The song “One Night in Bangkok” (from the musical Chess) was the soundtrack in my brain yesterday evening as we drove through the night to our hotel in Bangkok. I was wondering does that happen to a lot of people or was it just me. We had just come off an 18 hour flight from Dublin via Abu Dhabi and I was bright as a button and charged with excitement.
I am in Thailand, which literally means “Land of the Free”, formerly known as Siam, it is a place which has, for generations, conjured up images of the exotic and beautiful. The place of romantic beaches, ornarte temples, smiling friendly folk, warm weather or massage parlours and reclining Buddhas if the song is to be believed. The massage parlours I spotted already and I’m sure there will be a Buddha or two before our time here is up.
The trip into the city from the airport took over an hour by taxi. Although I was too absorbed taking in the passing sights to care, the traffic was a nightmare, scenes reminicent of the boom days on the M50 (Dublin’s orbital) when Ireland was a country on the move (or not as the case may be). It would appear the Thais rather than spend billions widening their highways, just decided the hard shoulder was perfectly adequate for purpose and use it as a fourth lane, it didn’t appear to be making an significant impact on the situation however as we inched our way ever closer to the city.
Once we got off the motorway and into the Sukhumvit area of the city, there was an explosion of lights and colour. Tuk Tuks and bicyle taxis jammed the streets. The footpaths were packed on one side by shops and restaurant and on the kurbside with small makeshift businesses, and in between a throng of potential customers, it is obvious space is at a premium in this city of over 14 million people. Night markets and food carts and temporary food stalls, were crammed into every available space. The steets were heaving with people, going about their every day life, working, meeting friends, bargain hunting, window shopping. For all how different cultures are, I often think it is amazing how much is the same for us, wherever we may be from. Concerns about home or family, meeting the right boy/girl, passing our exams or getting a job.
Outside the air conditions buildings and vehicles the evening heat was extordinary and I suspect the mosquitos got the memo announcing my expected arrival as they were lining up for my rather reluctant blood donation. I think hubby brings me along as a decoy, because those little blood sucking monster from hell give me a torrid time while he remains relatively unscathe.
So now it is 4:20am and I’m officially jet lagged, but excited about our upcoming adventure. We won’t delay in Bangkok, we head North to Chiang Rai today but we will return here later in our trip to explore more fully the sights and sounds of the city. In the meantime, I’m off to download the song so I don’t have to listen to my murdering renditions of it anymore.
TIP: When arriving in Suvarnabhumi airport, ignore the signed desks that say ‘Taxis’ in the arrivals hall, they are private taxis and a rip off, follow the signs for “Public Taxis” down one level, it is a regulated, metered taxi and even with the bad traffic we paid less than half what was quoted in the arrivals hall. You will need Thai currency for the tolls into the city but there are ATMs and Exchange Bureaus at the airport which can help you with that.
When I first started visiting Bangkok years ago I always used to stay downtown near the river and major tourist spots but now, like you, often stay in Sukhumvit. It has developed into quite a convenient area for tourists to stay. Underground and overground transport, and buses make it super easy to get just about anywhere.
Instead of a taxi to/from the airport, try the metro/airport link – it’s new, fast and efficient. Makaasan is a major stop, close to Sukhumvit.