I was prepared to like Bangkok. No, I was prepared to love Bangkok. So when my friend, Jana, asked if I wanted to join her on her trip to the city to meet her sister, I said yes without hesitation.
I should have hesitated.
It turns out traveling as a third to a pair in a city that isn’t so accommodating to parties of three is anything but fun. Transportation around the city is even less so.
Jana’s sister arrived in Bangkok one day before us and set up camp at a hotel recommended to us by one of our friends in HCMC. The D&D Inn, located on Khao San Road, boasts triple occupancy accommodations and a rooftop pool at a reasonable price. Sounds wonderful right?
As previously stated with unwavering conviction, I abhor backpacker areas. Don’t let this photo of coconut ice cream fool you, it was the only bit of sweetness I had while on that hellhole of a street.
Back to the “hotel.” After being completely ripped off by our cab driver from the airport (in retrospect, this is probably where my hatred of the city began) and unceremoniously dumped a few blocks from the Inn, Jana and I hoofed it the remaining distance and met up with her sister.
The triple occupancy room that I thought we were getting or that was arranged prior to our arrival? Non-existent. D&D Inn doesn’t know when or if their guests are leaving and consequently, can’t confirm room types. Ever, it seems.
Jana and her sister were fine with the room her sister had booked the night before, but me? Well, it was time to finally use that Hostelworld app I downloaded prior to my departure and find myself a place to stay.
After a couple nights in separate accommodations, I took it upon myself to look up hotels and hostels that fit our criteria: a reasonably priced place for each of us to sleep located away from anything backpacker but near the nightlife we were looking to explore.
I found a hotel suite (separate living room and bedroom) on Agoda that had the right price, a pool and was close to the area of town we were looking to explore next. Perfect, right? Wrong.
We walked into iSanook Residence and inquired about a room for three people with the front desk agent. She referred us to a suite at a rate of 1650 baht. I showed her the one I found on Agoda and asked what the difference was. She said there wasn’t one so I booked it. It was then revealed there would be an additional fee of 500 baht fee for the third occupant. Needless to say, we weren’t good to stay, but I couldn’t leave without settling the ninety-two dollar charge on my credit card. Management did work with me to get Agoda to refund me, but still—the entire process could have been avoided if the fee was stated in the beginning. Four hours into our search, we were back to square one with no where to stay and a helluva lot of frustrations.
We did eventually find a place. After a couple more failed attempts and a determined march in the direction of what felt like our last hope, an angel in the form of a baby-carrying woman appeared. She directed us down the next alley to Mile Map Hostel, our saving grace for the remaining two nights of our trip.
You have to fight with every tuk tuk and cab driver as far as the eye can see to get anywhere. Those taxis that all have signs reading “meter”? Might as well say, “meter present but never in a million years will be used.” Why? Because they can just as easily say “no” to you and pick up someone else just a short distance down the road. I can understand this practice on Khaosan Road (and still not appreciate it), but the less touristy stretch of Silom Road? No, these guys suck.
So we ultimately resorted to Uber (just like Ho Chi Minh City, these guys are much cheaper than taxis— even when surge pricing is in place) and got a lovely man to take us to the train station out of Bangkok.
Getting around town takes forever. We languished in our Uber for the forty-five minutes and 7.8 kilometers it took to flee Khaosan Road for Silom Road. Whenever we considered venturing out to a new neighborhood, the reality of spending an hour plus getting there quickly squashed those adventurous dreams.
I’ve heard wonderful things about the sky train and I can’t wait to take it on my next visit to the city. For this trip, however, it wasn’t a feasible form of transportation.
Undoubtedly, there are many factors that contributed to these “surprises” and many of them could have been avoided if I had taken a more active roll in the planning of this trip. Lesson learned.
With a couple upcoming trips routing me through Bangkok, I will be back. However, on those occasions I will arrive armed with a prepared list of attractions, locations and restaurants I want to visit cross referenced with nearby hotels and hostels.
I am determined to see another side of this city— the side everyone else seems to love.
Next up: Bangkok highlights. Because contrary to what is written above, I didn’t hate everything about this trip.