Bangkok: Me luv you not so long time

me-luv-you-not-so-long-time
This is my 5th time in Bangkok, the 2nd time for Lissette. I’ve previously written about Bangkok and how it is a city that grows on you. With a fresh – and different – perspective I don’t know if that is accurate. In fact the opposite might be true.

I had a great time when I passed through here about 12 years ago. I was single, horny, and at a different stage in my life. Days were spent exploring the city’s highlights, nights were about drinking and girlie bars. Some of my memories are foggy, but the one I’ll never forget was the evening I inadvertently brought a ladyboy back to my hotel. I eventually figured it out and sent he/she on his/her way with an apology and a tip. Bangkok was the craziest, most exciting city I had ever visited.

I met Lissette back in 2005. In 2008 we passed through Bangkok on our travels through Thailand and Laos. We did a lot of the tourist stuff and I still found Bangkok exciting. The temples, taking the ferry down the river, the frenetic pulse of the city. Lissette found the city dirty though and was pretty happy when we left after 3 days.

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Now that we are spending more time everywhere we go, we experience things from a new perspective. Our apartment (which we booked through Airbnb) is close to Sathorn Road in the center of town. You would think that this area, with all its embassies and the financial district nearby, would be pretty refined. It is and it isn’t. You’ll see huge condo buildings (like ours) with rooftop swimming pools and gyms. Hotels rise up 60+ stories and contain popular bars and restaurants where the beautiful people go. The Skytrain is ultra modern and rides up over the city. You’ll see huge digital billboards on the walls of buildings advertising soft drinks, cars, and skin whitening creams (I’ll get to that below). Especially seen from above, Bangkok appears incredibly futuristic. But get in close and walk the streets and you’ll see broken sidewalks, hanging electrical wires, and you’ll have to make your way through millions of little shopping stalls, multitudes of people, as well as a sprinkling of street dogs, cats, and beggars lying or sleeping on the sidewalk. Keep your eyes on the ground and towards the gutter and it won’t be long before you see a cockroach or a rat. Bangkok is not made for walking; sidewalks are an afterthought and seem to serve primarily as a spot to park motorcycles or put up some kind of hawker stand. Crossing any street is a time-consuming nightmare because turning cars have priority and you’ll often find yourself waiting for a break in the traffic along with locals and stray dogs (there is something to be said about survival of the fittest in Bangkok). And then you get to a major street, which requires you to walk up the stairs of an overpass to cross to the other side. If the streets and sidewalks are not bad enough, you have the endless concrete of buildings, roads, and the skytrain overpass along Silom and Sukhumvit roads. Add to that the exhaust fumes from 4 lanes of cars, trucks, tuk tuks and motorcycles. I’ve heard people say that  the smog in Bangkok is comparable to a tire dump on fire. It’s an exaggeration but not that far from the truth. Add to all that the smell of raw sewage emanating from the manhole covers and the putrid stink from some of Bangkok’s canals.

All to say that Bangkok is an assault to every sense in the human body. We don’t know how people can live here every day, especially the poor. You seem them pushing food carts, cooking food over huge vats of boiling oil, and going home to squalid slums. Somehow, through it all, they smile at you. Thais are still the among the friendliest people we’ve met.

Although the city is dirty and polluted,  it can still draw you in with its quiet spots and beautiful temples. Some photos from the past few weeks;

 

Our thoughts on visiting Bangkok? It’s funny how impressions on a place vary according to where you are in life. If you’re single and coming to party it’s definitely a fun place. As a couple it is a lot less interesting. Don’t get us wrong, Bangkok is worth a visit if you’ve never been. But 2-3 days will suffice to see the highlights. You’ll be ready to move on after – we’ve been here 3 weeks and have both been getting increasingly irritable. One more week and we’d be heading towards divorce court. So, as the title of this post suggests, make Bangkok a quickie and not a long term relationship.

 

Observations, thoughts, tips

 

We met a funny taxi driver the other day who spoke English. He gave us his card:

Mr. Chim

I recommend him , weird guy who jokes all the time.  His warnings on Bangkok “bad things are tuk-tuks, taxis, gems, and women. Women here make you poor”.

 

On those subjects:

- We were told the same thing about Tuk-Tuks by a couple of expats we met; easiest way to overpay is to take a Tuk-Tuk ride. You’ll always get screwed. Not worth the hassle. Take a taxi.

- Taxis. In the past this was also a hassle. It seems that the new military government has clamped down on taxi drivers. When you get in a cab, the first thing you should tell the driver is ‘meter’. Get out if he doesn’t turn it on. We’ve had 30 minute-long taxi rides that haven’t cost more than $3.

