A beginners guide to Bangkok
Everything you see in the movies about Bangkok is true. It is so densely populated, the city stretches beyond comprehension and there is just oh so much going on in every nook and cranny, no wonder I was thinking it and Rob said it, if you wanted to hide for any reason Bangkok is the place to do it. The people of Bangkok are well adjusted to tourists trampling over their city, they are opportunists and if you don’t have your wits about you it is quite easy to be quite literally taken for a ride.
If you are are arriving in Bangkok by air landing at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang Airport you have a few options for transport, but every time we have arrived in Bangkok we have taken a private taxi so I can only make comment on this experience. You will need to follow the signs towards taxi if this is the method of transport you are taking and wait in line. Approaching the desk you will need to show the officer your address and then they will tell the driver, who leaves their taxi outside to come in to pick you up, and then off you go. It seems a bit unconventional in this day in age, but when you make your way to the taxi desks you’ll need more than just an address. I don’t know if it is just us, and sometimes I think it is, but each time we have arrived in Bangkok with our Agoda booking in hand, both the driver and booking officer have really struggled to work out where exactly to take us. I would advise to print out maps of where your accommodation is or take as many screengrabs as you can whilst you are online, of course if you intend on using data whilst traveling you are good to go. It seems drivers do not believe in map books or god forbid GPS, they prefer to go from memory which is extreme as this city is enormous!!
This is where the hustling begins, you should always go by the meter, even if the driver objects, stand your ground and insist you go with the meter. We have found that taxi drivers will casually tell you 600baht (of some other exorbitant price) including tolls, making it sound like this is a great price and it is quite easy to agree to this to keep things amicable, but don’t, insist on using the meter. On average you’ll probably go through two tolls which the driver will potentially pay themselves or ask you to hand over the money (usually abruptly without much notice when you are already at the toll booth). You receive a receipt for the payment and you can also see the cost flash up on the outside of the toll booth so no need to worry about this payment, if the driver covers this cost pay they will add this on to the final amount when you arrive at your destination – so keep track of what has been paid out during the trip, there is also a 50baht charge that will be added to the final amount which the drivers have to pay when picking customers up from the airport.
You could spend weeks in Bangkok, visiting all those nooks and crannys I mentioned, including the outer regions where you will find the floating markets and tiger temple, both of which we haven’t visited ourselves. The shopping is crazy and the transport system is immense, but take 15 minutes to get your head around the ticketing system and the ins and outs of all the different lines and it is quite easy to get around this city. As you get more central tuk-tuks are a dime a dozen and after being in smaller cities it’s a relief to find that the drivers seem to leave you alone a little more than they usually do in other cities. Once again, stand your ground – if you decide you only want to say 50baht to get to Khaosan Road keep trying until you get it, tuk-tuk drivers will never agree on the first price you offer them.
Speaking of Khaosan Road, I’m sure you have heard of it, is the backpackers hubbub of Bangkok. We have never stayed in this area ourselves and I haven’t investigated it but I am pretty sure there is a huge amount of accommodation in this area is it appeals to you. We prefer to stay further a field where accommodation and food is of better quality and you can actually experience the Thai culture. We find on Khaosan road, although things are cheap, this is the backpackers mecca and the locals know it, so quality often goes out the window. We like to explore and although don’t venture too dangerously local, we have sound some amazing food down side streets with very few other tourists.
We also wanted to share our experience with using luggage storage in Bangkok as we traveled from Sydney with four suitcases, two of which were packed with our winter Canada gear and weren’t coming along with us for our month in Asia. Rob did some research and came across Bangkok Self Storage which was ideal for the long term storage we needed. We are aware the airports both offer this service but it didn’t really suit us as they did not allow laptops to be stored and we had Rob’s Mac that we didn’t want to cart around with us. We ended up booking accommodation only 2km up the road so it would make it easier to drop our bags off the day after we landed, and then booked a room at a cheaper hotel the night before we flew out of Bangkok so we could once again easily pick up our extra luggage. Bangkok Self Storage was our knight in shining armor, it was so easy to drop our bags off and once again collect them four weeks later, and so affordable costing us 800baht for the entire stay, a price we would have been happy to double to be honest. The company is owned by a friendly Englishman who we met on pick-up, I am assuming as it was the weekend this is when he is in the office as there were a couple of Thai girls working when we originally dropped the bags off, however it was still easy enough to get them checked in. A great experience and we highly recommend using them. Our local accommodation was Jasmine Grande Residence and Boss Mansions, both suited us for our needs at the time but we wouldn’t stay again if we weren’t needing to be in this same area.