Bangkok for Beginners

As a woman traveling alone, my experience might be different than someone else’s.  It is certainly different from the 22-year old backpack set.  It’s also different from the couples traveling in tandem, whether 22 or 44 or 66…. You get the picture!  Traveling with a partner of friend, there are two of you to confer about things, someone to watch your back, check the map, converse with.  But solo, one must be vigilant.  One must be brave.  One must be open. 

On the whole, I feel safe in Bangkok.  Confused, yes.  Overwhelmed by the size –  ten million people! (imagine I said that in a Dr. Evil voice, please.)  And hot and sweaty most of the time, certainly.  But the Thai people I have met – from the toothless Tuk-Tuk driver who gave me a bargain rate, to the young lady who took pity on my lost state at the pier and helped me get “home”, to the reception people at the hostel – are sweet, friendly, and helpful.  They have a sense of humor.  And they are as sincere as Linus in the pumpkin patch.

It took me a day or so to recover my old attitude about getting lost in a new city – to borrow from my Spanish lexicon, “no pasa nada.”  For now, I have no pressing appointments.  And riding the bus in a huge circle today (20 minutes past where I could have hopped off and walked to the hotel)  I saw new parts of Bangkok.  I saw a Starbucks (and when I went in later, I found the coffee is comparable in price to the US, but served with a smile.) I saw, and smelled, a huge flower market, where orchids bloom, and sunset-colored marigolds are being shaped into intricate designs to decorate wats (temples).  I saw a saffron-robed monk waiting to cross the street, with a mangy stray dog looking up at him with an expression of adoration.  If I were in a hurry, I would have missed all that.

I am finding local people eager to practice their English (and in one case, I spoke Spanish with a Thai clerk in a jewelry store, a very bizarre experience!) And when I see a Caucasian face or hear English, I find travelers or expatriates eager to exchange travel tips and commiserate with the chaos facing us in such a large city.

Tomorrow I meet up with my tour group.  Adventures from here on in will be more controlled, more orderly.   And I confess that I am ready to be taken care of!

Recommendations so far for Bangkok, in case you are going:  don’t bother with the weekend market unless you are feeling patient and ready to negotiate the thousands of stalls and sort through the crap to find a few gems (which I did, so it was ultimately worth going.)  See the Jim Thompson house, be sure to stroll through the lush tropical garden, and take the canal boat there or back.  Also, take the cheap river boat at night, but beware: they do stop running early and you might get stranded like I did!  Do take Tuk-Tuks, they might be a little scary but it is the best way to get somewhere if you don’t know it, and don’t know the bus (which is less than 50 cents!)  But negotiate your fare with the Tuk Tuk driver ahead of time!  Thai massage; be prepared to be pulled and pummeled!  Not a very relaxing experience, if you ask me, but it was $10 for an hour.  I’ll try one again, just to be sure I just didn’t get the wrong – too strong – masseuse.  He was cute, though!  Street vendor food, noodles, etc, is cheap and so far I have not gotten sick!  Street vendors for crafts (carved wooden Buddhas, etc.) are also a good bet.  Speaking of the Buddha, if you are interested at all in Buddhism or statues, incense, worship, etc, go to as many wats as you can handle; each is unique and beautiful.  I bought a wooden cage of birds from a lady outside the temple of the Standing Buddha and set them free inside to bring me luck

I’ll let you know if it works!


About catnipkiss

I am a writer who is working on a travel memoir. I write about issues that speak to my soul: love, sex, yoga, spirituality, body image, dating and friendship, and more as it comes up! I love comments - thanks! What would YOU like to explore?
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9 Responses to Bangkok for Beginners

  1. Karen says:

    I didn’t like Bangkok the first time I went there. The second trip was much, much better. I loved and hated the Thai massage. Why does it have to be painful and good at the same time? I loved the pad thai from the street, and excitement that commuting around Bangkok brings! 🙂

  2. Eric B...... the other Eric B........ says:

    First off, I was just reading your blog this a.m. before you must have posted this. I love reading it and you should never not post something. You are a talented writer.

    I have to applaude you on traveling solo. I had my first taste of it this spring and let’s just say it wasn’t very much fun for me….and it was just a quick 2 week Caribbean jaunt. I love, love, love to travel and I’m sort of wondering how I’m going to get over this hurdle. I must over come, so I’m taking careful notes! And finally, the only thing I know about Thailand is a stick your brother and I used to indulge in many moons ago…….so again I’m taking more notes! Have a great time whilst I live vicariously though your travels…….

    • catnipkiss says:

      Solo travel has its perks and its drawbacks, that’s for sure! If I invited you over to see pix (and meet your other half, too) would you come by? I think I am taking a Thai cooking course along the way… I’ll make dinner, you bring the wine! I’ll give you my tips on travel, haha! And thank you for the compliment on my writing!

  3. duwaynecook says:

    Bangkok? What the hell are you doing in Bangkok? I thought that place was for horny old men.

  4. harriet bissell says:

    wow – glad you are experiencing all the Experiences!!! we miss you but won’t we have lots to talk about when you return?!

    • catnipkiss says:

      yes, it’s really fun. After I get over the “oh my God what am I doing” phase 😉 I have a good time! And of course buying presents is part of the fun, wait until you see what I found for you!!

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