- Gems. The most popular post on this blog is the one I wrote detailing how I got scammed back in 2002. It’s still going strong, witnessed by both the comments I get and Mr. Chim’s  warning. Don’t ever get fooled by someone (usually a tuk-tuk driver) who;  a) tells you that a temple is closed b) offers to take you for a ride somewhere else.

- Women. People always complain about the ‘dirty old men’ who come to Thailand and who hook up with Thai women. Many of these men end up losing their life savings to these women who, for the most part, are anything but ‘poor victims’. I wrote about it here.

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One of the nicest things to have reconfirmed is the friendliness of the Thais, especially towards Lissette. As a white guy you sometimes get preferential treatment in certain parts of the world. Prior to coming here with Lissette in 2008 I had wondered how she would like it and how people would react to her.  She had loved it. Locals are just as friendly this time around.

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Lissette is turning heads. They’re not used to Latina curves. We passed a construction site and all eyes were on her. She said she felt like a roasted chicken walking down a soi full of stray dogs.

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Everything in Bangkok is organized to separate the tourist from his money. Even little things like taking the ferry down the river. Get off at Saphan Taksin pier and you’ll see the ‘ticket counter’ for the ferry. 150 Baht they’ll tell you to have an all-day pass on the ferry. Note that this is not the ‘official’ ferry that locals take down the river – those cost 15 baht and you can cruise all day down the river. The one they’re trying to sell you is the Express boat. For the record, the tourist boat has blue flags and you pre-pay, the local ferry has orange flags and you pay when you get on the boat (they pass every 20 minutes). While we were down by the pier a Thai man started talking to us, asking where we were from. Of course he had family in Canada (sic). He cut the conversation short when we told him that we had been to Thailand many times before. Don’t know what his game was but he had one. One thing I’ve learned in Bangkok; everyone is hurrying you, pressuring you to get on that boat, take a tu-tuk etc…don’t. It’s probably a scam. After many experiences here we know not to rush into anything.

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We’ve seen a lot of  ads for whitening creams and surgical ‘enhancements’ of eyes and noses here in Bangkok. Go to the pharmacy and you’ll see a whole section dedicated to skin whitening creams. You’ll often see women walking around with parasols or umbrellas to hide their faces from the sun; the prejudice here is that the paler you are, the more attractive. Shame.

skin whitening cream

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The Skytrain, or ‘BTS’ as people call it is a great way to get around the city and people should organize their stays around it. A bit strange though; you go to the counter to tell them where you want to go and they won’t give you a ticket – they’ll tell you how much it costs, give you change, and direct you to the ticket machines. The cost varies by the number of stations you go.

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We’ve stayed in an apartment building and the security guards do a lot of saluting. One old man gives us the royal salute while clicking his shoes at the same time. Is it because of the new military government? Never experienced that in Thailand before.

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We’re happy to be in Thailand but looking forward to moving on. Next stop: Hua Hin.

 

Always appreciate any comments, feedback, or tips. Thanks for reading!

 

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Comments

  1. Skin whitener is found in all kinds of products in southeast Asia even though there is a lot of debate about how good it is for you.
    Otherwise, BBQ Boy and Spanky, I think it’s time for you to head to Chiang Mai.
    Maria Falvey recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Bookie Tip?My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hey Maria – yeah, look what it did to Michael Jackson.
      Seriously though, doesn’t it set a bad example when celebrities or higher classes feel they’ll get further ahead with paler skin? And these companies, like Nivea, just capitalizing on it while pushing that paler is better. You’d be amazed by the huge section dedicated to whitening creams in Bangkok.
      Yes, we’ll eventually get to CM. Have been there a few times, we’ve just wanted to explore other places before going.
      Thanks for the comment Maria.

  2. You had me laughing at the electrical wiring and hysterical by how you do change the way you talk. I still like Bangkok, we were there earlier this year. As we stay in the same area, we now get ‘you back now’ and that is sort of nice. It is frenetic, dirty yet still friendly. Scamming and Bangkok go hand in hand – its just the way it is. We noticed a little more desperation this year as the military camps were set up all over town. But, when we return the same people will be in the same shops, the same yuk yuk drivers will conspire to rip you off. Enjoy Hua HIn
    Paula recently posted…The Paris Metro is a Tourist Destination in ItselfMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Agree with everything you say Paula. And it is a fun place to let loose – but 3 weeks is too much. Looking forward to tranquility and nature.

  3. An great insight.

    A BBQ chicken walking through a pack of stray dogs – 555.

    Five in Thai is ‘HA’ hence 555.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Stephen. The Thai girls pretty but not much in the boob and butt department. I guess like anything, anywhere we always gawk when we see something different!

