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.
She was also staying in the Khaosan area, so we shared a Grab. I was still somewhat concerned about the potential creeper lurking in the shadows, so it was a huge relief when she agreed to accompany me down the alley.
She didn’t put herself at risk, either (except by riding a scooter, but she was going to do that anyway) because she then ordered a Grab scooter and got the guy to drive down the alley to meet her. I waited outside with her until he arrived, and she texted to confirm she got home safe. (These are just some suggestions for things you might want to do if you find yourself in a similar scenario.)
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.