To my opinion the city was rather precisely presented in the Hangover movie. It’s big, it’s crazy and it has its own character which is not so easy to handle.
You can’t be too careful here, as there is just too much happening, too many distractions and too many people exploiting this. Don’t get me wrong though, I did enjoy it here a lot.
My local experience started early in the morning in Don Mueang airport after the Thai lady said “we don’t accept cards and the ATM is outside of the terminal”. Very lovely – you need to pay for the visa in local cash, but you can’t withdraw it until you go through the immigration for which you actually need that visa.
After a lengthy negotiation Thailand finally agreed to make an exception and one immigration officer accompanied me outside. My illegal visit lasted no more than 5 minutes after which I received a fresh visa stamped into my passport in no time. With all formalities cleared the 30km taxi ride from the airport, even with the traffic, did not seem that long at all.
Traffic in Bangkok
Traffic jams is a separate story here. It doesn’t matter if you are in a car or on a motorbike. Seems like there’s plenty of waiting around for everyone. Even if you need to drive for only 500m on a certain road you can be stuck there for half an hour. And the traffic is really crazy, it goes to any direction – forward, backward, against the flow and even sideways.
Upon arrival I went to explore the city and for this purpose Bangkok has a nice system of skytrains and metro that can take you to majority of places. For those not accessible by this system tourists usually use tuk tuks, or regular taxies.
I, on the other hand, spotted some boats in narrow canals between Bangkok’s skyscrapers and it looked like a more fun way to move around the city. These canals are very dirty and stink a lot, as if it was a kind of sport in which people compete who can throw out more garbage in the water. So, whenever there was a splash into the cabin I wondered how come nothing is yet growing inside the boat.
Along the river there is a whole different life. The one tourists don’t see – tiny apartments, clothes hanging out of the windows, do-it-yourself laundry and other Thai gems.
After a rather quick ride in a boat (compared to traffic-full streets of Bangkok) it was time for a walk. Despite the intense traffic the city is very pedestrian friendly – there are sidewalks everywhere and it’s easy to find your way around.
Compared to Jakarta (where there are not many proper sidewalks), pedestrians here are quite welcome and you don’t always need a taxi to get to a place 500 meters away from you. It’s possible to walk that far.
Don’t worry about not bringing something to eat or drink with you. Street vendors will be happy to sell you water, snacks, food, souvenirs, temple candles or anything else.
In addition, there are local markets all around the city and it’s never boring to explore. There is always something happening. The best part is whatever they offer to you is very cheap. Shirts, handmade bags, glasses, dresses, etc. You rarely find something more expensive than 5 euros. If you do – negotiate and remember that if the vendor is hesitating to name the price, you can get it much cheaper.
With all the madness we should not forget that these people are Buddhists. You can see it all around the city. It is not unusual to see a full scale trade going on just 50 meters away from the shrine where people pray. And it’s not only this. You can find packages to give to monks for sale in the shops, monks themselves in the city, mini temples and so on.
The city is great – it’s diverse and fun. However, locals don’t really let you relax. They try to trick you into buying things you don’t want and get you somewhere you don’t want. It always starts with either “hey, where are you from?”, or “hey, where are you going?”. It’s worth remembering that despite how hard we try, we won’t change the fact that we are only tourists here. So we better be on full alert and don’t let Bangkok have us, right?