Thailand was the single best experience of my life. I was fortunate enough to find two weeks out of my schedule to explore the country and although not long enough, the memories I’ve made there are sufficient enough to last a lifetime.
First off, if you’re planning on going, I’d recommend going in mid April. That’s when they celebrate the Thai New Year, which I’ll explain later on. It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss. It’s also a great season to go because anything passed June, I want to say, is their rainy season. I literally didn’t know how perfect the timing of my trip was until after I booked it.
I had a 13.5 hour flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi and then a 9 HOUR LAYOVER in Abu Dhabi to Bangkok. I flew Etihad Airways and absolutely had no issue with the flight. I highly recommend it especially if you’re looking to save a few bucks with airfare. What did I do on my layover you ask? No, I didn’t explore Abu Dhabi. I didn’t feel comfortable exploring the city just because of everything that’s going on politically with the U.S. and middle eastern countries right now. I’ll also explain this further on my return trip back to NYC. So going back to what I did for 9 hours; at one point, for about 4 or 5 hours, I was legit the only person in the entire terminal. Outside of the airport workers, I walked around the entire terminal and couldn’t find another soul.. It was so eerie, so what did I do.. rented a sleeping pod and slept for about 4 hours haha at about $5 USD per hour. Great stuff.
The flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok was another 6.5 hours. So about 20 hours total flight time and honestly it wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it seem to be. Take a nap, stretch, keep hydrated, read a book, watch 5 different movies and take advantage of the free alcoholic drinks Etihad Airways served up. Oh their food wasn’t half bad either. I’m talking chicken curry, rice and beans, corn and a roll of bread. Best economy class experience I’ve had in my life.
So towards the end of your flight, the attendant will give you your entrance paperwork into the country, as well as your departure form so it would behoove of you to have a pen on you so you can get through customs relatively quick. Also, first thing I did was withdraw money from the ATM into Thai Baht. They also have currency windows where you can exchange your cash, but heard the exchange rate isn’t as good plus fees are involved, so the ATM was the easiest choice. Next, what I would recommend is to buy a SIM card at the airport. Look for the unlimited 4G, this is what I didn’t do because T-Mobile said that I have unlimited data in Thailand……. little did I know it was unlimited 2G data.. basically non usable. This will come in clutch when you’re stranded on an island and can’t speak the language lol. So get it done. Then I headed to the air train from the airport to the Mall (Siam Paragon) where I was meeting up with my good friend Claire when her flight came in.
The air train is literally 45 baht ( $1 USD and some change) to get you basically anywhere you need to go in downtown Bangkok. First stop I made once I got to Siam Paragon was Starbucks lol of course. The wi-fi access was the primary reason, the mocha frappuccino was a close second. The shops there are actually top notch 5th ave style designer everything. But that’s not how you want to shop when you do Bangkok.
Enter the arrival at the boujee-ist, absolutely most gorgeous hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
The Pullman Hotel G on Si Lom rd.
(be weary. there are two Pullman Hotel’s in Bangkok. Stay at the one on Si Lom rd). As soon as I checked-in and I was greeted with the concierge telling me that I’ve been selected as the guest of the day and have been upgraded to their executive package. Free access to their executive lounge on the top floor, room upgrade, complimentary beverages, free breakfast buffet, oh and unlimited drinks during happy hour in their rooftop bar…. amongst other amenities.. I mean, what more could you want. The view was something straight out of the beautifuldestinations insta page. Take a look.
Ok we’re checked in, we’re overwhelmed by the heat and humidity, now it’s only natural to go to the market and get some street Thai food. How did we get around Bangkok you may ask?
Enter Tuk Tuk Drivers.
