Time travels fast when you don’t write. Days. Weeks. Years. Which brings us to today — three years later, barely able to remember a thing. And what better time than a Covid-19 lockdown to try and sit down and write again.
Let me take you back to 2017. My boyfriend and I had put our lives into a 50ft storage unit, with 4 nights accommodation booked in Bangkok, a 30 litre backpack and one piece of hand luggage each.
I wanted to avoid Khao San Road like the plague, choosing to stay at W Home in downtown Bangkok. It’s owned by a wonderful host named Walaiwan (nicknamed Puk), who greeted us with cold drinks and gave us a map with directions to all the tourist attractions, along with her phone number in case we got lost.
The breakfast served is the best hotel breakfast I’ll ever have. Fried rice, pad thai, freshly cut fruit and an assortment of Thai snacks and puddings to try everyday. All served in the peaceful courtyard.
Although we were a little further out of the main city, there was still plenty of local spots after we were done sightseeing. Street food included a prawn tom yum soup that was so spicy, it may have caused permanent damage to my insides. Asiatique was also a 10 minute walk down the main road, which was a nice ease-in to the hectic night market experience for our first evening.
The guesthouse is a 10 minute walk from the main road, but Puk would give us a lift in her golf cart, affectionally named the ‘Puk Puk’, where we would then go to the boat harbour to catch the Chao Phraya Express Boat for 15BHT (35p) into the main part of the city. When getting the boat, I’d recommend being ready to get on and off because they don’t wait!
Thinking back to our first time in Chinatown, it’s all quite rose-tinted. To cross reference what I remember, I had a flick through the daily journal I kept and here’s a little excerpt from our first visit:
Chinatown is so hectic and polluted. Maybe if it wasn’t so hot — but all together, it’s a very stressful environment.
In my defence, it was only the second day, so I was still adjusting. Chinatown is actually a fascinating place once you start exploring the backstreets away from Yaowarat road. Row upon row of wholesale shops specialising in beauty, homeware, toys or even just bandanas. Make the most of it whilst you’re there, because we tried to return to one of them and never found it again.
The amount of food choices available were also a dream. We ate at a canteen a few times that did great siu yuk and rice dishes (my ultimate comfort dish, especially with a fried egg) and a couple of other places like gyozas, pad thai, and a pork intestine soup, which Will ordered as an act of defiance when the stall owner politely suggested we might not want it.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
This market is the biggest in Thailand, so big that there’s a map to help you navigate around all the different sections. It’s inside. It’s outside. There will be someone, somewhere, selling whatever you want. My favourite parts of the market was of course, the food. I liked being able to see such a huge variety of dishes I’d never seen before and try all sorts of different things.
Feeling a little tired? They have massage stalls for 150BHT. After paying for both of us, I panicked whilst trying to work out the tip in my head and handed the women 100BHT each as a tip. From then on, I did not handle the on-the-spot payments.
Taling Chan Floating Market
This visit was a spontaneous decision after a quick day-time stop at Khao San Road (which was exactly as expected), so we missed most of the boats. We ended up looking at the stalls along the walk up to the main jetty and having lunch instead. I’m not convinced it was worth the 30 minutes taxi, especially since it didn’t feel particularly easy to get transport back. The back and forth with a boat tout disguised as the “information desk” didn’t help matters.
A lovely oasis of calm in the middle of Bangok with lot’s of shade to escape from the relentless heat. My favourites things to visit abroad are botanical gardens and parks, so spending an afternoon here before getting our sleeper train from Hua Lamphong/Bangkok station was incredibly peaceful.
Siam and Ari neighbourhoods
After navigating through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, I was fully adjusted to SE Asia culture and loved Bangkok by the time we circled back.
This time we stayed more central in a private room at Chao Hostel in Siam. A nice change of scenery after 3 and a half weeks of being a beach bum, and more importantly, all the street food again. After seeing a lot of the main attractions when we first arrived 3 months ago, it left us with a few days to just wander around different areas.
Siam is where we were staying and is a lively spot for shopping and food, with big malls like MBK, Siam Paragon, and Siam Discovery, or hipster market stalls around Siam Square. It’s a convenient place to stock up on any essentials, which I recommend doing if you’re heading down to the south islands. They’re have supplies, but a lot less choice, and a lot more expensive.
Ari is a more laid back area and good for a slow walk around. There’s lot’s of little food market stalls along Soi Ari 1 and plenty more shops, cafés and restaurants along the next street on Soi Ari 2. Because it’s been so long since I was there, I imagine a lot has changed since, but I highly recommend dropping by this neighbourhood. It’s a totally different feel to anywhere else in Bangkok.
Bangkok is slightly terrifying if you’re a first-timer. But once you’re acclimatised to crowds, and confident to say “no thanks” to all the touts, it’s a goldmine of delicious food, and beautiful sights. I’d say we ate about 90% of our meals from street stalls, and I really miss it!
Read more from my SE Asia trip here.