Bangkok - seeks survival guide

Soldato
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Having recently arrived back in England after spending a few months in Bangkok, I thought I'd share a few tips for people (first-timers) on OcUK who might be considering going there themselves.

Visas

If you have a UK passport you won't need to apply for a visa. You can stay for up to 30 days. If you go over this you'll be fined 500 baht per day at the airport, and won't be allowed to leave Thailand until this is paid (in cash).
For more detailed information regarding visas see here : The Royal Thai Consulate (based in Hull).


What to take:

You won't need to take much as everything you need can be bought over there very cheaply, which will save you having to take stuff with you on the plane. Make sure you take any electrical stuff you need though like a camera/mp3 player as these types of things are often actually a touch more expensive over there. And it's worth taking a network-unlocked UK mobile phone, so you can pick up a Thai pay-as-you-go sim card for just a few quid, and it should work fine on the phone. Top-ups are cheap and last for ages.

Getting into Bangkok from the airport:

The easiest way to get into Bangkok from the main airport (Suvarnabhumi) is to get a taxi. But make sure you get a metered taxi from the public taxi rank on the second floor. You'll have to pay a 50 baht surcharge and also pay the highway tolls. The journey should cost no more than around 450 baht (£8.20) in total, and take around 40 minutes depending on traffic. Don't take a random taxi that doesn't use the meter, as they will charge up to twice as much!

Where to go first?

The vast majoriy of people will head to either Khaosan road, or Sukhumvit/Nana. The former is where all the backpackers/travellers go. And the latter is the main bar-girl/gogo district which is where to go for the nightlife. Personally I hated Khaosan road. But different strokes for different folks and all that...

Accomodation:

You can get reasonable hotel rooms from just 700 baht (£12), but if you'll be staying there for at least a month then it's worth looking into renting an apartment. You can get a decent one around prahkanong area from around 6000p/m. (or get yourself a 'girlfriend' and stay at her apartment for free!).

Getting around:

Tuk Tuks - They may be fun but they're a complete rip off. They usually cost the same (or even more) than a proper air-conditioned taxi. The only time it's worth using them if traffic is gridlocked and you need something that can get around the cars.

Motorbike taxi's - The drivers are complete kamikaze psycho's, so I'd recommend avoiding them where possible. At least unless you want to do your sightseeing from a hospital bed. As above, the only time to even consider them is if traffic is gridlocked and difficult for cars to navigate.

Taxi's - Just make sure you insist the driver uses the meter, rather than negotiating a price beforehand. The clock starts at 35 baht, and you'll rarely go much higher than 45 unless it's a particularly long journey. Also, don't let them take you to jewellers/tailors/TAT. The drivers get a petrol voucher for doing this and you'll have to spend an hour bored out of your mind while people try to sell you crap. Last tip: Common sense really, but before leaving the taxi make sure you have your wallet/phone etc. Because once the driver leaves, if you've left anything on the seat then it's gone for good. Easy enough to remember when you're sober, but at 5am after a nightclub... :o

BTS Skytrain - I lived in Phra Khanong for most of my time in Bangkok, so the skytrain is something I relied heavily on. It's basically an above-ground subway and tickets only cost around 25 baht (45p), even for relatively long journeys. There's no timetable, they just run from each station every 10 minutes or so. But when entering the station bear in mind that food/drink/smoking is not allowed. The skytrains finish at midnight.

MRT Subway - There is a subway in Bangkok too, but I only used once, so I can't really offer any tips here I'm afraid. The whole thing seemed a lot more hassle than skytrain/taxi's, so after my first experience I never bothered with it again.

