The bus dumped us off in the middle of a busy intersection near the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok’s ‘Old City’. I’d already decided we weren’t staying there. I’d never been there during my numerous visits to Bangkok in the past, and I had absolutely no interest in discovering it. But there we were, striding down Khao San in an attempt to escape the enthusiastic taxi drivers and find a little space to clear our heads and formulate an escape plan.
We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay partly out of laziness, and partly due to the fact that we quite like to check out a place before we hand over money. We had found a reasonable place online, but it was on the other side of town, and it was peak hour in Bangkok, which meant at least an hour in the taxi, with no guarantee that we would be able to find it, let alone like it. We ran it past a tuk tuk driver, who responded with, “very far. 300 baht.”
$10 doesn’t sound like much, and where I’m from, that wouldn’t get you beyond your driveway in a taxi, but it was way too much for Bangkok. After eleven hours of travel from Koh Chang, neither of us had the energy to bargain with him either. We decided to get a room on Khao San for the night, then take on Bangkok the next day, refreshed and rejuvenated.
We should have taken the tuk tuk. Tired and verging on meltdown, we settled on a 850 baht room (almost $30) which although was pretty nice, was over our budget, and in a part of town that really wasn’t up our alley. Tourists and touts everywhere, drivers looking for overpriced fares and people trying to sell everything from ridiculous hats to things that make cricket sounds (why would you want to simulate insect noises? There are enough here already!).
Defeated, we headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner, where we were overcharged (we realised the next day) and underwhelmed.
I felt like Khao San had me in her loud, seedy grips and wasn’t about to let me go easily.
I woke up at 5am the next morning, my head spinning from the night before. The rip-off meal, the tourists everywhere, and I mean everywhere, the overpriced guest house with a sign saying “No Thai People Allowed”. It was all too much. I was looking forward to returning to Bangkok, a place I had visited many times during my time working as a flight attendant, and I had developed a real affinity with the place. I wasn’t feeling that here, in fact I felt quite the opposite.
Thankfully Tyrhone felt the same. We had to get out of Khao San!
After breakfast we approached a taxi driver.
“Sawadee Kha. Meter?” I asked him, knowing full well he wouldn’t want to use it. All taxis in Bangkok have meters but they like to charge tourists more and don’t like to use them. As the traffic can be horrendous, I don’t blame them, but I hate getting ripped off.
“No meter,” he replied.
In the end, he didn’t want to take us anyway, because we refused a detour to a factory where he would be rewarded with fuel vouchers.
The tuk tuk drivers didn’t want to know us either, “too far” they said, before yelling out to other tourists, “floating market?”
We don’t want to go to the fricking floating market, we want to get the hell out of here!
I took a deep breath. I promised myself I wasn’t going to lose it. I told myself that this is just the way is here, that it is not worth getting upset about, and that if I did have to pay 300 Baht to get out of here, then so be it.
We walked along the road, and as we turned onto a busy street, a taxi pulled over. We showed him the address, and settled on a price of 150 Baht. I could live with that. Grateful, we threw our bags in the boot, not looking back as Khao San and her craziness faded into the distance.
Turns out, our taxi driver was lovely, and actually got us to our destination in Sathorn without too much drama (and a little help from google maps!).
As we turned off busy Sathorn Road into a quiet Soi (street) we found ourselves in a quaint residential area, complete with requisite food stalls. Bingo!
The taxi barely fit down the narrow lane, as the sign for our apartments came into view. We made it! Thankful, I tipped the driver an extra 20 Baht for his good nature and for getting us to our destination, which was looking more like the Bangkok I knew and loved. My heart leaped at the idea of exploring these narrow lanes where people lived and worked.
The staff at the hotel were friendly, and the room looked clean and comfortable, with a huge bathroom and A/C. A roof terrace looking over Bangkok’s skyline, as well as a small pool sealed the deal. For $20, we’d found our home away from home in Bangkok, and the tourist hoards of Khao San seemed like a world away…
I’ve loved being back in Bangkok. I’ve caught up with some friends that live here, eaten Som Tam (spicy papaya salad) every day, and have loved returning to our quiet Soi of an evening, away from the chaos and traffic. We have two amazing local restaurants nearby as well as excellent street stalls selling fruit, sticky rice with mango (!) and of course, banana pancakes.
We have been to the cinema three times in five days, thanks to Tyrhone’s obsession with sweet popcorn, which you don’t get in Australia. Not that I’m complaining, “John Carter” the action, sci-fi blockbuster was not high on my priority list of films to see, but seeing it in Siam Paragon’s state of the art IMAX theatre in 3D was pretty spectacular! I made up for it by making him see “Mirror, Mirror” the new Snow White movie starring Julia Roberts, which I might add, he enjoyed.
But not as much as the free Muay Thai fights we have watched. They have set up two boxing rings outside MBK shopping mall and every evening guys and girls beat the crap out of each other in the name of sport. It’s fantastic, and again, something I didn’t think I’d enjoy as much as I did.
But alas, our two-week overland visas for Thailand expire in two days, so we are off on the overnight train to Vientiane in Laos to apply for longer-stay Thai visas. And while we’re there we may as well explore a bit…
I wonder what the Vientiane equivalent of Khao San Road is? Someone please tell me so I can stay away…