Our first impressions of Bangkok

Our train from Ayutthaya reached the edge of Bangkok fairly quickly. We made a pitstop at Don Mueang Airport to cancel our night’s accommodation which Zoë managed to book next to the wrong airport (we were flying out of Survarnaphumi). Thankfully, the cancellation was accepted and we booked another place near the right airport. From Don Mueang to the central train station, which we now call humpalong (its really Hualalamphong) took a ridiculous amount of time. The train slowly worked it’s way through the gigantic building site which signals the ambitious public transport network that Bangkok will have in the future. By 2029, the train system will be 400km longer and have 200 new stations. Unfortunately, despite the plans, no one can change the traffic or the tryingly slow train travel until the new train lines are up and running. We made it eventually and left our bags at the luggage storage (beware the prices above the office are all wrong). Look for the left luggage corner (near the front doors). We paid 60 Baht for each 40l backpack.

One part of Bangkok’s new sky train system improvement project

We hadn’t really planned to spend an afternoon sightseeing in Bangkok. We made a quick plan to have a wander through China town and find somewhere to have a break and an iced drink. Bangkok is a muggy city and in March the temperatures are around 35 degrees Celcius. We found a nice cafe to have a coffee while sitting on a swing but unfortunately Matthias wasn’t allowed to play with the ball drop game on the wall as it was still a work in progress.

Bangkok’s China town

Originally we intended to visit the Australian embassy to find out which visa we needed and what the ins and outs of them were. Instead we used the internet in the café to ring the visa centre to find out.

Refreshed, we set off towards China town. We immediately understood why lots of people find it hard to enjoy Bangkok. The traffic is endless and in China town the narrow alleyways are crammed full of shops, food stalls, people and scooters. We can’t say we enjoyed it all that much either. It was hectic, smelly and a little like a Chinese imersion without much character. Beijing didn’t endear us to China and visiting restuarants serving shark fin soup is one of our must not do’s. Maybe when we return we will take another look at China town but one walk through was probably enough for us.

At one end of China town is the temple with the largest golden Buddha in the world. The Buddha contest is a little interesting; everyone claims to have the largest of one kind of Buddha whether it’s wood, solid gold, gold plated, standing, sitting or even alive. Quite rightly this Buddha deserves it’s title for being golden. It is very golden, shiny and impressive and seated in an ornate house. Less spectacular are the tour groups that pile in to take photos. If you can squeeze in between the buses you will get a much better look and enjoyable visit. We were a little surprised that the temple attracts so many Indian tourists as up to now we have only met the odd Indian traveller.

After the temple, we grabbed some food and made our way to our hotel. This journey meant taking the subway and the sky train which gives you great views across Bangkok. It was a little busy but thankfully air conditioned. The scenery turned from high rise blocks to copy paste housing estates to wooden shacks and then back to concrete selfbuild homes. We disembarked the station before the airport and walked the 3km to our hotel. This wasn’t the nicest walk, but it was interesting to see how the locals in the suburbs of Bangkok live. We also needed to find some dinner along the way. Let’s say, it’s a little more simple than life in the city. We visited a temple market but ended up with some pad thai from a stall on the main road which turned out to be pretty tasty.

Our hotel for the night was good although the breakfast of a ham and cheese sandwich drenched in sweetened mayo could have been a lot better. The other annoying thing was that they charged 100 Baht per person to get a shuttle bus to the airport just 7km away. We declined this offer and in the morning hailed a songthaew to the sky train station and got the train to the airport. This cost us just 22 Baht per person (7 for the taxi and 15 for the train) and maybe took 15 minutes longer than driving through the jams.

Luck was obviously on our side that day as we checked in for our flight and discovered that we got access to the airlines lounge with free food and drinks – yippee!

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