It’s impossible to go to Thailand and not ride one of these lol. It’s actually spacious and comfortable and a hell of a fun time. Just be cautious…. ok so here’s the deal. You want to approach the driver and tell him your destination. Trust me they speak English. And let the bartering begin. They might throw out some ridiculous price. “500 Baht”.. and this is where you use your best Deal or No Deal Howie Mandel impersonation. No deal that bitch and reply and say “no way 100 baht”.. they’ll respond with “300” and counter with 150. Settle at 150 or walk away to the next Tuk Tuk. Don’t feel bad like I did. Stand your ground and by day 3 you’ll have it down pat; your negotiation skills will be top notch, you’ll want to change your career to real estate when you get back home. Side note.. has anyone else seen Million Dollar Listing and just re-evaluate your life… like these guys walk away with $100k commissions for doing what I did with Tuk Tuk Drivers for 10 days… I digress
Derived from the literal meaning, street food is food that is made on the street and is your one stop shop to eating the most authentic Thai food all for about $3 USD for 2. Yes that’s right. For about 45 baht a plate a local will cook you the best pad thai you’ve ever had. This isn’t your west village fine dining patio street seating, so forget what you’re used to. It’s raw, it’s grimy, there are stray dogs passing through under your tables.. not to mention you’re expected to bring your own napkins because Thailand restaurants typically don’t supply them for you. But once you get passed all that and take your first bite into pad thai with prawns, omg… just indulge.
Now that you’ve gotten passed the high of the Tuk Tuk Experience, I’d highly recommend to take taxi everywhere you need to go going forward. “Meter?!?” That’s gonna be your new saying because you only want to hop in Taxis that have their meter operating. They’ll try to tell you it’s not working.. just move on to one that is.. because that 250 baht tuk tuk you bargained with the driver for will cost you about 70 baht in a taxi.. if that.. and if you like to gallivant as much as we did, it adds up.
Life hack: buy alcohol duty free at the airport before getting to your hotel because imported JD tennessee honey is the same price in bangkok as it is back home, if not more.
Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Saket were amongst my favorite in Bangkok. Each of them have their own vibe and meaning behind it. Please pay respect to the monks and other locals saying prayers in the temples by taking off your shoes before walking in, bowing down and kneeling amongst the buddhist gods and ladies, come prepared. You don’t want to be seen exposing your shoulders, your knees and obviously your tits.. cover up haha. It’s also low key sexist cuz my shorts were probably shorter than Claire’s dress, definitely exposed my knees, but the guards didn’t say anything. Lol they will literally forbid you to come in right at the gate unless those are covered up. And like any other place in Thailand, there are vendors specifically for clueless tourists that will have a solution for your problem. You can buy pants and or scarves (at a premium) so that you’ll have access to enter the temple appropriately dressed.
The Wat experience is actually really really cool. We were fortunate enough to meet an actual monk at the top of Wat Phra Kaew right before they were closing. I’m pretty sure he was a new monk and was just there to entertain the foreigners on their tours because he spoke, for one, and two had his iPhone out like he was checking up on his fantasy basketball team…just casually.. he knew about New York City and talked to us about Donald Trump… sooo yeah.. fake monk but awesome man hahaha
Reclining buddha is one of the most popular temples to go visit, or locally known as Wat Pho. It’s such a sight.. it’s probably 50 meters long and the amount of detail in the paint is absolutely astonishing. Again, be mindful of your belongings because tourists are in such awe of the beauty, that it has been a hotspot for pick-pocketers. That’s right hold on to your fanny pack because there are actual signs up inside the temple warning you of pick-pocketers. Which leads me to my next life hack:
Scam Alert: You will be approached by a very nice Thai tour guide. Someone in some kind of uniform that looks legit and will ask you where you’re from. You’ll tell them NYC or USA and their eyes will light up. They’ll tell you about some kind of festival that is going on downtown and that there are tuk tuk drivers that will take you to 3 or 4 different temples for 60 baht (which is really cheap) and that it’s a discounted price for today only because of the festival that’s going on. We completely bought into it because it was legit the Thai New Year tomorrow, so we thought he was talking about that festival. So he’ll grab you a tuk tuk taxi, you’ll go to the “standing buddha” of whatever, you’ll get there and it’ll be closed, then you’ll be approached by another nice thai guy that’ll talk to you about how you have to go to this suit shop to buy a suit because it’s so cheap because of the festival… then the tuk tuk driver will bring you to the suit shop and you won’t buy a suit.. next thing you know you’re in the outskirts of Bangkok far from the actual temple you’ll want to go to and they’ll try charging you 500 baht for them bringing you there and you not buying a suit. So these tour guides and tuk tuk drivers work directly with certain vendors and get paid commission for bringing foreigners to purchase their stuff. We argued with the driver to bring is to our hotel for about 5 minutes before we just walked off and bounced. LOL we were low-key lost but grabbed street food to compensate for the unwanted stress. all was well.
