For the student saving up for the trip of a lifetime Thailand can offer many great things on a small budget. Bangkok is both the capital and heart of Thailand. Hot, dusty, sweaty, chaotic and vibrant; Bangkok is certainly not dull. Enjoy the royal palace by day and at night walk down the backpacker haunt of the Khao San Road, where no one sleeps as the bars spill out into the street.
Visting the older parts of the city you can see where the canals have been paved over, and the streets are much quieter. The local markets overflow with motorcycle parts and stalls offering meat and flowers. You will also see where families live in cramped rooms just off the street, owning no more than a picture of the King Rama IX and a flat screen TV.
In contrast, if you travel over to the newer city you will discover Starbucks’ ‘Iced Green Tea Special’ and that McDonalds swap from ketchup to wasabi sauce.
There are some useful things to know when you arrive in the city. Most importantly: don’t worry about booking accommodation in advance. It does not matter what time you arrive at Bangkok Airport, get a taxi (about 500 baht/£10) from the airport to the Khao San Road. Here you will find plenty of accommodation, and bars, at cheap rates. If you want somewhere a bit quieter then you can easily find somewhere nearby on an adjacent road; the city of Bangkok has an incredible ability to mute sound as soon as you’ve turned the corner.
Be aware that when you arrive you will immediately be swarmed with people trying to sell you things. It will usually be at an inflated price so give a firm “no thank you” and keep walking. To see the sights take an infamous ‘tuk-tuk’ (motorcycle taxi), but always make sure you agree a price before you get in. This is the cheapest option as well as being the best way to see the city.
The Khao San road may be the busiest and most tourist-centric area of Bangkok, but even if you dislike the bright lights its central location makes it worthwhile. It is close to the Royal Palace and National Museum. Enjoy the view of the city from the Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong), Thailand’s most religious site. Here you can see Bangkok stretching out before you, all glass skyscrapers and banana trees. You will see large areas of wooden huts ramshackled together and then a sudden emerging white and gold glittering temple. These sites are religious places so always carry a light cotton shirt and long trousers or a skirt to cover yourself with when entering.
At the end of the day, cool down with a Change beer and enjoy the delicious national dish, Pad Thai, for fifty baht off a street vendor anywhere in Bangkok.