Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bangkok, Thailand September 2016

All Pictures and Video at the bottom on this post!
In my quest to visit every country in the world I figured here is a way to kill three birds with one stone. Fly into Bhutan (my primary destination) through Bangkok, Thailand and out of Bhutan through Katmandu, Nepal.

Flying to Bangkok from the U.S. is rather simple with many options, I decided on a similar route to Vietnam trip back in February. U.S. to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangkok, the flights were easy as pie, what ever that means.

Looking at Thailand, there are lots of beach resorts to visit, and even some elephant reserves, but for me I felt seeing Bangkok, the largest city in Thailand, should give me a feel for the country and the people. Then I can decided if I should come back. I decided two days should cover it and give me an understanding of the city.

Where to stay? I decided the Riverside section: Bangkok's riverside is where Bangkok's historic roots lie; the traditional heartland of this magical city with origins that read like an epic novel. Nowadays, the city has moved on and the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene; water-taxis ferrying commuters and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and palaces, as well as historical landmarks. I found a great apartment the 34th floor of a high rise right on the river. Two nights under $100.00. I am liking Bangkok already.

I decided to splurge and take a taxi from the airport to the apartment rather than the rail link to the sky train. The splurge cost me 500 BHAT or about $15.00 for 19 kilometer taxi ride. The apartment is in State Tower, with 68 floors of office, condos, and hotel it is the tallest mixed use building in Thailand.

I showered during my layover in Hong Kong so I am ready to go as soon as I check in to the apartment. The apartment is in an awesome location for seeing the city, not just the view from the apartment, but the location to all the sights. The best part since the State Tower is one of the taller building in Bangkok and on the very top is a gold dome. It makes it very easy to get back home, just look up and head for the gold dome.

To save time I pre-booked two tours.

Day One in Bangkok

The day I arrived is a half day walking tour. Called Explore New & Old Bangkok City - I booked with Bangkok Walking Tours, the tour is a private 4 hour walking tour designed to give you a flavor for the city. To my surprise Margarite showed up with the guide. She has decided to join me for the next month. Our guide George was right on time.

I had booked this tour about a month ago, with Mr. Chob who I communicated with and was very responsive and sent me reminders as the date of the tour approached.

Here is a description of the tour: SEE & TASTE: New City: Lumpini Park (The Largest Park in The City) Silom Road (Business & Night Entertainment) Chareon Krung Road (Wholesale & Retail Gems & Jewelry) Taste Some Local Foods & Fruits at Bang Rak Market Take a Public Bus to Wat Rajsingkorn Pier Take Chao Phraya Express Boat to Pra Arthit Pier (The Old City or Rattanakosin Island) Old City: Khao San Road (Backpackers Hub in Bangkok Taste Pad Thai or Rice Noodle Soup Ratchadamnoen Avenue Democracy Monument Giant Swing & Wat Suthat Baan Bat (Monk's Bowl Community) Golden Mount Temple (Wat Saket) Mahakan Fort Take Klong Saen Saep Express Boat to Central World Shopping Center

The tour did not disappoint. It served several purposes, it made sure I adjusted to the time zone
properly (not allowing me to go to sleep on my arrival), give us a good lay of the land, learn a little history, as well as the current culture.

As we toured the city we saw Buddhist Temple after Buddhist Temple. We learned that there are over 3,000 Buddhist Temples in Bangkok. 95% of the population is Buddhist, 3% Muslim, and 2% Christian.

This tour billed as a walking tour, incorporated all kinds of transportation, we took the public bus, the sky train (Bangkok's above ground subway system ), water taxi, and ferries. We visited both the new Bangkok, as well as the old Bangkok, from the financial district, to the red light district. The highlight was having George explain one of the famous shows in the red light district, a women who shoots ping pong balls into a hoop without using her hands (if you know what I mean). George gave a great explanation so even Margarite would not get embarrassed.

Bangkok is a city of contrast, beautiful clean glass sky scrapers, right next to charming century old homes, housing three or more generations. All living side by side in what appeared to be harmony.

We stopped and tasted the local food prepared by street vendors, we enjoyed lunch at some back ally hole in the wall. Lunch was fried rice with chicken, what a great introduction to authentic Thai cooking.

We ended the tour not too far from our Apartment, George gave us instructions on how to take the sky train back home and we parted ways. Early in the day when we took the sky train it was empty, now near 5:00 PM (rush hour), a description of being packed in like sardines, would be an understatement.

Since we got on at the first stop, by the time we got to our stop, we were as far from the trains exit
doors as possible, with lots of people between us and the exit. Luckily our stop was a popular stop so we just followed other passengers off the train.

It was close to 7:00 PM when we arrived back at the apartment, we decided to just relax and call it a night.

Day Two Bangkok

Today we would be taking a bicycle tour of
Bangkok. I booked this tour though 'Go!' Bangkok Bike Tours we need to be at the tour office at 8:45 AM. The tour office is just a two minute walk from our apartment. Several tours were offered we picked the Red Tour.

We decided to grab some breakfast before the bike tour, there are street food vendor after street food vendor throughout Bangkok. We finally picked the perfect spot, just around the corner from the bike tour office. For a total of about $1.50 USD, we had a great breakfast of fried rice with both eggs and chicken. Still not sure which came first the chicken or the egg. 

