Blog Archive

September 22, 2013

2013 - Thailand - Bangkok

 Koos (my neighbor) who emigrated to Thailand a few years ago kept bragging about his new country and slowly our holiday destination for 2013 became clear. In late June we left for a three week trip to Thailand

At first the idea was to explore the inlands but as the holiday approached and the last stretch of work kept on getting heavier, we decided to go for beaches and islands to relax. Island hopping is our thing and has never disappointed us yet so we took the safe road and choose to chill.


 We left from Dusseldorf airport in Germany which from Arnhem is sure to be preferred over Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam. Both the outward and return flight meant a stop at Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates and I got the great idea that Abu Dhabi was well worth seeing, given the overwhelming advertisements on every single media out there. 

  The stopover at Abu Dhabi on the way to Bangkok took a hour and a half but you don’t get much out of it as you have to walk from one gate to the other and the mutual distance is quite large. Halfway the destination signs suddenly showed another gate that proved not to be the right one and we arrived just in time for our plane. The trip from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok is still a long stretch but I must say that Etihad Airways go a long way to ensure that your flight is as comfortable as possible.

 Suvarnabumi Bangkok Airport (there are two major airports near Bangkok) is quite oversized and a modern airport. It is, however, a few kilometers from Bangkok. We walked to the lower floor where the Sky Train station is located. Everything looked sleek and neat and the information desk could explain us where our final destination was. 

 As the train travels elevated above the city, you have a beautiful view of the city itself. We usually travel pretty light but if you have a lot of luggage then it is wise to stay in the neighborhood of the doors as after a number of stations the train gets packed and the stops don’t give you much time to get your stuff and get off.

  From the sky train station, we went looking for our hotel by foot although we had better taken a tuk tuk which would of saved a lot of sweat and irritation. Walking around in Bangkok with luggage while you just traveled halfway around the world isn’t the most fun thing to do.

 We spent three nights at the Galleria 10 hotel which aren’t the cheapest rooms available but I think we definitely got a great deal. The outdoor pool on top of the building is lovely with a great view of the city and beautiful lounge areas where they serve delicious dishes. The bedrooms are good and clean and the staff was very friendly.

Three days to explore a capital is in our eyes the exact number of days you need to see as much as possible without getting bored or overwhelmed and again we were glad we stuck to our three day rule.

  I recommend you read the Lonely Planet about Thailand before you go to Bangkok. We didn’t have the time and begun to read when we were already there so we continuously and unnecessarily bumped our heads and were cheated several times. I do not want to create fear but we were cheated several times, in which the amounts were not so bad but the irritation and uncomfortable hours produce unhappy feelings. So here are some basic tips I can give you to prevent the same shit happening to you:

 Make sure you have cash in your pocket before you travel. I take a minimum of one hundred euro’s in notes of twenty and make sure we have at least two plastic cards with us that are not stored in one place. In case of emergency (and that's happened a few times in the past) it helps to reduce stress and may get you out of a uncomfortable situation. I take my credit card only for emergencies and to book domestic flights online. While traveling we pay all purchases and nights in cash which will spare you from nasty surprises afterwards.

 Learn the value of the money and make sure you know the difference between the coins and notes. Put the notes with a higher value in a separate compartment from the smaller amounts so you won’t accidentally mistake a note of five hundred for a twenty or worse a tenner for a note of thousand during quick negotiations.

 Always haggle on the price for goods or food you will buy on the street were you should keep in mind that 25 % of the asking price is probably the lowest you can get, and where a third of the price is a neat deal. If you pay half their asking price then they probably get a good deal, but given the small sums of money you do not have to feel embarrassed and should feel proud you're making a small contribution to a undeveloped country. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be bought cheap in a Food Corner which are found on nearly every corner in the busier areas. We’ve enjoyed many of our lunches there and the food is pretty good.

 Don’t get fooled by a neat or official-looking Thai gentleman who pretends he will help you even if you yourself where the one who asked him a question. Before you know it you are in a tuk tuk traveling across the city to stop where you do not want to be. It often starts innocently enough (their doing you a favor) but ends up in a situation where you do not want to find yourself.

 The tuk tuk is ideal for short trips as they are available everywhere and it saves endless walking through the heat and it costs almost nothing . Make sure that you know where you are going, make a clear deal on the total price and do not be persuaded to go anywhere else. Even if the price (50 bhat ) looks great for the multiple sites where he is going to bring you, don’t accept his offer because you will end up where you do not want to be. 

 Do not tell him that you do not have a plan or destination for the rest of the vacation because once again you’ll end up at a seedy travelling agent. If you're taller than six feet it is difficult to see since the roof of a tuk tuk is quite low. Always keep your handbag in between yourselves so it won’t get stolen by a fast motorcycle / motorbike thief.

 You should not haggle on prices for river trips / boat rides at the boarding spot and certainly not with a tuk tuk driver. We went pretty wrong on that one so I do not know how you can arrange the best deal but I think you can ask your hotel for an offer and compare their proposal with prices on internet like the Lonely Planet website. 

 We thought we could just wing it and make a deal in the harbor ultimately ended in a very short but over priced ride along the river getting dropped off somewhere on a pontoon where we had to pay even more. Getting into a fistfight with a bunch of wiry Thai dockworkers for not paying a additional landing fee didn’t seem to be a good plan at that time but you might understand that the situation did not contribute to our holiday mood.

 During our short boat trip we passed the oversized Wat Arun Temple and landed on a pontoon in front of the Grand Palace where we were brushed off as new be tourist with the excuse that the Grand Palace was closed and we would be better off going on a sightseeing tour with a tuk tuk driver for 50 bhat where we would see three touristic hotspots…

Eventually after seeing one and a half touristic place and spending a lot of time in two spousy travel agencies we had enough and we left our whining tuk tuk driver. Although the day was fun, the continuous scamming changed our view of the Thai people in Bangkok in a negative way.

The next day we went to the Grand Palace after we had a delicious lunch at the Thai market nearby. Let me warn you in advance that the dress code at the Grand Palace is closely monitored. I thought I would get inside with my baggie army shorts which covers my knees but after buying a ticket you get thoroughly inspected by a couple of soldiers at the end of the queue. Since I wore a T-shirt that fell over my shorts, I thought I could fool these guys by pulling my shorts down so the trunks almost came to my ankles but they called a General that pulled up my T-shirt and showed me out grinning all the way as it was rather painfully clear that I wasn’t wearing underwear. At the entrance of the palace they rent ridiculous looking pants for a small amount so that's why I look like a clown running around the Grand Palace if you were wondering about those pictures.


The Grand Palace consists of several beautiful temples and Buddha's and of course the magnificent palace of the king. That’s another good tip, do not say anything about the royal family because they are as proud as a peacock for those guys. If you read my blog entries you should know by now that I have no love lost on dictators, holy men or royals or anyone else who are not appointed by the people for their luxury positions since they have a tendency to fall into abusing the population and stink by conceit in the process. Anyway, it looks like the vast majority of the population appears to have been quite impressed with their royal family so I’ll keep my weary thoughts to myself.

In the evening we enjoyed swimming and eating on the rooftop of our hotel with a stunning view over Bangkok. Of course we have only seen a small part of the city but in our opinion the rule of spending three days applied again. The last day of our three week holiday we had a long walk in the suburbs of Bangkok and had a delicious dinner in a market place where very few tourists go, so we did get a clear and complete picture of Bangkok City.

Next > Phuket (To be continued…)

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