There is only one flight from Hong Kong into Bangkok via AirAsia each day, and that flight arrives in Bangkok at 11PM. We knew that by the time it we took the taxi/train/bus into the city, it would be quite late. And here’s the kicker: you can’t really make a reservation in SE Asia. Well, you can, but not if you are a budget traveler. We read in the Lonely Planet that most budget hostels/hotels/guesthouses don’t take reservations, and even if they do, sometimes you show up and your reservation (along with your down payment) has mysteriously disappeared. So, your best bet is to just show up and start looking for a room in one of the guest houses. It made me a little nervous that we didn’t have a place lined up to stay for the night, but that’s how it is here in SE Asia, and the uncertainty is part of the adventure here.
BTW, if you are ever considering traveling around SE Asia, we HIGHLY recommend that you pick up a Lonely Planet. Jeremy and I aren’t really the guidebook types, preferring to just figure stuff out along the way, but the little yellow book is indispensable here. Seriously, there is just so much you have to figure out about each country (buses, places to stay, local customs, food, etc.)—much less each town in each country—and there is no way you can figure all that out on your own, no matter how many people you talk to. Of course, we don’t take it as gospel—we’ve already found some of their comments to be incorrect in our experience, but the LP does help point you in the right direction. For example, the LP “recommended” hostels are probably pretty nice, but we haven’t stayed in one yet, because they are usually completely booked with other travelers (who also have their own copies of LP). Typically, we just look in the guide to get an idea of where the budget hostels are concentrated, and we head to that area, stopping by each guesthouse to enquire about rates and vacancy.
So that’s exactly what we did when we arrived in Bangkok…at midnight. We headed to Soi Rambuttri, a smaller alleyway off Khao San Road. We started at one end of Soi Rambuttri and stopped at each guesthouse (and there is pretty much one guesthouse every few feet on this road), asking if they had any beds available for the night. We must have asked at least 15 places for a room until we found a vacancy at Baan Sabai, and we snapped the room up right there on the spot. So it kind of looked like a prison cell and the shared bathroom didn’t come with toilet paper (actually, we would come to find out—none of the budget rooms in Thailand come with toilet paper), but it was a place to lay our heads for 290 baht (approx. US$8.25), and that was good enough for us.
Many of the guesthouses in Thailand have little restaurants attached, and in the morning, we headed down for a much-needed cup of joe and people-watched from our guesthouse cafe.
A couple things we noticed:
1. In Thailand, the street sweepers are people rather than large machines. A huge swarm of people with bamboo brooms came by sweeping the floor, followed by a large water truck flooding the ground, followed by more sweepers. The street was spic and span afterwards, too.
2. There were a shocking number of people drinking huge beer Changs for breakfast. I should mention that these people were travelers, not Thais.
After breakfast, we moved to a new guesthouse (though to be fair, we saw some of the other rooms at Baan Sabai on our way out and they looked pretty nice). We moved down the street to Bella Bella House, and our room, while nondescript, did have its own bathroom with a hot shower (though we still had to buy our own toilet paper) for 420 baht (approx. $12). And, it did have a nice view of the neighboring temple:
We weren’t in Bangkok very long. Like most people, we stayed only a few nights one our way to the islands. But, we did walk around and see a few temples:
As well as a 40 foot standing Buddha:
And we got to meet Oak, a super nice Thai guy we met through Robert, who met him through our friend Gabe. BTW, Oak runs a website that sells Thai kickboxing gear: http://www.muaythaistuff.com. Get all your, um, Thai kickboxing gear from him!
Oak took us out on the town, and we finally saw Khao San Road, which was total mayhem! There were hundreds of tourists on that tiny street, along with food vendors, contortionists, singing transvestites, people selling clothes…you name it, you can find it on Khao San. We couldn’t believe this carnival so close to our quiet little alley, and we thanked our lucky stars we weren’t staying on this street (I’m not sure how you would sleep with all the lights and noise).
We’ll come back to Bangkok, perhaps in a few weeks on our way to Burma, perhaps in two months on our way out to Taiwan. Oak has kindly offered for us to stay with him when we come back through, and once again, we are surprised and touched by amount of generosity we’ve been shown so far on this trip. If Thailand can foster this kind of hospitality towards it’s visitors, it’s gotta be a great country…even if you do have to BYOTP.