The owner of the bike tour company is from Holland, but has lived in Thailand for the last 20 years. Our guide was fantastic, I wish I could pronounce, let alone say or spell his name. His parents wanted him to be a Buddhist Monk, he lasted 15 days. He said he likes his hair too much.

Joining us on the tour was a couple who were visiting from the Netherlands. The traffic in Bangkok is not terrible, on par with New York City, though with no bike lanes and lots of scooters the roads are not ideal for biking. Luckily for us there is this whole behind the scenes way to get around Bangkok, back ally's, parking lots, even riding through open air markets (see video).

The ride took us through the different religious sections of the city, we spent time in both the Muslim and Christian neighborhood. There is a large windy river that crosses through Bangkok, with just a few bridges the easiest way to cross the river is via ferry boat, even with 5 bicycles.

The river is over grown with some type of water hyacinth, the city workers, were battling, trying to remove the hyacinth though it appeared the hyacinth was winning.

We stopped for a snack of fried bananas, very enjoyable. We also stopped to feed the turtles, who would of thought, turtles like bananas or should I say, love bananas.

Our guide gave us a little history of the red light district. As the US military was getting involved with conflicts in South East Asia, Bangkok was a great place for GI's to take leave. With the GI's in town, you had young adult males with money to spend.

Some local businessman realized a need, these GI's were looking for companionship. With the Thai economy much lower then the developed world, there were plenty of young women willing to share some companionship for a small fee. To keep everybody happy these activities were kept in one
location, the red light district.

Below is a description of what was covered on the tour.

"This fascinating Go Red Guided Bangkok culture Tour starts with a journey through a wonderfully rich Muslim community to the Old Customs House, right on the river. This was the first stop for ancient travelers entering Bangkok and the perfect place to start your journey! From there you’ll weave through the maze of woven streets that make up Bangkok’s vibrant and bustling Chinatown. Following your well-informed guide through the diverse cultures that make up this lively part of the city, you’ll discover all it has to offer.

After taking in the culture from Chinatown, its time to move on toward the river to get some cool air and absorb the smell and sights of the Flower & Vegetable markets. Not far from here we will cross the mighty mother of all rivers by ferry to dock on one of the most beautiful temples Bangkok has, The Wat Arun.

Continue your journey by exploring the Historic Thonburi side of the river, stopping at the incredible Princess Mother Memorial Park, with many flower gardens and exhibitions for you to leisurely enjoy. After which, you’ll also enjoy visits to Wat Prayoon, Wat Kalayanamitr and Wat Aroon temples. These are all classic examples of beautiful Thai temples and culture that can’t fail to please.

After you’ve taken in all the culture you can, it’s a short trip back to the Go Tours HQ to unwind and discuss the day’s journey with your tour group, and plenty of free soft drinks, or maybe even purchase a refreshing beer or two."

The tour was well worth the time and money, with just 4 on our tour it was perfect, while they say they can take up to 6, I am glad there were just 4. Many of the alleyways were very narrow and 6
people would of made it harder to stay together.

After the bike ride we walked to a food market for some more home cooked Thai food. I had fried
rice cashew and pork, while Margarite had a coconut chicken curry soup. Both were delicious.

We had one more thing to do in Thailand, buy drugs! We were not sure the best place to do our procurement, so back to the bike shop to get some advice.

The owner walked over to a fabulous shopping mall. As I mentioned earlier, Bangkok is a city of contrast, here we were in a very modern shopping mall, though to get to it we walked by many street vendors. This mall had many drug stores / pharmacies.

We had heard prescription drugs in Thailand could be as much as one tenth the cost in the US and no prescriptions needed. What a deal we picked of a nice supply and spent about $50.00 USD saving well over $500.00 USD.

These are drugs made by the same US pharmaceutical companies in the same packaging you would get in the US, just for a tenth the price.

I think I found a new way to finance my travels.

After our drug buy we headed back to our apartment for some R&R, while we only covered 10 miles on our 4 hour bike ride, with temperatures hovering near 90 and humidity near 95% we were a bit tired out.

The State Tower is 68 stores tall, the first 36 floors were office, retail, and condominiums. Floors 37 through 68 were all part of the Labue Hotel ( On the 66th floor is a roof top bar and restaurant. We decided that would be a great place to watch the sunset, have a glass of wine and a light dinner.

The sunset and wine did not disappoint, the dinner, one of the worst ever. We expected high prices,
anytime you are in a major metropolitan area, in a high end luxury hotel, you know you will be paying New York prices. We have no problem with that, but we expect high quality food. We ordered sushi as that was their specialty. With the ocean not very far away, and Japan just a stones throw from Bangkok, sushi should be pretty easy. I would love to know what year the fish was pulled out of the water. We could not eat it, it was so bad. The bill equivalent to $250.00 USD. Luckily all our other meals for our stay in Bangkok were a total, under $10.00 USD!

Moral of the story, go for the sunset, go for the wine, leave for the food!

Next Stop Bhutan,

Cheers, DUG

All Pictures

Bangkok Thailand September 2016


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