The Do’s & Don’ts of Bangkok

The-dos-and-donts-of-BangkokPrior to my trip to Bangkok, I was offered endless advice about the city, but mainly lots of horror stories and influencing negativity. Maybe it was concern due to it being my first backpacking adventure or maybe it was words of wisdom. Whichever way I looked at it though, I remember feeling the overwhelming urge to simply say:

‘I really do appreciate all this but please stop! It’s my trip, I’m immensely excited and you’re kind of shitting all over it before I’ve even left.’

Apologies for the expletives and ok, maybe that is a little harsh but it was exactly how I felt at the time.

Anyway, I took the advice on board but stored it in the back of my mind, rather than in the front row, the good seats, with all the leg room….

Top Tip: If anybody tells you not to visit Bangkok, then they’re an idiot and should be immediately removed from your life!

I had an incredible time in this great city! Some of the advice I was given was true, lots was false and it was the combination of all of this that made me want to share with you, my version of…..

THE DO’S & DON’TS OF BANGKOK

DO ask taxi and tuk tuk drivers the cost of your journey before you decide to use their services. Some will tell you their price, some will say it depends. If so, just be cautious that they may chose to take an indirect route, equalling in a longer journey and therefore becoming more costly. 

 

DON’T believe people when they tell you the Grand Palace is closed. This is a very popular con in Bangkok. A local will come up to you and advise that the palace is closed for one reason or another. They will tell you about a great shopping centre or temple you can visit and even beckon a tuk tuk driver. The tuk tuk driver will take you to a tailor or jewellery shop where they will receive coupons for petrol as a reward for providing them with potential custom. The Grand Palace IS open! 

Bangkok Palace

 

DO get a traditional Thai massage. You’ll be inundated with massage therapists and guys selling nuru and soapy massages, but keep walking. (If you have opted for one of these then shame on you! Just kidding. But if you have and write a blog, I bet that would make an interesting read.) If you can bypass all these dodgy massage sellers then go find yourself a proper parlor. The massage will loosen places you didn’t know were tight and vitalize places you didn’t know you had.

 

DON’T be scared if when having your massage and lying on your front, you spot a foot placed over your head and hanging in front of you. When I had mine I was bent in ways I didn’t know were possible and thought the foot in front of me belonged to the guy on my right. Nope, that foot was mine and although I experienced unbelievable pain it was actually strangely satisfying and loosened me up for weeks. I still keep an eye out for that massage therapist when watching Britain’s Got Talent. 

 

DO use a tuk tuk. they are great fun and you will see lot of smaller side streets that you otherwise wouldn’t see in a taxi (as they couldn’t fit down them). Just be sure to ask the tuk tuk driver how much the journey will be with NO STOPS! If they are happy to take you with no stops then hop on board. They’ll give you a price and although you may pay an extra dollar or two, no stops means a much more enjoyable ride. The drivers will try haggle and say, ‘just 2 stops’ or even just one. If this is the case simply say ‘no thank you’ or ‘on ya tuk tuk mate’ and try the next guy. Remember they will want to make stops at tailors and jewellers in order to get their petrol coupons. These stops for you, will mean endless excuses as to why you don’t want a suit or a shiny pair of fake earings. 

I travelled through 7 Countries in 85 Ways. Tuk tuk’s were definitely one of my favorite forms of transport.

tuk tuk

 

DON’T be fooled into having a private blessing with a monk whilst visiting Wat Po. I did do this. Although it felt quite cool and was definitely an experience to look back on, it was highly awkward and false. The monk will douse you with water and give you a necklace but you will not be leaving until you offer an amount of money they are happy with. This makes for a tense end to what should be a holy and tranquil experience. 

Wat Po

 

DO eat street food. It will probably be some of the best food you’ll eat in Thailand. Not to mention the cheapest and one with the most authentic dining experience. I was once seated at a table so close to the edge of the pavement that the back legs of my chair were in the road. Never have I enjoyed a Pad Thai more than I did here, with traffic zooming around me and my chair.

 

DON’T eat street food too far away from your hotel/hostel etc. Although the food is generally great you can of course be caught out by something that doesn’t agree with you. Only then will you appreciate this advice as you sprint back to your room in a manner Usain Bolt would be proud of, with the tightest clenched buttocks imaginable. My friend Scott can certainly vouch for this. Sorry mate!

street food

 

DO tell tailors who follow you down the street, hassling you that you just had a suit made when visiting Vietnam. I’m not quite sure why this works but I tried this before and after visiting Vietnam and it worked every time. The nuisance tailors simply disappeared into the crowds, never to be seen again. 

As the son of a tailor, I have since forever wondered if people back in the UK who use this excuse are doing the same thing, or maybe they have read this blog…. bugger!

 

DON’T tell these tailors, ‘maybe tomorrow’ or the famous ‘next time, mate’. They WILL find you, they WILL hassle you and you WILL wish you had read this. 

 

DO take a teak boat ride down the river and through the canals. These boat rides are brilliant. At times a high speed adrenaline fix. At other times an insight into the slum areas and the non touristy side of the city. It offers amazing views of homes, temples, monastery gardens and much much more. 

