relaxation amidst the craziness of the city! 8 bed dorm: £9.83 AVG a night (****)
Kama Hotel: Stylish and comfortable, this studio inspired layout really exurbs luxury. They host wide spacious rooms and clean bathrooms with a cosy communal area. The staff there go above and beyond to help you; we arrived from Koh Pha Nang at 4am (unexpectedly) and wasn’t supposed to check in until 12pm – yet once reception opened at 8am, we were shown straight to our room to catch up on some much needed sleep. Note: Reception isn’t available 24 hours around the clock, but if you email in advance, they’ll do all they can to assist you! Private double room: £15 a night (****)
Transport: Uber works in Bangkok and they charge you local prices, so it’s definitely worth downloading. We were travelling for around 10/15 minutes for just 60B (less than a pound each). We much preferred it to the cabbies that REFUSE to use the meter for tourists no matter what you say; they’d rather loose out on custom like total idiots even though it’s actually illegal to operate business like this in Bangkok! Train’s are also super cheap, costing no more than a quid for a single journey. They’re similar to London in efficiency but have air con which is a blessing 🙌! Tuk tuk’s are negotiable, sure, but can be a right pain in the arse to be honest with you; you’re probably looking at no cheaper than 100B/150B each (£3.50) a journey – no matter how many of you fill the wagon.
Food: When we stayed in Kama Hotel in Sathorn, just around the corner was an amazing restaurant called Sanjean which did the best yellow curry I’ve EVER had…for just 45B (£1.05) 😱. If you like a mild coconut infused curry that’s flavoursome and filling, you just have to visit the family run restaurant between 10am-5pm to fill your boots. Pad Thai is the my personal favorite throughout Thailand – if you haven’t had it before, you just must try it! Look for the locals grabbing it from a street stall and grab some for yourself too. It’s cheap, cheerful and the main dish of Thailand so it’s pretty much everywhere and 90% of the time it’s bloody fantastic! Don’t pay more than 60B(£1.40)👍
That’s my round up of Bangkok for you, and perfect proof that two experiences in one place can be so different (hence why you have to make your own story on the road)! But I would recommend ANYONE visiting to venture further than Koh San road to discover how you can fall in love with the city…