The things we loved and hated about Bangkok

I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends about their visit to Bangkok. Here was our take.

BKK Bangkok Wat Phra Kheo 1_2_b

What we hated about Bangkok

The old district was filled with beautiful palaces, temples, and markets – some of which took our breath away. Most of the time however we were cramped in huge queues and packed walkways. Traffic was so bad that it took 1-hour to get from place-to-place by taxi, when it should only have taken 15 minutes; leaving us to decide whether to walk for an hour or sit in traffic for an hour. Lose / Lose.

Grand-Palace-Bangkok

To kick a tourist when they’re down, scammers made sure we missed out on some great sites – literally. We have traveled A LOT and by now are used to avoiding 10X overpriced cabs or tuk-tuks (thank god for Uber, BTW). We’ve heard the let’s-be-friends-and-shake-hands gag, that precludes trying to sell an overpriced tour, a million times before. Those typical tourist traps didn’t bring us down.

We were caught off guard, however, when locals (dressed up like staff at the gates of each site) said, “You can’t get in with those clothes”, or, “The temple is closed for a service for two hours. Come back later.” We were wearing shorts and read that some temples don’t allow that type of attire. We thought, why would a scammer turn you away instead of offering a tour? So, we assumed it was all legit.

Our red flags started getting raised when the warnings were followed up with a helpful rundown of what is open in the area and ended with the classic, “I’ll show you around for 100 Baht” – plus 200 Baht for this and 500 Baht for that. We thought they were just workers just trying to make an extra buck – no biggie. We told them, “no thanks” as we started rearranging our schedule around what we were told were unavailable sites. We would have missed out on these sites completely had it not been for the fact that we walked up to the “REAL”  entrance accidently and saw a bunch of people in shorts getting in. WTF?

Turns out, not only were the temples open but you could borrow garments to cover improper clothing for free. The best scams are filled with a bit of truth, right? What a shitty thing to do: turn tourists away from sites just to get them to take a tour instead. It seemed like everywhere we turned people were using this gag, and it felt like the last straw. Or maybe it was the last straw when a local got cursed at us after we ignored him when he tried to use the, “you can’t get in, ride with me instead!” line on us as he followed us down the block.

What we loved about Bangkok

large_019_Hua_Hin_Night_Market

We really have a new appreciation for why people find Bangkok so polarizing. On the nights we avoided the old town area we really enjoyed ourselves. Not only was our hotel suite only $50/night, but it was located in a modern and trendy area. Our hotel offered a free tuk-tuk to the nearby market (and since it wasn’t as congested where we stayed the ride took minutes, as expected.) We had amazing 1-hour Thai massages for $5.50. Our 1-hour cab rides were $4 on Uber. The nearby night market was reasonably quiet and enjoyed great food for about $1.50 a plate.

The Siam Paragon shopping center in Bangkok is decorated for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

We were surprised by just how modern the downtown areas were. Every few stops on the metro line (which cost $0.50-$1 per person) had 9-story malls filled with gourmet restaurants, bakeries, and chic retail stores. You won’t get jaw dropping prices in these areas. As a matter of fact, some places were as expensive or more expensive than they were back home, but everything was so close to one another you could easily choose between a great budget meal at a street vender or a gourmet pastry in the mall.

Asiatique, although touristy, was another cool outdoor shopping mall. Again, it was filled with high priced items, but it felt like a place you’d be happy to visit back home and we found that to be a nice break from the chaos.

Why is Bangkok So Polarizing?

As you can read above, it dramatically depends on where and when you decide to visit sites and where you choose to stay in the city. I’d suggest beating the rush by getting through the temples in the old part of town super early, and read up on where the entrances really are, what dress codes are required-ish, and the day’s opening hours, so you can’t be easily duped. Walking around with headphones may even help you avoid the cacophony of honking sounds and the hoard of locals trying to take advantage of grabbing your attention.

Then, be sure to relax in the parts of town away from the chaos and position yourself to easily walk from spot-to-spot before grabbing a cab in a lightly populated area. Also, go into Bangkok willing to accept that you will always be duped out of $1-5 per transaction. If you go in (and budget) with that mentality, instead of thinking in percentage (e.g. “they charged me twice as much as they should have!”) it will sting far less.

Things that go BUMP in the night (in Sri Lanka) by Jackie

ZachGbugs

So, it all started late one night, in a hotel, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the jungle, in Sri Lanka….

I am woken up in the middle of the night, by some mysterious noises happening across the room.  Me – “Sean! What is that?!” Sean (groggily) – “What?” Me – “THAT! what is that NOISE?!” and I click on the lights.  Sean tip toes over to the corner of the room where I think the noise is coming from, moves the huge ceiling to floor curtains, and suddenly he says, “Oh my GAWD! You DON’T want to know what it is. Do NOT come over here”.   I am panicking on the inside, true flight or fight mode, thinking the worst, that it’s a snake or a tarantula, I KNOW it! So I am relieved when Sean finally tells me it’s a mouse.  Then he says he thinks the mouse is “kind of cute”. I say, “Let’s switch rooms,” instead, we call the front desk to explain the situation and I settle to let someone come to the room to try to chase the “cute” mouse out.  The time is now 1:15am.

Poor guy that worked there came to our room in the middle of the night to try to catch the mouse which we figured out was hiding in the huge wooden media console that held the tv.  He brought a can of bug spray and tried to catch him in a towel.  I hid in the bathroom while Sean and this poor guy (who spoke no English and was about 16 years old) chased the mouse around the room.  Finally they “thought” they got him out the patio door so Sean says, “Let’s go back to sleep” (yeah right) So the guy leaves, we go back to bed, and about 15 minutes later, the papers on the media console go flying off and hit the ground and we realize the mouse is not gone at all, and is back with a vengeance, throwing things in the room to get back at us.  Now I say, quite firmly, “WE ARE SWITCHING ROOMS. CALL THEM” And while we wait for them to come back and assign us our new room, we discover a second, slightly larger mouse run behind THE BED, so I am sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room so they don’t get me, and Sean goes over to the bedside table, opens the drawer, and WHOOP! THERE HE IS! Looking up at Sean.  So cute.

A bunch of hotel workers show up now, including the manager wearing his pajamas, to help us move our things to another room, and when we settle in the new room (which is right next door so I am worried the angry mice clan will follow us) we hear the guys bumping around next door, moving furniture, furiously trying to catch the little (big) buggers.  We called them mice, the workers called them rats, so maybe they were baby rats? I would have felt better thinking they were mice, but whatever, so is life in Sri Lanka in the middle of the jungle….at 2am…