After around 24 hours of flying, driving and waiting to travel, I was so pleased to finally arrive in Bangkok - desperate to get to my hotel for food and a shower. It was early evening when I arrived and I was keen to get out and check out the city for myself after hearing and reading so much about it. I spent a brief three nights in the city and as I write this I am waiting for my flight down to Trang where I will be ferrying and bussing my way to Koh Lanta to meet some friends. That's not a long time spent in Bangkok - don't worry I shall return at a later date for more fun - but it was long enough for the place to leave a lasting impression on me. I can tell it is definitely one of those places you will either love or hate - and I certainly hadn't expected to love it as much as I did. But what were my first impressions of Bangkok?
- It really is one of the friendliest cities I have ever been to - the people are amazing, generous, kind and endlessly helpful. After a 14 hour flight you really need a bit of help to make the rest of your journey as simple as possible and I couldn't have had a better taxi driver who took me to the door of my hotel, but who also made the effort to chat and offer recommendations on the drive there. It was great to get advice from someone who knows the city on what sights to see, how is best to get around and that kind of thing. It also gave a great start to my time then, I instantly felt welcome and the following days brought more of the same.
- A slight disappointment was the skyline as we approached from the airport. I wasn't the only one to be surprised that there wasn't really much of a view from the taxi window, a few other travellers mentioned it as well. I think we kind of expected the views you get on the drive into New York or Dubai - huge, masterful buildings that impress and excite you - I was rather underwhelmed by the view but the city made up for it later on.
The hotel I was staying in was fabulous - I started out with a couple of nights in a hotel as a treat and it sure was! I was surprised to find op how far my money went here - it was a cheap hotel by English standards - more budget than a Travelodge but far more luxurious with huge rooms, really nice bathrooms, a view over the canal, restaurant, pool, gym and spa! Definitely a good way to start the trip - would really recommend the Nouvo City Hotel (just a short walk from Khao San road and the staff were amazing - even helping me organise my transport down to Koh Lanta!)
- The city itself? Bangkok is nuts. Simple as that. There is so much going on, so many sights, smells, tastes, sounds - it is a total attack of the senses that just leaves you gobsmacked. I loved it. It's very busy, but has none of the hustle and bustle of London, it's so much more laid back and all about fun. In the day, Bangkok is kind of non-existent, although I did have a great day out on the river and sightseeing, but it is at night that the city truly comes alive - as we travellers all kept saying to each other - anything can happen in Bangkok. You can totally see why The Hangover 2 was set here - it's the only place as crazy as Vegas that could provide a backdrop for a story that ridiculous! The shopping is fab, the massages are so good and the food is incredible.
There is no standard type of traveller. Khao San road is a spiritual home for all types of backpacker, holiday-maker and traveller, and they mingle amongst each other freely. I love that there is no standard here, everyone is so unique and so nobody stands out, we all have a place. You could be walking down the street next to a dreadlocked backpacker, a family with two young children, someone else who came here on holiday and ended up staying for five years and a ladyboy. But all are welcome and all are eager to talk to you, make friends and experience this crazy world together. Being a solo traveller has been brilliant so far - I've made loads of friends and have barely been alone for a minute!
- You suddenly realise how overly safety conscious Brits are - in Thailand, health and safety is nothing but a fleeting thought and yet it's easy to feel completely safe. The streets are so busy that you are never alone or feel very vulnerable - easy to lure you into a false sense of security (watch your bag) and I find it hilarious that the taxis all have seat belts but you're not able to use them - don't get me started on the scooters and tuk tuks!
Back to The Hangover again - when they say "Bangkok has him now" I know exactly when they mean now - this city will suck you in to its core and it will spit you out again. I've seem some astonishing sights and after talking to a load of people, it seems that it is easy to have a little too much Bangkok - perhaps why some people can't handle the city. In small doses this place is great, but watch out for the buckets and watch out for the weirdness.
For those of you heading to Bangkok anytime soon - enjoy! And I hope you enjoyed this post - my first of many on the road - they will be slightly less frequent now, partly because I'm having so much fun and partly because it takes so much longer to format them on my iPad but I promise they will keep on coming! In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for Bangkok for when I return there, leave a comment - or any recommendations for Koh Phi Phi (my next destination) they would be very welcome!