Sunday, June 19, 2016

Arriving in Bangkok, Thailand

Day 1 (Friday, 6 May 2016)

Originally, I had wanted to go to Zhangjiajie/ Wulingyuan National Park in Hunan Province, China to see the spectacular peaks depicted in the movie Avatar but the air fare for the period was much too expensive. My next choice was Luang Prabang in Laos, but after considering the added cost of flying from Vientiane to Luang Prabang and probably finding myself having too little to do there for five days, I had a change of heart.

The first trip I made to Bangkok was about 10 years ago in October 2006. At that time, I participated in a holiday trip organised by the Company. It was also through that experience that I learnt of the disadvantages of joining organised tours. Before going to Bangkok/ Pattaya then, I made plans to explore these two cities at night since they were free-and-easy nights for us. I was wrong. The tour guides would bring us to places to shop for leather products, honey, jewelry, snake oil, etc. in the middle of nowhere and therefore, extending the itineraries late into the evening and by the time we were done with dinners, it was time for bed.

This trip was to compensate for what I was not able to do then, that was to explore the city of Bangkok. For this trip, I was not interested in going to the tourist spots that I had visited on my first trip. Hence, the only activities I had for this trip was to visit Chatuchak Weekend Market, Chinatown/ Yaowarat Rd, do some shopping and eat.

Airasia's scheduled departure time was 1:35 p.m. Malaysia time. It did not depart as scheduled. By the time we arrived at Don Mueang Airport, it was 3:20 p.m., local time.

Arriving at DMK airport, I did not go for the local data SIM card as it was not a priority for me. I planned to get it from 7-11, which I read sell data SIM cards too. Anyway, when I scanned quickly around, I did not see any mobile providers at the arrival hall. Hence, I quickly left to look for A1 bus to get to town. I was already delayed by Airasia.

Instead of getting on the A1 bus, we were told by a bus official to take A2 bus to BTS Mo Chit Station. From there, I would take the Skytrain to BTS Siam Interchange station on the Sukhumvit Line before transferring to the Silom Line to BTS National Stadium which was my final destination.

The bus conductress announced that we had arrived at Mo Chit bus stop 30 minutes later. The A2 bus stopped next to MRT Chatuchak Park station. Two passengers who alighted before me went into the MRT station and returned almost immediately. I was not sure where the BTS Mo Chit Station was. I had tried to find on the internet the relative positions of A1 bus stop to BTS Mo Chit station while planning my trip but which I failed to obtain. Now, I was in trouble.

Fortunately, other passengers continued walking forward and I just followed them. It was then that I noticed a BTS logo ahead of me, between 20 - 30 meters away from MRT Chatuchak Park station.

It was actually very easy to find BTS Mo Chit Station. For the benefit of budget travellers, when you alight from the bus near MRT Chatuchak Park station, just walk forward in the same direction as the A1 or A2 buses. No turns, just straight forward. Ahead, you will see the overhead bridge across the road. That would be the overhead bridge to BTS Mo Chit station. Take the staircase to go to the BTS station.

Look at the relative positions of MRT station on the left and BTS station in front to estimate the distant

At the BTS Mo Chit station, I went to a ticket/ money counter to exchange a THB100 note to THB10 coins for the skytrain ticket. Buying the ticket from the ticket vending machine was relatively easy as I had watched Youtube videos on how to do it before coming to Bangkok.

My final station was BTS National Stadium on the Silom Line. However, BTS Mo Chit was on Sukhumvit Line. I needed to change train at CEN Siam Interchange. However, I did not know then that I could buy the ticket straight to BTS National Stadium from BTS Mo Chit station, having only to change train at CEN Siam Interchange. Instead, I bought my ticket here to CEN Siam Interchange station, exited from Siam Interchange station, bought another ticket there to BTS National Stadium station, which was a waste of time, effort and money. The prices of the tickets to both CEN Siam Interchange and to BTS National Stadium station were the same, both with the number "42" on the Fare Information notice.

I finally arrived at BTS National Stadium at 4:37 p.m., 80 minutes after arriving at DMK airport and 60 minutes after A2 bus left DMK airport. Lub D hostel where I booked a room for the night was just beside BTS National Stadium. Lub D hostel was recommended by a food blogger/ Youtuber, Mark Wiens.

Lub D hostel would be the most expensive hostel in the Asian region that I have stayed. I booked into Lub D simply because I could hardly find cheap hostels close to BTS National Stadium or other BTS stations on Agoda or Booking websites, except at Soi Kasem San 1. However, I was not sure of the quality of the hostels there.  My plan was to stay in Lub D for a night only and to look for an alternative hostel close to the BTS stations immediately after checking into Lub D on my arrival in Bangkok, starting from Soi Kasem San 2.

I went out at 5:07 p.m. to start my search for a hostel at the sois close to Lub D, i.e. Soi Kasem San 2 and 1. There was none at Soi Kasem San 2. Then, I went to Soi Kasem San 1. I found Reno Hotel and was allowed to see a room, which was much better than Lub D since for a similar price, it came with an attached bathroom. I told the reception that I would come back the following day.

As I continued looking around at Soi Kasem San 1, I saw White Lodge hostel, just a few steps away from Reno Hotel. I asked the female receptionist whether she has a room available for the following day, which she replied in the affirmative. As usual, I asked to have a look at the room which she said was on the upper floor. I did not see the staircase in the direction she pointed and when I returned and asked her where the staircase was, she was irritated and it showed in her voice. She was not at all helpful. Instead, she asked me to take a look at a similar room on the ground floor. It was a little old though clean. It was only THB600 per night and I decided to book for a night first, as I was not sure I would be happy with the condition of the actual room such as the air-conditioner and her attitude.

When I asked the unfriendly receptionist (or rather, as I learnt in the next three days, she was just relieving the actual male receptionist who was already off for the day) whether I should make a deposit to confirm my booking, she said it was not necessary and I could pay when I check in the following day. She did not even bother to reserve a room for me and did not enter my name into the hostel room reservation book.

This putrid smelling canal was the same Saen Saep Canal that connects to Platinum Fashion Mall
After having found a cheap hostel, I went for my very late lunch/ early dinner at the coffee shop at Pranee Building, which also served as one of the entrances to Soi Kasem San 1. While looking around to see what to order, I was given a menu but not every dish came with a picture. After flipping through the menu, and not liking any of the pictures, I asked for Pad Thai which I did not see in the menu (probably not written as Pad Thai but in English). I sat down at a table. No waiter/ waitress came to ask what I would like to drink. Instead, I have to walk to the front to the refrigerator when a woman was sitting beside it and got myself a bottle of soft drink. I wanted to pay for it but she gestured to me to pay later. The Pad Thai came later, but it was not that good.

After the early dinner, I walked eastwards to see how far CEN Siam Central Interchange was from BTS National Stadium station. While doing my itinerary for Bangkok, I had been thinking that I should just walk from Siam Interchange to BTS National Stadium station and vice-versa if it was too much hassle changing skytrain on the Sukhumvit and Silom lines at the interchange. Of course, I later found out that changing skytrain at Siam Interchange was a breeze. Anyway, the distant between W1 National Stadium station and CEN Siam Interchange was like KL's monorail Imbi station to Bukit Bintang station.

Siam Discovery, the building with white checkered pattern, was closed and under major renovation

I went to check out both Siam Center and Siam Paragon. At Siam Center, I found a shoe store but I could not find it again 2- 3 days later when I decided to buy sneakers for Ging and myself.

After hanging around at the square at Siam Paragon, I noticed vendors setting up their stalls on the street pavement. I decided to go down and checked what was in store for me from the first to the last stall.

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