M: Ahhh what to say about Bangkok… We arrived back in Bangkok from Chiang Mai bright and early on an over-night bus. This gave us just over 24 hours to figure out a place to stay before our friend Pat arrived from Toronto. We knew that our time in Asia was coming to a close, but before it did, we got to play “tour guide to places we’ve never been before” one last time.
Bangkok lives up to its reputation, and has something from every part of the spectrum. There are restaurants that charge as much as their NYC counterparts, and there are shanty towns where the lodgings are created out of anything that could be found.
We started our tour with a riverboat ride through the canals and to the “floating market.” Unfortunately, because we were not there on a weekend, the “market” were two pretty sad looking boats. We did, however, take them up on a beer (which was marked up immensely due to the novelty of the situation).
We were then dropped off in this fantastic market near the palace, where we snacked on meat-on-a-stick, mangosteens, and beers that were a quarter of the price charged 10 minutes up the river…
There is a very large population of ex-pats, so being Western-looking is by no means out of the norm. That being said, the locals are pretty good at discerning a tourist from a resident, and getting scammed is as easy as can be.
One of the most well known scams is known as the palace scam. As the palace is a big tourist draw in Bangkok, the local population has adapted to try and get as much money off any tourist nearby. The first part is that they will tell you that the palace is closed, but not to worry as they have the solution for what you should do for a couple hours until it reopens. Surprisingly, we fell for this one again. The guy shows you a map of all these other sites to see, then tells you how cheap it will be, and puts you in a tuk-tuk. For the most part, it’s pretty harmless.
You do get a cheap ride around the city, but most of the stops are stores where the driver gets a gas voucher in return for bringing tourists. I will say that if you are looking to purchase new, high quality, individually tailored suits, this wouldn’t be a scam at all for you, but rather a convenient way to compare prices.
After being driven around to mostly stores, one extremely over-priced restaurant, and one impressively tall Buddha statue, we arrived back near the palace just in time for it to actually close for the day. We stood there and just laughed beside a sign that said “If someone tells you the palace is closed, it’s a scam!” We realized it was not to be and set off back to our hotel, resigned to try for the palace again tomorrow!
E: Now on to the food! I’m a researcher. I like to look up lots of lists of best places to eat in a city and search them out. In Bangkok, however, the best bites were ones we stumbled upon. On our first day we went for a walk and just by Ekkamai station there was a spot light up with christmas lights. But we didn’t go inside, it was the outside strip hugging the sidewalk that we took a seat and enjoyed delicious spicy papaya salad and spicy grilled pork. It was so good we ordered everything twice, then made sure we took our friend Pat there when he arrived.
Another amazing food find we had was our favourite Pad Thai from the trip at a nondescript stall at the On Nut Night Market. Clothing stalls on one side, then fresh produce, and finally – our favourite – food, beer, and music.
There was such a cool vibe, with people out for dinner or hunkering down to plow through beer towers, or just enjoy the music and the scene. Another highly recommended stop in Bangkok.
After coming off our canal tour and before we were suckers and fell for the “palace is closed” scam, we followed our noses and found tasty treats. The aroma of meat sizzling drew us to a stall right outside the dock; it was BBQ-ing amazing smelling meat-on-sticks. We had chicken, pork, and pork breast and they were each juicy and delicious. For dessert we tore into my new favourite exotic fruit: mangosteens.