After about 16 hours in various minivans and an overnight bus, we landed in the madness that is Bangkok.
(FYI, the difference between buses and trains is stark. Trains are definitely the way to go. Our overnight sleeper from Malaysia to Thailand was pretty sweet – waking up to the sight of vast fields and slightly swampy land was really quite something. Though if you can, book a lower berth rather than an upper berth; they’re slightly roomier and more convenient.)
We’d been told our bus terminated on Khao San Rd, the backpacking mecca. Easy, I thought. All we had to do was walk to the end of the street, where our hostel/guesthouse was. Ha!
Instead, they rushed us off the bus on a wide, busy road, where taxis were waiting like vultures. It was a bit of a rude awakening.
First the aisle lights blared on, which I took as a warning sign, and roused myself (plenty of the others went back to sleep). Then the bus came to a halt.
“Last stop! Bangkok! Last stop! Bangkok!”
Cue a a flurry of passengers hastening to pull on socks, rub the sleep out of their eyes, and generally get their shit together while the driver yelled at us to hurry up from outside.
FWIW, after getting acquainted with the area, I’m pretty sure the bus actually stopped more or less around the corner from Khao San Rd, and the taxis made a killing driving us disoriented passengers around the block.
100 baht later, we made it to the hostel, ditched our main backpacks, and took refuge in McDonald’s. That didn’t last long. It was hotter in there than it was out on the street, the power point didn’t work, and the internet was slow and only good for an hour’s worth. Luckily, Rainbow is super comfortable downstairs, with a ton of chairs, tables, power points and fast wifi. (There’s also a 24/7 tourist centre right next to it.) Around 9 or 10 they allowed us to check in, and you can bet my first order was to take a warm shower and try to make myself feel human again. A full day of travel, (very little) sleep in your clothes, and a case of sunburn will do that to ya.
I was curious to see what the streets would be like by night. Around the corner on Khao San Rd, pubs and bars were spilling out onto the road, bulging with tourists swigging from massive beer jugs. My favourite sign was definitely this one:
That said, there were plenty of others that made us laugh out loud:
Approximately a dozen different stalls were selling identical pad thai offerings, with a few kebab and fruit/juice stalls sprinkled throughout. Tickling the other senses: the sweet smell of shisha and an awesome duo on guitar and drums at a street bar about halfway down the street covering Nirvana, the Chilis, Maroon 5, Bon Jovi, and even a spot of Van Morrison, I think.
Back across the road from our room, Indian karaoke was blasting, and did so every night while we were there. Outside, this dog guarded our hostel – he was well trained to bark at and chase away beggars/touts.
The real Bangkok? Probably not. We’ll be back next month to fly out to London, and hopefully we’ll stay in another area when we return. We ended up extending this stop by two days – reason to be revealed in my next post – but they weren’t hugely productive.