Khao San Rd
It’s actually impossible to come here to party and not have fun. I’ve tried it.. didn’t work out. The night started out with “buckets”.. your thai version of a beaver (UConn stand up) or scorpion bowl, for those of you who didn’t get the beaver reference. So add questionable alcohol and knock off red bull for 200 baht and you have yourself a good time. This road is a backpackers paradise for meeting other interesting people. We were fortunate enough to meet other people from New York, Canadians, and other english speaking foreigners haha. This is the perfect time to bond over weird tuk tuk drivers, long flights, and plans for the next day. Also get yourself acquainted with Chang beer. Absolutely phenomenal light beer that’s the perfect anecdote for the 90 degree weather you’re partying to. One could say I got too acquainted LOL. The group of friends we made were just so lit how could I not.
Aside from being lit city, it’s actually a good place to find souvenirs for your family and friends. There are a ton of knock off adidas and nike shoes that may be intriguing to you, clothes, bracelets.. oh and people walking around asking you to buy one of these.. (NSFW.. or for life in general)
Lastly: please stay away from the ping pong shows..
The Ghost Tower
So I was more excited to do go here than pretty much anywhere else in Bangkok. I’ve watched so many videos of free-runners coming up here and hanging off the side of the building, getting to the top and doing crazy backflips onto the edge. Yeah absolutely nuts. YouTube Ghost Tower Bangkok and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Right.. so we plan out the day so that we get to the Ghost Tower around 4 because sunset in Thailand is always around 6:30 pm. Figured we’d go bring our go pros, speakers, the rest of our Jack and watch the sunset from the rooftop. Oh how we were mistaken. Just an absolute process that I feel the need to share with you otherwise you’ll be extremely disappointed to go through what we went through for nothing.
So we take a taxi to the location and were confused AF because when we go there, there were metal fences all around the building so that there was no way in. Just metal sheet all around the perimeter and we walked around to see if there was another entrance in.. nothing. So naturally, I decided to climb the fence. Mind you, there were signs everywhere saying trespassing is punishable as a felony offense… this and that.. whatever.. get to the top and then heard someone yelling in Thai (presumably to get the fuck off).. it was a street vendor yelling who was pretty much the look out.. I approach him ask him how the hell do we get in.. we’re from America (when all else fails just say you’re from America)… he then shouts out to a guard who was on the other side of the fence. He walks up, I shit you not, he looked like Jafar from Aladdin when he tricks him to go and find the Lamp..
and says sorry no more.. read the sign… we can’t let you in… so I go… ok but how do we get in? We’re from America! lol.. nothin no response. He walks away and I scream 100 baht!….. he comes back and tells us to walk to this hidden metal door.. in which he unlocks and lets us in for the agreed upon price.
I get strapped up with my go pro, adrenalines pumping I’m ready to run up this abandoned 60 story building.
