Having slated Bangkok after my first visit, a little over two months ago, I tackeld round two with an open mind and an open wallet. Following eight weeks of cold showers, river-washed clothes and squat toilets, the thought of nestling back into city life was appealing to say the least. The main mission during our trip to Bangkok was to score tickets on the sleeper train to Koh Tao. As these can only be purchased in advance, at the station, we knew we could be in for the long haul. When we arrived at Hua Lampong Station the train was already booked up in all classes for the next three days. After much deliberation and a big sigh we forwent the sleeper berths and purchased two regular seats, in second class, for the 10 hour journey. Including our connecting ferry tickets, the whole journey cost around $40. We found ourselves with three days to kill in Bangkok but luckily for us, it turns out that’s not really difficult at all.
The first night was spent at the cheapest but likely worst hostel in Bangkok. Not even worth a mention, it had cockroaches everywhere, dirty sheets, dirty towels, no windows, dirty pillows, no fan and limited electricity. Following this total lapse in judgement, we decided that maybe the key to Bangkok was splurging, not scrimping. The next morning, we checked into a highly rated hostel right off Suksumvit Soi 19 just minutes walk from the main entertainment street, Suksumvit Soi 11. At $16 each/night this was a big price jump from what we were used to paying but was totally worth it. The comforts of a king! Well… clean bedsheets, a duvet and a hot shower but that’s all I really want. Located directly next to brand-spanking new, ‘Terminal 21’ mega-mall it was time for mission number two… BUY SOME CLOTHES!
As the first themed mall I had ever set foot in, Terminal 21 was strangely impressive. I realise it’s just a mall, but it was airport themed! Each of the 8 floors floor was a different international city. No chain shops here. The independent designers and ‘streets’ were all reminiscent of cities I’ve known and even a few I haven’t.
Atop the Golden Gate Bridge (complete with mini cars!) was a super food court where you could score an entire meal for $1. I realise this sounds awesome and you’re probably thinking… how is that a splurge? The problem with $1 mall meals is that it’s a bit like pot luck. I ordered fried whole mackerel with rice and ‘mango nam-prik’. As I was also offered ‘my choice of nam-prik’ I gathered it was some kind of sauce. Turned out it was like a purpley lumpy sauce with bits of noodle and peas that they mixed in with your rice. Still intrigued, I returned to my table only to realise that ‘nam-prik’ tastes absolutely as terrible as it sounds. I’m not trying to be offensive or crass, but it seriously smelled like diarrhoea. Not joking. Needless to say… I didn’t eat my plate of nam-prik and bought myself another meal… and then another.
A major redeeming feature of the food court; the toilets. Ok so it’s just a toilet right? wrong. This Toshiba toilet was straight out of a sci-fi film (or more likely Japan). I just went in for a wee and ended up with a surprise full bum-facial. This toilet had more controls than an aeroplane cockpit and to be honest I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had a built in ipod dock! Bangkok seems to have skipped the normal toilet thing. You can find squats or westerns with no toilet roll or flush and you can find Toshiba super-toilets… where are all the normal ones?
Still on the mall-binge, we hopped it to Bangkok’s shining star – Siam Paragon. Complete with a Porche showroom, a basement oceanarium, flagship stores for every international brand that I can’t afford and an IMAX cinema with sofa seats, this mall was pretty unreal. Both rich and I whacked a new outfit on the debit card, changed in the toilets and literally threw our old clothes in the bin. After waving good-riddance to our mekong-stained, seriously worn ‘tramp attire’ we strutted out into the city feeling like a million bucks. In reality we were just two slightly sweaty people in clean t-shirts but we basked in the glow of retail therapy until we dropped.
The next day we headed for the legendary Chatuchak Market. HUGE and very, very hot you could buy literally anything here. Flying squirrels to indian head massagers, leggings to tiger skins and everything in between. Some seriously interesting stuff (and people) and totally worth a visit to this 27 acre warren of chaos.
By night, we headed to Suksumvit Soi 11, Bangkok’s entertainment hub. Rooftop bar ‘Nest’ saw us sprawled out on a day bed under the stars with a crystal bucket of Mojito and a litre jug of beer. Street side bar vans were a great place to hang out and Q bar (although a bit prostitutey on the middle floor) had no cover charge and gave ladies (me!) three free ‘spirit and mixer’ coupons on the way in. Bargain.
I left Bangkok with a new outlook from last time. I seriously think Bangkok is anything you want it to be. I can be touristy and rip you off, it can be a world-leader in modern facilities and it can also be seriously cheap/expensive if you know where to look. The verdict: after round two, I definitely wouldn’t say no to a round three as long as I had a bit of cash to splash. How about that toilet?!