17th - 22nd December 2014The train journey from Ayutthaya to Bangkok was comfortable and went without any holdups. Rail is certainly the most hassle free way to travel Thailand as you don't have to put up with unprofessional and mismanaged private minibus firms and you know the locomotives will arrive on time.
On the advice of a family friend we decided to avoid Khaosan Road (Backpacker Street) and stay at "Saphaipai Hostel" in the heart of the financial district. The financial district is much more accessible than Khaosan due to its close proximity to the Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT) networks. The hostel is only a ten minute walk away from the nearest ferry terminal which brings you close to Khaosan anyway so all round it made perfect sense to use the facility as a base to explore the Thai capital.
Saphaipai was a real luxury stop for us and although we stayed in a ten person dorm the beds were a good size (we could actually lay down in them without adopting the recovery position) and other services like great showers, wifi, breakfast included and a tour/ticket desk we couldn't ask for more.
The only downside was that because the wifi was so good it did reduce the social aspect of the hostel. Sometimes we wanted the staff to adopt a 8pm curfew (I hear there good at that in Thailand) to force people to look up from their iPhones and actually do some real social networking.
If you want legitimate stuff head to the very top floor where you can find Panthips main electronic department store (check link below for more info).
We continued our shopping spree as we were both in need of a couple of T-shirts and the chance to try some free samples of cologne. Every backpacker knows that 6 months is more than enough time for the sweat rot to take its toll. Just a few BTS stops away is Terminal 21. Nine floors of every shop known to mankind including the much sought after H&M.
Terminal 21 provided our first cultural opportunity in Bangkok in the form of a visit to the cinema. Unlike most countries Thailand takes its pride in its royal family to a new level and before any film showing everyone must rise for the national anthem. With our movie and shopping requirements fulfilled we moved our focus onto experiencing the city.
|Sure its a sprawling metropolis but that doesn't mean its all concrete and crime
|The Bangkok Beatles courtesy of: thailandblog.nl
- Agree an entry price. (the legitimate venues will always charge an entry fee so if you ask at the door and the say its free, don't enter because chances are the beer prices will quadruple. That's what happened with us.)
- Don't allow your group to be ushered to a venue by guys at the end of the street.
- If you do go somewhere and it feels like a con get out as quick as you can (you may have to throw some cash in the process).
- Don't go to a ping pong show when your so pissed you cant stand. The reason is obvious as you will loose all your cash and probably get a good kicking in the process.
(it must be noted that our experience was a bad and frustrating one and we did meet people who saw a show with no problems at all)
Being hustled hurts when your travelling on a budget but we learnt from our mistake and used the opportunity to take in the sights around Pat Pang. The street has a notorious reputation made famous in "The Hangover 2" for good reason. The street is swamped with hundreds of prostitutes, sex shows and "pool" bars. Its fair to say the street isn't held in high regard with most Thai's who see the street as a blight on the cities reputation but its still an interesting place.
Another Bangkok street popular with tourists is the previously mentioned Khao San Road. The street is wall to wall eateries and bars with a few clubs thrown in for good measure. Its almost solely populated by tourists in the evening and the place makes a good setting for a good night on the piss. Although if your looking for a cultured and civilized evening where your not going to be hounded to buy bracelets, knuckle dusters and other random crap look elsewhere.
It wasn't all bars and strip clubs though I promise. On our penultimate day Jono and I ventured towards the heart of the Skytrain network to visit a building of learning. The "Human Body Museum" is pretty hard to find as its located on the 9th floor of the Dentistry Faculty Building of Chulalongkorn University (near Siam Square). However its well worth spending time to locate. The museum only occupies two small rooms but the entire exhibition is made up of 14 dissected plastinated human bodies donated from Japan. Its certainly the weirdest and possibly most interesting museum we've ever visited. The best thing is there's no gate fee although small donations are accepted to help maintain the site.
|The human body like you've never seen it before.
After avoiding another hiccup in our plans we made steady progress south towards Krabi a little pissed off, flustered and knackered but relieved.
Human Body Museum
Flann O'brien's Pub
Patpong Rd: Red Light District