The previous visit to Bangkok was in 2002 with my mother-in-law, Goh, Robin and Dominique and was on a 5-days visit. 5 days was too long, I think. Too bored with the city, we went to Kanchanaburi, the death railway on a THB400 per person excursion. Also got ferried by tuk tuk and taxi to souvenir shops against our wish, being conned by the false promise of THB2700 for family to floating market but when we almost got in the boat, our feet soaked in the river water, the boatman said the price should be each person. Darn it ! We went to Dusit Zoo…nothing exciting. All we could remember is how we were being ripped off by people, ferried to souvenir shops without us knowing.
I never thought of going back again if not because of my mother. Mother said she wanted to visit Thailand. It’s her first time and also for Clement’s. Not too bad this time, better than eleven years ago.
THAILAND AT A GLANCE
Total population of Thailand: 64,076,033
Male: 31,529,148; Female: 32,546,885
Total Population of Bangkok: 6,574,843
Male: 2,692,954; Female: 2,981,889
GDP (Q3 2012): 3.0%, Inflation 2.9%, Export value: USD59,280 million
Religion: The majority of Thais (93.3% of the entire population) are Buddhists. A fair percentage consider Islam (5.1%), Christianity (0.1%), Hinduism (0.08%), Sikihism (0.2%) their main religion.
Top 5 Labour Force Industries:
1) Agriculture, forestry, fishery
2) Mining and quarrying
4) Electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning supplies
5) Water supply, sewage, waste management and remediation services
Source: National Statistical Office of Thailand
There’s no planning except booking airticket and hotel. I got the tickets from a Mastercard Promotions on Thai Airways website. Fare per person was SGD348. Child’s ticket costs lesser. Inflight service and entertainment were excellent.
3-bedroom suite SGD248 for 2 nights at Prince Palace Hotel booked at www.agoda.com
So cheap and good! Our room was at the suite tower. It had a kitchenette. We felt at home!
Taxi from Prince Hotel to Chatuchak: Hmm, hailing a cab is, in my experience, the easy part, I would say…..is in the morning from Prince Palace Hotel to Chatuchak. Fare: THB85 only, meter. It was a breeze, six of us in 2 cabs, not a big deal. Goh took the other cab which took the highway, fare THB130.
Taxi from Chatuchak to MBK: In the afternoon, we took a cab easily from Chatuchak to MBK, around THB100, meter. No problem.
Tuk Tuk from MBK to Pratunam: My mother has never tried a tuk tuk before, I suggested all of us take tuk tuk. Six of us, we had to take in 2 separate ones. I didn’t expect Goh and the kids objected violently. They said it’s uncomfortable, traffic chaotic, hot weather …. Eventually, they followed my way. These motor tricycles make the picture-perfect postcard. My husband and kids don’t really appreciate it as they think inhaling a lungful of carbon monoxide is not worth that Instagram moment. Mother had no objection – she wanted to try. Who says you have to spend several hours on tuk tuk? Pratunam and MBK isn’t that far. We just went for a spin and had a feel of it! Mother balanced herself on tuk tuk as it whizzed through Bangkok’s gridlocked roads near Grand Hyatt Erawan. If you got determination, dexterity and appetite for a nerve-wrecking adventure, tuk tuk in Bangkok can be a starter.
My tuk tuk driver, a young Chinese guy in his 20s charged me THB200. Quite expensive, I think. Anyway, it’s tourist tax. I didn’t bargain. The guy asked for my phone number. I declined to give. I didn’t know why he asked for it. He asked me whether the other 2 people were my friends. “No, this is my mother, this is my son.”, I replied.
Taxi from Pratunam to China Town….FAIL: To me, Pratunam is not worth coming. We ended up did not buy anything here. Hailing a taxi at Pratunam on a Saturday afternoon was hellish. No wonder so many empty taxis around. A ride from Pratunam to China Town costs THB400! Taxi drivers practice soft scam negotiating a price for the destination instead of turning on the meter. FAIL….we gave up. It’s too expensive to get 2 cabs to go to China Town at THB800! We were been rejected by 8 cabs, I think.
Skytrain from Ratchatewi to Phaya Thai: We walked to Ratchatewi SkyTrain Station which was 10 minutes walk from the place we hailed taxi. A station control staff said we could take train to Phaya Thai Station where Chinatown is. What a mistake to believe him!
The elevator was out of order. The stairs were high, no escalator, mother had to climb the long flights of stairs slowly. We took train to Phaya Thai. Soon, we realised that we came to a place which did not look like Chinatown we came before.
Impromptu travel…. no plans, no maps, lost the way, walk the unnecessary routes…..but in the process of searching, we also learn something. At least we get out of the hellish Pratunam traffic, took a cab near Phaya Thai Station and went to Yaowarat Road in China Town. Taxi fare for each cab: THB200, no meter.
Taxi from Chinatown to Prince Hotel: It costs THB100. Reasonable price, no meter.
All in all, in the long, long litany of things that are wrong with Bangkok, taxi drivers are well down the list – and they do give the city some added character.
STREET FOOD 101
The main reason why we took the trouble to come to Chinatown: T & K Restaurant. Still cheap and yummy. I came the third time. I let the reviews in tripadvisor to do the talking: http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g293916-d1220300-Reviews-T_K_Seafood-Bangkok.html
For curious travellers with a sense of adventure, street food is an inviting doorway into local culture. That’s what we do – get out on the street, don’t waste time and money on hotel meals. Eating street food is part of the action. I love to sit by the street and watch the world go by. There is often camaraderie among eaters at a street stall. We are all taking a pause from the hustle and bustle to rest our feet and relax for a moment.
At a street vendor stall, we can see the whole cooking process, and we can judge whether the food is hot and fresh, or not. Stay in tune with how the locals eat, then dig in – with gusto!
BO BAE TOWER: It’s located at the lower levels at the hotel I stayed, Prince Palace Hotel. Recommended for people who wants to sell clothing. This is the largest garment wholesale centre in Thailand. Worth coming. The clothes are cheaper than anywhere else. We bought quite a lot of t-shirts here. Average price THB95 per piece, i.e. SGD4. http://www.bobaetower.com
CHATUCHAK: Chatuchak seems to lost its charm and authenticity. It has becoming too touristy. Anyway, we still pay our ‘pilgrimage’ to the Must-Visit-Shopping Place in Bangkok. We got some karabina for our airplane model business. Their designs were nice but the seller did not want to entertain wholesale purchase. It’s ok for us. We bought 100 pieces to test the market. THB45 to THB50 each.
MBK (Mahboonkrong): We went there just to look at the airplane model shop at the shopping centre. Nothing much. I bought a few bags of ointment at a medical hall.
Impression: Bangkok is very touristy, commercialized, vibrant, chaotic. I like Bo Bae Tower, Chatuchak, street foods and Prince Palace Hotel. Pratunam is a waste of time. It’s a pity that we didn’t have time for river taxi which I did in the previous visit. I wanted to go but the rest were not keen. We arrived at Bangkok on a Friday night and return to Singapore on Sunday afternoon. It’s too short visit to form an opinion. I didn’t visit any tourist attraction. The main purpose is to look for business opportunity and wholesale. Clothes here are better than those made in China.