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Thursday, June 12, 2014

6 Things You Need To Know About Bangkok

Hey there!

Since I promised to update more about my vacations, I decided to start with one of my most loved cities, Bangkok. This is the third post of Bangkok thus far, after my numerous trips to the amazing place. You can read the first two posts here and here :)

In this post, I'm going to share with you some info which I feel everyone should know about Bangkok. I've got many friends who've been to Bangkok, but they say they didn't quite enjoy the place. I couldn't believe my ears because WHO WOULDN'T ENJOY BANGKOK? :O It has something for everyone, guys and girls alike. Cheap and awesome food, cheap shopping, cheap transportation, cheap massages, lots of entertainment and culture! And when I asked further, I found out that they went to the wrong places to stay, eat, took the wrong transportation, trusted the wrong people, spent money on the wrong places, among many others.

So I thought it'll be good for me to share my knowledge about Bangkok, though of course, I'm not the expert in this. I'm only going to share from my perspective, preferences and experiences, and I hope this post would help you have better trips in the future!

So let's begin.

6 Things You Need To Know About 
BANGKOK


#1: If you depart from klia2

If you're taking Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, do arrive at the klia2 airport at least 3-4 hours prior to your flight, because it takes quite a while to walk to your boarding gate. If your boarding gate is right at the end, you probably need to walk for about 20-30 minutes.


klia2 is a huge space, and I must say it is a massive upgrade from LCCT. It is newer, cleaner, has more choices of foods (YAYYY), and basically more things to do while waiting to board. It's basically a mall in an airport so hooray for us who always take Air Asia and other budget airlines!

*Note:
Arrive AND start walking to the boarding gate earlier. Not kidding. 
You don't wanna miss your flight.


#2: Don't Spend All Your Money On Hotels

This is me and Boon's philosophy when it comes to travelling, especially when we travel just the two of us or with a bunch of friends who are also young like us. We believe that when we travel to places, we'll spend most of our time outdoors to visit places, and the only time we're in the hotel is to sleep, shower (and all that) and that's it. So for us, we never considered to stay in luxury hotels. Unless our purpose is to stay in hotel all day honeymooning and all that la. If not, it'll then be a waste of money. We'll never have the time to go visit their gym, swimming pools, hang out at the lounge because we didn't go all the way to another country just to see more gyms and pools! There's so much to see and do out there!

Unless of course, you travel with your folks and family, and they prefer to stay somewhere more comfortable and luxurious cos they'll likely spend more time at the hotel. But if you're travelling with your friends, forget expensive hotels, seriously. Spend your money elsewhere like on shopping and food.

However, it doesn't mean that I'm asking you to settle with dirt cheap motels/b&b that are not clean and safe. Hygiene, strategic location of accommodation, professionalism and friendliness of staff matter a lot to us. And the good news is, there are actually plenty of these hotels in Bangkok (and even other places including Osaka! Will blog about that one soon enough hahah) that are nice, clean, professional and doesn't cost us a bomb at all.


One of the hotels that we love love love and always go back to is Lemontea Hotel at Pratunam. They have a very interesting Tea concept which translates into their design and decor. And they're relatively new, super clean, staff are efficient and friendly, and it's a safe place.


I must say it isn't the cheapest in Pratunam. You'll be able to find others that are slightly cheaper like My Hotel (also in Pratunam), but for me, once I love something, I'll prefer to stick to it than to risk not liking the new place. So...yea hehe

We usually book our flights on Expedia together with hotel, and you can do that too! We find it so much more convenient. And it's slightly cheaper if booked together.

*Note:
Don't book your hotel with breakfast included. You're in Bangkok. Go out there and eat some authentic Thai food! Every meal is precious!

Which brings me to my third point.


#3: EAT ALL THE STREET FOOD!


It pains me. It pains me when I hear people say that they go to Bangkok to eat in restaurants only, because street foods are so unclean and unhygienic. While it's true that having a food stall right beside the main road with cars and motorcycles passing by every second isn't the most hygienic of all, you cannot not try them at least. Because...you're in Bangkok.

