Monday, September 28, 2009

Friendly Bangkok - what it has to offer

Things to note: Ok, I admit I like to start off with this section to get my travel grouses off my chest but I'm just disappointed with the airline this trip. I’ve tried all the budget airlines Singapore has to offer; but Air Asia really takes the cake in terms of the quality of their planes. Carpet is old and fraying, seats have damaged plastic handles and the one thing all travellers fear; the plane reverberates like crazy when flying through a cloud / turbulence. Don’t be swayed by cheap deals folks. Safety is still key. Take JetStar or Tiger if going budget.

Getting to your hotel in Bangkok
Bangkok is a mere 2h flight from Singapore. Taking budget air is when your plane lands way off from the main airport and you don’t have a mechanical arm connecting to your plane upon arrival. You get off the tarmac, scoot down a connected stairwell and into the doors of a waiting shuttle to bring you to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Touting is now illegal so metered taxis take you to your downtown hotel. Do bring a map with your hotel location and pass it to the taxi counter staff. They will assign a metered cab and your driver will be told where to go. Typical charges to Sala Daeng for eg is 370baht, excluding 70baht for toll (all payable by the passenger).

Checked in to TakeANap Hotel (better called as the hostel henceforth) for 2,600baht for 2 nights. The nearest international hotel along Rama 4 Road is Pan Pacific Hotel and nearest BTS is Sala Daeng (400m walk from the hostel. Dodgy at night).

*** Impt*** Do NOT and I mean DO NOT scrimp on hotel in Bangkok. After long hours of walking, you just want a place that is convenient enough for you to dump your shopping bags and clean enough to walk barefooted in the room. Suffice to say, I will not be patronising TakeANap again. Choose Arnoma, Novotel Siam, Siam Design & Spa or Grand Diamond.

Pause and Play room and the common dining area

What to expect in the Siam area
  • R-Burger: next to Siam BTS and lunch set us back about 200baht. Think of it like you’re eating a soft bun. The bread is soft and sticks to your teeth
  • Sneaka Villa: located next to Ice Monster in Siam Square and carries Nike/Supra high tops and a few Cazal sunglasses. Bearbrick 400%s if you’re keen to buy
  • Boots: 1 good reason to come to Bangkok is the cheap toiletries you get @ Boots. The lotions and shower gels are cheap and smell better than Body Shop
  • MBK: definitive one-stop shopping mall. Gashapons are found on the top floor but only 3 measly shops carry them. DVDs are no longer sold openly in MBK. The shops now print their titles on paper and you write down the titles you want and come back to the shop in 30mins. Should your freshly toasted DVDs not have arrived by then, you can always follow your pretty shopkeeper to a corner staircase where she’ll get your hot DVDs from her other female counterpart. Dodgy?
  • Zen / Central World: the next good reason to come to Bangkok would be to buy lingerie @ Zen. Who doesn’t stock up when they’re here? Central World also houses some of the biggest international brands, a HUGE Forever 21 and Naraya to stock up on pouches and souvenirs.
  • Black Canyon Coffee - their local version of Starbucks at Central and witnessed my first Bangkok flooding
  • Platinum Mall (more sane version of CTC) for more shopping. 6-storeys of air-conditioned comfort; first 3 floors carry clothes for guys and gals, 4th floor carries shoes and bags while the 5th floor carries mostly accessories (korean imports included)

R-Burger and S$10 yoghurt never tasted better

Soothing tea @ Black Canyon Cafe, Chili Water and Steak Fillet Salad from Greyhound Café at Siam Discovery Centre

Flooding outside Central World but food stalls are not moving?

Shopping at Chatuchak
A warm breakfast of toast, sausage and coffee is provided at the hostel. Don’t expect to be served your coffee as this isn’t a starred hotel so DIY.

Breakfast is served

BTS-ed to Mo Chit, to walk to Chatuchak (CTC) market. CTC is only open on weekends, dress light when coming here and get a map from the policemen standing around. The map is crucial as it points you to the main shopping and pets areas. CTC is like an oven; you get dehydrated and roasted walking under the zinc thatched roofs. If you can last more than 3 hours in there, props to you. CTC carries a mish-mesh of items; clothes, accessories, flowers, food and household accessories (wooden, carved, plastic etc). Bargaining is a must and if you can handle the heat, you’d likely come off with some pretty good deals.

The pets section at CTC is atrocious though! PETA would be fuming at the abysmal treatment animals are subjected to. Parrots are kept in small cages and pets are housed in an area with bad ventilation. Endangered star tortoises are sold freely and puppies are left in cramped cages. Worse, squirrels are tied with strings by their necks and movement is restricted. It’s really sad to see the ill treatment of animals @ CTC.

The madness of CTC & cars galore outside Mo Chit station

Food choices in BKK
MBK serves up a quick round up of shark’s fin soup (300bath) and bird’s nest (100baht) for lunch. If ordering bird’s nest or shark’s fin in Bangkok, being cheap will only get you slivers of the real thing. So if you’re looking for the real solid stuff, be prepared to pay more.

Probably the Dunkin' Donuts with the widest range of donuts in the Central Siam area, get your sugar fix at this outlet in MBK.

Dunkin' Donuts lovin'

The best way to travel would be by BTS. An all-day pass is only 120baht with unlimited rides. Tuk-tuk is good for short distances and just the experience of it (Check with the driver how much it costs first before boarding). Taxis seldom go by the meter so really not recommended unless absolutely neccessary. Malls in the Siam area are connected by the SkyWalk (Free!).

Queer fact: Thais are REALLY into K-pop culture. Super Junior was seen on posters in Central World, school kids were dancing to 4Minute’s Muzik, 2NE1’s Fire and 2PM’s I Hate You. To cap it off, you can see Nickhun from 2PM in the latest Bangkok Smiles campaign.

Hotel: TakeANap Hotel
Hotel Review: Hostel not Hotel. Beds have a thin bed sheet and sink. Room that we got (Pause and Play) had leaking pipes so there was a perpetual puddle of water on the floor which had to be toweled 24/7. Toilets were bare with 1 sink, 1 toilet bowl, 1 non-working toilet roll, 1 hot water shower, 1 set of dusty (barely used) soap/shampoo dispenser and 1 baby roach. Room has TV with 7 channels (Bloomberg is the only English-speaking channel) and a hot water flask. There is no fridge or wardrobe. Some hangers (although bent out of shape) are provided.
Weather: 29-35c. Extremely hot and humid. Rain equates to flooding.
Posted by fongie on 9/28/2009 01:33:00 PM in , , , , , ,