And I mostly just slept.
Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the infamous song by Murray Head, but it is true. I was pretty tired, having only slept a few hours the night prior in Doha and only a few hours the night prior to that on the plane to Doha. Even with most of my time spent sleeping, however, that didn’t stop me from getting out to see a bit of the city and enjoying the parts which I know I like.
The train in from the airport is incredibly easy and I managed to skip the traffic which was a nice win. Soon enough I was settling in to my room at the FuramaXclusive Sathorn. For a clean, conveniently located (1.5 blocks from a BTS station) hotel and only $55 for the night (~15% of which I get back through hotels.com WelcomeRewards and my cash-back booking portal) I have no complaints at all. It is actually the second time I’ve stayed at the property and I’d go back again at that price point. The location is not perfect – there isn’t a lot around the neighborhood open at night for dinner or such, but I like the hotel well enough and the price is quite fair.
Speaking of dinner, I walked around for a half hour or so, taking some pictures and trying to stay awake long enough that I’d be able to sleep through the night and sortof be on local time in the morning. I was also looking for somewhere to eat dinner. For no particular reason I was trying to find a restaurant rather than a table and stool on the street. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. The street food in Bangkok is fantastic and I’ve always enjoyed eating it. Before too long I was settling in at the stall around the corner from the hotel and adjacent to the BTS station, tucking in to a plate of meat & rice with a beer to wash it all down. Not too shabby for ~$4.50.
The week I was in town was roughly the hottest of the year, and the humidity did its best to match the heat. It was, quite frankly, disgusting. Despite my best efforts to sleep in I was up early and that was actually almost a good thing as it meant I could get out and see a bit of the city before the sun was high overhead, turning the streets into a steam bath and turning me into an incredibly unhappy, sweaty, sticky mess. After grabbing fried dough of some sort for breakfast, I hopped on the BTS and alighted at the Saphan Taksin station, adjacent to the Central Pier, so that I could take a ride on the Chao Phraya ferries.
From my first visit to Bangkok I have loved the local ferry rides. There is an express version of the boats for tourists (I think maybe they speak more English on board, too) but those aren’t nearly as much fun. Packing on to the ferry with monks, school kids and locals commuting to work is a way better experience to me. Plus, the reasonably slow ride up the river offers plenty of time to see city life from that vantage point. It is a great way to get a feel for the vibe of Bangkok. On this particular trip I think the part I was most proud of is that I actually managed to figure out which boat I wanted to be on and get on the correct one the first time. That hasn’t happened on previous visits.
I was on the ferry for about 45 minutes, getting off at N9 (Tha Chang) which is the stop just south of the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace stop is chaotic and crowded, with hawkers selling food, hats, tchotchkes and everything else. The Tha Chang stop is just a bit calmer, but easy enough to get out of without quite such crazy crowds.
Of course, I then proceeded to walk up into the din of the Grand Palace crowds to get breakfast from one of the hawkers there, so it isn’t like I avoided the scene completely, but I did enjoy the walk and the few minutes of not being completely in the center of the crazy.
After breakfast it was back on the ferry, this time headed southbound, and back to the Central Pier station. I basically retraced my route back to the hotel and was in my room, showered and refreshed, about 2.5 hours after I headed out that morning. Just enough time to experience the bit of Bangkok I truly enjoy and also to clean up before heading back to the airport. Three flights to catch that day and I wanted to be there a little early because I was going to be transiting Yangon, Myanmar on two separate tickets and without a visa. I figured I’d need the extra time at the ticket counter. Plus, the massage in the Thai lounge is a nice little perk, too.
Bangkok isn’t really a city I love in Asia. There is good, cheap food to be had and I know my way around well enough but the general vibe of the city isn’t one I love. I’ve had some great visits there – one was for a wedding and we had a fantastic time – but overall I find the city basically a decent place to overnight on your way to wherever you’re actually going, not an actual destination. Fortunately that was the case for me this trip as well (though I’m still not sure where I was actually going).
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