Before I go on further, I must ask that you practice some discernment and common sense on this matter. A disclaimer I must add, that I, Careen Tan, would not be held responsible if you get food poisoning from eating the street foods of Bangkok. Hahah but seriously speaking, of course there are certain food along the streets that look dodgy, such as satay beef/pork for example. We don't know how clean/cooked the meat is and so if you're not confident, don't eat. That's my best advice for you. While I love street food, I don't go around eating every single thing too. Best to practice caution BUT...there are some things that you JUST gotta try.

Such as:


THAI MILK TEAAAAA.

It is oh-so-good I cannot even start describing my love for it. Everytime I return to KL, I craveeeee Thai Milk Tea! Somehow none of the Thai restaurants here serve Thai Milk Tea comparable to the ones along the streets of Bangkok.


BUT, I must say that it isn't the healthiest drink in the world la...considering the amount of sugar and condensed milk used in the making of this heavenly drink. However, it's still a must-try. I usually grab at least a cup a day when I'm there, then when I come back, I detox. Hahah and and and, not every stall serves great Thai Milk Tea yea. I don't know how to tell you which is good, just gotta use your 6th sense/spidey sense if it helps :P

I'm not gonna go through the whole list of street food that you must eat, but one thing I must say is that you gotta have at least a dinner meal along the streets. 


Like this one. Yes, this dodg-looking, dirty-looking one.

When you exit Platinum Mall, walk across the bridge above some river/lake/longkang, and you'll see this happening, long stretch of stalls offering dishes like snow fish, tom yam soup, among many others. Just pick one of the stalls and order away. 

For a full meal of about 5-6 dishes, it's about RM12 per person inclusive of coconut drink which already cost RM5. Meaning, for a really yummeh meal there, it's about RM7 per person. A yummeh meal with snow fish, seafood tom yam soup, eggs, vegs, half a chicken, pork, and more. Where else to find????

*Note:
Sometimes, it's safer to go for the ones with the most customers. If the locals love eating there, it means it's good and trustable. Sometimes, going with the crowd and be mainstream has its benefits, especially when it comes to food. No one messes with food.



#4: What To Wear In Bangkok? The Less, The Better

My point is, you'll be walking along the streets of Bangkok, under the hot sun a lot. You wouldn't want to wear many layers, or even long jeans. Unless of course, you're there to shop in air-conditioned malls and take taxis wherever you go. If you're that type of tourist that you can stop reading this post cos this is a budget vacationer here. Hahaha!

Oh, which brings me to the different seasons in Bangkok. From Dec-Feb, it's said to be the best time to visit Bangkok as the weather is kinder and can drop till 20 deg celsius in the day time! I remember there was this one I went there in Feb, and we were wondering why it felt so much colder than usual. And then we started seeing everyone wearing sweaters and jackets on the streets, which we brought none. Hahah! And from March-May, it's said to be the hottest season of Bangkok and can be as scorching as 40 deg celsius in the day, and May-October to be the rainy season, which is also the low season for travelling.

Anyway, regardless of the weather, and whether of not you walk in the markets or in air-conditioned malls, you'll be walking a lot. So here's a brief guide on what to wear/what not to wear.

Clothes:

Bring only one to two pairs of clothes there. If you dare, just wear and bring none, and just bring an empty luggage. Go to Bangkok and shop, then wear the clothes there and then. That's what MANY people do. If you're gonna complain that it's unhygienic then seriously you're missing out on the fun of vacationing in Bangkok la.

And if you're bringing clothes, bring comfy, lightweight clothes. Do bring some decent clothes if you're planning to visit posh places that require certain dress code. But if you're there to shop, eat and repeat, remember this: Wear light.

Footwear:

You can forget your heels, boots, ballerina flats, or even your sneakers. Wear your most trusty and comfy pair of shoes in the world. For me, it's my Fitflops. They're more than a year old, but they're still great. In fact, the older they are, the greater they are. I can walk the whole day nonstop, and still my feet wouldn't hurt at all. I don't even feel tired!

For you, probably it's your good ol' flip flops/slippers. Wear them everywhereeeeee. If you plan to walk a lot in the sun (e.g.: Chatuchak market), wearing sneakers/sport shoes could even burn your feet. The soles of your shoes would burn after all the walking, and you'll feel miserable cos your feet will sweat and they're hot and....you get it.

