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.

The Bill of Nights

When night falls
When night falls

No Goals

What we are talking about here is the grasping of some greater force, call it fate or kismet, that can be harnessed if one is willing to give themselves up to natures will and allow this ‘force’ to guide them through their day. I have done my research my friends and can safely say that if you live in a city such as DC, NY, LA, SF or even Huntington Beach, CA you have an amazing story awaiting your discover right outside your door any day of the week. There is no need to plan, no need to find a buddy, no need to check the news paper for events. Nope, you and the city can work together to create an amazing night. It all lives within the faith and trust you give your cement filled provider.

Sping Stroll
Spring Stroll

Persue the unexpected

You must give in and recognize the unexpected pleasures that can only be found when walking aimlessly through a bustling city. Is it a pleasure that can only be understood while doing so. Much like Martin Buber wrote in “I and Thou”,:
it is within the moment that understanding is achieved. The moments after a moment is realized the human mind begins to analyze it, it begins to process the moment thrusting it away from the experience you’re having and into your memory, or it will begin trying anticipate what should be expected to happen next; the experience itself is short lived and is felt – not understood.

Every time you leave your house and you give your fine city a chance to express itself it will return the favor with a parade you didn’t know about, a race that wasn’t on your calendar, a must see sculpture to see thats not on your to-do’s, an unfortunate accident that will be seen on the news to your suburban counterparts only hours after you have taken it in, or a simple interaction with a new or old friend that you didn’t expect in a part of town neither of you have any good reason being in. Adventure must be your middle name and patience must be your side kick.

The rules are fair and must be followed to a T and with complete acceptance both of the mind, the body and the spirit. They are as follows:

Simple Version (Bill of Nights Lite):

1) Go out early on a beautiful day
2) Don’t expect anything more then getting the chance to experience your city
3) Don’t make plans or make phone calls to see what your friends are up to
4) Push your self to stay out all day and night, do not go home till after midnight

Full Body Version (mmmm…..Sooooo meaty):
1) You must pick a beautiful day. Good weather and good sun is key

2) You must leave the house early, no later then 11 AM

3) You cannot have any expectations or plans set up for the day.

4) You must be prepared to enjoy the day and nature for what it is, do not expect to drink, or have “fun”. Focus more on getting to know your city, enjoying the day and being alone with your thoughts

5) You can not call a friend, you can answer calls but you can not make calls at any point of the night to see what going on with others. Doing so will derail the fate that nature has worked so hard to prepare that you have no chance of foreseeing.

Rules
Rules

6) You must go into any bar, restaurant or diner that catches your eye. If you have even the slightest of curiosity – follow it. Even if it’s to just go inside the establishment and walk around to get a feel for it and leave.

7) You must force your self to have a beer, snack or coffee at some of these places. Try your best not to convince yourself otherwise, walk in!

8) Make small talk with strangers. I know this is tough for many of you, especially the shy ones, but as a recovering shyaholic I must tell you every chat has possible outcomes that grow exponentially greater when you and your world are combined to help permiutate the possible outcomes; onother words its necessary to shake your destiny up a bit. Small talk with strangers when you’re by yourself is like a brilliant chef throwing spices into a soup that allows for an unexpected taste to dazzle his customers. I learned from traveling throughout Europe that it was the necessity to experience my surrounding on a budget that forced me to asked questions about where to go, how they like their town etc. As Blanche DuBois put it , Always depend on the kindness of strangers

9) Wear sneakers

10) If you get tired sit on a bench but don’t get too comfortable, keep walking and exploring new neighborhoods. There is always a dip of excitement a few hours into the adventure. It’s normal and is a hump that needs to be passed much like a cramp you would get in a race.

11) Observe your surrounding do not stare at the ground

12) Do not have head phones on. The city is bustling with activity and you may just find, as I always have, someone you know in a random part of town bump into you. It’s amazing how bloody often this happens!

13) You must stay out till after midnight and not in any single place….once again keep moving

14) say yes. If you do see someone you know and they ask you to come with them for lunch or a beer etc….go!

15) Always leave one opportunity experienced for another new presented opportunity. Allot of people go wrong here. The night turns out great early, they get excited that The Bill of Nights worked and get too comfortable in that experience to entertain the possibility of a different one. A new request comes in and is turned down, the person thinking that the night was already success…it is not a success until you are out after midnight and interacting with all possible out comes. See 3+4

——————-

Remember it is not a single event your are perusing rather it is the night as a whole. Experience new things, new neighborhoods, all new adventures every chance you get. I know it snot easy. I catch myself making mistakes now and again but stick to the mantra and correct myself as soon as I can. I have had an amazing night implementing The Bill of Nights 100% out of the 10-12 times I’ve done it. Not only that, but close friends that implemented it correctly have also succeeded in an amazing story about unexpected encounteres and memorable experiences.

If you believe in your city, your city will believe in you!

P.S. If you have a good or bad experience from your Implementation of “The Bill of Nights” leave it. Share your experience and comments 😀