  4. Oh my God! I love the video. It is so refreshingly honest.. I love her! I was cracking up, because l am positive l would be as irritated with my husband. Every one says we have to visit Bangkok, but truthfully, l have no interest in it. I just can’t bring myself to get excited about being there or India. I always say the same thing. If l want dirty, overcrowded etc..etc.. I will just go back home for a visit! :o) . On holiday, l want to go to nice places, call me crazy!!!
    kemkem recently posted…Malaga at midnight, a walk through the centerMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Kemkem – I just pointed the camera and told her to talk, so was completely natural. We hadn’t even talked about doing video for the blog. Lissette is from the Bronx and has a cutting sense of humor and says it how it is – I think she’s a natural in front of the camera.
      I still think Bangkok should be visited. And if you have money it can really be visited in style because a LOT of fancy restaurants/hotels. But maybe only a couple of days when passing through…we’ve been here enough times now so I think we can say that we’ve seen what we’ve had to see.

  5. Hi.. Thailand is a place that holds no interest to me, but it’s always interesting to read about your adventures. Like Lisette said, it feels dirty. For some reason it has always seemed dirty to me. Looking forward to your next post! C.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Carol – Thailand is actually mostly fine. Bangkok is on one end of the spectrum and is really dirty…but there are some beautiful natural spots all over Thailand; mountains, green fields, gorgeous turquoise waters…and that’s why most people go. I’ve been to Thailand 5 times now and still love coming here because in addition to the above the people are really nice. But no more Bangkok :)

  6. Hey Frank – Love the photos – sorry to hear that you are not enjoying Bangkok as much this trip – it could be too that you guys are a little tired from all the traveling – I certainly enjoyed more the north of Thailand – less people – as far as the cleanliness goes it is very hard coming from a country like Canada where everything is regimented and then going there where anything goes – I hope you and Lisette enjoy the rest of your time there and find some spots that are quiet and peaceful.

  7. And by the way Lisette you should ave elbowed that stupid rude f**king tourist right in the old kisser!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hey Chantal – never tired of travel, its the rats, roaches, and crossing the damn streets that are getting to us! Maybe time we get away from cities and towns and hit a touristy beach resort eh?
      Yeah, don’t you love when someone hangs over you taking photos and then stays there to admire them? 1 more photo and I think she would have :)

  8. Case in point – so funny. I think the video was definitely a plus, the reality. I’ve read a lot of posts about Bangkok and I have to say I found yours honest and refreshing, pointing out the good, bad and/or otherwise. For whatever reason – well, there are several – pretty much all of Asia has never been on my radar, I have too many other places I’d like to see first. From your photos though, there are obviously a lot of beautiful places to see.

  9. “Old farts, young tarts”! So funny—I’ll want to read that one. I certainly enjoyed this post and your honesty about Bangkok. Seems a lot of travel bloggers love this part of Asia, but I have no desire to visit though I believe a visit to unknown places at least once is a must. I don’t enjoy noisy, busy, crowded, but it’s more that I come from a tropical climate so I want to experience something different when I travel—mountains, streams, lakes, redwoods, pine trees are more to my liking. As always, your images are amazing!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hey Sarah! Everyone is different. Everyone always tells me that Chinatown should be visited for its markets and street vendors – but 5 times in Bangkok and I’ve never gone because when I hear ‘markets’ the only thing I think of are crowds, noise, and rats and cockroaches. And that’s the problem with most of Bangkok. Just too busy, at least for me.

  10. “Old farts, young tarts”, love it Frank. Do your best. I need a good laugh :D
    Ted recently posted…Personal plain text editor for your serverMy Profile

  11. I have read so much about Bangkok (mostly good) so i find your perspective very Interesting. The city seems to be a favorite with backpackers.
    I’m surprised that a reputable company like Nivea would be producing ‘whitening creams’.
    Rachel recently posted…Mount Elgon National ParkMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Rachel. Well, it all depends what you like – as I say, you have to spend a few days here because there are sights worth seeing and you have to see the city with your own eyes to understand how crazy and chaotic it is. But its also very dirty and I can’t understand those backpackers who spend days on Khao San Road…maybe dirty is exciting for some. But we’re too old for it now :)
      That’s exactly how I felt about the whitening creams. Let’s tell people what is beautiful and capitalize on it…I find it ridiculous seeing Thai girls with their parasol, afraid of getting a bit of sun on their faces lest they turn brown.

  12. I haven’t read all of your site yet but will attempt to. Yes, Bangkok is an interesting place but like anything you get used to it. I know that I did during my 12 years living and working in Bangkok. It is a place that definitely isn’t for anyone. Thailand is fun and an interesting country. However, Bangkok isn’t Thailand just like New York City and Las Vegas aren’t the USA. Chiang Mai is nice but I much prefer Chiang Rai.

