There are an endless number of undiscovered gems hiding in amongst Bangkok’s labyrinthine sois and khlongs, but the most important thing when coming to Thailand is knowing what to avoid. Everyone is looking to have a unique experience on their holiday and avoiding the following will help you have a more intimate Bangkok experience and make your time here more memorable.
Don’t Stay on Khao San Road
So many of my friends who pass through Bangkok have made the same mistake of booking a guesthouse or hostel in the infamous backpacker Mecca. Each and every one of them have said that it was too loud, too busy, and there were too many people on something other than Chang or Sangsom. Khao San is conveniently located in one of Bangkok’s older areas so it’s close to some of the temples. However, there are no main transport links at all near it like there are in most other areas of the city. The BTS and the MRT are fantastic for moving around the city and avoiding the congestion.
There are great alternatives to Khao San, like basically anywhere else in the city! If you’re looking for an authentic and unique stay in the capital, I’d suggest using a smaller hotel, guesthouse or Airbnb somewhere along the BTS or MRT lines. You’ll be able to explore Bangkok in a way that most people can’t. Eating and drinking in ‘mom & pop’ restaurants is a step above street food in terms of choice and quality. They’re small, family run restaurants that offer mouth-watering alternatives to the norm.
Living away from the tourist trap areas also means your stay will be a lot less expensive as the local shops and restaurants charge the local rate. A bottle of beer will cost you around 70THB instead of the Khao San or Sukhumvit price of 120-150THB, and your dinner will likely cost around 40-60THB per dish. A huge saving if you’re in the capital for more than a day or two!
Don’t Only Eat Pad Thai
Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand, is a stir-fried rice noodle dish that can be made with chicken, pork, shrimp or a combination of all three. It’s mixture of flavours, with lime, peanuts, chilli powder and dried shrimp make it a delicious staple of tourists in Thailand. When I first arrived here, I couldn’t order it enough! Pad Thai, however, is not the most popular dish in the Kingdom, and for a very good reason. Thailand offers one of the most diverse cuisines with hundreds of dishes. They have something for everyone.
As a Brit, I found solace in the Thai yellow chicken curry (Gaeng gari gai), which is similar to an Indian korma at home; creamy, mild and accommodating to those looking to avoid spicy food. As is the kale soup with noodles (Rad na) and they can be enjoyed with any kind of meat or even as a vegetarian option.
I got to know more dishes by just going into my local restaurant and ordering “Arai kor dai”, which means ‘whatever’. I’d be given something new every day and would ask the name of the ones I liked the most. The longer you stay here, the more you can develop your taste buds to handle more spice.
Don’t use Tuk tuks to get around
Bangkok is famous for its quaint tuk tuks in the same way Venice is for its gondolas. Times have changed I’m afraid and now the gaudy, unsafe taxis are out to take your money and your holiday fun. They are often garishly lit with neon lights while housing an unusually expensive sound system and will attempt to charge tourists 3-4 times the fare for the same journey as a metered taxi, never mind their lack of seatbelts or doors. Taxis are a much easier way to get around if the BTS or MRT are too far away or don’t go where you want to go. It certainly helps knowing a bit of Thai in order to get a metered price but they legally shouldn’t ask for a fixed fare anyway, so you should always turn down taxis who ask astronomical prices for seemingly short distances.
Maybe I’m being too grumpy and everyone should try something once, but if you do, ensure to confirm the price before getting into the tuk tuk and explain that you are not interested in visiting their ‘friend’s’ stores. A common scam is driving past a tailor and a jeweller to entice you to spend your hard-earned money so that they can get commission on top of your fare. My family were here recently and had an encounter with a driver who seemed to take offence to their disinterest in the stores and they were left feeling very uncomfortable driving through back streets with an angry driver. It’s a situation that everyone would like to avoid, I’m sure!
Tuk tuks can be fun, but just be weary of the scams that they pull. There are stories of drivers selling weed to passengers only to be pulled over moments later by the cops, asking for bribes. As with travelling to any major city, stay careful and aware of your surroundings and you’ll have a great time.