13 months

Dec 3:
food & fun

in bed

Dec 4:
jatujak market
Jan 3:
sex industry
bangkok gallery
all galleries
next location

squid on a stick
Bangkok, Thailand; Dec 3, 2004

the low down

What we did: 6 days total (4 days on the way to Vietnam and 2 days on the way to Taiwan) mainly to visit our friend Samson who's living abroad there at the moment. Samson showed us the sights and we shopped, visited some temples, ate delicious Thai food and danced the night away.

Overall: Bangkok is a fun and exotic place to visit with its delicious (and cheap!) Thai food, unrefined traffic-filled streets, gritty nightlife, and anything-goes attitude. It also has its share of trendy, over-priced bars, clubs and upscale dining. The only big bummer to us about Bangkok is its rampant and totally open sex-industry (see bangkok: sex industry), although we suppose it's part of the city's ambiance.

statue in the Grand Palace

Visiting a friend: Visiting Samson had a lot great benefits. Most of all, it was wonderful to see (and catch up with) a good friend from home. Also, he knows the Bangkok ropes, and did a great job of making our short time here very enjoyable. If you’re planning a trip like ours, make sure you take advantage of seeing your friends that live abroad.

Getting around: It's easy and resonably priced to take a taxi or the local train systems (Sky Train, MTR, etc.). The trains run frequently and all day long. If you do opt for a taxi, it’s a good idea to make sure that the driver knows where he’s going, and make sure that he starts his meter.

Food: Oh-so-tasty and cheap, too! Bangkok has a million malls with a million restaurants and food courts – you pretty much can't go wrong.

Exchange rate: US$1 = 38 Baht

Daily budget: not including lodging, it's easy to get by on less than $20/day taking trains/taxis, seeing the sights and eating out. It's also easy to spend around $50/day eating at nicer restaurants and buying souvenirs. If you want to go to bars or clubs at night, though, plan on doubling or tripling your budget since the cover charge (and drink prices) at some clubs is (relatively) outrageous!

Specific places we visited/things we did:
  Grand Palace: This complex of buildings boggles the mind – it’s an absolute must-see. We took a short boat ride up the Chao Phraya River and spent quite a few hours ogling (see the bangkok gallery for pix).
  Reclining Buddha Temple: Another amazing site – the centerpiece of which is, you guessed it, an enormous reclining Buddha.
  Bed Bar: a very hip, extremely delicious restaurant (see bangkok: food and fun in bed)

Pantip Plaza: This is (yet another) huge mall with all sorts of stuff in it, but of particular interest is a whole floor of stores selling software, music, movies, video games, and computer games. You can buy legitimate copies if you want, but most folks are buying bootleg versions of popular software, PlayStation games, DVDs, etc. Customers look through a big binder to make choices, pay (in cash, of course), and then wait about 15 minutes while somebody in the basement makes copies on the spot. The cops come in and shut these guys down now and then, but the punishment can’t be too severe since they just set up shop right afterwards and start all over again. Of course, we didn’t indulge in this illicit activity, but just as a warning, we’ve heard that not all purchases function properly.

  Jatujak Market: An enormous outdoor weekend market (see bangkok: jatujak market)
  Beer Gardens/Festival: This starts sometime in December and goes until late January. All of the major beer companies (Heineken, Singha, Chang, Leo, Tiger, etc.) set up large areas with live music, food, and of course, beer. These open around 6pm and close around 11pm or midnight and they’re extremely popular with the locals. And the most amazing thing is that they do this *every* night, even Sunday. Sometimes they’re right next to each other, and sometimes they’re in different parts of the city. We went once and it felt like a very special occasion, but Samson assured us that it happened non-stop for over a month. Crazy.
  Coliseum: This is a club that’s popular with the locals. It’s a 500-seater (by our estimate) decked out with huge Roman-style pillars. The evening is spent eating food and watching the entertainment, which was more like Vegas than anything else. Various (mostly local) bands cover Thai and American pop-hits (Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were popular choices), complete with back up dancers and costume changes. There were also intermission Thai comedy acts, performed in a combination of Thai and English, so we only understood some of it, but it was obviously funny based on the crowd response. Later in the evening, people get up and dance right around their tables. All in all, a very interesting and enjoyable evening!

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