Guest story by Andrew Wang
A great way to find out about the local conditions from backpackers in a similar position to you is by spending a few days in Bangkok, before making your way to the countless villages and, of course, temples. Bangkok’s reputation as a top tourist destination was realized in the 60’s and 70’s when many American soldiers took R&R time leave and headed for the city and the nearby coastal resort region of Pattaya. It was around this time when Thailand and its capital, Bangkok, became synonymous with world travel and tourism.
Bangkok is usually the first port of call for many travellers is who make their way to the land of smiles. At first glance, the city’s airport lacks life and personality, and looks like a mound of concrete and glass. The city is known to the locals as Krung Thep Maha Nakorn….. Something, something…. It’s actually the longest place name in the world, and home to a population estimated to be between 9 million and 16 million. For travelers on a shoestring, Bangkok is a thrifty paradise where cheap thrills come… cheap!
Backpackers arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport should bypass the taxi rank and head straight to the Airport Link rail service, a high-speed train connecting with the airport with the city. When heading to the backpacker digs in the Khao San Road area, the train network stops at Phayathai where travellers will then need to change to a taxi. CityLink costs 40 baht, and is by far the quickest and cheapest way to travel the 40 km from airport to city.
Upon arriving at Khao San Road, travelers will be met a flurry of life and activity, consisting of Pad Thai stalls, clothes sellers and even stalls offering fake degree from any university imaginable. Behind all of these are some of the best value places to stay in the Kingdom of Thailand. Known locally as ‘Guesthouses’, travelers can stay enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep in a fan –cooled room with a queen-size bed for as little as 400 Baht. Rooms in guesthouses are, for the most part, comfortable and clean, and provide a great way to meet other backpackers and share find out where the Thailand’s best of the best are located.
Bangkok is a cultural melting pot, where the ’new’ and modern Asia fights the traditional Thai values and culture that have firmly stood against the test of time for – almost 2000 years. Nestled delicately between the endless rows of skyscrapers, travelers can find visit some of the unique temples of Theravada Buddhism, with their intricate detail and colorful designs. Among the throngs of cars, masses of people making their way to work, and billboard advertising, it is still possible to see Buddhist monks walk the streets throughout the morning with locals providing them with their daily food, a ritual that has been done for as long as Thai history has lasted. And when the sun goes down, Bangkok’s notorious reputation comes to life, as areas such as Patpong and Nana Plaza entertain mostly older and… more desperate… gentlemen.
Bangkok is one of the most unique cities in the world, harboring a culture unlike any other. It is vibrant, full of life and travelers should really spend a few days here in order to witness the incredible magic that many others experience in the city. The city of Krung Thep is only the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more to Thailand than just Bangkok. Get out there and see it!