Traveling In Thailand – A First Time Experience

Bangkok, Thailand | Part I.

 

 There are many, many exceptional things and experiences to be had traveling to Thailand. The street food, the markets, the ancient buddhist temples, and the beautiful warm waters of the Indian Ocean, to name a few. But it isn’t just these topics that I am writing about. I want to share my experience with you about the culture of Thailand, the energy of the places we visited, and the lessons learned along the way. For those of you reading this post who are looking to travel to Thailand, have already, or might be looking to go to a different part of Thailand – then this post can still benefit you. Wether it triggers some of your own memories from your travels or helps you to be more prepared the second time around. This series is inspired from our own experiences, which is the best part about traveling. Though everyone has different experiences – there are some topics that I feel could be categorized as pretty general to help make your travels in Thailand easier. I hope my blog will also help you get inspired to visit other parts of Asia, with a realistic budget, and with eyes wide open.

Thai Palm – © Shannon Thibodeau

We chose Thailand because of its beauty, and affordability. And let’s not ignore all of those influencers out there who’s pictures we saw everyday on instagram. These beautiful tropical beaches, images of white sand and clear turquoise water, while we were freezing your asses off  hibernating in our home in the grey of a winter storm. THEY are the ones who got this tropical place on our minds. And as we found out while we were there, they got it on everyone else’s minds as well. Thailand and Asia in general have become one of the highest visited destinations in the past few years. Asia Pacific recorded 324 million tourist arrivals in 2017, and it has only gone up since then. It is a country where one is capable of living like a prince/princess with not a lot of money. Everyone now knows that Asia is the place to have a taste of the good life on a budget.

My husband Samuel is in his 40’s and I in my mid 30’s, we were newly weds when we started our travels to Europe and then Asia for 6 months, and it was the best decision. We both have jobs working remotely, this is how we were able to travel for 6 months straight and not worry about saving up a lot of dough. We are adept travelers and like most travel experiences, we learned so much more than we could have anticipated during our trip. It was our first time to Asia. Some of our experiences were terrifying, and others a relief. There were earth angles who helped us along the way, fellow travelers watching our backs and us theirs, there were the days of getting really freaking sick and having to be a functioning human being, and then there were the days of beach, sun, and ice cold Singha beer. All of  this started on a flight from Bordeaux, France to Bangkok, Thailand, the city of Angels. In Thai the city is called, Krung Thep.

Side street of Bangkok © Shannon Thibodeau

Flying out of France made our travel to Bangkok much easier than if we had been flying from our original home in the US. No matter where you are flying from (especially if you are traveling on a budget) be prepared for a bit of a journey. Our flight from France took us 12 hours including layover (we flew Lufthansa Air out of Bordeaux, FR). Our experience with Lufthansa was fantastic, and I highly recommend flying with them when possible.  If you are coming from the States expect around 18 hrs of flight time, excluding any layover time, and even if you are from Australia the flight time is around 10 hrs. So no matter how you look at it, those of you reading from anywhere BUT Asia, be ready for a journey. Contrary to what we read about in many other blogs and travel sites, you do not have to have your return flight scheduled (no one ever asked us for any proof of leaving the country), and if you plan on staying in Thailand longer than 30 days you can actually apply for a longer stay while in Bangkok or in your own country at the Thai consulate (It will cost you $50). Here is a helpful link to acquiring your visa extension while in Bangkok  Also, the nice part about traveling Thailand is if you do not get a long stay visa you can leave the country to any of its neighboring countries for an overnight, and then come right back. This will allow you 30 more days (there are limits to how many times you are able to do this).

Thailand Train Station – © Shannon Thibodeau

It will not only be the flight that is part of your travel.  As many of you might know who have “been there and done that” the journey in Asia does not end at the airport especially if you plan on traveling to any of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. There are multiple ways of getting to the islands other than just flying. Samuel and I ended up taking a taxi, tuk tuk, bus, train, and boat all in one day. I will talk more in depth about the best way to get to the islands in part II.

Upon our arrival to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, we jumped in a taxi for a 45 min ride to our apartment. Yes, we rented an apartment in Bangkok. We were staying for 7 days and found it to be much more affordable. The taxi from the airport cost us $25.00 and was totally worth it due to our amount of luggage. If you are traveling light (which one should usually do when traveling around Asia) I would recommend a tuk tuk -much cheaper, but not as comfortable. The tuk tuk experience is not for everyone, but should definitely be tried at some point! If it is your first ride in one, maybe opt out of your first ride being 45 mins. We met a couple of people who said they had taken a tuk tuk ride for three hours!

Our apartment in Bangkok was in a secure building, It was clean, had AC, and a little kitchen in case we had left overs or wanted to cook. We paid about $60.00 for the entire week, which is 1,880 in Baht (Thai currency) I will not share the name of our little hidden gem, but here are some links to finding an affordable apartment (there is always Airbnb but not as cheap as other options).

  • Booking.com (I actually used these guys a lot during our travels they are useful, but keep in mind that they collect a service charge like most of these sites! If you find a place and it has an email contact try reaching directly out to the landlord first. Doing this could save you a chunk of money). 
  • Hometogo.com ( This one brings an accumulation of deals from bare-able, hotels.com, expedia, and Anantara together for your perusing pleasure. All the best deals brought together from all the deal sites.) 

The deals for renting cheaply short-term are out there, and it will take a bit of homework, but you can find them. From what I have read and experienced while traveling around Asia is, if you are able to see a place in person before paying for it – just do it (like Nike).

