Local Currency: Thai Baht, roughly 48 Baht to £1
Cost of Beer: 70 - 90 Baht (£1.50 - £2.00)
"So where are you heading to first?"
"We're flying in to Bangkok"
"Oh" often the reaction to this answer, accompanied by an anxious expression and a look of absolute doom!!!
Ok so if we're honest we weren't particularly looking forward to it either. Hours of blog reading and researching this bustling city had indeed left us rather apprehensive. But Bangkok made sense, it was the easiest place for us to fly in to and begin our adventure.
After 13 hours of flying we touched down in Bangkok and boy people weren't kidding about the heat. The humidity hit us as soon as we departed the airport, it wrapped itself around us and refused to let go. Our rucksacks felt like they had doubled in weight and within moments my hair began to swell!
After a connecting train journey we were greeted by a taxi driver who seemed a little too friendly. Darren had the directions to our hostel on his I-Phone (5) and as he removed it from his pocket the taxi driver took it from his palm to see where we were staying…Darren's face ;)!! But then 2 seconds later he pulls out his own I-Phone and calls our hostel for directions, what did we think…these people were using a cup and string? As we climbed in to the taxi we were generally on our guard, we had read so many stories but this guy totally proved us wrong. He told us to always make sure the meter was turned on, to take the number of the taxi you're in and gave us general advice on how much a taxi in the area should cost etc. He gave us lots of advice and funnily enough his car was decorated from front to back with Liverpool Football Club merchandise, turned out he was a massive fan.
Driving down a shady little alley way, we arrived at our first ever hostel, expectations were not high. Our driver helped us out of the taxi and we made our way in to the open faced reception. And, what a surprise! Such a cute little hostel waited. The owner was so sweet and helpful and spoke really good English, she showed us to our room. Low and behold are quaint little double, with mattresses (albeit on the floor) clean sheets, towels, lamp etc and a collection of fans dotted around the room. Ok it was unbearably hot in there even with 3 fans but that was my own fault for cheaping out and not getting an a/c room. We had arrived and we felt totally content.
After a snooze the time came to venture out. We had decided to take the only route we had heard of and journey to Khaosan Road, the backpacker's road. On our way we stopped in a local bar, lit up by candles, smooth jazz bellowing through the speakers. Our first beer was a welcome vessel and we got chatting to the owner, an Australian lady who had married a Thai man and moved here 11 years ago. 'Look' she says 'Khaosan Road will be open all night, do you want to try some real Thai food in a real good restaurant?' She proceeded to give us her recommendations.
On her advice we made our way to a little restaurant called Hemlock (Shakespear's Poison), along a road lined with small Thai restaurants, most being inhabited by locals. As we took our seats in the small, cream décor we scoured the menu and found the recommended starter Miang Kum. The dish comprised of a platter of fresh onion, ginger, chilli, dried shrimp, dried noodles, peanuts and a sweet sauce that were all to be combined within a green leaf and devoured. The taste was literally a party in the mouth and tickled every taste bud you thought you might own.
That night as we wondered back through the warm streets of Bangkok we heard a voice from up high. We wondered up to the top floor of a small hotel and spent our evening drinking beer on a rooftop whilst listening to the voice of an angel sing accompanied by an acoustic guitar as the wind bustled through the dark night of Bangkok. Why on earth were we worried about coming here?
The following days were consumed by visiting the various temples and palaces of Bangkok, yes there were attempts at various scams (please read Dirty, Rotten Scam-drels for an in depth account) but when you arrive at some of these temples it all seems worthwhile. Arriving at The Reclining Buddha I was in complete awe, nothing can prepare you for how huge this Buddha is, it really is a marvel. The Grand Palace is the most elaborate and decorative thing I have ever seen and the visit to the Emerald Buddha was truly humbling. If you ever make it to Bangkok, these temples are a must and for your information they are ALL open ALL day EVERY day, no matter what anyone may tell you.
One thing that strikes me about these ornate temples is just how immaculate they are kept, everywhere you turn there are donation boxes which are full of Baht and every prayer mat is occupied by so many Thai people praying to the Buddha. But these people are so poor, they literally have nothing, yet they would give their last crumb of food if they felt it would appease the Buddha.
For anyone travelling to Bangkok, I'd advise you to go with an open mind and a light heart. By taking everything in our stride and accepting this manic city for what it is, we genuinely really enjoyed our time here but I think three days is the perfect amount of time to spend here. It's enough to see everything you need to see but not too much that you feel you need to escape! Try and step off the tourist trail a little, explore the city on foot, go where the locals go, take a cooking class. The class we took at Mai Kaydee's Cooking School was amazing and the food we created was phenomenal, I would recommend it to anyone who ventures this way and loves Thai food.
Whatever you do…just embrace it, remember why you came here and how lucky you are to have got this far ;)