We spent our time in Bangkok in two different locations. Like many travelers to Thailand, Bangkok served as both our point of arrival and departure. Because of this, we had two separate trips to Bangkok.
Bangkok is a large international city, when I say large, I really mean giant. The population matches New York City and is far more expansive.
We arrived in from Cambodia and booked an air Bnb in the Sukhumvit area which is a popular expat area. The streets (Soi), pronounced Soy, are numbered and we stayed on Soi 8. Across from Soi 8 is Soi 11 and both of these streets are filled with great bars, restaurants and delicious street food.
Our first night in town, we walked down Soi 11 and ate piping hot, fresh pad Thai for 40 Bhat (just over one dollar). This was by far the best Pad Thai we had in all off Thailand.
Then we stopped for a famous banana pancake, which is like a crepe, filled with banana and then topped with condensed milk. Our Thai food craving had been satisfied so we walked back to our apartment to crash.
The next day, we explored Chinatown, which was not very happening. After striking out looking for two specific lunch restaurants, we walked into a crowded but simple Thai place. We walked in and chose from pictures because English was not an option. Chinatown most likely is better explored at night when there is more life!
It was hot as **** (insert any description of your choice) so we decided it was a good time to check out a museum. We chose the Jim Thompson House. Our attempt to catch a street metered taxi failed because they all sped past us, so we reluctantly bartered for a Tuk Tuk ride. Tuk Tuks are best avoided in Bangkok. They charge high prices, are not all that comfortable, and you are subjected to Bangkok pollution.
Some will scam you by telling you that the place you want to go to is closed and offer another location where they get a kick back for taking you. Long story short, take Uber! Luckily we knew this going into it, so we negotiated firmly and got to our destination without any detours.
Jim Thompson was an expat businessman living in Thailand in the fifties and sixties. He exported silk and is responsible for making Thai Silk a popular textile in the states. He was also an avid art collector and built a beautifully designed home to showcase his collection. This is the house we toured, which is comprised of several small traditional Thai homes architecturally integrated together.
It is a beautiful, open air home but they don’t let you take any photos. Sadly, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared on vacation in Malaysia in 1961. The museum was fun and informative. We highly recommend it if you have more than a couple days in Bangkok.
The Jim Thompson house is in the Siam Square neighborhood and within walking distance of a few malls that Bangkok is famous for. We walked our way through the Siam Square, which on the top floor has great boutique stores featuring emerging Thai designers.
We continued on to Siam Paragon which is a beautiful ultra modern mall. It has a luxury movie theater on the top floor and we couldn’t resist comfy chairs and blasting A/C for an uninterrupted two hours. While we waited for our movie to start, we checked out the Samsung store and their latest virtual reality machine.
After the movie we jumped on the sky train and purposefully skipped our stop to check out the night market in Sukhumvit on Soi 38 for dinner. There was no shopping and not much more than ten stalls serving up food, but we found plenty of great things to eat.
The next morning started with a workout to prepare our appetites for the day of eating we had ahead of us. We had signed up for another cooking class, this time with Sompong Cooking School to learn how to make Thai food. This was the best thing we did in Bangkok, you should not miss it.
Our cooking class started with an informative tour of the market.
We bought all of the ingredients we needed to prepare the days meals. They also showed us how coconut milk and cream are made, what the difference is between them and how to find the best produce and freshest ingredients. All of the information proved valuable during the two weeks spent cooking in Koh Samui that followed.
We returned to the kitchen and each of us prepared and cooked our own meal. They taught us clever tricks for cutting vegetables and demonstrated every step before guiding us through it.
Side bar: It would be wrong not to share a story about the completely bizarre Chinese couple that we shared a table with. They appeared to be in their early 40’s and took the art of selfies to a whole new level. On top of what seemed to be a near infinite number of photos, both the man and the woman carried around a one foot tall doll representation of themselves. Their selfies were either of themselves, their dolls or both.
We prepared four dishes in class, Papaya Salad, Pad Thai, Penang Curry and Mango with sticky rice. They also gave us a professional and useful cook book.