Flip flops/fitflops are the best bet.

Bags:

Seriously, forget your big or expensive lady bags. Bring a small bag that you can hang across your body, something that doesn't require you to hold it all the time. Because you'll be too busy flipping through racks of clothes, holding a Thai Milk Tea in one hand and a street snack on the other. And make sure your bag is lightweight because every weight counts when you're feeling tired. 

And don't bother looking glamorous, because after all the walking, eating and shopping, you'll look like this:


Tired, oily face, oily hair, sticky skin, and all you would want to do is to go for a good massage then shower, chill with your room with a bottle of beer and then zzz.

*Note:
Forget your hand sanitiser, hand lotion, wet tissues, face mist, and all that lady necessities and must-haves in your lady bag when you travel to Bangkok. It's okay to be not so hygienic for a few days while you're there. Remember, travel light, wear light. You'll be a happier traveller. Yes, this is coming from me. Careen. Careen- the super lady/vain Careen. That's right.


#5: Public Transportation: Compare and Negotiate

There are generally 3 different modes of transportation for tourists in Bangkok:

i) BTS Sky Train (Equivalent to our LRT). 


Every major tourist spot has a BTS station nearby, so you wouldn't go wrong if you travel by the BTS. Sometimes, you might have to walk a distance/take a cab to the exact spot you want to go.

They also have MRT that travels to certain destinations. But generally the major tourist spots are accessible via BTS. Do note that there's a lot of walking up and down the pedestrian bridge! If you're carrying a lot of stuff/shopping bags, and if you're simply too tired to walk, take a cab.

Average BTS ticket fare: RM2.50-RM5 per way/pax (depending on distance). If you're travelling alone or with one other partner, taking the BTS could be the most worth it.

ii) Taxis/Cabs

There are two types of taxis in Bangkok- one that charges by meter, and one that charges an approximate lump sum. And usually, it is cheaper when they charge by meter, so always, ALWAYS ask, negotiate and confirm if they will be charging by meter. Typically, the pink taxis would go by meter. Never jump onto the taxi without negotiating and confirming the fee with the driver. When you're already in the cab, it's very hard for you to negotiate anymore.

However, sometimes at certain places, it's difficult to find taxis that charge by meter. Most of them charge a lump sum to earn more money and rip us tourists off. Even so, sometimes it is still cheaper to go by cab (that charges a lump sum) than to take the BTS. If you're travelling in a big group, taking the taxi is usually a smarter choice because if you divide it among 3-4 people, it could amount to less than taking the BTS. And you don't have to walk so much.

But, do consider the traffic jams in Bangkok. They could get pretty nasty during peak hours (lunch time and off-work hours). If you want to get to somewhere quicker, you should consider taking the BTS or...

iii) Tuk-tuks

Tuk-tuks are rickshaws with engines fitted in, and are basically 3-wheeled motorcycles that ferries 3-6 passengers (oh yeah...I've seen a tuk-tuk stuffed with 6-7 full grown adults).

Image from google.com
Tuk-tuks can be found almost everywhere, and the drivers are usually very aggressive. They're able to spot tourists from a distance and would call out to us and shout out offers of dirt cheap fares. That would then catch out attention. 50baht to Siam from Pratunam? Really??

But, I'm gonna boldly say this: Never trust tuk-tuk drivers...fully.

Never trust them when they offer dirt cheap, too-good-to-be-true fares because in return, they'll bring you to a pitstop (somewhere they have a contract with, it may be a restaurant, a jewellery/souvenir store) to just "look and see", where in turn they'll be paid by the store owners for bringing in customers. The drivers will tell you that you don't have to buy anything from the stores, just spare extra 10 mins to "help him out". While it may sound really pitiful on his part, and 10 mins doesn't seem thatttt long, don't. Don't trust. It could be a good whole 1-2 hours for all you know. One pitstop leads to another, and there goes your precious vacation.

