A First Timer’s Guide to Bangkok

I arrived in Bangkok a couple of days ago and this is my first time in the country. In fact, this is my first time anywhere out of my home country (India). I have travelled in my country extensively over the last couple of years and have gotten to see a lot of wonderful things. Travelling solo has made me more confident and responsible than I was when I first left home two years ago to travel the world alone. However, there is always a feeling of anxiety, anticipation, and worry when you travel to a foreign country for the first time. I am not sure if it’s true for other nations but it is true for my country where we are taught that family is everything and most of us spend our whole lives living with our families until we (women) are married. Then, we move to our husband’s house and live with their family. So, of course, all that anxiety and anticipation is heightened in us. Bottom line – I was nervous!

Thailand is popularly known as the “Land of Smiles” and I can’t explain enough why it is so true. All my nervousness and anxiety left me the moment I stepped out of the airport and went to the Airport Rail Link counter and it has not returned ever since.

To get a glimpse of Thai hospitality and the warm and welcoming nature of the people and of the country, here are a few things you must see/try/do in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.

Travel Local

Tuk Tuks and Songthaews (mini red and yellow trucks) are highly popular mode of transportation all over the country

Take the Airport Rail Link from the airport to your accommodation in Bangkok. Of course, if you are exhausted because of a long flight, this suggestion is not for you. But, if you have had a rather refreshing flight and the adrenaline rush of visiting a new country is rapidly flowing inside your mind and body, the ARL is the best and the cheapest way to travel to and from the airport. 

The ARL station’s ticket counter is on the B Floor at the Subvarnabhumi Airport. Check the chart or ask the person behind the counter for the stop closest to your destination. Alternatively, check this link for detailed information on timings, routes, and fare. 

The ARL is also where you can connect with fellow travellers (if you are travelling solo or otherwise), some of whom are also a first-timer in the city and wouldn’t mind a company. A single one-way ticket from the airport to Phaya Thai costed me 45BHT at the time of writing this post.

Additionally, try the BTS Sky train, the local bus, the moped taxis, or the various color coded cabs. BTS Sky Train is the easiest way to get from one place to another (where ARL doesn’t connect) in the city. 

I am staying at Sukhumvit Soi 55 which is inaccessible via ARL so I took the ARL from airport to Phaya Thai and from the lower floor of the ARL Phaya Thai Station, I took the BTS Sky Train for Thong Lor. My hotel is 900 metres from the Sky Train station. 

This is not just the best way to get acquainted on how the locals travel but also save a lot of money. A cab ride which would have costed me 350-500 BHT from airport to hotel was only 87BHT via the ARL and the BTS Sky Train. Check this link for detailed timings, routes, and fare of the BTS Sky Train.

The colour coded cabs in Bangkok are a sight in themselves. Most countries have the usual yellow and black taxis but not Bangkok. Bangkok has pink, orange, green, yellow, red, purple, violet, sky blue (and many other colour combination) cabs. Of course, each colour denotes a company. But, they definitely brighten up the roads of the city ten times more than normal.

Eat Local

Thailand’s local food is a MUST-TRY!

On my first night here, I tried the Pad Thai Talay – Thai noodles with seafood and salad. And boy! Was it yummy or was it YUMMY! The next evening I went to a local street food stall and bought deep fried sausages with Thai Sauce. And, finally ended my third day in the city with a Japanese BBQ at Gyuma Thong Lor. Almost all my insta photos of the last few days have predominantly featured Thai food with #FOODGASM… So you know what I mean! But, don’t just take my word for it. Try it to believe it.

Drink Local

It is easy to get alcohol here. Bars, restaurants, liquor shops and even seven-elevens sell alcohol and may have your preferred brands too. But, if you believe in living like a local like I do, then you have to try Thailand’s famous beers – Singha and Chang. Personally, I prefer Chang over Singha but I have tried both and they are both good. And, trust me when I say this, this was my first dose of alcohol after having quit drinking for year and there was no hangover or any other post drinking problems. And it’s just 39BHT for a can!

Relax like the locals

If you haven’t tried a Thai massage, you haven’t done anything.

When I announced in my social circle that I am going to Thailand, everybody gave me their favourite “to-do” list for the country. One thing that unfailingly showed up in every list was a Thai massage. So after recovering a bit from my jet lag (or it’s the massage that got rid of it I am not sure), I decided to get a massage the next evening. 

It is absolutely impossible to decide which massage parlour you would go to – there are SO many and all look equally fancy! I had picked one in my mind while walking towards the hotel the day before and the next evening I ended up going to the one next to it! 

The massage parlours offer various kinds of massage – head, neck, shoulder, foot, and other packages. You could customize them if you wanted to I guess, but I can’t say for sure. I picked the 1 hour foot reflexology massage for 250 BHT. And, 5 minutes into the session I was already in heaven. The massage went on for about one and a half hour and the massage lady was kind enough to throw in a bit of neck, shoulder, head and arm rub at no extra cost.

Most of you would think shopping and partying would be in this list but that’s for another day. 

For now, enjoy your first time in Bangkok as a traveler and immerse yourself in the local ways of life in this beautiful country. 

Safe Travels!

Note: This article was first published on Tripedia on May 22, 2015.

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