Bangkok Tour Wat Arun Bangkok Tour Bangkok Tour Bangkok Tour Bangkok Tour Bangkok Tour

 

DON’T get off the boat if they stop at the Thonburi Snake Farm. Trust Trip Advisor reviews on this one. I didn’t know anything about this place and unfortunately got off the boat. The snake show was actually very interesting. The guys are bonkers but if you want to experience snakes up close and personal then you will like this bit although there are far better snake farms/shows in the city than this one.

If you do choose to go, then leave after the snake show. Don’t go into the attached zoo. Walking around this zoo was one of the saddest things I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing. I never wanted to become an animal activist more than I did when walking around this place. Lets just say a crocodile should not be in a pen just twice the size of itself and bears should not be bald from pulling their own hair out in cramped, wire cages. I thought about this place for a long while after leaving. I was so sad that I paid money to enter a place that treats animals like they do and I’m sad that my money helped to keep that going. But on the other hand, if didn’t pay, would the animals be even worse off? I think they call this a moral dilemma.

Snake Farm Snake Farm

 

DO book your first nights accommodation prior to arriving in Bangkok. It is much easier to get transport to a particular place rather than simply an area of the city. If you opt for the latter, a taxi driver will see this as an opportunity to take you somewhere that they get a commission for bringing unsuspecting tourists. I opted for the latter and ended up in a Bangkok strip bar where the ladies sit on stools in front of you ready to be chosen. If you choose one they apparently are yours for the night. Did I choose one I hear you asking…… NO WAY! It may have been a great story to tell, all be it not one to share with the grandkids, but I not only value my health but it can also be quite tricky telling the difference between the ladies and the lady boys. Be warned!

If unsure where to book, opt for Lub d, Silom. I eventually made it to Lub d and stayed here for my first and last night in Bangkok and it was one of the best hostels you will stay in.

Bangkok hostel

 

DON’T pay 1 US dollar for a nights accomadation down Khao San Road. I did so just to see how little you can spend on a room for the night and it wasn’t a rewarding experiment. My two mates and I shared a room above a club that played drum and base music 24/7. The bed had wire instead of wooden slats and no mattress. Their was no glass in the window and no door to the room. The only bathroom was on the ground floor and it to had no door and was shared by the whole hostel and apartment block above. It also doubled up as a shower room (as many do in South East Asia). Yup, it was by no means glamorous but it was dirt cheap…. actually dirt describes every aspect of that place quite perfectly.

Khao San Road Khao San Road

 

DO go to a Ping Pong show. They are ….. (struggling for a word) … unique. You will be wowed, in awe and shocked by the girls’ talents and it actually isn’t as seedy a feeling as it sounds. I was surprised by the amount of western couples sat among the audience all enjoying their night of ‘theatre’. (You’ll be pleased to hear I don’t have any photos for this one!)

 

DON’T go to the toilets at the Ping Pong show (at least don’t if attending one down an alley way in Pat Pong). To me and my friends’ surprise it was less a toilet than a urinal in a corridor where all the girls get changed….or more to the point, undressed. Lets just say, it isn’t the most private moment, especially if you’re caucasian. If you want to know why, try it and see, but good luck!

Top Tip: if presented with a bottle of beer with lid on, don’t be surprised if the barmaid opens the bottle in a far less natural way than you’d expect. My immediate response was; ‘do you have a glass?’

IN SUMMARY

DO go to Bangkok and do immerse yourself in the mad wackiness and loonacy that this amazing city has to offer. Do note that my ‘Don’ts’ were all experiences in themselves and gave me interesting stories to tell so don’t follow them too rigidly … BUT whatever you do, don’t by any means leave Bangkok too soon, however I don’t think you will make it 2 days without having a number of Bangkok stories of your own to tell. Just be careful which ones you choose to share with the grandkids.

Photo Credit: Ahron de Leeuw

  • http://www.runawaybabe.com Runawaybabe

    Great do and don’t list. I must admit, I was afraid of eating in the streets. I have a very sensitive stomach and that was definitely a challenge. Thank God, I survived and didn’t need a toilet express trip. The ride trough the canals was amazing! I swear… Venice is NOTHING. I enjoyed it very much, I could see a bit more of the “inside” Bangkok.

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Thank you for the comment. So pleased you also had a great time in Bangkok and good to know you weren’t caught short after the good street grub! 😉
      Interesting about Venice. It’s on our ‘list’ but good to know the comparison 🙂
      Just checked out your blog. Love it!
      James

      • http://www.runawaybabe.com Runawaybabe

        Thanks James for your reply 🙂 and for stopping by my blog. The trip in gondola is a dream for a lot of people, even for me before moving to Europe. Now I see the whole Venice “dream” different, don’t get me wrong, the place is lovely and worth to visit but it’s overcrowded and loosing that authenticity (like all touristic places, lots of things are tourist-made). For a quick visit, I would suggest you to explore the old city for photos before 10 am, specially during summer, otherwise you will have stumble over a lot of people.

  • http://www.theglobetrottingteacher.com Jackie | Globetrotting Teacher

    I’m heading to Bangkok in a few weeks so thanks for all the great tips! Your Dos and Don’ts made me laugh, all while taking copious mental notes. The snake show scared me just from pics..yikes! I shudder to think about those other poor animals. I am looking forward to the craziness of the city and having a few stories of my own to tell!

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Ooooh you’re going to have a great time Jackie – such a fantastic place – (snake farm not included!) Can’t wait to read your stories once you get back… enjoy every moment & hope my Do’s and Don’ts prove useful. 🙂
      James

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