Bangkok is the hub of South East Asia. Everybody knows it, everybody's heard of it. Bangkok needs no explanation. Bangkok is Bangkok. Crazy, insane and beautiful.
But Bangkok is huge!! Where should one stay? Anyone who's anyone has heard of the notorious Khao San Road, but is this the best place to stay?
The Khao San Road Area
Aka the centre of the backing universe. The Khao San Road conjures up images of nightclubs, restaurants, buckets, deep fried scorpions and more white men with dreadlocks than you can shake a stick at. However, is it the best location for your short stay in the capital of Thailand?
Mike and I had already visited the Khao San Road on a number of occasions in the past... You could say we had the T-shirt, and to be honest, we think that the Khao San Road is a little out of the way if you want to explore the rest of Bangkok. Bangkok has an excellent Metro system and an incredible Skytrain but neither of them goes anywhere near the Khao San Road. If you're staying in the Khao San Road area and want to venture out into the city you will need to fork out for a taxi, barter with a tuk-tuk driver or you could risk life and limb on a public bus (we tried that and don't recommend it!!).
Therefore we believe if you are on a tight budget or if you've done the Khao San Road before, there may be a better location to stay.
A bustling expat hotspot and a modern metropolis of eateries, bars and street stalls. It's even home to the naughtier Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. If that doesn't wet your whistle, Sukhumvit is also slap bang on the BTS Skytrain and Metro routes; a gateway to the rest of the city.
We stayed right by Asok BTS station and the location could not have been more perfect. Everywhere we went, we could either walk to or hop on the BTS or Metro for next to nothing. Everywhere, that is, except the Khao San Road.
This area is a little more upmarket than the Khao San Road area, but we still managed to find cheap(ish) digs for £17/night for a private double with a shared bathroom and a simple breakfast. Bingo. Most importantly, it was nice and quiet at night so we could get a good nights sleep; impossible if you're staying on the Khao San Road! We stayed at Asoke Montri Hostel and extended our stay from 3 to 4 nights. The beds were super comfy!
Shopping in Bangkok
Whoa! We'd never seen anything like it! Shopping mall after shopping mall after shopping mall. You could quite literally shop until you drop. We hopped on the Skytrain and in less than 10-minutes we were at the MBK Center and on the doorstep of a million other shopping malls. We picked up some important supplies: new sunglasses, bikini etc. Had a cheap lunch at the MBK food court on the top floor, and marveled at the beautiful cityscape around us.
Catching the BTS Skytrain
Mike getting a hug in a shopping mall
One afternoon we hopped on the Metro and visited Lumphini Park. We were pleasantly surprised to find a local tourism festival on. We had a mooch around and Mike went for a run whilst I read my book. Walking around the Park we had a lot of fun spotting all the wildlife in and around the lakes. We saw about 25 giant monitor lizards, some massive catfish, terrapins and lots of beautiful birds. This park was teeming with life, people and animals alike, and is definitely worth a visit.
Stumbled upon a little festival
Lanterns up for Chinese New Year
I even got to ride a dinosaur
Extracting tasty Jackfruit
Somehow this was my second visit to Nana, but Mike had never been before so I thought it was only fair he should see what it was all about. Plus it was only a 10-minute walk from our hostel, so it would have been rude not to. Nana Plaza is a 3 story red-light complex and claims to be the largest 'adult playground' in the world. Let's put it this way, you haven't been to Bangkok if you haven't visited Nana.
We built up some dutch courage at Charlie's Bar before we went. Charlie's Bar was the cheapest (& quirkiest) bar in the area. All drinks, including beers and strong mixers were 80 Baht (~£1.80).
Grabbing a cheap dinner in Foodland first!
Khao San Road
I know I said we'd been and done the Khao San Road but that didn't mean we were going to miss it this time round. The only challenge was getting there. We found out we could get the number 2 bus to Democracy Monument, which is just around the corner from the Khao San Road. With this new information, we excitedly trotted off to get the bus. The price of the bus was even more thrilling at 9 Baht a piece (20p). The ride itself, however, was the work of nightmares. There were only about 5 seats and they were all taken, it was the oldest bus in the world, the traffic in Bangkok at 7pm is utterly hideous and the driver was completely insane. The combination meant we were thrown around like fruit in a blender.
The bus didn't even make it to the monument. After an agonising 45 minutes on the hot & crazy bus, the ticket lady gave us our 18 Baht back, yelled something in Thai and deposited us and the rest of the passengers on the side of the road. Confused, we followed the crowd onto the next bus that went by and were surprised to eventually make it to the monument a short while later, without paying a penny.
After that journey we had a nice dinner and sunk a number of much-needed beers and a bucket each (of course). We even bumped into our German friends from elephant trekking in Cambodia! It's a small world! We didn't risk the bus home and forked out for a 250 Baht tuk-tuk instead (£5.70). Oops.
It's safe to say we were 2 bears with 2 very sore heads the following day. Perfect for a 16-hour overnight bus to Southern Thailand!
Getting thrown around in the tuk-tuk home
- Give Sukhumvit a go! It's a cool place and makes it easy to get around the city on the cheap!
- If you want to eat cheap, in any area, head into a mall and up to the food court. The food is dirt cheap, and there's loads of choice! In Sukhumvit we recommend Terminal 21's food court on the top floor.
- Check out Lumphini Park for an interesting afternoon stroll. Keep an eye out for the massive monitor lizards! Once you've spotted one you'll see there's many more.
- Head to Nana Plaza to see what Bangkok's thriving red-light district is all about. It'll be a night you won't forget!