We decided to spend one week exploring the city, and meeting up with friends from home and others we had met while traveling. We went straight from the airport to our hotel, which was about a 2 hour drive due to the traffic going into the city being gridlocked, and the city being massive. There are so many tall skyscrapers everywhere, it felt like we had moved from the jungles of Indonesia to the concrete jungle of Bangkok.
We checked into Kadima hotel in Thornburry, where we were meeting our friend Jaydene from Cape Town, who was staying at the same place, and had helped us book in advance. It was nice to see a familiar face, and it was great to have help booking a place to stay in a strange city. Our accommodation was outside of the main hotel / backpacker accommodation area, and was more in old town Bangkok with mainly local families and not many tourists at all.
Our accommodation was around an hour walk to the main tourist areas of Bangkok central such as Khaosan Road, but we walked almost everywhere, unless the distance was too far, in which case we took the train. We were blown away by the rail service, it was super efficient, clean and safe, nothing like what we have in South Africa at all. The train system makes it very easy to get almost anywhere you need to go, so we made use of it to explore when walking was not an option. Not too far from where we were staying was the river Chao, where we would go some evenings to watch the colourful ferrys and party boats cruising the river.
While in Bangkok we met up with another friend from Cape Town (Maryann) who took us sight seeing to various temples, which were very different looking to those we had seen in Indonesia. We went on our first tuk tuk ride, and to explore the notorious Khaosan road, with its numerous stalls that included worms, and various insects / arachnids that were on sale to be eaten, inducing scorpions, crickets and locusts.
We ended up staying at a second location while in Bangkok, called DIY Guesthouse, which is an AirBnb listing on the other side of town, and was a cosy little apartment very close to the Chatuchak weekend market.
The famous Chatuchak weekend market, which is the biggest market we had ever seen. The market is overwhelming, and completely exhausting to say the least. There are over 8000 stalls and 200000 visitors every weekend, so it is really chaotic, but worth visiting for a couple of hours if you like a good bargain. One of the things we did not like about the market, was the ‘pet’ area, where you could literally buy anything from dogs, turtles, squirrels, sugar gliders, even baby sharks and sting rays.
Besides the well manicured beautiful gardens and parks, the city of Bangkok is quite dirty, and because of this, it is home to LOTS of water monitor lizards, that feed on the rodent population. It was not uncommon to see large lizards around 1m in size just casually walking near the river, down side streets or near garbage collection areas.
One of the more interesting but macabre places that we went to visit, was the Siriraj Medical Museum, otherwise known as the museum of death. This museum has some of the freakiest medical oddities in the world on display, including the embalmed bodies of real serial killers, fetuses and animals with abnormalities, the full bodies of people who had died in various ways, from being murdered by gunshot, stabbing, car crash, cancer, etc. to tsunami victims. The museum is huge, and we spent hours browsing the exhibits. As fascinating as the medical centre was, it was also quite depressing and left us pondering how fragile the human body is.
The city is as alive at night as it is during the day, it never sleeps. We were able to explore the town and the numerous night markets by either foot, or by making use of the trains at night, which is something very foreign to us Capetonians.
Apart from the taxis, trains and tuk tuks, another method of transport we decided to use, was the river boat taxi which was really cheap. We went on a trip to Asiatique waterfront, which was about a 30min boat ride away, and was quite a lot like the waterfront in Cape Town. It was fun to travel between the skyscrapers and buildings on a boat down the river Chao.
After living in the city of Bangkok, we were very ready to get back to the island way of life. We booked a ticket to Phuket, leaving from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, which is the other international airport.