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Back to Bangkok: Street Food and Shopping
Bangkok: finally, less mopeds!
Having visited Bangkok briefly last year as the start and end point of my Thailand trip, I was worried I might have seen all the good bits already and find myself bored second time around. Oh how wrong I was!
You might say it should have been obvious, given the size of Bangkok, that I couldn’t possibly have seen everything that was worth seeing. But let’s not forget that I’ve recently passed through several major Asian cities, that really were done and dusted in the first day and a half. Arriving here solo this time gave me a little more insight into how everything works, and you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve found a few more things to see and do, too.
A bus I did not get lost on.
One thing I failed to touch on much in my previous posts was transport. Finding out roughly how much a journey should cost you before you set off is worth doing, because it enables you to haggle fairly with tuktuk drivers, and with taxi drivers who refuse to put their meter on. You might say you wouldn’t get in such a taxi, but you may find yourself without a choice! Always agree a price before you set off, or you could find yourself losing out when it’s time to pay.
The best way to avoid getting ripped off by a dodgy driver who takes you the long way around town and tries to stop off at his friends businesses along the way is by using public transport. When I got the bus to Chatuchak Market from Khao San Road, the half hour journey cost 6BHT. That’s 11p. A taxi was going to cost more like £6. And the ticket staff on the buses will almost always point you off out the door if you make it clear where you need to depart! A lot of map apps now show you your location even without wifi, so if in doubt just follow your location as you travel so you know when it’s nearly time to hop off.
Part of Chatuchak weekend market, Bangkok
Speaking of Chatuchak market, just wow! After all the crazy markets I’ve been to so far it was a huge culture shock all over again to step into the 15,000+ trendy, modern stalls that Chatuchak has to offer. Known as the weekend market, much of Chatuchak operates on other days of the week too- and the JJ Green night market just behind the main site continues until midnight Thursday-Sunday, so there’s still time to shop if you miss the usual hours of 9-6.
I spent 6 hours at the weekend market and still didn’t see everything. From one-of-a-kind ethical designer clothes to authentic curry pastes and the obligatory rows of fake sunglasses, you can buy just about anything here at a very reasonable price. Unlike other markets, most goods here are clearly priced- though even then, haggling is still possible unless clearly signposted otherwise.
Fresh coconut icecream with sweet sticky rice and peanuts, 30-40BHT
Other good spots for shopping include the well-known MBK Center on Phaya Thai Road (not far from Phaya Thai station, and the 45BHT rail link to Suvarnabhumi Airport) and the more traditional Bang Nam Pheung floating market, on the East side of Bangkok.
This one is a little more difficult to reach, but by going away from the tourist-focused modern energy of the better-known shops, you can quickly find yourself in a much more relaxed, authentic spot. You won’t find knock-off sunglasses here, but you can get a great pad Thai or plate of fried rice for as little as 10BHT (20p) without even having to get out of your boat.
Apparently this is my only photo from the floating market here, because I was clearly too busy eating noodles to focus.
And that’s really the other thing I spent my time “doing” in Bangkok. Investigating all the street food. Thailand has a much wider variety of local food than Vietnam or Cambodia, and I actually found that whilst the restaurant food I ate here made me sick- the street food didn’t! So don’t be afraid to try delicious things just because they’re served from a cart.
You can get amazing, freshly-made pad Thai from street vendors from 25-40BHT, and classics like panang and massuman curry served with rice from 50BHT (£1). Street vendors seemed to be a reliable source of bigger portions and more flavoursome food, and I’d suggest digging around for red curry paste fried rice or a yellow curry with sticky rice if you can find them.
Other points of interest for me were the National Gallery, just around the corner from Khao San- some great artwork, and I had the whole place to myself!- usually 30BHT entry but I got in free for some reason… As well as religious sites such as the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) on Ban Bat and the mad red and gold labyrinth that is Chinatown. As far as temples go, the possibilities are endless, but there are half a dozen that are free to enter within a ten minute walk of Khao San.
As far as the Khao San Road itself is concerned (Bangkok’s number 1 backpacker club strip) all I’ll say is by all means stay near it, but don’t stay on it. Khao San is great if you like wearing neon vests and drinking out of “towers”, and it can also be a good place to meet countless other backpackers who aren’t idiots as well. But it costs twice as much to stay ON Khao San as it does to stay on the quieter roads either side, and the extra money will only buy you a terrible nights’ sleep.
If you want to stay in this area when you arrive, I’d recommend Laksameenarai Guesthouse on Trok Mayom. £7 a night got me a clean, comfortable bunk in a small all-female dorm with free breakfast, Wifi and hot showers, and I could be on Khao San in under a minute but didn’t have to listen to any of the noise. Ideal.