E: It’s Better in Bangkok – Thailand

Expectations were grand for the world famous Bangkok. Stories which had previously caught my ear included scenes where drunken backpackers were mugged by ladyboys and tales that violent stray dogs roamed wild between the city streets. Through word of mouth Bangkok had compiled a reputation as a place of danger, a place where things went wrong, where the people were troubled and trapped in a frantic malfunctioning metropolis. Certain films like the Hangover sequel and a few stories from my flatmates may have been to blame for this distressed image I had painted in my mind. The time we visited was also the time of the 2014 protests. Now travelling with the addition of our friend Jan the three of us had no clue as to what awaited us after liberation from the confinement of the night bus.IMG_9019

Around 3 AM we were flung out to the roads no longer the bus driver’s responsibility.  The usual gathering of tuk tuk drivers amassed around us attempting to convince us our desired location was a good hour away and any journey there would be expensive. Disputes and difficulties aside we arrived at ‘Amazing House’ where we rented a private room for £2.58 a night, by far the best deal on accommodation on our trip so far. (Compliments to Kate) The lady at the desk was very kind considering we had woken her from her sleep and our check in time was around 2pm. She gave us the password for the wi-fi and let us leave our bags behind the desk while we ventured into the city in search for breakfast.

Following some parents with school children, they led us to a modest shop producing scents of warm food. The school children didn’t seem much bothered when we sat down amongst them. The waitress proceeded to approach us concerning our order, gesturing for food for three people with an added thumbs up, we sat in anticipation of what she would present us. ↓ Below you can see what she brought us, I found it a little heavy but served it’s purpose, keeping us satisfied for a good while through the busy day that followed. Surrounded by images of hungry groups of school children laughing and busy parents swiping screens on their smartphones my first impressions of Bangkok severely distorted my previous frame of mind on the city.


Upon thanking our cooks and the waitress we continued along the road to accidentally stumble into the heart of the Bangkok protests. It’s hard to explain what it feels like when within three minutes walk of being in a normal everyday environment you can turn a corner and be surrounded by a protest camp. We strolled through the site and to our surprise, the atmosphere was very different to how the situation was being portrayed by the international media, things were relatively peaceful. Families lay together in temporary tent fixtures surrounding the Democracy Monument and people smiled at us as we tried to find our way through them. The atmosphere did seem a little uneasy but we saw no form of violence or anger while we were there. However later that night, upon returning to our hostel we heard people had been killed that morning, just after we had left the site. No information was released at the time on who the killers were. You can read more concerning  the protests we saw throughout in Bangkok here.


After deciding we had seen enough of the protest camp to get an idea of the situation we headed towards the Grand Palace. After sighting a large temple we decided to take a short break. There we met ‘Vis’, a very friendly local lass who spotted us as confused tourists and offered us a hand when we requested some route information. “I can take you there, I’m heading there later anyway”. Vis guided us through some streets and after picking up some (I think it was robes) for some monks she got us there safely. It was very kind of her to show us the whole road and once entering the temple she let us get on with our sightseeing while she went off to finish what she had to do.

The Grand Palace was a feast for the eyes. All the temples we had seen up until now had been very beautiful but the Grand Palace was  different as many of the intricate decorations were still in pristine form. There are a large number of tourists at this site however for some reason they didn’t seem to detract as much from the atmosphere as the tourists in Angkor Watt. An interesting museum on the history of Thailand’s textile industry is located right next to the grand palace. It contains a lot of information about the local clothing industry and how it contributed to improving the livelihoods of many villagers, as well as strengthening the country’s external trade.

Jan had to leave us early the next day so we decided it would be a good idea to locate the train station for him. We walked down random streets and past various apartment blocks. On our way meeting numerous giggly locals and unintentionally finding China town. One market nearby stood out to us in particular, not only due to the delicious noodle soup which a very cheerful lady made for us but because every working Thai in the market was more than willing to take a photograph when setting eyes on a camera. Kate went ahead and sampled some Thai iced tea which is ridiculously sweet and a peculiar orange colour. These vibrant people again completely shattering my pre-conceived image.IMG_9199

Night fell and we hopped onto a local bus to take us back to where we were staying. A night in Bangkok awaited! There we found the most probable route of the infamous stories we had heard. One particular road was lined with the classic backpacking night-life entertainment, the phone cases, the fake beats headphones and of course the rowdy bars run by westerners. One stall even offered fake ID’s, I was very tempted to purchase an Australian driver’s licence. The strip wasn’t that much different from Phuket so we didn’t feel the need to stick around. The following day we visited the Museum of Siam which was fairly large and surprisingly interesting, all the dots of what we had learned about Thailand seemed to connect.

Bangkok is a stunning city. In a place like this, it’s fair to say you see what you want to see. It could be perhaps a lot of visitors have been missing out on some of the lesser known aspects of the Bangkok lifestyle. I’m sure if we had more time we could have explored more of the night scene aside from markets and the typical tourist bar strips, yet Bangkok can offer a whole extra range of things to explore, even if you’re slightly hungover from the night before.

