Bangkok itself is a typical city- packed and a real patience tester both when walking around and when sat in the back of a cab. Traffic here is INSANE. It’s not out of the ordinary to spend over half an hour at a complete stand still, while the taxi meter still goes up of course. But it still takes ages to reach the equivalent of what the UK taxi start rates are so it’s not too much of a problem. The first point of call was Khao San Road, which was a lot calmer than I expected, but we did get here in May, not exactly peak time for tourists. Tourist traps are everywhere, from guys following you from one end of the road to the next with their tacky tattoo books full of generic designs (as soon as they spot you already have a tattoo that’s it you’re an easy target for them.) And the tuk tuk drivers sit outside every hotel in sight, howling at you as you walk past and honking at every junction if you dare to leave Khao San Road.
I had five days to kill before starting my teaching induction so I wanted to see as much of Bangkok as possible. The first day I stupidly fell for a tuk tuk ploy “oh the Grand Palace is closed until the afternoon, see these other temples first as it’s special buddhist day then we take you to see Palace.” I should have done my research beforehand, because after getting back from my tuk tuk trip I learned all about this scam and how ‘special buddhist day’ does not exist and of course the Palace was not closed that morning. We agreed on a price with the driver, only 40 bhat for two of us and four different temple stops before Grand Palace. Didn’t seem too bad so we agreed and looked forward to seeing some of Bangkok’s cultural spots. Unfortunately, the cheap price has a catch- stopping off at the most random, pointless shops in the middle of no where so the driver can get his ‘petrol token.’ We only spent two minutes inside the first two shops, I guess they figured out we didn’t want to actually buy a customised 2000 bhat suit or random gold ring from them and then insisited we leave, much to the tuk tuk drivers annoyance as he then spent over five minutes lecturing us about how we need to spend 10 minutes inside the shop for him to get his token. Looking back, we should have hopped out and said good riddence after the first shop but stupidly we carried on and went from shop to shop until finally we went to a clothes store and spent 20, that’s right 20 minutes inside convincing the shop sellers that we wanted to buy a new outfit. After closely clock watching and doing laps of the store trying to avoid actually buying anything we made a swift exit back into the now delighted drivers tuk tuk. It didn’t end there though, he took us to two temples before insisting we see a government tourist place. We had already wanted to book a tour anyway and get out of Bangkok for a day so we booked a tour seeing the floating market and train market. 2000 bhat spent we told the tuk tuk driver, who was all of a sudden suspiciously quiet. He took us to temple number four and then decided he was hungry and we had to pay him so he could leave. Seems Mr tuk tuk driver received a nice commision for our 2000 bhat spend and therefore decided to be done with us, obviously ignoring the fact that the whole plan for the day was for us to visit the Grand Palace! That was not a fun walk back to Khao San Road (what is a nice quick 15 minute walk back home in England is a mini hell in scorching bangkok when you don’t stop off for regular shade/drink breaks.)
The rest of the week was much more smooth sailing, it was now clear to avoid tuk tuk drivers if you actually have a plan for the day and wanted to see specific places. Though, I never did get round to seeing the Grand Palace which I’m pretty gutted about. The Train Market and Floating Market tour was definitely worth doing, we left the hotel at 6am and headed off for our 2 hour minibus journey. We had half an hour before the train was due through the market so spent the time walking through this dark neverending tunnel of market stalls lined up one after the other, each selling different items of Thai food. It’s claustrophobic to say the least and VERY busy but this added to the excitement of getting to see a train go through this narrow market.
We walked back outside to the entrance of the market so we could get a good view of the train itself approaching. Five minutes before the train was due we started to get worried, people were stood in the middle of the tracks taking selfies or just generally standing around without a care in the world. It wasn’t until the train horns started and could be heard in the distance that a Thai person had to come and start moving everyone to the side and into any possible spare gap. Two minutes of horn blowing later the train arrived and was actually so much wider than I expected. This thing goes right by you, you can see right into the windows and are close enough to make eye contact with those inside the train. The market stalls each move their food and covers out of the way one by one like a domino effect as the train passes, every hour they have to do this! The train was gone without a couple of minutes so we could go back to our bus to continue the tour and visit the Floating Market.
There’s no denying the Floating Market is definitely something to experience if you’re in Thailand. The long boats and thai ladies selling fruit and vegetables with their big wooden hats looks really good in photos but the actual experience was completely underwhelming unfortunately. We got into our boat (carefully- they are extremely wobbly and we saw a poor old Thai couple fall in so were not willing to repeat that) with two other girls from the minibus and headed down the canal. Within a minute we stopped at a sellers boat who was picking up the most random items and shoving them into our faces. “Spices! Colours! Mini Buddha!” We all politely said no and our boat carried on its way. Unfortunately, each seller we went to was selling the exact same stuff. It was like deja vu over and over again as we got offered spices, colouring pens and mini Buddha ornaments. What happened to the authentic fruit and veg boats and actual useful Thai souvenirs like Thai silk or jewellery etc. We got off the boat feeling massively disappointed, nevertheless it was an experience to cross off the list.
The remaining couple of days were spent chilling and making the most of our free time before working started. I’m not sure if it was the heat or something they put in the drinks at Khao San Road, but I was a complete lightweight for those five days, so most evenings became a haze of beer and overheating. Khao San’s good to ease you into moving into a new country, as it wasn’t a complete culture shock straight away, but I don’t recommend any more than 5 days there. The food’s overpriced, bland and after 5 nights of not sleeping I was actually looking forward to starting my teaching induction.