A little background story
The Sales Pitch
out like a sales pitch on why I should book a ticket to Thailand. Desperately needing an adventure — the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. With some disposable income and accumulate vacation days; I found myself booking a flight out that very weekend for three weeks. A one-stop ticket with a long layover in Dubai, and one more in Hong Kong on the return end.
That motivating little voice of the travel bug
Now, with this ticket in my Gmail inbox; I started to wonder: What the hell was I doing? Not once throughout my travels had I booked a ticket this quickly without extensive research and planning. Security, more so the sense of feeling secure is high on my list when traveling. To feel a sense of it I typically spend a great deal of time planning. “Take a risk”, a little voice said to me,” just pick up and go, who knows this might be the best experience of your life!” I did just that — I went.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
WHAT WAS I THINKING, COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL DECISION AHEAD!
Dred in Dubai
Wide-eyed with excitement I arrived in Dubai with a 15 hr of free time ahead of me. Enough time to explore and get back to the airport. All that excitement came to screeching halt when suddenly it dawned on me that I had not yet arranged for a place to stay in Bangkok. I knew I didn’t want to stay at a hotel, it was always going to be a hostel. With my brain pacing, I recalled a friend, who was the girlfriend of a web app developer (they’re always in the know on the latest apps) had mentioned Airbnb prior to my trip. She was a traveler and swore that it would be the next big thing — looking back she was right.
Airbnb to the rescue
However, it was only a niche platform on that particular day, with only a few listings outside of the US. It was completely foolish for me to put all my trust in this new platform that I had never used, especially at the last minute. Still in good spirits, sitting on the polished floor at Dubai’s airport I prop open my laptop. Hopped on the airport’s Wi-Fi. Within fifteen minutes, I’d sent seven pleading messages to several AirBnB hosts in Bangkok. I shut my laptop, crossed my fingers and walked out the airport hoping for one lucky response on my next WiFi window. If no one responded within 15hrs I would’ve been completely fucked upon landing in Bangkok. Somehow, I knew it was going to work out, that same calming voice which said just go, didn’t seem to be worried. I shut off the laptop, threw my camera strap over my shoulder and hopped on the train out of the airport. And just like that I was out exploring the streets of Dubai.
ALLOW THE UNIVERSE TO LEAD, PERMIT IT TO WORK IT’S WONDERS
A few fingernail biting Wi-Fi windows later
On the 11th hour, I reopened my laptop staring down at four responses. Three were unavailable but one held the answer to my prayers. On to the next challenge. How would I get to this random place and would it be in a location with easy access to places of interest? After all — I needed to make the best of my two days stay.
It was not. I was in Phibunsin Village which was far off from central Bangkok or Khao San Road. With almost 35 hrs. of no sleep I didn’t care too much. The important thing was I had arrived. Two days ago I was daydreaming in anticipation on my Q train commute in NYC and now I was here in Bangkok. Everything I needed for the moment was looking right at me — a bed – I laid all my worries to rest!
Get cell Phone Service
One of the wisest things I did to make up for my poor planning, was getting a SIM card and converting enough USD to Thai Baht at the airport. There were lots of little boutique phone stores at the airport to help to get you online and connected asap.
Phone in hand, feeling a bit more rested.I bravely ventured out of the apartment in search of breakfast. Getting lost a few times led to interesting conversations with locals. I had recommendations on what to do and where to eat – I was taken aback by how engaging and friendly people were. I’d not google search what to do in Bangkok before arriving but my luck continued — I was a sixteen-minute taxi ride to Hua Mak in the Suan Luang Subdistrict. On the Taxi ride, I released the loudest WTF. If you’ve ever witness a traffic jam in Bangkok, you would know why –I had never seen a jam like this before. A hodgepodge of hundreds of Motorcycles, mixed in with what appeared to be thousands of Tuk Tuks, and a few more hundred pink taxis – my god!
One of the major takeaways being from NYC is that the subway system prepares you for any and every other system in existence.
I hopped on the BTS, map in hand, guided by some friendly locals I made my way to the “downtown” part of Bangkok — Phra Nakhon District, and it was a breeze. My first Tuk tuk ride, the driver seemed like an off-duty police officer, maybe looking to make some extra cash. So let’s say I got a police escorted mini tour. I’d call that a Win!
When in Bangkok, of course, one must do the obligatory stops to the temples of course. There is a top 10 list of temples to visit. However, if you’re like me; witnessing two or three temples swarmed with tourists enough. Speed thru the temple visits.
My Top 3 Must-see Temples / Wats in Bangkok are:
- Arun, the most iconic and arguably the best temple of Bangkok, located on Thonburi side of Bangkok, almost opposite to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, so you can knock two birds with one stone.
- Pho, is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Bangkok. Wat Pho is also home to the Reclining Buddha’ a 15 meters high, 43 meter long Buddha covered with gold leaf. A must see!
- Phra Kaew or ‘The Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ is the most important and most visited temple in Bangkok. it houses the Emerald Buddha, carved into a 66 cm tall block of Jade, also a must see.
I’m on a boat: River Boat taxis and Ferries in Bangkok
My insanely kind Tuk Tuk driver suggested that I try the River taxis to further my site seeing and avoid traffic – he could have easily drained my money some more but didn’t. These water taxis operate up and down the river and cost from around 10 baht, depending on the length of your journey. You can also pay a local longboat for your own private tour to avoid being sardined in with other tourist. Taking a riverboat is the fastest and easiest way to visit Wat Arun: the Temple of Dawn, the Grand Palace, Wat Po and the Royal Barge Museum.
Packed Like Sardines in a Tourist river line boat vs a private Long-tail Boat
I got a few jealous stare downs as my long tail zoomed past each water taxis. Each one looked uncomfortably packed. Couples regretted not opting for a private touR, it was plaster on their faces. In any case, if you like guided tours with organized stops then this might be the way to go.
But for me, I’ll opt for freedom, I was able to stop wherever and whenever I wanted, my only regret is not asking to for a go at manning the controls.
My navigator didn’t understand English very well. Similarly, I did I know enough Thai to communicate. In either case, all you need are the names of where you want to go, with some good hand coordination. Lastly, and sadly the universal language equalizer — money – it speaks up when you can’t.
To understand the water Taxi systems, Bangkok’s travel guide site has a complete breakdown , which you can read up on the logistics here.
Day 2: Museum Visit
Undoubtedly my body was still adapting because I’d overslept and missed a trip to the Floating Market. Along with other sightseeing adventures. No Biggie, in fact, I wasn’t too bothered. As my intentions had always been set on spending more time exploring the Islands, much more so than Bangkok. I had only enough time left to do some tailored suit shopping. As a guy, you must do this when in Bangkok, it’s so cheap. Then a bit more time to grab a ticket for the train out of Bangkok. Squeeze in time for a museum visit before my 10hr-sleeper-train departs for Surat Thani. Incidentally, how was I able to get around and do these things with ease? Looking back I can only say it was the New Yorker in me.
Over Night Train disaster
After my visit to the museum. I looked down at my watch, estimated: had enough time to quickly hopped in a cab, grab my stuff, clean the apt and head back out to catch the train. I got this thinking to myself, but Bangkok traffic laughed in my face: “You little New Yorker against me, REALLY, HAHA! Let’s see you make it.” Missed that train by 9 minutes. I stood on the platform, with no backup plan, dread quickly came over me….my heart dropped. Read about the train fiasco.