Grand Palace


  • Accommodation: Sivarin Guesthouse – Located on a small, quiet soi near Khao San Road (about a 10-15 min walk). We stayed here twice as we were passing through Bangkok. The first time we had a triple “family room” (1 double bed, 1 twin) with a fan for 750 baht/night. The second time we opted for a room with A/C because it was April, the hottest month of the year in Bangkok. I can’t remember how much more they charged for an A/C room, but it’s probably an extra 150 baht/night. Try to get a room that’s on one of the upper floors, as they tend to be less noisy. They only have shared bathrooms, but they’re very clean. There’s also a free breakfast in the morning with eggs and coffee.

The first thing I noticed about Bangkok is its sheer size. Maybe it was just my unfamiliarity with the city, but it was quite overwhelming. They have a mass transit system known as Skytrain, but it doesn’t go to all parts of the city, so you have to rely on taxis most of the time. I found this frustrating because Bangkok’s traffic is legendary, and sometimes it took us an hour in a taxi just to get where we were going (luckily taxis are inexpensive!) Transportation issues aside, it is a really interesting city and it has a lot of modern elements that other cities in SEA lack. They also have really good hospitals, which we actually visited on 2 separate occasions. The first time Brittany thought her foot might have been sprained or fractured, so we went to get some x-rays taken (luckily it was just really bruised, but nothing serious!) The second time my wisdom teeth had really been bothering me so I went to see a dentist at BHP hospital, and she was really nice and professional. I think the visit was $30 USD, which is a bargain compared to a dentist visit at home.

Khao San Road

We only spent a couple of days in Bangkok during this period, but we ended up returning there two more times as it was our hub for further travels. To be honest we didn’t get to explore much of the city because we spent most of our time running around trying to get visas for different countries, making copies of our passports, getting passport pics taken, exchanging money etc. However, we did take a ferry ride on the Chao Phraya River, which was a fun way to see different parts of the city. We tried to go visit the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple, but unfortunately they were closing just as we got there; the sign said they’re opened every day from 8:30am – 3:30pm. It’s a shame we never got to see the Grand Palace because it’s probably considered Bangkok’s most famous landmark.

No SEA backpacker trip would be complete without a visit to the infamous Khao San Road. KSR is a backpacker mecca and people from all over the world congregate there. It’s pretty much exactly what I was expecting – a touristy, tacky, rowdy mess of a street filled with anything you could possibly need for your travels onward. It’s fun and definitely worth seeing, but not someplace we wanted to spend any real time. Most guesthouses and hostels are located within walking distance of Khao San Road.

Ferry ride on Chio Phrya River

While we were in Bangkok we also all decided that we wanted to extend our trip. We were having such a great time and none of us had to get home immediately, so why not tack on an extra week (or two or three…)? We figured that it was unlikely that we’d ever have another opportunity like this, so we might as well take advantage of already being in Asia to explore another country before we had to go home. We kicked around some ideas – Nepal, Bhutan, the Philippines – but we finally decided on Burma. It was an exciting time to visit because many reforms had just been implemented and the country was beginning to open up to the world after decades of oppression under a strict military dictatorship. We did some research and it turns out that there was no way to cross the border via land (although it shares a border with Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh). So the only option was to fly. Fortunately Air Asia has reasonable flights from Bangkok to Yangon, so we booked our flights and then had to work on getting our visa. After much trial and error, we finally figured out how to get a visa for Myanmar in Bangkok (see Myanmar visa information).

After we got our visas for Myanmar we were all set for the next leg of our trip: Thailand’s Andaman Coast!

Waiting in Bangkok’s South Station for bus to Koh Lanta