We booked a couple of nights at a place called the 'New Empire Hotel'. After the short flight from Hong Kong we got out of Bangkok airport into a hot and humid late afternoon - although not quite as hot as we'd expected. On trying to get the airport bus into town to our hotel we found the route we needed had been cancelled and I, foolishly, still bought tickets for another route that would take us fairly near our hotel - a much better idea would have been to have gone and got the train....
We got on our bus and the journey took ages as we hit rush hour and were stationary for 20 minutes or more at times. We finally got out at a place near where we thought our hotel was (it was dark by this time, and the bus was going so slowly that we thought it best to get off anyway, and the map we had was pretty useless: in fact all the maps we had/have of Bangkok are pretty useless). We found we were pretty much in the place we thought we were and so we loaded all our stuff onto our backs and started walking. Shortly we realised the big problem with Bangkok: crossing roads. A lot of the main roads in town are five lanes each way, and they have the system whereby drivers can turn left on a red light (they drive on the left in Thailand: haven't figured out why - for some reason I was expecting it to be a drive on the right place) so crossing, even at traffic lights, is hard, never mind with full packs on.
After 20 minutes of this we were thoroughly fed up and hot - and still only half way to the hotel. So when a Taxi stopped and asked if we wanted a ride it was an easy decision. We'd been smart and read our guide book so we knew we had to get him to put the meter on rather than negotiate a fare - this we did, and he then proceeded to offer to be our guide for the next day and all the usual stuff which we politely declined. He wasn't too happy with this and obviously decided that the journey we were doing was not going to get him a lot of cash on the meter so proceeded to take us a very roundabout route to the hotel. The only way we knew we were taking the long way was that we were already on the road that our hotel was on and even the worst one way system wouldn't take the route we took. It's rather worrying being stuck in a taxi going all round the back streets of a city you don't know with all your worldly possessions in the boot of the car, especially with a driver who's command of English has suddenly vanished. Eventually, after about 20 minutes of driving around, he dropped us at our hotel. The fare came to 48 Baht (about 80p) rather than the 35 Baht it ought to have been - not an amount of money to worry about and if he'd taken us straight there he would have got the extra in a tip - as it was he kept the 2 Baht change from the 50 I gave him anyway! This rather put us off cabs for the rest of our time in Bangkok - meaning we did a lot of walking!
Top tip no. 2: When in Bangkok, just agree a taxi fare in advance that is well over the odds (100 Baht (£1.66) ought to do it) and you'll probably get taken straight to your destination with no hassle.
After the Hong Kong YMCA the New Empire Hotel was a bit of a dump - but it was eight times less expensive. We could see where the photo
on the web site was taken, and it probably was a fair view of the room - but the photographer certainly earned his fee that day! One
nice thing about the room was this view of a temple outside the window:
The next place we stayed (Rajdamnoen Hotel) was even more basic - no hot water, no kettle, no TV (no loss), broken furniture, no top sheet on the bed, walls that were once clean - but what do we expect for less than a fiver a night??
After settling in the New Empire on our first night we took the long (50 mins) walk from China Town where we were to the Khao San Road area - loads of street food vendors all over, loads of traffic, loads of travellers of all ages (6 months to 80 years) from all over the world in Khao San. Good things: beer at 30-60 Baht (up to £1), cheap food if you like rice and noodles, expensive food if you only eat steak (and bad steak at that!). We took a Tuk-Tuk back that night - exhilarating ride, back in 5 minutes - roads and other traffic a blur - the drivers find gaps that have some sort of quantum property where they don't exist until observed. A good way to travel - just note top tip no. 2!
We spent the next 4 days organising our way out of Bangkok - including moving to the cheaper hotel, and using the best form of transport: the express river boat (Chao Phraya River Express) - fast, cheap (10p), with a great view of the Wats (temples) and Grand Palace along the river, and the wind in your face is very cooling.
By Thursday night we knew we were leaving on the Saturday for Phuket (pronounced Poo-get) so we had a night out in Gullivers on the Khao San Road, where we met an Australian surfer called David, who hadn't been back to Australia for years and was currently involved in sueing the Japanese police over a road accident, one of many people we'll meet for a night and never again. On the way back to our hovel (not a typo) we stopped off at an internet cafe for Jo to phone her Granny and wish her a happy birthday where we bumped into a couple of girls from North London and had a quick chat - it turned out they were off to Phuket soon as well. More people we'd never see again?? Maybe not....
Finally Saturday arrived and we were off away from Bangkok - we'll be back, and hopefully will enjoy it more next time. This time we were just a bit disorganised, spent too long looking for accommodation and didn't get to see any of the sights. No pictures on this page as we were too paranoid to carry the video around with us - although why we thought it safer left in the room I don't know... As it was we had no trouble in Bangkok after that first taxi ride.