Going to Thailand was one of the things I was most looking forward to – my grandad used to talk fondly about his visits with my nan, friends had talked about it, the culture looked completely different on television and I'd never been outside Europe! When we got through passport control at Athens airport I turned into what can only be described as a kid on Christmas day, I kept clutching Josh's arm/hand exclaiming 'Oh my gosh, this is so exciting!' and 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe we're going to Thailand!' [She did, it was annoying – Josh]. I may have also had a cry the night before about how lucky I felt to have this experience…
Our journey to Thailand and our first few days in the country exceeded my expectations, I have never fallen in love with a place as much as I have done with Thailand. Bangkok was an incredible experience (the culture, the people, the sights) and since then our trip has only got better.
We'd booked with Scoot airlines to go to Bangkok, hand luggage only. The check in was a smooth process and before we knew it we were waiting for a flight to Singapore. We had all our left over Euros in our hand, waiting to spend them on snacks for the 16 hour journey ahead of us. When the boarding call came we queued at the gate with a mixture of excitement and nerves and walked through to the plane. Now, as a couple that have only travelled by plane for a few hours (Josh's furthest flight was to Greece and mine to Iceland), we were struck by just how big the plane was. I'd read too many reviews on Scoot airlines and was expecting bad things, but it was the exact opposite – the plane was playing the top hits, the toilets were cleaned every half hour or so, we had lots of leg room [Not sure on Nikki's definition of 'lots' – Josh] and the plane was relatively quiet. We settled in for our journey, we watched Fantastic Beasts and Moana (films we'd started and not finished on camp) and played a lot of games on our phones. However, the fun stopped there… I couldn't get to sleep so I got very grouchy and was not in a pleasant mood [No, she wasn't. Not even a little. – Josh].
Our flight landed at 4am in Singapore where we had a two hour stop, so grumpy me got off and searched for food [Whether she meant to or not Nikki walked so far ahead of me that I lost sight of her – Josh].
Thankfully as soon as I'd found a suitable breakfast I was in a much better mood (sorry Josh). Breakfast was weird for us, it consisted of me getting Tofu noodles and Josh getting pork dumplings from a 'fast food' restaurant – both of our dishes were prepared freshly in front of us so a bit more up market than fast food in the UK!
We then boarded our second flight into Bangkok and after two short hours (one of them being a nap) we touched down. Bangkok airport was super easy to navigate, the visa exemption process was easy and then we mastered getting cash out from an ATM. Next thing was to get to our apartment… Our Airbnb instructions told us to get a bus to Mo Chit metro station and then they would pick us up from there, but we were very early so we said we'd walk. That may have been a slight mistake on our part! The bus was incredibly old but super clean and super cheap, about 15p each!
When we got to our bus stop, we were still super early so decided to walk around the park. It was a beautiful park, kept well and had amazing wildlife compared to the pigeons we were used to in London parks [But oh my god the heat – Josh].
Then the rain came… And boy did it rain! We still had to walk for around an hour to get to our apartment! Thankfully our walk took us past Union Mall (a shopping centre) so we stopped in there to stay dry for a while. The centre was full of market type stalls that all sold beautiful clothes (clothes that I had always wished I could find more easily in England).
Once we were sure the rain had eased a little we continued with our walk, solely relying on a cached Google map [That is; not a properly 'offline' version, but merely a semi detailed version that I'd viewed online the day before – Josh].
Once we arrived at the apartment block we were greeted by an over enthusiastic security guard who spoke very little English. We gathered that he wouldn't let us past the gate until we had called our host. He asked Josh 'You go?' which Josh misinterpreted as 'Hugo', therefore our first Thai friend was called Hugo from then on. Our Airbnb host cycled past and took us to the apartment, he had prepared a booklet of handy hints on travel and restaurants – perfect!
Our first night we played it safe with a trip to a local chicken restaurant and 711 to buy snacks. We couldn't deal with potentially dodgy stomachs after no sleep on the plane!
We decided to venture into the city using the transport hints our host had given us. Once we boarded the bus a Thai hotel worker sitting in front of us turned around and asked if we knew where we were going, I tried to tell her the name of the metro station we were going to – I obviously mispronounced it completely and she had no idea. After showing her my phone she understood and told us when to get off. Once at the metro station we were helped by another Thai lady. I couldn't believe how genuinely nice everyone was being, it's a completely different welcome to London!
Once in the centre of the city we tried walking around using a free map, the free map was useless and the rain was ongoing. However, we still enjoyed our day seeing all the sights we expected to see from watching programmes featuring Bangkok – tuk tuks, street food vendors aplenty, lots of small shops and a ton of people.
The only unpleasant experience (which wasn't actually that bad at all), was someone trying to scam us into going to a 'festival that was one day only at a local temple'. We were walking in the direction of the Grand Palace when we were stopped by a guy claiming to be a teacher at the local college. We were pleasant but carried on walking towards the Grand Palace, he ended up walking away calling us stupid and bad. Oh well!
After a day of exploring we went back to what we called home and were met by Hugo [Oh Hugo – Josh] who had a massive smile on his face and shook both of our hands at the same time. Legend.
Today we thought we'd hide from the rain as much as possible but the Biology teacher in me wanted to see some nature first. With a travel plan in my head, we set out to the bus stop. We waited for an hour in the rain for nothing, no bus 259 came. I looked at Google maps again only to realise that we could have taken another bus which we had seen pass. Gutted. So we boarded the next bus and was on our way, hurrah!
We got off at Chatuchak park and walked through to the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden where TripAdvisor had said an Insectarium would be. We walked around in the rain, looking very confused and lost. Some locals did a butterfly hand gesture and gesticulated a rough direction. We followed their general waving and turned up outside the Insectarium. However, there was a slight problem… There was a Thai man looking out and he was surrounded by rubble. Turns out the place was no longer in use, maybe it was being refurbished but there was a temporary tiny butterfly garden next door. Fail number two of the day.
Determined not to be defeated we took the sky train to Siam where we'd heard that a completely different cultural experience could be found – the super rich part of Bangkok. It was a weird experience to what we had grown used to in Bangkok but it was nice to stay dry and get some good food [Mmmm, pad thai - Josh].
Wednesday was our last day in Bangkok so we left our apartment and travelled over to near Hua Lampong train station. However, we had quite a few hours to kill so instead decided to go to Lumpini Park. If we thought Chatuchak Park was nice then we were wrong. Lumpini Park had it all – outdoor gyms, indoor gyms, clean toilets, dragonflies, monitor lizards, fish and turtles. Whilst Josh took the opportunity for photos I took the opportunity to rest my feet and back.
When lunchtime came we then went for food in a place called Pink Garden which was essentially a collection of street food stalls [I doubt it was in any guidebooks, it was very… 'authentic' – Josh]. The food was good and filling but we returned to the park in case I reacted badly and needed a toilet!
After quite a few hours we headed over to Hua Lampong where we had dinner at very backpacker restaurant and then boarded our sleeper train to Chiang Mai. We were both wary of the sleeper train I had booked tickets for – would it be old, would the beds be comfy, would it be secure? However, when we got on the train we were pleasantly surprised. The train was spacious, clean, modern and secure. It was ridiculously cheap compared to the UK at £20 each for a 13 hour ride and even the beds were comparable to some Airbnbs we'd stayed in! Result.
I was sad to leave Bangkok, it was my first real experience of a new culture. The city was colourful, clean and friendly – an enhanced version of what I thought it would be. I knew that if Bangkok had made me fall in love with Thailand then our trip would only get better from there.