Money:

Use the YELLOW ATM's. All the others charge 150 baht (£2.70) for withdrawals. There are less yellow ones around than the others, so when you pass one make a mental note of it's location for future withdrawals.
Make sure your bank cards are covered for loss/theft too. I *cough* 'misplaced' my wallet a couple of times, but both times I got lucky and some girls got it back for me with the contents intact, albeit minus the money (I was just glad to get my cards etc back). So have at least two cards, and try to avoid carrying them both around in your wallet at the same time.
Make sure you tell your bank about your trip, or if it's accessed from Thailand they may freeze your account as a security measure.
Oh and one thing to note: Unlike UK cash machines, in Thailand you usually get your money dispensed BEFORE the card is returned, so don't walk away and forget your bank card (as I did, twice).

Law:

It's worth doing a little homework on this, as some things you can get away with here, but not there. For example, in Bangkok you can't walk around with your top off. Gambling is illegal in Thailand too, so don't be tempted in bars. Although I think some people often gambled on pool. And small gambles when playing bar games with the girls is also very common. Plus, smokers beware - if you throw a cigarette butt on the floor you can be fined 2000 baht (£36) if a policeman see's it. This happened to me in my first week. The worst part is that I was with a girl at the skytrain station and the last thing she said to me before she left was "Don't flick your butt on the floor or you can be fined!". Oh dear...
And don't insult the royal family. This is taken very seriously.
Also, be polite and respectful to police/authorities.

Girls:

I don't want to be too crude, so I'll just give you the bullet points. Avoid girls on the street completely. And If you meet a girl in a nightclub they will tell you they work 'department store' or 'coffeeshop' etc. Don't fall for it. The absolute vast majority are bar-girls or freelance prostitutes.
And as a rule, the better her English is, the more English-speaking men she's been with.
If you're ever tempted to bar-fine a girl, make sure you ask to see her ID card first (they all carry these, or at least should do).
Play safe kids. ;)

Food:

Generally speaking, avoid the street vendors unless you want to spend a few days on the toilet, and only eat at places which look clean. Simple as that really. And for the love of god, eat Thai food. Don't be tempted like many tourists to visit western junk food chains all the time. There's not a lot of sense in going half way around the world for a Big Mac. :p Most meals cost me around 450 baht for two people, which includes a couple of drinks. The most expensive restaurant I visited was one called "Cabbages and Condoms", which came to around 2500 for two people (inc. drinks).

What to see?

Too much to list here, but here's a few highlights...

- MBK shopping center
- Soi 4/Nana Plaza/Soi Cowboy for the bars/gogo's
- Khaosan Road (if you want to meet boring travellers, or buy utter crap from market stalls)
- Chao Praya River
- Temples, particularly Wat Arun and Wat Pho
- Sukhumvit Road night market + street bars (loved these bars!)
- Grand Palace
- Lumphini Park - great place to relax after a heavy session! :o
- Dusit Zoo
- Patpong (market + ping pong shows etc)
- Spice club [official site] - A loso buffalo meat market, but damn good fun!
- Strike bowl (seemed like almost a cross between a bowling alley and a night club - great place to take a girl in the evening).


Finally, When you get home...

Just a warning - If you spend more than a few of weeks over there, when you get back to Blighty you can expect to experience a healthy dose of PTD - Post Trip Depression. One minute you'll be living like a king in one of the most exciting places in the world, the next you'll be back to the grind in chilly cloudy England, and not too happy about it. :p


So if you're off to Bangkok then have a great time and I hope you grow to love the place as much as I do. ;)

Hopefully others here will add some of their own tips/advice/stories in this thread too, but please stay on topic, this thread is about BANGKOK, not Thailand in general.
 
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AGD

AGD

Soldato
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Another (cheap) way from the airport to the centre is to get the airport express bus from outside the bottom floor of the airport. I seem to remember it being cheaper than a taxi (unless you are in a group) - something like 200/250 baht or so.

I found the traffic to be very very bad making road trips not such a great idea so get boat or the skytrain (which is best) if possible. NEVER TUK TUK.

I never got ill off street food but maybe I got lucky :p

Also, like most of asia, the food courts on the top floor of shopping centres are generally excellent places to eat.
 
Associate
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Reading all that has made me want to visit. Always used to be one of those who watched things like Bangkok Hilton and Midnight Express and thought how I would get stitched up there, but just recently everything apart from the English climate is beginning to appeal to me!
 
