Thailand has been on our (and probably on everybody’s) bucket list for years. I guess what makes this country such a desirable destination is a cocktail of juicy ingredients: delicious and cheap street food, Indiana Jones’s-like ancient ruins, picture perfect heavenly beaches, opulent temples and royal palaces, laid back hippie atmosphere… Who can resist?
Visiting Florida and the Bahamas during the off season taught us a lesson: don’t mess with tropical countries in the wet season! This time around, we acted a bit less naive and actually checked, before booking our flight, which time of the year was the best to go there. And winter turned out to be the ideal time with dry sunny weather and average temperatures of 30°C… A dream! The anticipation of this trip made many depressing winter moments in London a bit less traumatic.
Without much booking, apart for the first accommodation, a night train ticket and two internal flights tickets, with an incredibly vague plan in our heads, me and Isa hopped on a plane to Bangkok and started a two weeks backpack adventure.
Day 1 and 2: Bangkok
After a very bad start with 2 drunken idiots sat behind us on both our 7 hours flights, we landed in Bangkok where we immediately plunged in the city chaotic yet welcoming vibes, without knowing that we got there in time to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Two nights and one day in Bangkok are totally NOT enough. I wish we hadn’t listened to all the people that said not to stop for too long in the capital. Here are our impressions from the first two days:
Grand Palace and temples
Cover your shoulders and knees, don’t mind the tourists around you, smell the incense, listen to the litanies, take off your shoes and get ready to be stunned and to take hundreds of pictures. The magic of this places is simply irresistible: from the ubiquitous golden Buddhas, to the colourful, mosaic covered, chedis, halls and shrines. Every single detail is there to take your breath away. We personally preferred Wat Pho (home of a humongous reclining Buddha) over the incredibly crowded grand palace .
Wat Phra Kaew
And it’s definitely worth it to jump on a boat, cross the river and watch the sunset and the great view of the city from the top of Wat Arun.
Street food. Ignoring street food in Bangkok is a blasphemy. Just like going to London and skipping the Big Ben! Food is literally everywhere and the variety the streets offer is wide enough to drive you crazy. Luckily the prices are so cheap to allow you never to say no. That’s how you end up eating the juiciest exotic fruits you’ve ever had, followed by spicy chicken skewers and sticky rice, followed by pad thai, followed by papaya salad, followed by roti (a delicious crepe with bananas and condensed milk), and so on. It really never stops and God bless Thailand for this!
The flower market
Buzzing, scented, colourful and frantic. We happened to be there on our first night by chance and it was love at first sight. Sorry Amsterdam, but your fame is totally overrated.
More tips and observations from our first days
It's super easy to get lost and as soon as you move away from the touristic attractions the streets become a proper dark maze, adorned with an unconceivable amount of tangled electrical wiring. Ugly, dirty and a bit dodgy at times, but man, what a personality! And if you get nervous, uncomfortable or stressed out for not knowing where you are located on the map, just look for a tuk-tuk. That said, tuk-tuks are the unsafest transports I’ve ever been on and their drivers often try to rip you off, but c’mon, you only live once. And what’s better than the adrenaline of a Fast and Furious drive in these infamous streets? Forgive me mum.
Khaosan Road is just rashy enough to become a Mecca for alternative young tourists, especially Brits, and for those who want to party hard, get inks that they will regret, and pretend to be living la vida loca in Thai style. This place tasted a bit too much like plastic for us and felt as real as Pamela Anderson’s boobs. But I guess this is the exaggerated, Westerner-pleaser side of Bangkok and it is still worth to take a look, or at least, to walk thorough it.
When you get the chance visit local Chinatown! By coincidence we were there on the night of Chinese New Year and we couldn't have planned it any better! With its huge neon signs, its chaos and noise, It really brought back many memories from the days I spent in Shanghai and I could see that Isabel was quite amazed by it too. A lot of travel guides suggest visiting the Chatuchak Weekend Market and The Lonely Planet even advises to dedicate a whole day to this place. We thought it was a bit extreme as a tip but we actually had to change our minds. It’s the biggest market I’ve ever seen and walking across really becomes exhausting after a while (to the point they created some resting areas). Don’t forget to negotiate!
And a word on the locals, don’t expect many locals to understand or speak English. But do expect them to be nice, welcoming and cheerful.