I also recommend finding a place with a pool, and if prices are too high in your research, I know another way! Our apartment did not have a pool, but we were around the corner from a Marriott Hotel that had a pool, outdoor pool bar, and wifi. If you go to any hotel that has a roof pool in Bangkok- you are able to use them! Most of them have gyms that you can use as well. We paid a day rate of $45 (which is high, but I think because it was a Marriott) to be able to use everything including gym, showers, hot tub, and steam rooms. You will want to do this if you are spending more than 2 days in Bangkok! It is 100+ degrees on some days there. Way to hot to not be next to a pool for at least a little amount of your time. And if you like to keep your body and mental health in check, having use of a gym for me is a must in that kind of heat. Plus, it was a breathtaking view looking out at the skyline of Bangkok while exercising. The $45 was worth the view and shady breeze alone. In fact, I didn’t want to leave that roof area AT ALL while we were there! but alas, we had things to do and people to see.

Coming to Bangkok was overwhelming. Bangkok is huge, hot, and very different from what we were used to in a city. Though still very much a city visually, culturally it has a different feel than most other major cities. There are the smell of Thai spices, sewage, and tropical plants that fill your senses. Humidity and heat hit you like a wall when walking out of the airport. It is a beautifully lush and tropical city, with remanence of its original jungle roots everywhere. Coming from experience with major European cities, and American cities; comparatively Bangkoks streets are almost a transport back in time mixed with a modern city. With side streets filled with vendors hustling the tourists, there is fragrant steam from food being made on street stands, stray dogs everywhere, vivid colors, and symbolic offerings to buddha scattering the sidewalks. Major roads are lined with shopping malls of Cartier, Versace, and Armani with spas/plastic surgery clinics, and high end places to eat. Looking up there are sky scrappers as high as any in New York City sky scraper and then there is the sky train-

The sky train is Bangkok’s version of a Metro/T, only it is above ground and is raised high above the streets of Bangkok. It is a very affordable way of getting around the city, as well as visually amazing. From the sky train you can get a very fast and breathtaking view of the city, get to where you are going hassle free, and stay cool while doing it. It is a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the hot streets, though everyone is packed in like a can of sardines. Along with the train there is an entire covered walk way above the streets, which can be walked for convenience in places. Discovering the city from up above reminded me a little  of something out of the movie, “The Fifth Element.”

Women On Bus, Bangkok, Thailand © Shannon Thibodeau

We had to settle right in upon our arrival, and basically get right to work with our jobs, trying to battle some major jet lag. One of the issues upon arriving to Bangkok was finding a good place to have a good cup of coffee. Coffee is a must for this girl, especially when battling jet lag. So, when we had to walk six blocks to find a decent cup of coffee our first couple mornings in ninety nine degree temps, at one hundred percent humidity, I was like, UMMM mission coffee is on! Which ended up being fine because we were able to find great places for coffee and breakfast close enough, once we acquainted ourselves with our surroundings. We used Trip Advisor ALL THE TIME and found this list of some favorite spots to get our day started:

Breakfast Story, Breakfast Club and Home Fries © Shannon Thibodeau

1. Breakfast Story (Our FAVORITE! this place was like traveling back home to New England, U.S./or Canada)

2. Crepes & Co. ( Very nice atmosphere, on the pricier side, but good!)

3. Roast coffee & eatery. (great java)

These were places closer to our apartment in the city. There are many more options. Finding good food and drink is not a problem in such a large city, it is more about finding a place close by for convenience, that is affordable (if you are not staying at a hotel). We also decided several mornings to have Thai breakfasts, which are easy to find at any Thai restaurant/food stand, most do not have coffee, just tea (maybe). We paid about $12/469 Baht total (two people) for a breakfast when we went on the cheap. When we decided to treat ourselves to a western breakfast we did about $30 total. If you are not a breakfast person, then you can easily go cheaper and grab a fruit drink on almost every street corner for about $1, and a coffee to go at the nearest coffee shop. I found having a morning routine to look forward to was very helpful, especially because we were still having to work through our days. We had our morning adventures, when back to our apartment to put in some hours in the afternoon (hottest part of the day) and then did another adventure in the evening based around dinner. hands down favorite dinner was a food cart right outside Platinum Market (Which I will talk about in part II). What is so nice about working remotely is creating your own hours- so we of course planned days off as well.

Thai Woman Preparing Fruit At The Night Market © Shannon Thibodeau

We walked everywhere. We walked so much that our feet hurt at the end of everyday. There is a reason why there are foot massage and back massage places on almost ever street of Bangkok. While walking from place to place one gets pretty hot. As a friend once told me, “Bangkok is a three-shirt-a-day kinda place.” Luckily there are many fruit stands and juice stands where you can get a fresh watermelon, clementine, pomegranate, lime or an entire coconut drink to stay hydrated. The people who own these stands are incredibly kind and they know how to make a very good juice! my mouth is watering thinking about drinking one…

If you happen to get a fruit drink that is salty, don’t worry it is supposed to be. It is their home-made version of Gatorade! and even if it isn’t what you were expecting- drink it anyway it will help you to stay hydrated and not get light headed. Make sure to always have water with you. There is also coconut ice cream to help keep you cool with the option of all kinds of fruits and candies to sprinkle on top. The heat takes some time to get used to. It can take a lot out of you if you are not used to it. Be aware of how you are feeling and how hydrated you are. By the end of a week we had definitely adjusted to the climate, to the point of it being bare-able and Bangkok had our hearts…

Part II coming soon! 

 

 

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