Soldato
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Agreed. And the Japanese restaurants on the 7th floor of MBK (near the cinema), were amongst my favourite places to eat.

quoted for truth, their tea flavoured shake is heaven.

MBK centre is aswome! make a point of going everyt ime i goto BKK

disagree about the street food, i eat tons of it when im there and have NEVER been ill
 
Soldato
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What's wrong with the street vendors? Just look for the ones with lots of customers. That means it's good quality.

To keep mosquitoes away, eat lots of food with lemongrass as it puts off the mossies.
 
Soldato
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MBK centre is aswome! make a point of going everyt ime i goto BKK

I love it too, but not for shopping. It's good for eating/cinema/strike bowl. For shopping there are much cheaper shopping centers than MBK. For instance, A girl took me to one which had almost entirely Thai customers (forget its name) and we saw a T-shirt for 200 baht. We went to MBK later and saw the same T-shirt for 350. MBK is fun, but touristy.
 
Soldato
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Remember when looking at ID cars that it will show Buddhist year so -543 years to work out the important. :)

Nice guide.

BK is an amazing place.
 
Soldato
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MBK is awesome :D

There is a smaller Sushi bar on 7th that you just sit round on tall stalls. FANTASTIC food, had lunch/dinner there every day heh.
 
Soldato
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BTW, cryfreeman, thanks for recommending that hotel (opey de place). I stayed there when I was in Pattaya. :D

Thats ok bud :)

Shame we couldnt meet up as I am going to be there 19th Sep to 5th Nov :(


Opey de place is(for me) a nice balance of price and quality :)

So, is the one with the hot legs still at the service desk :o
 
Soldato
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Thats ok bud :)

Shame we couldnt meet up as I am going to be there 19th Sep to 5th Nov :(


Opey de place is(for me) a nice balance of price and quality :)

So, is the one with the hot legs still at the service desk :o

Yeah opey was great value for money. Just a shame it's not closer to walking street or yodsak (soi 6). And the service desk girls were very hot indeed. :D
 
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Soldato
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Have eaten from plenty of street vendors, only the noodles that they cook in front of you though, taste good and is bloody cheap!

Motorbike taxis are the way to go, brilliant fun ;)
 
Soldato
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Not sure I could have spent a few months in Bangkok, 3 days was more than enough for me, but I was staying on Khaosan road.:p

I disagree about the street food. It usually cost me about 40 Baht (25 Bhat anywhere not in Bangkok) for something tasty and filling. I ate from these places all over Thailand as they were so cheap and "authentic". :)

Like bibalasvegas I also recommend the bus from the airport. I can't remember the price, but it was pretty straightforward and cheap.
 
Soldato
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Not sure I could have spent a few months in Bangkok, 3 days was more than enough for me, but I was staying on Khaosan road.:p

Khaosan was the first place I went to, and like yourself, I was SICK of it after just 3 days. I got into a taxi and asked him to take me somewhere fun. He dropped me off outside Nana Plaza. :D
 

AGD

AGD

Soldato
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Agreed. And the Japanese restaurants on the 7th floor of MBK (near the cinema), were amongst my favourite places to eat.

I wanted to go and eat in one of them but didn't didn't have time because I was seeing harry potter at the cinema next to it :o
 
Soldato
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A nice guide, just a few things:

The skytrain from the airport is having a public test run in October but it doesn't actually open until 5th December (the king's birthday). Still, when it does, it should be useful for those looking to make a bee-line to the Nana area! There is an airport bus that goes very close to Khao San for 150 Baht, good if you're on your own but if there are three of you a taxi is cheaper.

As others have said, unless you have a sensitive stomach, street food is fine. I've had three or four street meals a day for almost two months and not had any gastrointestinal problems. Definitely try to eat Thai food! Sure, sometimes I'll go to Fuji or Zen (Japanese) or even MacDonalds for an ice cream and some fries with a girl, but you're in Thailand, eat Thai food!

