Bangkok Sticker Shock

By Jane Mountain | May 12, 2014

14,067 km so far.

It was amazing to wake up in a home this morning. It was hard to leave our comfy, clean bed, but we had the lure of Bangkok awaiting us. Alas, we decided to be practical and take care of business today, instead of going out and having fun.

Learning Bangkok

The first lesson we learned about Bangkok is that everything starts late. We went out around 9:30, hoping to visit a nearby bike shop and then get breakfast. Of course, we should have known no self-respecting independent bike shop would be open before 10. Unfortunately, the same applies to places serving breakfast.

Walking around hungry in the heat is always a recipe for disaster.

(Don’t miss: Our guide to finding the best vegan food in Bangkok →)

Not all the buildings in Bangkok are shiny and new.

Not all the buildings in Bangkok are shiny and new.

The second lesson we learned is that nothing is in a specific place. OK, that’s not exactly true, but it is usually tough to find a map to the business you want to visit. And even if you do, when you arrive, the business probably won’t be where it was on the map. Ask 3 people for directions if you get lost, and they will tell you 3 different locations.

Which brings us to the third lesson. Nobody knows where anything is. Mention the name of a place and people will say “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that,” or, “I saw a sign for that the other day. Where was it again?”. This lack of knowledge is understandable, given the extreme neighbourhoodyness of Bangkok. The problem is, people insist on giving you directions to a place they’ve never been to and never heard of, just to avoid admitting they don’t know.

In Thai the word for ‘no’ actually means ‘not yes’. That says it all.

After confronting these 3 lessons this morning, we learned our final one: free WiFi is hard to find. Having just come from Cambodia, and through rural stretches of Thailand, where we had hot and cold running WiFi far more than we wanted it, it was extremely frustrating to be denied access, even after following free WiFi signs and ordering drinks and food just to get online.

Finally, having taken several hours to accomplish nothing, we decided to head back to the apartment and press reset on the day.

It’s How Much?!?

Another big lesson we learned today is that things are expensive here!

And when I say things, I mean food. We’ve been conditioned to pay around 165 Baht for a full meal in a restaurant, for both of us. Here, you can’t even get a single dish for that much. Of course, that still makes it cheaper than eating in Europe, America, or Canada. We haven’t had any street food yet, but I expect it’s at least double what you’d pay outside the city.

skyscrapes in bangkok

The heights of Bangkok.

Hiring a tuk tuk or moto taxi is also outrageous. These guys quoted us sums that would pay for a nice double room for the night in Trat, just to go a few kilometres. A few times we burst out laughing when they quoted us a price. Bargaining didn’t make the price come down though. Seems like the drivers in the city are happy to go without a fare until they get the right one.

(Don’t miss: We loved Volve Hotel in Bangkok. A luxury design hotel at a reasonable price!)

Thank goodness for the Bangkok skytrain.

Thank goodness for the Bangkok skytrain.

About the only thing that is inexpensive here is the dentist. We both had check ups and cleanings this afternoon, in a modern, high-tech office, where the staff had obviously had excellent training. Stephen also had an x-ray and they reattached his crown which had fallen out about a week ago. It cost $150 total for the two of us. Oh, and it was completely painless, which for me is a revelation. If you’re heading over to Thailand, do yourself a favour and book a dentist appointment.

The People In Your Neighbourhood

Bangkok feels like a city that would take months to become comfortable with, and even then, you might only really “know” a few blocks around your home. It is filled (absolutely jam-packed) with little cafes, restaurants, brunch places, markets, bars, and boutiques. There are big neighbourhoods that encompass small neighbourhoods, that are composed of micro neighbourhoods. It would take weeks to explore the services just a few hundred meters from where we’re staying.

Street art in Bangkok.

Street art in Bangkok.

And then, there’s the street food, which is supposed to be some of the best in the world. But where would you even start?

Hand-woven dustpans in Bangkok.

Hand-woven dustpans in Bangkok.

For now, we are not going to come close to doing justice to the city. Maybe we’ll take in a few sights and eat a few good meals, but we’re not going to kid ourselves that we’ve even scratched the surface.  

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  1. Comment by Fiona

    Fiona May 19, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Apparently Bangkok is the world’s most visited city at the moment.

    Know what you mean about the directions issue. That happened to me all the time in Malaysia and wasted so much of my time! Even if people did know where something was they didn’t seem to be able to give definitive directions too (though I guess I can’t really talk ;-))

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane May 19, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Oh great, I was hoping things in Malaysia were better on the directions front. So far though, we’ve had just as much trouble as you describe. Things are “along that street” or “near this place”.

  2. Comment by Jerry Hall

    Jerry Hall May 17, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    “Neighbourhoodyness”? I usually despise made-up words, but I like this one!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane May 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      What do you mean “made-up”? I’m sure neighbourhoodyness must be a real word.

      Really though, I love made-up words. I’ve probably been annoying you for months with my inventiveyness.

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