Continuing my First Impressions series, the new country this week is Thailand, known as the Land Of Smiles. And for a good reason too. Most everywhere I’ve explored the locals have greeted me with a smile, especially in some of the more rural and non-touristy areas.
However, once I started walking through the slums of Bangkok it was impossible not to notice that people stopped smiling and started staring at me with a “What the fuck?!?”-type expression. No one said anything, they just stopped what they were doing to stare. Only if I smiled first was I able to occasionally elicit a smile back.
Of course few tourists ever wander through slums by themselves. But then again I’m not your traditional tourist, as readers of the HoliDaze will already know. Far from it. Nor am I your traditional travel blogger. However now is not the time for that discussion, we’re here to talk about Thailand.
Arriving In Thailand
The majority of international flight arrivals land at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Given Thailand’s status as one of the preeminent tourist destinations in Asia it should be no surprise that the airport is well-equipped to handle the flood of visitors. Immigration counters are numerous and the queue always moves quickly. In fact I had to wait longer to get a SIM card after passing through immigration than I did at immigration itself.
After purchasing the SIM card I took a 30-minute train right into the heart of Bangkok.
UPDATE SIM cards are now distributed for free at the immigration counters of most international Thai airports. If you don’t see a stack on the side, ask the officer.<
Transportation In Bangkok
Bangkok has a rail system set up from the airport into the heart of the city as well as several routes around the city and a ferry system. While the network is not as extensive as it could be, they are currently building more stations and have big plans for the future.
Like most major urban centers the BTS Skylink and MRT routes are fairly self-explanatory and easy to navigate, even for foreigners who speak not a word of Thai. The only possibly troublesome aspect could be deciding which exit to take from the station, as each one has many. For this I would recommend keeping track of your direction (N-S-E-W) and using that to select the most appropriate exit.
Of course besides the mass transit options there are also the infamous tuk-tuk drivers.
While these guys are smiling just as much as the other locals, it is a deceiving smile. Despite whatever pleasantries they might exchange with you or “help” they offer, do not be fooled. All they want is your money. If there is one type of person you cannot trust in Bangkok, well unfortunately it is the tuk-tuk driver. That is not to say every one of them is bad…just nearly every one. (While there is always an exception to the rule somewhere, I certainly have yet to find one here.)
First Day In Bangkok
Whenever I arrive in a new country one of the first things I always do is just walk around for a solid day or two. No map, no itinerary, just walking and talking to random people on the road….and sampling the food of course. But before I get to the food, first comes the city itself.
Just a random street in Bangkok a few minutes before it started raining. There is street food for sale everywhere in Thailand.
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) November 11, 2013
The responses I got to that tweet were quite interesting but no one gave me a real honest answer to my question. Do you know what that place is? If so then please leave a comment below with the answer. Thanks!
After five months of motorcycling around Indonesia this was the most walking I had done in a long time. In fact I dare say I did more walking here in one day than I did in this one weekend then in all five months in Indonesia. As such I was certainly working up an appetite!
Mmmmmm….That Delicious Thai Food
I’ve loved Thai food long before I ever visited Thailand. In fact as a few of my TBEX buddies may remember from our post-TBEX Thai feast, I’m that one crazy guy who tells the chef to make it “as spicy as possible.” In fact it’s a wonder I haven’t burned all my tastebuds off yet.
From iconic Thai dishes such as pad Thai and massaman curry to lesser known ones such as mu ruam luak chim (pork odds-and-ends boiled and served with fried garlic, spring onions, and of course a spicy dipping sauce), nothing about the food here disappoints!
Bangkok’s Street Food
And now I leave you with what you all came here for: Food Porn!
Each of these delectable dishes cost between 35 and 40 baht ($1.10-$1.30USD). These photos were all taken with my handphone when I was more concerned with eating than how the photos turned out. So please forgive the quality.
Yes, this city has definitely impressed me already. Plus I still have several more days to explore Bangkok before Mike (Nomadic Texan), Ryan (Lost Boy Memoirs) and Seattle (Seattle’s Travels) join me here — who knows what sort of excitement and adventures we will get ourselves into this week! 😉 Expect much more coming soon!