As well as MBK look for Central World and Siam Paragon - they have some very nice restaurants. (I liked 9 Cafe) Obviously as they are mind-bogglingly large, expensive malls that have shops selling beef at £100 a kilo, it's not a bargain-hunter's paradise!

If you're looking for an evening meal with some traditional Thai dancing, Sala Rim Naam restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is a good choice. Dancing starts at 20:00, a good idea to book ahead.

My biggest tip? Speak Thai! Okay, if you're going on a 5 week blitz around Laos, Cambodia, Vietname, Thailand and Malaysia you can't do it in any depth, but for an extended stay in Thailand, especially in the big smoke, I think it's important. Aside from the fact that it helps enormously with girls (real girls, not hookers) and with getting on well with people in your local area, it stops people trying to fleece you. If you tell a taxi driver where you're going in Thai, he a) likes you and doesn't want to fleece you b) can't be sure if you know exactly where you're going and you'll spot it if he pulls something. I've gone to a lot of places I've never been before, on my own, in a taxi and never been given the "run around the houses" treatment. (Confirmed by Thai friends who ask 'How much you pay?!' whenever I tell them I did something)

I'm not really going to comment on the sex industry beyond saying never forget that the girls are providing a service, nothing more. The only thing a prostitute finds attractive about an out of shape, sweaty foreign man 20 years her senior is the weight of his wallet. You are not special to a hooker - DON'T FORGET IT.

One thing Seek touched on slightly was how to behave in Thailand. No shirt is illegal, yes. On Khao San you won't get into trouble but it is still rude and you shouldn't do it. The 'lads on tour', England chants and shouting at everything attitude is not well liked here either. It's not a lawless Club 18-30 country where you can do what you please, so don't treat it as such.

Thais, rightly or wrongly, care very much about 'face' which I think really translates to being embarrassed or proud in public. Confrontations are embarrassing for both parties and you won't get far if you do that. For most tourists that means doing things like bargaining with a smile and not getting angry. If you have a problem, doing things softly-softly tends to work better than being direct and aggressive. I've come to think of Thais as being like a bowl of cornflour with a gold ring in the middle - push your fingers in slowly and you can pick up the ring. Try to dive in hard and fast and you get nowhere.

On a serious note, if you're hanging out in bars, hanging out in bars that have hookers in them or hitting on girls who aren't single, Thais may be smaller than we are but that doesn't make them weak and when it's 3 v 1 it makes little difference. Some people have guns (a friend showed me his the other day! :D) and machetes are widely available.
http://news.sky.com/sky-news/content/StaticFile/jpg/2008/Sep/Week1/15091478.jpg
For most sensible people this isn't going to be a consideration, but just be aware!

When I came to Bangkok last year I did the Khao San road thing and it was horrid, I hated it, but I've come to rather like the big city.
 
Soldato
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Skull said:
My biggest tip? Speak Thai!
Yeah, Forgot this one from my first post. The most usuful phrase is "Mai ao khap" ("No thankyou"). This is useful because if hawkers are hassling you and you say "no thankyou" in English they don't go away. But if say the same thing in Thai then they walk away.

Skull said:
The only thing a prostitute finds attractive about an out of shape, sweaty foreign man 20 years her senior is the weight of his wallet.
Not every man in Nana is a fat/bald old man! I'm only 31, and my girlfriend was 26. I asked her if she prefered young men or old men, and she said "I want boyfriend, not papa!" :D

Skull said:
England chants and shouting at everything attitude is not well liked here either. It's not a lawless Club 18-30 country where you can do what you please, so don't treat it as such.
Hated this. Drunk English yobs acting as if they were in Ibiza. :rolleyes: No wonder English people get a bad reputation around there.

Skull said:
On a serious note, if you're hanging out in bars, hanging out in bars that have hookers in them or hitting on girls who aren't single, Thais may be smaller than we are but that doesn't make them weak
Plus many of the men know muay thai!
 
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