Almost two weeks late is better than never. The second half of our Thailand Adventure consisted of traveling through the bustling city of Bangkok and beautiful island of Koh Samui. After a successful few days in Chiang Mai we felt as though we had this backpacking thing under control. Little did we know what was in store for us the days ahead. Quickly knocking myself back down to novice traveller status, this post will be all about must don’ts when traveling through Thailand.
- Don’t Get Scammed.
Okay so apparently this is a pretty common occurrence in the bustling city of Bangkok that all three of us (Ricky, Cousin Al, and I) were blatantly unaware of. After getting a tuk tuk (open-air cab) to our hostel (Here Hostel 9.5 out of 10 stars) we quickly set out to get some breakfast and wander around town on our own agenda. Walking towards our first destination we stumbled upon a huge temple we wanted to go check out. As we walked into the temple, a man that seemed to be a guard informed us that the temple was closed due to the death of it’s monk. He told us to instead go take a boat ride through the canals, see a “floating market”, then hop off and go to the Grand Temple and Big Buddha. It sounded too good to be true, he even hailed a tuk tuk for us and advised us to ask the boat driver about stopping by the original “Black Buddha” during our ride. So off we went on a new adventure seeking out the Black Buddha. Halfway through our boat ride Cousin Al started to get a little suspicious of the situation. Once the reluctant driver stopped at the “Black Buddha” after we agreed to tip him, Al did some investigating and found another group that got scammed into seeing “Black Buddha” as well. The picture of the fake temple he was looking at on his phone was the exact thing we were seeing before us with our very own eyes. The “Black Buddha” we saw was literally painted black then back to gold and the floating market turned out to be one lady in a boat trying to sell us awful souvenirs. All this to say, don’t get scammed in bangkok. People will try to turn you away from temples or offer rides to temples far off. Do your research, plan your day, and stick to the plan! Although this scam really wasn’t the worst in the world we could’ve used the extra 1500 baht on a drink for the hot summer day.
- Don’t bargain with Taxi Drivers.
Getting around bangkok on public transportation depending on your location can be difficult. Most tourists rely on tuk tuks or taxis to tote them around. 99.9 percent of the time these drivers will give you a price that is inflated 3 or 4 times over what the meter should tell you. When getting a taxi, always ask the driver if they’ll use the meter, if they won’t they are pretty much trying to rip you off. Depending on the time of day, your patience level, and your bank account, of course bargaining for a taxi ride might do. But for “backpacking” always stick to meter taxis or try your luck with the public buses and metro.
- Don’t miss out of the Night Markets.
Night markets are filled with the best food and shopping you could ever imagine. We decided to try out the Ratchada Night Train Market and were not disappointed by our choice. Delicious and cheap food followed by shopping galore. Anything that you could ever want to get as a souvenir or a knock off whatever is at the night market. Don’t miss out on the deals and make sure you bring an empty stomach to match.
4. Don’t skip Ayutthaya
It was 7am when our van came to pick us up for the tour we booked through Here Hostel to Ayutthaya. The van was already packed full and Ericka and I got the pleasure of riding shottie for what we thought would be an hour long drive. 10 minutes later we stopped and our Thai hosts told us to get out. We stood on a curb and waited. And waited. They filled up a van that was headed to Ayutthaya but for some reason our party of three didn’t make the cut so we waited so more as it began to rain. About 20-30 minutes later another van came that we were graciously allowed to embark upon. Low and behold Ericka and I were picked as the chosen ones once more to sit in the front “seats”. After a 45 minute or so drive we finally arrived in Ayutthaya. The stress of the morning was more than worth it because of it’s beauty. The city was once the capital of Thailand but had been burned down after multiple attacks. If you are traveling through Thailand and making a stop in Bangkok a day trip to Ayutthaya is more than worth it, the only advice I would have would be to make the trip on your own. The “tour” that we paid for started late and ended early, was not in the least bit professional and I think making the trip on our own would have been better money wise and time wise.
- Don’t go to China Town on an Empty Stomach.
After a long day of adventuring and not having so much time in bangkok, we decided to spend one of our evenings in China Town before hitting up a night market. We planned to go to a very high rated but local Thai restaurant near our hotel and then walk down to China Town. Dinner was delicious but we were more than stuffed. After our mile or two walk down to China Town we were expecting to see market stalls and things to buy. Low and behold China Town is more of a eating toursit spot than a shopping one. The food stalls and open air restaurants looked absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the only thing Cousin Al and I had room for in our stomachs was durian. (If you go to Thailand or Asia in general you have to try Durian and let me know your thoughts!). All this to say when making the trip to China Town go with an empty stomach and prepare to stuff it full with delicious oriental food.
6. Don’t miss out on the last Resort.
After 3 days of being bamboozled in Bangkok Ericka and I (Cousin Al had to cut his vacation short and go back to real life) were so looking forward to our time on the beautiful island of Koh Samui. We (and by we I mean I) chose the cheaper option of flying into Surat Thani taking a bus to the ferry, taking a ferry ride to Koh Samui, and then taking a van to our hostel. This resulted in a 7 or so hour voyage from Bangkok to the Island which was building up our expectations even more. Upon arrival at the hostel our mouths dropped. We pulled up to what looked like a run down shop and was greeted by a boy with an Ipod. He found our reservations and walked us through the office out into what looked like peoples’ homes and into one building with a finger print lock. He walked us into our newest dorm room and my heart sank. The room was huge with numerous beds all empty aside from one other fellow traveller who was out at the time. There was however a guy “fixing” the bathroom/shower that informed us that the shower was broken and everyone would be sharing the bathroom upstairs (the terror). We sat on our beds and Ericka’s mattress was literally the height of a piece of paper, there was dirt all over the floor, and once Ericka returned from the run down bathroom she had been eaten alive by a mosquito. After 7 hours of traveling to get to a beautiful island to relax after a week of jungle trekking and city hopping to say my expectations were not met was an understatement. We decided to head out and get some dinner neither one of us expressing our feelings about the hostel. In the middle of dinner I couldn’t take it any longer and told Ericka I needed to get out of that horror house. She agreed and what happened the next two hours I’m not proud of. At dinner we booked a 4 star resort equipped with 4 pools and 3 bars with their own beach. We are horrible people. We went back to the hostel and planned to sneak out but were stopped by one of the guys working at the hostel informing us of the night out everyone was attending. He was so nice. Despite the great hospitality of the hostel we were determined to get out of there. We waited until the group left for their night of partying and snuck out. With our 12kg bags to tote we began the one mile walk of shame to our new home. One thing was quickly discovered. We are resort girls. One of the wonderful things about backpacking in Thailand is that luxuries are still “cheap” by American standards. Our resort was only 50 bucks a night which was well worth what we got out of it. When traveling cheap abroad, especially as a backpacker, go for hostels they are a GREAT experience. But for the last leg of the trip, or for a beach destination “splurge” a little bit and you won’t ever regret that money spent.
Backpacking through Thailand with my cousin and best friend is a memory and time that I will never forget. It can easily be called the highlight of my summer because of all of the amazing adventures we experienced. Up next a trip to the states to see family and friends followed by a quick stint in Copenhagen. After that, I’ll be taking my three suitcases and loading them on to a train to Sweden to start my next chapter of life.