From people we have met and guides we have read, people either seem to love Bangkok or hate it!
Arriving direct from Sydney and after that taxi ride, we were a little nervous to venture out the following day. In fact, I have to admit, on brushing our teeth the following morning (using the safe-to-drink bottled water), I had my first travelling freak out: “What are we doing! Why have we brought our treasured children to a place where they can’t even drink the tap water?!” I think this may have also had something to do with the lack of sleep and 4am bedtime the previous night; and so with only 4 days to explore the city, those thoughts had to be pushed to one side. We were headed off into the unknown…And it was crazy! Despite visiting many non-English speaking places throughout Europe, I have never been anywhere where I have no knowledge or understanding at all of the local language – either written or spoken. This made everything initially quite stressful.
The first thing we had to negotiate was local public transport. Our hotel was right next to the Bangkok Transport System (BTS) Phra Khanong stop. This is also known as the SkyTrain. It’s really easy to navigate – much like any other big city tube / shuttle / metro system. The only frustrating thing is that you can only pay for daily tickets using coins in the ticket dispensing machines. So at every station, there are ‘Change’ booths, with staff who will change up notes for coins for you to buy tickets with. You cannot buy tickets directly from the staff; on passing over your change, they direct you to join the machine queue. Its a bit of a silly system, especially if the station is busy and you have to buy 4 individual tickets, using lots of coinage, with a queue of frantic commuters waiting behind you!
We immediately found however, that Thai people were wonderful to the kids. On every train or metro we used, people would insist that the children (and often us too!) take their seat. All they wanted in return was to touch Rosie’s hair- she quickly got used to being regularly stroked!
On our first day, we took the advice of the hotel receptionist and headed toward Siam, where there are 2 very large malls located. The first we visited was obviously aimed at rich Westerners and Thai’s alike. The first floor of the Siam Paragon mall was lined with stores such as Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton; there was even a car showroom on level 4 – with Bentley’s, McClaren, Porsche and Ducatti motorbikes all on sale! The basement food hall was also an experience- I think it was the equivalent of the London food halls in Harrods or Selfridges. Much as I would have loved to have indulged (and you all know just how much…!), I had to remember that we’re on a backpacking budget, so we did not get to try the delicious-looking curries, cakes, fruits and imported cheeses. Possibly the toughest part of the trip yet…!
Instead, we crossed the road (no mean feat when you see the traffic!)and headed for the MBK Centre. This mall was more market-place, with stalls selling clothes and hand-bags – (both hand-made and designer knock-off), electrical goods, jewellery (unsure as to what quality) and guns, knives and knuckledusters: “What would you use that for mum?”
The dining experience on the 5th floor of the MBT Centre was good. On entry to the food area, each of us were given a plastic credit-card token. We then had to chose our meal, from a choice of over 50 cook stations: Thai, Chinese, Malay, American, Greek, Vietnamese, Indonesian – it was all there. This meant we could all order separately and enjoy our individual choices. Aaron had a Thai Massaman Curry, Ruben had grilled chicken on sticks with egg fried rice, I had a Vietnamese Pho noodle soup and Rosie had her favourite: hot-dog and chips!
On leaving the area you present your card token and pay the balance. We thought this was a really good system for a family eating out.
With full tummies and dirty, black feet from pounding the streets in our flip-flops, we headed back to the hotel via an ‘Angry Bird’ decorated SkyTrain.
We had survived day 1 in the big city!