By Rachel Arandilla
A FEW years back, I wrote a What to Expect: Taipei, Taiwan article that received a lot of positive feedback, and thought I would do it again, this time for Bangkok Thailand.
Because of Hollywood (most notably, Hangover 2), Bangkok has been put on the world map. It has been known as an exotic city with a thriving nightlife, shopping, gorgeous beaches, and gorgeous lady boys (might as well acknowledge the pink elephant with a tutu in the room).
But how much is fiction from reality? Before you book that flight, let’s dish on what to expect when you travel to Bangkok, Thailand:
Wear conservatively when touring around Bangkok.
No, Bangkok aren’t super conservative and judge-y people (they’re mostly Buddhists). But you will need to dress conservatively when you’re touring, especially when Buddhist temples are in the itinerary. You’ll need to cover your shoulders and legs in order to get in the temples. If you didn’t dress appropriately, it’s fine nonetheless – there’s always a stall nearby where you can lend a shawl to cover yourself up.
Plan your day accordingly! Bangkok traffic is cray.
If you sign up with a tour, the local tour guides and agencies already know how to adjust the visits and schedules based on Bangkok traffic. But if you’ve decided to do DIY, you probably have no idea how bad traffic is in the city.
If you think Manila or Cebu traffic is bad, Bangkok is high up the list, too. In the BCG study on peak hour congestion in Asia, Manila is second after Hanoi (first), and Bangkok not far taking in fourth on the spot. Avoid traveling during rush hour, else you may choose to walk instead of riding the tuktuk — if distance is not an issue, you might arrive faster when you go on foot.
Not everyone speaks English.
Not everyone can speak English – especially the older people and the people living in the provinces. In Thailand, Thai (also known as Ayutthaya or Siamese) is the sole and official language of the land. Thai is a difficult language; they have their own alphabet, and it is only spoken in Thailand (and some parts of Cambodia).
Given, Bangkok is already a tourist area and a lot of young and city folk can speak a good degree of English. Still, you wouldn’t want to run into a predicament (like getting lost) where you can’t figure out your hotel because the locals can’t understand what you’re saying. Do certain precautions such as saving vital information on your phone or bringing your hotel’s brochure or hotel card with the address, just in case.
Their food is SPICY!
Admittedly, Filipinos are often made fun of by our Asian neighbors because of the fact that we can’t hold our spice (unless, if said Filipino is from Bicol).
Thai food is good. They don’t use milk, cream or cheese on their food, but they use a lot of coconut milk (and coconuts in general), and spices.
Bangkok is HOT.
Like the Philippines, Thailand enjoys a tropical climate. They only have two seasons: wet and dry. Filipinos, you know the gist.
It can also get very, very hot and smoggy around the city. The best time to go to Thailand is on its cooler months, from November until February, to best escape the heat and the heavy rains.
Never speak ill or mock Thai royalty.
If you ask any Thai person in Thailand what they think of the king, they will always say “he’s okay,” or “we love him.” The truth is, since military took over, any citizen who has made comments about Thai monarchy can serve years in prison. I even heard of a young man who currently serves 37 years in prison because he posted on FB a meme that mocked the king’s dog. If you do tend to make fun of people, just be on the safe side and be less funny when you’re in Bangkok.
Bangkok nightlife now has a curfew.
If you’ve based Bangkok nightlife on Hollywood movies, it probably isn’t as crazy as what you imagined it to be. Don’t get me wrong. Nightlife is still lively and thriving, but now that Thailand is under a military government, bars are ordered to close down by 2 a.m.
So, where do you go for night life? You can check out Khao San Road, the capital of the backpacking universe where you can find cheap booze, food and hostels. It has a very chill and adventurous vibe, where you can often find people drinking and dancing in the streets.
Sukhumvit is the place to be for the party lovers. It is the place to be for those who want to experience Bangkok’s famous (or infamous) adult entertainment industry. Explore the “hood’s” amazing rooftop bars, flashy bars, seedy clubs and the famous red light districts of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.
If you want to go even crazier and experience the nightlife Thailand has to offer, go out of the city and check out Pattaya, which I hear is the capital of nightlife in Thailand.
There you go! These are just some of the tips you need to prepare yourself for your trip to Bangkok, Thailand. Enjoy!