Monday, September 17, 2012

Travel Diaries: Bangkok

I had a busy schedule for the last semester and so was dying since July for a peaceful unwinding. So after a lot of online research, expert advice sessions and budget estimations; I chose Bangkok, Thailand. 

I scheduled the trip for 4 days in the beginning of September, 2012. 


Bangkok airlines had a pretty decent package for a round trip at INR 13,600/- (Bangalore- Bangkok- Bangalore). Travelling in and around Bangkok is a tough task given the notorious heavy traffic. A very convenient mode of fast commute is the ARL/BTS/MRT network. So that was my priority factor when I decided to reserve a place for stay. Padi Madi Guesthouse is an acceptable Inn which is a Throw-Stone away from Thong Lo BTS Station. Booked a standard room online where the damage was THB 2600/- (One Thai Baht = 1.76 Indian Rupees). Next step was to make an itinerary which had schedules for all the intended places of interest and its appropriate travel mode which often included a combination of Trains, Buses, Ferries and lots of Walking. If we are travelling from India, we can take a Thai Visa on arrival at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok. The Visa on Arrival fee is THB 1000/- and an optional THB 200/- for a Fast Track. At this point, we need to provide a (4x6cm) photograph.


The whole check in+immigration process was a breeze as I was carrying just one hand luggage with all my essentials tightly packed in. I carried a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 17-40 Lens and my new Tamron 70-300. To save space, instead of my laptop, I chose to take with me, the iPad. The Flight PG 732 left exactly on time, strangely with 6 passengers onboard including me. We left at sharp 1.30 AM Indian time and the journey duration was 3.45 hours.

(Click on the Images to scale it up)

The 'Eggs & Sausage' Breakfast of Bangkok Airways. Was Good

Nearing Bangkok City at 6:00AM Bangkok Time

Day 1: Safari World

We landed at 6.30 and soon after the disembarkation, I proceeded to the 2nd Floor where they had Visa on Arrival Counters. I picked up a form, attached the photograph on to it and went to the counter with the filled in application. The whole stamping process took about a minute and a half as I was on the Fast Track queue.

As I could only check in to my hotel at 1.00PM (a common rule across the hotels in Singapore and Thailand), I decided to spend the morning at Safari World. I proceeded to the ARL (Airport Rail Link station) which is inside the Airport. I had to catch an ARL from the airport, get down at Phaya Thai, interchange lane, get down at Victory Monument and then catch a bus to Ram Indra Road; if I wanted to go to Safari World.

Safari world is an open zoo that consists of two parks named Safari Park and Marine Park. A drive through safari park takes about 45 minutes which features a lot of wild animals and birds. Other than that, Safari world has several stunt shows, animal shows, rides and trails. The entry fee for the Park is THB 900/- per person. If you dont have your own vehicle for the safari drive, you can buy a coach ticket for THB 30/-. The amazon jungle boat ride is an extra which will cost you 280 THB/-

By 4.00 PM, I was on a BTS towards Thong Lo. I got down at Thong Lo Station, took the Exit 1 and went to Sukhumvit Soi 53 (In Bangkok, Streets are called Soi), where Padi Madi Guesthouse is located.

The room was decent with a view and an attached bathroom (TBH 890/- per night). They also provide a high speed WiFi network for free. I took a really long hot shower and headed out to experience the famous thai street food.

Thong Lo streets had everything from Chicken to Squid to Pork to Frog and all of them tasted great. Street food is comparatively cheap as the options here are huge (Be ready to spend a maximum of TBH 40-60 per hawker).

 Day 2: Pattaya and Koh Larn (Coral Island)

Woke up early in the morning as I had Pattaya and Coral Island in my schedule for the day. Pattaya is about 165 KMs from Bangkok and I had planned to catch a bus from Ekkamai (Bangkok Bus Terminal) to Pattaya. Got down at Ekkamai BTS station which is just one stop from Thong Lo. Took a TBH 130/- ticket from the counter for a private coach which had 7 other passengers.

The journey took about 2 hours with no stops in-between. They dropped us off near the bus station; from where I had to get on a Songthaew to go to Bali Hai Pier. 

There are two ways that you can choose from, inorder to reach Koh Larn (Coral Island) from Bali Hai Pier. A 45 Min Ferry or a 20 Min Speed Boat. I was too chicken to choose the second one, so I got on a TBH 30/- Ferry. White Sands, Clear Waters, Semi Nude Girls.....Am on the way!

The last ferry from Koh Larn to Pattaya leaves at 6PM. I got on one and headed back to Pattaya. As the private coach wasn't "private" enough, I decided and opt for the 1st class Semi Sleeper bus to go back to Bangkok. 

Day 3: MBK, Soi Cowboy and China Town

Decided to wake up late as my plans for the day were in and around the city. First on the list was MBK (Mahboonkrong), an 8 storied shopping mall and cinema centre. I took a BTS to Siam, where I changed the lane and finally got down at National Stadium station, which is right next to MBK.

Picked up a 'Ferrari' Phone from an All-Purpose gadget shop

You need coupons to buy food from the monstrous food court at MBK


For the evening, I had plans for visiting Soi Cowboy (the infamous red light street of Bangkok) and Chinatown. I took a BTS from Thong Lo and got down at Asok to interchange with an MRT line. But this being a friday, the queue in front of the ticket vending machines were huge. I had to give up and opt for an alternative mode of transport. I headed out and found that Soi Cowboy was right next to Asok BTS Station.

The night was still young (more like an infant), so most of the ladies weren't out yet. I took a walk through the pink-lit street and from the other end, I took a Tuk-Tuk to Chinatown.

Tuk-Tuk, the bangkok 'meterless' version of our AutoRickshaw. But way more comfortable.

The Pork Rice which was pure awesomeness!

From Chinatown I took a Tuk-Tuk to Hua Lumphong MRT Station, went to Asok, switched over to BTS and went back to Thong Lo.

Day 4: Taling Chan Floating Market, Siam Center

Final day at Bangkok. Had to vacate the room by 11AM. I left Thong Lo at around 10.30AM and got down at Saphan Taksin. Again, seeing the violent Chao Phraya river, I chickened out of the express boat tour and instead took a Tuk-Tuk to Taling Chan Floating Market

My return flight was only at 10:30PM and I had enough to to kill during the day. I decided to visit the Siam Tower, which was anyway a BTS hub. Checked out the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum,which was impressive but small. (TBH 400/- Per Person)

At 6.30 PM, I caught the ARL to Suvarnabhumi Airport from Phaya Thai BTS Station. The flight was right on time. We had to pass through a couple of really bad storms causing an irritating turbulence through out. Eh, I guess that comes with the season.


Places of Interest: 7/10
Weather : 5/10
Food: 8/10
Tourist Friendly: 6/10

Verdict: A Must-Visit, Definitely!