Monday, March 8, 2010

Bangkok - Arrival

We arrived early in the morning and very tired in Bangkok. The airport moneychangers weren't offering much for our leftover rupees (about half wouldn't take rupees at all), but we ended up changing some anyway as the ATM only spit out 1000 bhat notes (worth about $30).

With a little effort (and a lot of determination), we managed to find the free shuttle to the public bus station near the airport, and then a bus (the 516) to Khao San Road where we wanted to stay. It was only 33 bhat each, and had AC, and didn't make many stops. Score. The tourist bus from the airport to Khao San costs 150 and a taxi is 450. Gotta love public buses. And while the buses here are slightly reminiscent of Indian buses (not really pulling all the way up to the curb, starting up pretty quickly once people get on, and having a conductor to handle tickets), they are not crazy crowded like Indian buses. They seem about the right amount crowded, varying from a few extra seats to a comfortable standing room only, like popular bus routes in the US.

We had some difficulty keeping our eyes open, but were still aware of how much nicer Bangkok is than Delhi. To put it delicately, it looked like a regular modern city rather than a slum. We found our stop and wandered around Khao San for a bit before giving up finding an AC double less than 500 Bhat. Then we wandered some more and started to worry that we might not find one with space at all. So when we found an AC twin (two twin beds) for 550, we jumped on it. At around $16.50, this is our second most expensive room of the trip, but not the nicest. Granted, in most of India we didn't even check if rooms had AC because we weren't going to use it.

We spent the remainder of the day alternating between napping in our AC, sampling the street food, and wondering the nearby neighborhoods. There's a nice residential area between our hotel and the river. Over there we found some cute, cheap, and quiet-looking guesthouses, but no AC. We also found a few machines selling filtered water (bring your own bottle) for 1 bhat/liter, which seems to be a very good price. Going rate for bottled water is at least 10 bhat/liter, and most of the bottles are poor quality.

We also got down to the river front.

From Drop Box

It is incredibly hot here, but also incredibly nice. It's clean. Traffic seems to have patterns and conventions of right-of-way. Prices tend to be posted. The food is generally safe. (Our residual diarrhea (Josh) and constipation (Mary) cleared up almost immediately.) The touts go away after you tell them you aren't interested. And you can buy a coconut from a guy on the street for less than a dollar (granted, I could do that in India too, but I was afraid to drink it). If this isn't paradise, I don't know what is.

Everything is more expensive here than in India by 1.5x to 2x, which is a bit of an adjustment. But really it's worth every single extra bhat.

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