|Bangkok without the pussy
Bangkok is one of the world's most interesting, user-friendly cities.
More than enough folks on the Board have reported on the "pussy" aspects. What I'm gonna try to do is give a view of some of the other stuff.
Some helpful hints and how-to's.
Some where-to-gos and some must-to-avoids.
First, getting there: it is a lot cheaper to start with Bangkok and then continue on to AC. Bangkok is one of the great centers for discounted airfare - especially around Asia.
But if you are in AC and want a few days R & R in Bangkok, here's a few thoughts...I'm not gonna give prices, because they vary so much, just approximates. Cheapest R/T is usually on Egypt Air. They have a limited schedule and get you there in the middle of the night. But they are cheap.
Unless you have a very favorite hotel, or want to go the budget/backpacker route, Thai Airways is my best bet pick. They have a large range of packages - airfare, hotel, airport pickup/return, sightseeing tours, free breakfasts, including 17% government taxes. They have a long list of included hotels, from 2 to 5 star, all around the city. Lists of their packages can be found at any decent travel agent in AC...be SURE to check the validity dates, and small print. Often, the agent will be unsure of the specifics, so it pays to check yourself.
One of their best options includes 2 medical check-ups. If it's been a while, these packages include both a short (3 hour basic) or long (7 hour detailed) checkup at one of Bangkoks world re-nowned hospitals. Excellent value - in fact, at the moment, due to promotions, including the short check up and staying at my favorite hotel - The Amari Boulevard - is US$5 a night CHEAPER than the regular price. Highly recommended.
Folks from most countries receive a Visa On Arrival - including your Honey Ko - as Thailand is one of the ASEAN nations. These are not all that long, but sufficient for a quick stay. They usually can be extended once, but that is best verified by yourself.
What to bring - everyone has their own favorite stuff, but here's what I found works well for me (and Baby Ko when she comes along)...
1. Both a carry-on wheeled bag and a small backpack sized "daybag." The daybag will be invaluable on your wanderings around the city. Not only will you carry your maps and camera and bottles water, but your packages as well. Absolutely essential.
2. Surdy, broken-in walking shoes. Although lots of locals wear flip flops, you don't want to be wandering around without real shoes. Socks as well - preferably white cotton to absorb the sweat. Wouldn't hurt to have a small can of foot powder along as well. Some people prefer the "TEVA" styled open toed sandals - these can be easily worn with socks - but I have found that after walking on the concrete streets for a while, they lack the support needed. But bring 'em, or flip flops for the pool or short walks.
3. A compass. This may sound funny, but it isn't Boy Scout time. Most of the street signs are of course in Thai - and few people speak English. So while there are exceptionally good (and essential) street maps for sale, a compass will be invaluable in knowing WHICH way to go. Especially if you are going to take some of my advice about what to see.
4. A money "pouch" to wear around your waist under your clothing. While Bangkok is quite safe, this little device is essential. You can carry your money, credit cards, and Passport in safety. If you want, you can leave your tickets in the hotel's safe deposit box - but your Passport will be essential if you want to use your credit cards, or many other things. A small tip - because of the amount of sweat you will generate, you'll find it a lot better to put a sandwhich size "baggie" inside the pouch, keeping everything dry. Keep enough money for everyday needs, a copy of your Passport, and a card to your Hotel wrapped in a rubber band in your pocket. The rubber band makes it much harder to have your pocket picked.
5. A card written in Thai and English showing the name and location of your Hotel. This is essential! Every hotel will have them. As I said, most folks speak/read only Thai - especially cab drivers. Further, if you are going to be wandering around the city, have your Hotel write the name(s) of your destination(s) in Thai and English on separate cards to refer too.
Choosing a hotel - along with cost considerations, it is best to be near an entrance/exit to the Skytrain. The traffic in Bangkok - although much improved - will make you weep. The Skytrain is cheap and invaluable. It'll take you to or near almost everywhere you want to go. Consider also staying near Sukhumvit Road - the main tourist area - which follows beneath the Skytrain route. Best also, to consider staying on the lower numbered "sois" (read streets) that run off Sukhumvit - perhaps up through #15 or so. This area has the highest concentration of wonderful and plentiful restaurants & useful stores. If you do end up with an interest in female companionship, this area is also within walking distance of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. Lastly, if you think you MAY have a friend for the evening, be aware that many hotels are not that user friendly in that area. Best to check for yourself.
Ok, so you've arrived. Now what?
Oh, what about money? There are money changers all over the airport - actually all over everywhere. There are also - surprise surprise - functional ATM machines that give easy eash advances. The usual rules apply - be sure to know what you are doing, count first, give your money later, keep the receipts, be aware...but this is NOT A PROBLEM.
And about the Police - there is a VERY functional service in Bangkok called The Tourist Police. They all speak excellent English, are specially trained, and do an exceptional job. They are all aware of the importance of tourism and well be sure to help. Often, if you have a problem, the mere MENTION of the Tourist Police will often be more than enough to solve it.
Shopping is one of the great pleasures in Bangkok. Compared to AC, it is cheap like crazy - as well as plentiful and varied. One of the best things to buy - for AC residents as well - is medication. You can buy almost anything, in bulk, often generic, at prices that will astound you. So if you need things like aspirin, antibiotics, valium, viagra - anything that you might think of is best purchased in Bangkok. Oh, and as a small reminder, many things needed at The Kid's Shelter are also readily available at very reduced prices. Check for what is needed before you go.
Lastly for this little installment, one of the great pleasures is visiting the WEEKEND Chactuchac Market. In fact, this market is so cool, it is advisable to plan your trip so you have a Saturday or Sunday to visit it. It is a sight to behold. 13 different sections selling EVERYTHING you can imagine. At prices that are beyond insane. And if you bring Honey Ko, you can outfit her for the year for maybe 30%! of what the same stuff would cost in AC. But be prepared to do some hard bargaining - and of course to pay more than the locals. Of particular interest is the live animal section. It is VERY easy to get there - you avoid all the traffic and grief, because the Market is a stop on the Skytrain. Very very user friendly. But bring your day bag and put some water in it. It'll be hot and chaotic and bizarre. But really something special. HIGHLY ADVISED.
Ok, that seems to be enough for the moment.
Go. Enjoy. Experience. Eat.