Freelance 20-something Australian writer with a passion for criminal justice, travelling,food & thrifting.
Published April 25th 2013
Things that would be nice to know before you go
Bangkok at a Glance - What the Tour Agencies Don't Tell You
Bangkok at night.
"Oh Bangkok is wonderful, it's busy and beautiful! The shopping is amazing, the food is wonderful and cheap, and don't even get me started on the alcohol! The people are so friendly"
If you've ever visited a tour agency in the hopes of visiting Bangkok, that is quite possibly what you've heard. Although all of this is true, there are a few things they may neglect to leave out. Below are a few things that people don't always tell you about Thailand, or if they do mention it, they don't tell you the whole picture.
Traffic. Yes, yes. Everyone knows about Thailand's famous traffic. I'm sure you've seen it on TV. It looks chaotic, and it is - but for some reason I can't begin to fathom, it works. In Bangkok, Thai traffic was very fluid with lanes seemingly being optional. We spent some time observing the traffic as we did a lot of walking and for the most part we were just holding our breath, waiting for an accident.
We took a taxi to one of the temples in Bangkok and during the entire ride not once did I feel we were going to crash (although we were definitely breaking Australian road rules in droves). Thai drivers know exactly how to handle the roads that Thailand is so famous for and this is so evident once you actually get onto the road.
So yes, it looks scary and dangerous, but with a Thai at the wheel I doubt you'll have to worry!
Believe me, this is only a few motorcyclists.
Smell & Pollution. Firstly, I think it's fair to say that whenever you go to a new place, it's probably going to smell different to what you're use to.
But secondly, Bangkok smells. I did expect this, but perhaps not quite as much as it did. My travelling partner and I felt like it most resembled the smell of cooked cabbage, and were surprised to find that it even invaded our hotel corridors in the CBD.
There is also an awful lot of pollution, which is more noticeable in certain parts of Bangkok. When we visited Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in the evening, I found the pollution so bad that I would quickly run out of breath from even just walking up and down the stairs. Walking down the footpath was enough to make me notice that I was breathing differently.
On the flip side, Bangkok has a lot of high up walkways over the city (for example, between shopping centers and some train stations) and they were wonderful and clear for the most part. The air around shopping centers and parks was also very clean, possibly thanks to the large amount of plants that are concentrated around that area.
The walkways that are above the city are a lot fresher feeling then the streets below.
Hotel Breakfast is Amazing, Besides Where Else Would You Get Breakfast? Or at least breakfast at every hotel I stayed in in the entire Thailand was amazing - even the budget ones. They serve an intentional buffet -rices, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, noodles, soups, chicken, fish, beef, bread rolls, juices, milks, cereal, toast, fruits etc. I'm a fussy eater and I could happily eat my fill.
I do actually advise getting breakfast at your hotel if possible. Not only do they have chefs cooking pancakes, omelettes etc continuously (and will probably do special orders if you ask), but Bangkok opens late. Although some places may open earlier then others, we discovered that the major shopping centers often didn't open until 11 (although they are open until very late).
There's little else to do in front of the MBK shopping center when you turn up 2 hours early, except for taking photographs.
When you go to Thailand people will forever be warning you that Thai people will try to scam, trick & swindle you. This is true of some Thai people, but not of all Thai people (just the same as in any country). Bangkok was definitely the worse offender in our travels for scam artists - we had multiple people try and get us to buy tickets from unofficial sources for various events (including trains & temples), and we had one persistent man consistently trying to tell us the shopping centers were closed and that we should come to his shop instead.
HOWEVER, there are Thai people out there that are very lovely and very helpful for tourists. Upon our arrival to Bangkok (late at night), my travelling partner and I were under a street lamp looking at our massive map trying to figure out how to get to our hotel. A businessman walked past, asked us where we were trying to find and gave us directions before simply going on his way. We also had a lovely Thai woman tell off people who were trying to sell us tickets from unofficial sources.
Bangkok with not a person in sight - a very rare occurrence!