We were stuffed from the meal and took an Uber back to our AirBNB. But before we left, I had yet another issue with my sandles. Everyone in the class cooks barefoot and you leave your shoes in cubbies by the entrance. When we were trying to leave, I noticed my sandals were missing??? We informed our chef and she apologized and ran into the back. A man came out who looked like he might have been doing dishes, wearing my sandals and kicked them off at my feet. They were covered in water. I thanked them, grinning, and shoved my feet into the wet insoles and we squished away laughing!
That evening we checked out the Silom neighborhood to conduct reconnoissance for our return trip with friends. We picked a bar and restaurant to come back to and then made our way to our dinner reservations at La Table De Tee.
La Table De Tee offers a creative five course meal with a menu that changes daily for a reasonable price. We thought it would be fun to celebrate our last night on the trip before being with friends at a fancy dinner.
The next morning we took off to Koh Samui and after nearly 25 days we returned to Bangkok with our friends Craig, Alicia, Gina, and Merri.
We arrived back into Bangkok from Chang Mai, which is a short 55 minute flight. Everyone was fully recovered from their bouts of food poisoning and ready to begin again in our final city and final 24 hours of the trip. We all took taxis to our hotels. Craig and Alicia were flying home late that evening so they decided not to get a hotel and just stay up. Merri and Gina stayed nearby at their own hotel and Nate and I stayed at a great boutique hotel just a short walk to Koh San road called Baan Dinso.
Since we had done reconnoissance in our previous trip to Bangkok, we told all of our friends to meet up for sunset at the Banyan Tree Hotel’s rooftop bar Vertigo. This bar offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the city. There is a dress code but they will provide clothes if you aren’t dressed appropriately. The six of us clinked our glasses together to toast our last night together on an unforgettable trip.
Since we were only a short walk from the infamous Patpong Market, we meandered there to take it all in.
A visit to Patpong is somewhat of a must see but any traveler visiting the market should be prepared.
First, be prepared for dozens of people to constantly invite you to a “ping pong show” at one of the many strip clubs that surround the market. We had no interest in those sort of sex shows but for any traveler that is curious be aware that most places will try to scam as much money out of you as possible and even lock you in until you pay hundreds of dollars for drinks advertised for a couple bucks a piece. Be aware because curiosity can kill the cat.
Next, understand that negotiating is required. Expect to pay no more than 1/3 of their initial offer if you bargain well. A good rule of thumb is to assume everything is a knock off and only pay what you would consider a good deal at a store like Target.
Even though it is a market set up entirely for tourists, I still consider it culturally significant. Part of what makes Bangkok is that it is the hub of tourism in South East Asia. That culture is backpacking and it had become a part of us for the last 4 months.
We parted ways and ultimately said our goodbyes to Craig and Alicia before turning in for the evening.
The next morning started with an amazing breakfast at our hotel.
On the agenda for our last day was to visit Khao San Road, the true Mecca of backpackers worldwide.
Gina and Merri met us at The Hub, on Koh San Road for a mid day drink, followed by pedicures for the girls. Originally we had planned on seeing the temples but instead it was eating, drinking, pedicures, and massages.
Nate ordered a streetside seafood soup called Tom Yum Goong on Soi Kraisi without a word of English.
We also had an amazing meal at Mango Vegetarian and Vegan.
Our flight had been delayed until 2am so we stopped for our bags and returned to Sukhumvit, where our Bangkok adventures began. Gina met us there for celebratory drinks and Merri had left for the airport. With only three of us left, we sat, drank, laughed, and had one last street Pad Thai.
Before we knew it, time was up and we called an Uber to take us to the airport.
We said goodbye to Gina to make our way to our respective terminals. When Nate and I attempted to make our way through customs they took our passports and asked us to follow them. We looked at each other confused. Authority sternly informed us we had overstayed our 30 day visa free entry.
How could that be? We calculated it out to the day. Then it dawned on us, because of our delayed flight we were headed through customs just after midnight on our 31st day. Fortunately the Thai customs official smiled and stamped our passport. The plane took off with us aboard and on our way home, but not before our extended layover in South Korea.