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I knew arriving in Bangkok would be like getting kicked out of the nest. The training wheels were off now as we were back on our own in a big Asian city, where there were no friends, no resort, and no way of speaking Thai. Things were really looking different. More grit, more people, more potential confusion and more work for me.
I used Airbnb again for our stay in Bangkok and chose our place based on the host ratings, price and the type of accommodation. We’d be staying in our very own condo with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a huge pool! Plus I had a washing machine which was key in my book. Our host, Witty, was indeed every bit as helpful as the reviews indicated and I was grateful for that. We had a new friend in Bangkok, at least to play the role of concierge while I got my bearings.
This turned out to be a very wise decision. The kids and I were loving more of our own space and having the pool was perhaps the best feature of all. After all the walking, all the commuting and touring, we had a place to come home to every afternoon and do what we needed most – chill. I didn’t feel one bit guilty that we were not out every hour of the day and night. Bangkok, and traveling for that matter, wears you out. We were in recharge mode.
With Witty’s help we figured out where the nearest grocery store, Tesco, was and did a little shopping on our first day. Going to the grocery store is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. You can learn so much just by shopping where the locals do. The benefit to having a kitchen is that we could buy all the items we’d need for breakfast (it’s so nice not to have to get dressed and go out in the morning) and snacks and water. It was the most convenient and economical way to do it. I bought snacks, gallons of water, breakfast for three days – everything we needed for less than $30US.
I was also very happy with my decision to book two tours in Bangkok. The first day we did a food tour. It was the perfect introduction to Thai food. We ate in 5 restaurants and bought food from the street vendors. I could only tell you the names of the places we went to because they were written down in our tour brochure. They are not the kind of restaurants we would have eaten in on our own. The menus were in Thai and besides that, upon first glance these places looked like they had just popped up out of the pavement. No windows or doors, just walk up, sit down and eat. For like $3.
All the food was delicious and cheap. Food this good in my hometown comes with a much higher price tag. Even Witty said, “You’re not going to cook are you? Eating out in Thailand is cheaper than cooking. I eat out every night.”
Don’t come to Thailand and say you like spicy food unless you are prepared to have your head blown off! In the words of our second tour guide, “Your highest spicy is like our lowest.” That would be Jerry, our guide from Tours with Tong. I booked us a day tour with a private guide to show us the sites. True I could have attempted to find all the things I wanted to see on my own, but why? You can hire a guide for as little as $50 to do the legwork for you and, this was most important for me, to tell us all about what we were seeing. Jerry was our personal history professor for the day!
He took us around on all the various forms of public transport – MRT (subway), BTS (elevated train), public bus, tuk tuk and boat ferry. I booked this tour because I knew it would help me learn how to navigate the city myself, teach the kids to get around the way locals do and beat the traffic. Which. Is. Not. To. Be. Taken. Lightly. Who wants to sit in a taxi, sweating, taking 5 times the time to get where you want to go for more money? Not me.
We saw three of the largest, most visited and most important Buddhist temples in Bangkok. There are 400, so really three wasn’t even scratching the surface, but that was about all the kids were interested in. We ate lunch together at another unnamed street shack. The three of us ate heaps of steamed rice with succulent pork and greens for 90TB. That’s less than $3US. Unbelievable! We ended the afternoon with a ride on the Chao Phraya River on a ferry, another popular form of public transport.
[HOT TIP: There are 7-Eleven’s all over Thailand and in most parts of the world for that matter. Very easily you can buy water, snacks, toiletries, first aid supplies, everything you may need in a pinch. We met one solo female traveler who in her first couple days in Bangkok, feeling tired and overwhelmed, came here to get toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch!]
Riding the MRT and BTS
If you’ve ridden subways in other big cities you’ll enjoy using the MRT and BTS in Bangkok. I’d take a crowed air-conditioned subway car over a taxi any day of the week and twice on Sunday here.
I didn’t expect to be using public transport much because I’d heard that taxis were cheap and I thought they would be the best way to get around. I prefer to use taxis when I don’t have a lot of time or when there are more than two travelers because they can be a better value. In Bangkok I’d say definitely it’s the opposite. The systems are very easy to navigate, clean, efficient, air-conditioned and fun! We only took taxis twice. From and to the airport.
[HOT TIP: Uber and the first UberMOTO, motorbike drivers who are background checked, insured and provide helmets to riders, are also an option here.]
After a lazy day hanging at the condo our late afternoon plan was a visit to Asiatique. This place was completely, unexpectedly awesome! I recommend a visit especially if you have kids. We learned the day before that Asiatique operates its own free ferry so we decided to give it a try.
This large scale complex, built along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, includes dining, shopping, some carnival-style rides and events. It boasts Bangkok’s longest public boardwalk at 300 meters. They host concerts, festivals, even the New Year’s Eve celebration. There were even fireworks the night we were there.
The kids and I had a blast. We had dinner there, rode some unique rides and bought some great souvenirs. The hit of the evening was the Fish Spa, which my kids were dying to do. Basically you immerse your legs just below the knees into a tank with small tiny fish that “clean your pores.” Yes, they eat the dead skin off your body. Sounds gross. Feels good.
It was a fun way to spend an evening and end our time in Bangkok!
Tomorrow, day four, we fly to Chiang Mai.
Elephants here we come!