Friday, April 1, 2016

Southeast Asia trip: Thailand (Part 1)


It's difficult to find time to update your blog when you're backpacking, but I realized I could always write a little during the long van rides and before going to bed every night. After about a month in Southeast Asia, I’ve finally written my first blog update.

Our first stop in Southeast Asia was Bangkok, which I would describe as an eclectic, chaotic city. No matter where you look, there is always street food, crazy traffic, impressive temples, countless paintings of the King (no kidding!), and 7-Eleven convenience stores, which, by the way, will become your best friend in Thailand, especially if you're traveling on a tight budget.

During our first stay in this beautiful country, we visited three major cities: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai. We will head south in a few weeks, where we will spend most of our time at beautiful beaches, but let's not go off topic and let's focus on the previously mentioned cities instead. I don't want to bore you with unnecessary details, so I will try to be brief and give you (what I consider) the most relevant information.


As I previously said, this city is chaotically diverse, but in a good way. If you stay in the touristy area (around Khao San Road), you will find everything you need, ranging from cheap food to a variety of guesthouses, and travel agencies. Of course, there are plenty of other areas where you can stay, but we chose Khao San Road because that's where most (if not all) backpackers stay when visiting Bangkok. It's also a very good place to buy souvenirs. There are many stores to choose from, and it's not expensive. It's definitely worth it to at least visit it before leaving Bangkok.

Chao San Road during the day. At night, it becomes a chaotic, yet fun street.
One of the first things that caught my attention in this city were the numerous amounts of temples that you can see almost everywhere you go. My favorite was the Grand Palace. 

The Grand Palace in Bangkok
Likewise, keep in mind that when you visit a temple, you must dress respectfully. In other words, your clothing must cover your shoulders and knees and it mustn't be see-through. If you don't want to pack extra clothes before your trip, make sure to buy some on the streets. However, some temples do have the option to rent clothes before entering, which is cheap and practical. You must also take your shoes off before entering a sacred place. 

Shoes outside of a temple in the Grand Palace complex
I was also very impressed by the infinite number of statues around Bangkok. Most of them are huge, but there are also smaller ones. Regardless of their size, they are all definitely something.

Tuk Tuks
Tuk Tuks - Thailand's most common means of transportation among tourists nowadays - are also one of this city's highlights. At our hostel, we were warned not to ride in a Tuk Tuk because, as foreigners, we were likely to be scammed. However, we decided to try it out the next day. Before getting in, we made sure to negotiate a price and haggle it down. If it was too expensive, we would politely decline the offer. Coming to Thailand and not riding in a Tuk Tuk just didn't feel right for us.

Tuk Tuk on the left. Motorbikes are also very common in Thailand.
Series of motorbikes parked together (almost) on the sidewalk
Make sure to always be polite when you disagree with someone. We've heard stories of people who've received death threats for being disrespectful toward Thais. Whether these stories are true or not, we are not sure. But what we are sure of is that Thai society is very communal and respectful and they have very strict social rules, so don't be tempted to break them, or you might get in trouble.

Street Food
There is an infinite amount of street food carts in Bangkok, but we stayed clear for the fear of food poisoning. However, if you're not afraid to try something new, you won't have to look far to find delicious food. Just walk outside of wherever you are staying and hundreds of street food carts will be waiting for you. Side note: most of the street food we saw is fried (which I personally don't like at all), but there's also fruit and vegetarian dishes.

Pad Thai at the Weekend Market in Bangkok. It was delicious!
Iced tea. Extremely sweet. Very refreshing.
As backpackers, we’re always trying to save money. 7-Eleven convenience stores are perfect for this. You can get breakfast for less than 50 THB, and lunch for about the same price. But not only is there food at 7-Eleven! You can also find toiletries and personal care products. It’s really a life saver for travelers. 

This is the 7-Eleven sign

  • In Thailand, the local currency is the Thai Baht (THB). The largest bill is 1,000 THB (approximately USD 28). 
  • If you don't know how to get from Suvarnabhumi airport to your hostel, let me tell you the easiest, safest way is to take a taxi, especially if you're new in Bangkok or if your flight arrives during the night. The official taxis are outside of the airport on the first floor. Print out a ticket from one of the ticket dispensers outside, and go to the taxi number indicated on it. Or just follow the signs. It's idiot-proof, really. It shouldn’t cost more than 500-600 THB. 
  • At a hostel, the average price per night is about 200-350 THB. Sometimes even 100 THB per night, but keep in mind that the cheapest option might not always be the best option. We stayed at Erawan House, and paid about 350 THB per night. 
  • When you book a hostel room in Thailand, especially in Bangkok, don't forget to ask for an air-conditioned one. A fan will NOT be enough to escape the humid heat. We speak from personal experience. 
  • Tipping is not customary in Thailand, but 20-50 THB won't hurt your pocket, especially if the service was good. 
  • Be careful when you go sightseeing. Traffic is crazy, and what's more, people drive on the left side of the road, so look both ways when crossing the street. Side note: don't expect motorcycles to stop for you. 
  • Food is relatively cheap in Thailand. For 80-100 THB, you can find decent dishes. Street food is much cheaper, but then again it might not be the best option if you're not used to it. 
I'm sure there's more to say about Thailand, but too much information can be overwhelming. If there's anything else you would like to know, just drop me a line. I will do my best to help you.

Stay tuned!


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