After 16 days of sunning ourselves in Phuket and Koh Samui we arrived in Bangkok for a 3 night stay. I can't say we were looking forward to it - we don't like crowds and traffic, add in fierce heat and that can tip us over the edge and retreating to our hotel room! But we had the Bangkok accommodation as part of our Samui package so we decided to suck it up and Mrs Smith spent a bit of time researching in preparation. So armed with what I had learned from TA and Google we arrived at our digs, the AETAS Lumphini.
First thing we headed out to a nearby bank to exchange some money. I had read that one needed to be careful of pickpockets but I was a bit shocked to see a large sign on exiting our hotel for the first time 'beware of snatch thief' so I certainly had my wits about me. In fact the best course of action if we were just walking up the street to 7/11 or wandering around the street vendors was to take no handbag at all, just some coins and notes in my skirt pocket (which was a little tight after 3 weeks of Thai food) so no chance of any pickpocketing!
On day 1 we had organised a private tour guide through BKK Tours to the floating market and railway market. At $200US for a halfday tour Mr Smith had conniptions when I told him the price, by halfway through the tour he proclaimed it was worth every cent. We were picked up from our hotel at 7am and travelled to the railway market. As the train was not running to its usual schedule, we ended up then going to the floating market - an advantage of being on a private tour. As it was still early we had a lovely boat ride and it was not too crowded. What an incredible place! We then did a wander though the market, buying some things along the way and learning so much about Thai culture and life from our guide. After a bowl of tom yum soup, made by a boat vendor - what an amazing setup - we headed back to the railway market. We did a walk through and I tried many different fruits along the way that I had never even seen before. Some of the things for sale were turning this vegetarians stomach though! The unfortunate thing was our guide was given the wrong info about the train time so we had just missed one, and the next one wasn't until mid-afternoon. She felt really bad and said this was only the second time this had happened, but we were quite OK with it. It was a fabulous day out.
That evening I was determined to find our way to Asiatique. Despite being unable to get around on public transport at home I found the BTS (Skytrain) system terrific. We took a taxi to Sala Daeng BTS (45 baht) then went 3 stops to Saphan Taksin. The BTS is clean, comfortable and so smooth you don't even need to hang on if you don't get a seat. From memory it was 28 baht each to travel the 3 stops. We then found our way to the river to the free Asiatique shuttle (last pier on the left - thanks DodgerIrish for your tips) and got straight on with no waiting (this was about 5.30pm) Loved Asiatique, much like Harbourtown shopping centre for you Melburnians. The vendors were friendly and honest, the warehouses are huge, and there is a great variety of casual and formal dining. There is lots of trendy, good quality clothing. I have always wanted a carved wooden wall plaque and i got a cute one with an elephant for 300 baht. It was good quality and no holes so I figured Australian customs would let it through (in fact I told them about it and they didn't even ask to look at it so that is good to know) We loved Asiatique, it was a fun night out and going back we got straight on the free shuttle back to Sathorn pier then back on the Skytrain. We had a wander along Silom Rd until we came across a massage place. Needing some reviving we stopped in here and the massage was so good we went back the next day. Can't remember the name but it was down a laneway on the opposite side to Silom Complex. We took our first tuktuk from Silom Rd back to our hotel (100 baht). Actually because our hotel was new and not many drivers know it we found it easiest to tell the driver 'Rama 4 Rd, Lumphini Muay Thai Boxing' which was opposite our hotel (and impossible to do a u-turn) then we walked up and over the pedestrian bridge to our hotel. But it was funny when the tuktuk driver pulled out his iphone and told us there was no boxing on tonight and could he take us somewhere else! He didn't understand we were going to our hotel across the road.
Day 2 and I would have loved to have done the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (next time) but Mr Smith is more into walking around air-conditioned malls than cultural sights so we again took the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin, walked to the pier this time to head to the right down the river, ignored the longtail boat touts, did not buy a ticket at the ticket office for the tourist boat, we waited for a boat with an orange flag, got on, paid our 15 baht each to the ticket seller on board and stayed on the boat all the way to Nonthaburi (about 1 hour). Quite amazing and a little bit shocking to see the way some people live along the river, such contrasts with slum houses next to fine apartments. And the river was teeming with fish! At Nonthaburi we got off and walked to the nearest 7/11 for some cold drinks and got on the next boat back to Sathorn pier. After lunch and a massage, back to the hotel for a freshen up then back out to MBK (60 baht in taxi). So big, so much to buy. It gets a bit same same after a while. Best bargain was 2 CK fragrances (the real thing not fake) for 1000 baht and some lovely grey pearl studs for 300 baht. When it all got too much we headed to the international food court on the 5th floor for dinner. They give you a swipe card when you walk in and the vendors charge your purchases to the card, pay on the way out. When we left it was crazy Friday night traffic and we finally managed to hail a taxi. But the driver refused to put the meter on! I protested. I said we'll get out. He protested - very bad traffic! He asked for 100 baht. How much? Only 100 baht I thought. It took a good half hour to get back in bumper to bumper traffic and I felt bad I didn't give him extra but don't want to encourage that sort of thing!
The next morning it was time to checkout but we were already determined to return to BKK next year as there is so much to see and do in this crazy, buzzing city full of smiles. We jumped into a taxi and again he refused to put the meter on. Lucky I had asked the hotel staff how much the trip might cost (400 baht) and we had bargained him down to this price before we got out of the hotel driveway. Still it was a Saturday and traffic was light, he drove like a madman and had us at the airport in little over 30mins. I'm sure it would have cost less with the meter but at the end of the day it's only a few dollars to us.
So even though we didn't do or see lots (we are pretty cruisy and take things at our own pace!) I have managed to write quite a bit about our 2 days in BKK. Thanks to all who contribute to TA as it helped us no end, and hopefully some of you will gain from our experiences too!