Okay first, the title might give you the wrong idea so just to clear things, Bangkok isn’t really “dangerous.” Or at least not more than any other South East Asian city. But I would not go as far as saying that it is a safe place, because it’s not. It’s far from being Tokyo safe. There are tons of people lurking in street corners ready to rip off those precious greens from the first unsuspecting tourist (which is the same as in a lot of other touristy cities in the world).
Bangkok is a popular destination. A trip to Bangkok has become some kind of rite of passage for the 20 something westerners who are looking for adventure in an exotic place. Bangkok is a cocktail of urban chaos and asian exoticness. To visit giant temples, one does not need to go through jungles or take long and bumpy drives. The night life is also quite an experience. But most tourists probably visit Bangkok on their way to the more remarkable beach/party destination like Phuket and Ko Samui.
Personally, I find Bangkok not as impressive as I had expected. But that’s probably because I was in it for the historical sites. And just having visited Angkor Wat, the temples of Bangkok paled in comparison. What I find rather interesting is the night life in Bangkok. I’m not really much into clubbing but Bangkok’s night life seem to offer rather an edgy feel appealing to the thrill-seeker in me.
B was tasked to plan this part of the trip. Having travelled by land from Cambodia, we took a 4-hour bus ride from the Aranyaprathet border to Bangkok. We got to the hostel at around 8 pm so there wasn’t much time left to sightsee. We went out to have dinner but couldn’t find anything appealing so we ended up in pizza hut. After dinner, we decided to look for a place to get thrashed. The hostel was in one of the shady areas in the city. We saw a street lined with bars and clubs and headed there. Some seemed like legit bars where people, mainly tourists, crowd- beer in hand making all kinds of drunken noises. Then from out of the blue appear clubs with bar girls staying outside luring customers in. The presence of bar girls outside would not have been anything different save for the part that the girls were clad in bikinis. It’s even more interesting once you get up close with these girls and find out that some of them aren’t really girls. Then there were those men in plain clothes approaching tourists offering “services.” Whew! Color me prudish but that’s really not my scene. After the exhillirating walk down the sin street, we ended up choosing a nondescript empty watering hole. We ordered some beer, hung out, then left for that much coveted hours of sleep. Quite a lame ending for what was supposed to be a night of risque adventures.
Later on I found out that the area is called Patpong which is known for being the red-light district of Bangkok. Aside from go-go bars, Patpong also has a night market you can visit.
The next day was more of my thing. We left the hotel quite late and took a river taxi along the Khlong Saen Sap. Getting to the station was quite the task as there were no clear signs. We had to test our luck and took the first boat that passed by. The water looked filty which made me an awful lot uncomfortable. I am seriously repulsed by getting in contact with dirty water so i was fidgety during the whole boat ride. After the taxi ride, a tuktuk driver offered a tuktuk ride through all the temples in the area for a small fee and in exchange for us visiting some souvernir shops. With the heat clouding our judgement, we agreed and proceeded with the tour. We were half aware that we were being conned but went with it anyway because the ultrapacked schedule was already taking its toll on us. We didn’t wanna walk around and bake under the sun. Also, we had no more energy to bargain with tuktuk drivers. (yes, the backpacker in me argued profusely but my tired feet and burnt skin prevailed. again, the timing of this trip could have been better but holiday beggars can’t be choosers.)
After the temple-hopping, we took a cab to Baan Khanitha restaurant to have our late lunch. It was difficult finding a cab that would use the meter but fortunately we found one after haggling a few times. Taking the cab has proven to be a bad idea though. Traffic moved slower than a turtle. We got stuck inside the cab until we finally decided to just walk the rest of the way. We couldn’t find our way to the restaurant so we tried asking around but our effort went to waste because the locals couldn’t seem to understand our pronunciation. So we kept on walking until we finally found the place.
The food was almost awesome. almost. it’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it. it’s just that it’s better than good but not quite awesome. The mango shake however was a different story. Mango from the tropics is really a gift from the heavens. It made me remember summers spent at home with an abundant supply of sweet succulent mangoes. The restaurant is a bit pricey for Bangkok but it’s still within reasonable range.
After eating we collected our stuff from the hotel and headed to the train station for our night train to phuket. We tried reserving for tickets earlier that day but all the good seats were full. We were left with 4 seats in a non-airconditioned car with hard wooden seats (no recline!) for a 14-hour train ride. I hope with that you can picture how awful the train ride was. It would be best to reserve tickets in advance to make sure that you get the sleeper berths or at the very least the reclining cushioned seats!
With nothing else to do, we grudgingly took our seats. The beer we brought with us was not enough to get us past the discomfort. And so we soldiered on to the night, sticky wind blowing in our faces. The image of waves and sand serves as the silver lining in what felt like a train ride beyond hell.
*photos and links to follow