I went to Bangkok twice during my six-month Asia trip, and had two totally different experiences. This is part one: the week of being a tacky backpacker (July 2019).
With that disclaimer out of the way…
My first impression of Bangkok was the shuttle bus from DMK airport to Khaosan Road.
Yep, I went straight to Khaosan Road, and hardly saw any of the rest of the city for the whole week, and I have no regrets.
It was my 25th birthday (on the day I arrived), it was a spontaneous trip (after being in Chiang Mai my first three weeks)… and it was awesome!
Khaosan Road is, admittedly, a cesspool of humanity.
Here’s a sample of what you can expect to find (the clip below is someone else’s footage from 2012):
However, being as I was (young and with friends), it was soo much fun.
We spent a lot of time at this place called Gun Bar, which is actually on the street adjacent to Khaosan Road, Soi Rambuttri (Rambuttri Alley). It’s ever-so-slightly quieter, and this bar has the cheapest drinks on the street.
I didn’t actually get a picture of the bar (and it’s impossible to find on Google Maps), but it’s directly across the street from this place, Sleep WithInn, so enjoy this photo of a guy running in the rain in flip flops with a bag on his head.
You can buy pad thai from the stall in front of the bar if you get hungry.
There’s also a convenient shortcut between the two streets (Khaosan and Rambuttri).
To find it from Rambuttri, look for this sign:
Brave the fearsome guard dog:
And continue down this sketchy alley…
(It’s not that sketchy, though. I mean, I know the photos make it look bad, but I actually felt perfectly safe in there. Plus there’s a really cool hole-in-the-wall reggae bar about halfway through the alley that’s always packed with people.)
…Until you emerge onto Khaosan!
Khaosan Road wasn’t literally the only place I saw that week.
I also took a Grab (Southeast Asia’s Uber) to a night market, to meet up with some friends-of-friends.
The driver kept a TV show on while he drove, which was questionable. (See it playing in the bottom-right corner of his phone screen?)
The night market was packed.
The best way to get through was to follow closely behind this guy pulling a cart loaded with ice, who forced people out of the way.
Where I stayed
Bangkok also wasn’t all crowds and chaos.
I first stayed at The Oasis Hostel on a quiet side street.
I would definitely recommend this hostel. However, after a few days I wanted a bit more space to myself, so I moved to Amarin Inn.
Decent rooms at a great price!
I wasn’t too sure about it at first, though, because it’s down yet another sketchy alley…
The alley is located between these two buildings (where the person in the white t-shirt is standing).
While I was walking down the alley, someone started driving down it on a scooter. I wondered how they would possibly fit past me.
Fortunately they made it, and I lived to enjoy the hotel’s rooftop.
More things I enjoyed
Why Bangkok is called the Venice of the East:
Chatuchak weekend market.
A chocolate ice cream-brownie-bingsu (Korean shaved ice) sundae at Swensen’s.
And these glorious sights from around Phra Athit Road
The iconic Phra Sumen Fort, built in 1783.
A cat sleeping.
A woman walking in the rain.
The gorgeous Coco Chaopraya cafe, on the banks of the Chao Praya river.
There was even a convenient, safe, and shockingly clean public washroom nearby.
The low point of the trip came when I met this weird, creepy guy at a Couchsurfing hangout. He seemed normal-ish at first, but sent me a series of disturbing text messages between 3 and 10 AM the next day (I blocked him immediately upon reading them).
My friends were leaving that afternoon, since their Thai visas were expiring. I was thinking I’d stay and explore the city on my own, starting with another Couchsurfing meetup that evening.
I knew the creepy guy would be there, since I saw his name on the publicly viewable guestlist, but there were 60+ people going and I messaged the organizers privately asking them to keep an eye on him. Also, I refuse to live in fear!
When I got there, the creepy guy was talking to another girl, so when he got up to get another drink I went over and warned her about him. Then the girl and I decided to leave together and ended up at a rooftop bar, which was cool.
A day of reckoning
The next day, I had to face the super-long work assignment I had been putting off for the past week.
It was time to lock myself in my hotel room and open my laptop. At this point, I realized A) I felt alone and miserable and wanted to go “home”—to Chiang Mai—and B) I would have to stay up all night to finish the assignment.
So, logically, I booked a flight departing at 6:30 AM, thereby guaranteeing I would stay up all night.
Misery ensued—but I successfully finished the assignment at 3:15 AM, made it to the airport, and was home in my Chiang Mai hostel room a few hours later.
And so concluded my week
Upon my return, someone in the Writers of Chiang Mai group mentioned his go-to quip is “I spent a week in Bangkok last night“—a perfect description of how time feels in this incredible city.