When they throw out unbelievable fare offers, ask them in return, "Got stop? I want no stop. I want to go direct to (your destination)." (pardon my english, but that's basic thai english there. speak as basic and direct as possible cos most of them aren't well-versed with english). They'll usually be caught off-guard and they'll start to beg you and negotiate with you. Put your feet down and tell them no, you have no time, and you want to go directly to your destination. They'll usually give in and say okay, then negotiate on the fares from there. Bangkok is all about negotiation, seriously. Negotiate until you know it's impossible anymore, then before you get on the tuk-tuk, confirm again if he's making any pitstops. Seriously, you gotta be this nasty tourist if you want to protect yourself. Never ask the tuk-tuk driver where to eat/where to go. They'll bring you to the worst places you'll ever imagine, that's right, their vendors. If you need help, google or ask the locals.


Aside from the nasty stuff about tuk-tuk drivers, going about on a tuk-tuk can be quite a fun experience. Tuk-tuk drivers take short cuts/super sharp u-turns that sends your heart beating like crap. And because they drive so fast and use short cuts (sometimes illegal), you arrive at your destination way faster than even BTS/taxis. Apart from the thrill, you enjoy the wind in your hair which is pretty nice. But, the air that you breathe from busses' exhaust pipes could kill your lungs faster. That's the down side of riding on a tuk-tuk: The polluted air and exhaust smokes.

When on tuk-tuks, keep your bags away from motorcyclists' reach. Many tourists get robbed while on a tuk-tuk at the traffic lights. So, beware of that.

Riding on tuk-tuks is a must-try. You haven't been to Bangkok if you haven't sat on a tuk-tuk and experience the fast and furious.

*Note:
All the above 3 mode of transportation in Bangkok has its pros and cons. As tourists, we make the smartest decisions by weighing the pros and cons. Take into consideration the number of people travelling with you, the time you have in your hands and see which one suits your circumstances the most.



#6: Bring More Than You Think You'll Spend

I'm not encouraging your to splurge or simply spend your money while in Bangkok, but I'm speaking from my experience (and the experience of others)- Bring more cash than you think you'll spend.

You'll want to eat more food than you thought you would, you'll want to buy that top that you'll think you need or you'll regret, you'll want to visit that cafe that everyone talks about, you'll want to go for massage more than once. There will be impromptu plans that you won't regret making. But the only thing stopping you is not that you don't have the money, it's that you don't have the Thai Baht!

Exchanging money in a foreign country is always more expensive and not worth it, and it'll pain you to do so. It'll usually be the last resort, and in the meantime, you'll use your credit card any chance you get, or exchange Malaysian notes for Thai Baht with your fellow tourist friends who also wish they brought more Thai Baht.

So, just exchange and bring more Thai Baht than you think you should. You'll need them. If not you, your friends would need them. If you really don't get to use all of them at the end of the day, keep them because you won't be going to Bangkok for just once :)

*Note:
So, how much should you bring? For a 4D3N trip to Bangkok (which is usually quite sufficient), bringing about RM1,000 worth of Thai Baht should be pretty okay. BUT, like I said, bring more than you should, so maybe RM1,300-1,500 worth of Thai Baht for comfortable spending.


I've so much more to share about Bangkok! But so far, here are the 6 basic, most fundamental things that I feel, everyone must know before setting foot into Bangkok. If you know all of these things, you'll most likely be able to have a decent, happy vacation.

More posts coming up on specific places you need to visit! 
Til' then :)


love, Careen

10 comments:

  1. Looks fun! Will wanna visit Bangkok after your post! Thanks for the review Careen! ♥♥♥

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  2. Oh dear, this is so helpful to me! *thanks*

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  3. This is so helpful, thanks for the review^^

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  4. aww! Still love this kind of authentic sharing experience!
    I am actually kinda fed up recently with some Malaysia blogger.
    They stop sharing things and thought ..most of the time they just blog about Advertorial and event :(
    Love your blog and keep it up!!<3
    and I love Bangkok!!!
    Never get enough of Bangkok!

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  5. cool! thanks for all the tips! =D

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  6. What a well laid-out blog posts! Filled with useful tips in such simple manner. *major thumbs up* =)

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  7. This review so helpfull...thanks! If you could share more of it ...it would be more fun reading^^

    ReplyDelete

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