Favourite Sites To See / Things To Do:

  • The Siam Museum
  • The Grand Palace
  • Floating Markets (We didn’t get a chance to go but heard many good things)
  • Walk around! Bangkok has endless lively hidden street corners
  • China-Town
  • Night markets, (Tourist and Flower markets)

E: Phi Phi Islands – Thailand, Still Paradise?

IMG_7717When the final exam paper came to a close on that glorious date the 28th of May I swiftly exited the exam hall, hit the button to the 21st floor and arrived back in the comfort of my 10 month orange walled apartment. I then began to fill my rather modestly small bag which would accompany me through the next 3295 miles or so of my final chapter of adventures in south-east Asia. The following two weeks would be the well deserved light at the end of the tunnel that everyone who studies at NUS should be entitled to. (Apart from those on pass/fail they deserve to sit some real exams)

Although excited I was slightly dubious about what my time in Thailand would be like. The comments me and Kate (my travel partner) had heard about the land formerly known as Siam formed a very mixed bag of speculations in our minds. Remarks stretched from ‘It’s the most beautiful coast you’ll ever see” to “It’s really cheap and tacky”. Expectations aside we arrived fresh and excited into Phuket International Airport. Phuket and Koh Phi Phi are often seen as the heart of the Thai tourism love story which went wrong. Phuket’s streets are messy and distasteful, cluttered with badly built bars and shops catering for a surprisingly older crowd. Lines of middle aged men desperately selling tickets to Thai Ping Pong shows prove quite the task to be overcome whilst making your way down the infamous Soi Bangla road.IMG_8220After escaping from the bombardment of people begging us to use their taxis, we were quietly approached by a duo of thai men offering us a ride. Before leaving we approached the tourist reception in hope for an estimate of a fair price for a taxi, the Thai women were not too keen to help and seemed to give us the first number that came to their head. We reluctantly agreed to take the duo’s taxi and were guided towards a shady car in an unlit parking lot. With no clue he gave us a price we got it down to half and after a few stops for food (for our driver) along the road we arrived at our hostel Sea Blue Guest House. The guy on reception was very friendly and helped us sort out transport for the next couple of days as well as kindly informing us that we had been ripped off. The room we had was clean and comfortable. Phuket gives off the vibe at one point it was a truly exciting town with a vivid night-life. Disappointingly it now carries a European package holiday vibe due to the many fast food chain restaurants that are scattered across the town. We were most surprised by the fact the main clientèle seemed to be an older crowd. We had a few beers at this one bar and a wandered around. There are still some decent street food stalls to be found for reasonable prices but quite simply we weren’t big on the feel of the place.

Boarding the boat to the Phi Phi Islands the next day, the limestone rocks which come into view near the end of the journey are truly captivating as you slowly approach them. I feel the limestone formations appear so majestic to us are because they less commonly appear in this form around Europe. Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest island of the Phi Phi’s and also houses the central ‘town’. The settlement has evolved over years into this intriguing, busy and complex backpackers maze. It is noticeable travellers have been coming here for a long period of time yet there is a definite remarkable difference between the tourists that come to Phi Phi and Phuket. Due to heavy rainfall during the first night, many of the streets flooded and this made for entertaining scenes of both tourists and locals overcoming obstacles throughout the following day. Despite that the area is slightly dated and a little uncared for, there’s a great deal of charm not only about the area but about the locals that live and work there. Many of whom have left their villages in search for a more prosperous life.IMG_8270

The town was actually badly damaged by a Tsunami that struck in 2004 but there has been rapid reconstruction work on the town and on the more badly damaged coasts. We managed to get a very decent price for a boat trip around Phi Phi Let and although bearing some resemblance to Ha Long Bay the smaller islands have a completely different atmosphere surrounding them. As we were there in low season it didn’t feel as touristy as we had prepared ourselves for. It was quiet and there was plenty of space to roam around Maya Bay without much disturbance. I think it’s wrong to look at the Phi Phi’s in the same way as Phuket, ruined by mass tourism, the islands have changed from the untouched heaven they once were, yet in it’s place there’s an incredibly exciting, fun and vibrant forum to meet other travellers and let your hair down. Paradise doesn’t have the same definition in every person’s book.

Favourite Sites to see:

  • Phi Phi Don viewpoint – A beautiful spot overlooking the two main coasts of the island. Requires climbing up a large number of stairs and a small entrance fee is charged (20 Baht)
  • A secret tucked away shore on the east of the island. Accessible on foot via a forested trail from the viewpoint. Hardly any tourists to be seen
  • The famous Phi Phi fire dancers available on the north facing coast of the main strip during most nights
  • The Lagoons around Phi Phi Let
  • The famous ‘Maya Bay’ (The beach)

Beware of:

  • Being ripped off by Taxi men at Phuket airport, even the tourist information office is on their side!


No more posts.