We go up to the stairs, there’s a door welded shut… a master lock the size of a baseball on the door handle with no way of going up.. we go to the back set of stairs.. same deal… we go back to the guard and ask him for the key.. and his response is as follows.
ok a bit dramatic.. yes.. but did I feel my life was in danger at some point… absolutely..
a group of Swedish travelers also get into the first floor by bribing another guard to get in.. we fill them in on the bad news.. they double check to confirm they’re actually locked.. we reconvene and deliberate for a couple minutes.. decide our best option is to go back to the guard and bribe him a combined 4000 baht between the 5 of us for the key. His response didn’t budge.. mind you he didn’t speak a lick of english or any comprehensible language for that matter..
we concluded that he was a homeless man who got paid off from officials to steer foreigners away from bringing attention to the ghost tower because the suicide of a Swedish man inside the ghost tower a couple months back.
So Now the doors are barred shut.. no one has access to the rooftop except probably for Thailand Officials.. there’s a huge, 30 story pepsi banner hanging to cover up the Ghost Tower because of the backlash it received from the Swedish Government.
So what did we do? we couldn’t go up, so the only thing left to do was to go down….. I was thoroughly freaked out.. We heard noises downstairs.. it was dark.. no lighting.. trash everywhere.. I mean has anyone seen “Don’t Breathe”. The scene where the lights go off in the basement is probably as close as I’ve gotten to being legitimately that freaked out as we were walking down the stairs.
Legit us in the basement of this abandoned building lol. I was expecting just a village of homeless zombies to be herding down there.. or for us to find another dead body down there… thoroughly creeped out.. With the series of events that happened, I can attest that the name lives up to its hype….
Enter the Thai New Year aka Songkran. This celebration isn’t quite like anything I’ve experienced before. The entire country seemingly hits the streets, stocked up on water and madness ensues. For these 3 days in mid April water fights are the main attraction. It’s a celebration of cleansing the soul of sins and bad luck. Whether you’re a foreigner, a local, young, old, dead… no one’s safe.
So let me walk you through my Songkran experience. So we took a day trip to a neighboring town called Ayutthaya (We Ubered there which was an hour away from Bangkok). I highly recommend taking a short day trip out there cuz it’s more rural, there are a ton of old temple ruins that make for great pictures. We rented a scooter for the day for 250 Baht, which equates to around $7 or $8 USD.. oh also,
life hack: if you have an old passport, bring it with you on your trip because these mini bike vendors require a passport as collateral or a security deposit for the scooter. Obviously you want to avoid giving them your real passport. Also take pictures of the bike before it leaves the lot because I’ve heard of stories of how they use cheap paint to cover up some damages and by the time you return it, the paint wears off and they accuse you of the damage on the bike.. and charge an arm and a leg as payment.
So we’re gallivanting finding a place to pull over and grab lunch and seemingly on the end of each block, there are full on families wildin out to hyper active techno music, chillen in kiddy pools and spraying every car/motorbike down with water guns and hoses. It’s absolute madness.. for miles and miles this goes on all day.. no one is safe.
The night previous to our day trip to Ayutthaya, we were dowsed with water back in Bangkok. We went back to Khao San Rd and it was a complete war zone. I don’t have it on camera but I’m mid conversation and this 60 year old little Thai woman comes up and takes her water gun, holds it up to my you know what and lets it rip. Pulls the trigger and down I go.. Lol or what about that time I got bombarded by 5 or 6 “Lady Boys” that circled around me and started caressing my face with their face painting, clay like paste.. idk what the hell it was but maneuvering through that intoxicated was a process.
**press play for the visual
For those of you looking for specific details on places to go/things to see in Bangkok, take a look at our itinerary. We didn’t follow it to the very last detail, but it gave us a good baseline of hotspots and neighborhoods to check out. Also here’s a general expense report of my stay.
- Flight round trip from JFK to Bangkok: $680
- 4 days, 3 nights at Pullman Hotel: $280
- Round trip from Bangkok to Phuket: $73
- Tuk Tuk Rides, Taxi’s, Drinks, Food, Shopping, Liquor, Uber, Scooter Rentals, Temple Entrance Fee: Total $320
- Memories of doing limbo in the middle of Khao San Rd taking rice whiskey shots and being bombarded by lady boys during Songkran: Priceless