    As for Nivea, well…..they are an international company out to sell their product. One item that sells well is skin whitener. As much as we think that is weird so do the Thais, and many other Asians, think tanning beds are weird. I mean, who in their right mind would want their skin darker?? It’s all in the perspective I guess. Oh, and I’ve known the country manager for Nivea in Thailand for over 25 years.

    Cheers!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for your input Nigel. We met some expats who are very happy in Bangkok. But it definitely isn’t for us for anything more than a short visit. But as you say, some people chose to live in Las Vegas. There’s a place for everyone. But interesting what you say about Chiang Mai because it’s on everyone’s list as ‘the’ place to go, either to retire or as an expat. Countless bloggers located there because its cheap, and I know a few retirees as well. My mom has been there about 10 years but has tired of it, complaining that its gotten too crowded with too much traffic and pollution. I know very little about Chiang Rai but have been curious about it…
      Our next stop will actually be Nong Khai which I hope will suit us well – we’re not really fond of big cities. We generally prefer small towns and nature.

      I’m sure Nivea raking in the big bucks on the Thai get-white craze! I just find it sad when races, whatever race, feels the need to appear paler. Its a fact everywhere you go in developing countries that the paler skinned people get the better jobs. Go to the Dominican Republic and all hotel staff are the lighter-skinned Dominicans. I guess they’ve figured out that guests feel more comfortable being served by someone paler. But how sad a commentary is that? I’m not blaming anyone, it’s the way of the world and won’t change anytime soon. And companies like Nivea are just responding to that. But like I say, just find it a sad state of affairs…

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  13. “Bangkok is an attack on all of the senses.” That’s the truth! I warned my friend before visiting… Hot, loud, dirty, polluted, stinks, but great fun! I’ve been here a year and there are moments where I want to push a crowd of people out of my way while walking down Sukhumvit… But it’s still a fun city. However, I’m in that “young, single, horny category. Cheers!

  14. Thanks for being so honest about Bangkok, I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to go in the future but if I do I’ll follow your advice!
    Lily Lau recently posted…20 of the smallest animals in the worldMy Profile

  15. Great post! Loved your honesty. I’m 41, not into the nightlife, partying, will be travelling solo. Was planning to stay in Bangkok for 7 nights. Not sure now, what are your thoughts?
    Darren recently posted…Booking Holidays Online AdviceMy Profile

  16. Great post, Frank! You’re honest and that’s what matters most! Thailand is fun and interesting, but Bangkok is so different from other parts of the country!
    travelFREAK recently posted…Paragliding and Rock Climbing in Medellin, ColombiaMy Profile

  17. Bangkok is a fantastic city. One of the world’s best. Endless choice of restaurants and street food. Many nightlife areas, shopping, museums, temples and loads of tours. You can’t cover 10% of the city in 3 days.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We’ll have to agree to disagree. Have passed through 5 times and have enjoyed the city, but spending 3 weeks as we did this time was enough. I think it’s a fun place if you’re young and single, less fun if you’re a couple and a bit older. At least that was the case for us.

  18. 3 weeks is more than enough in any city for a holiday. I wouldnt spend 3 weeks in Nong Khai which you liked. With 3 weeks you can see 3 or 4 spots and have a good time. You said you didnt like Hua Hin yet stayed longer. Not sure why.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hey Tom. It’s the way we travel, we’re slow travellers and work at the same time. So we use bases, like Budapest where we are right now and stay anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months, getting to properly know a place. We’re not on Vacation but in many ways it’s the best of both worlds. It would be expensive to be on permanent vacation :)

  19. How do you pick your bases? I wouldnt recommend Hua Hin to anyone but golfers. I wouldnt recommend Bangkok unless you love big cities.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      When we first got to Bangkok we thought we’d really like to get to see the cultural side of Bangkok. But getting anywhere, unless directly on the skytrain route, ended up being so time-consuming that we ended up just giving up. Hua Hin was recommended to us by a person we befriended in Bangkok, we wanted something quieter that wasn’t too far away.

      Chiang Mai the place most “slow travellers” settle in. My mom lived there for 10 years until very recently (has become to crowded, polluted. She’s now in Mexico). Probably where we should have gone instead of Bangkok or Hua Hin, much cheaper than in Bangkok. Next time. But as I say, we ended up loving Nong Khai which was our base for 4 months.

      Other than Thailand, have done well in choosing our destinations. Usually chosen by considering countries we would like to see, the costs, if they have a good infrastructure to work (ie reliable internet), and if there is enough in the town or city to keep us interested for at least a month.

  20. Rayong might interest you if you go back. Access to Pattaya, Samet and Chang islands.

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated!

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