If there’s one thing that’s both satisfying and terrifying for me, that would be riding a plane. Every time I take off on a plane, I get that strange feeling in my stomach, I’m excited about the idea of waking up to another country, but scared that the cerulean skies are the last memory I have. Then again, that’s the best thing about travelling. We travel because we want to see and experience the beauty of the world, and that can only be happen if we overcome our fears. When I go somewhere, I go to a place that’s not to exploited and commercialized. It feels more genuine and less “manufactured”-at least for me. Growing up surrounded by rice fields and mountains, I would often find myself yearning for the countryside or any place that resembles Bicol, my home.
(Outside the temple of the Emerald Buddha)
For my first trip abroad, I and my fiancé chose Bangkok, Thailand. This was a post-engagement celebration of some sort, so we made sure that it’s one for the books. On the surface, Bangkok looks like the Philippines minus the horrible Manila traffic and garbage. Although dubbed as Thailand’s Sin City. Bangkok still manages to preserve many of its cultural treasures and traditions. The country is primarily influence by Buddhism and Hinduism, two religions that emphasize the effects of our thoughts and actions in our lives and, in extension, the world. Many newbie travellers would plan ahead and book tour packages, but if you want to truly experience Bangkok and maximize your stay, I offer the following tips.
(Street food fest!)
DON’T PLAN. Our idea of adventure is going to places “unprepared” – meaning no itineraries, no hotel reservations, and researching of places to visit prior to our arrival. This gave us more chances to interact with the locals and allowed us to just enjoy the whole trip, without being pressured to fulfil a list of “things to do” Upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport, we boarded a taxi cab to Bangkok, which is about 20 minutes away. Like true backpackers, my fiancé and I got lost. We didn’t know where we were going so the driver dropped us off on Phra Sumen Road. We scoured every street and asked every person we saw for directions until we found Baan Nampetch, a charming little hostel in Soi Kasem Siá small Street facing the riverbank. Fare: 300 bah; Hotel: 700 baht per night.
(Bangkok’s famous Pad Thai)
Eat street food: shop at bangketas. The whole trip was probably 80% eating, 20% exploration. I say you’ve never really visited Bangkok, or any place for that matter, until you’ve tried their local street food. Bangkok is home to the most delicious and sometimes quirky-looking eatables. They’re cheap too! After resting for a bit, we hit the road to Khaosan, which is a 10-minute tuktuk ride from Soi Kasem Si. Fare: 40 baht max.
With the many types of food that we’ve eaten throughout our stay, I can barely remember their names. On our first night in Khaosan, we had Pad Thai and a cold water of Singha beer and did a bit of souvenir shopping. Contrary to popular belief, clothes in Bangkok are not THAT cheap, but the styles are on point. Malls tend to be more expensive so go for those little stores along the streets. I bought two sweaters for around 350 baht each.
(Na Phra Lan Road outside the Grand Palace)
Travel by tuktuk and boat. Even though tuktuk drivers can trick tourists into paying more than they should, it is still the best transportation for sightseeing in Bangkok. Just be more vigilant. If you’re going to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), you need to try the ferryboats for the ultimate experience. From Phra Arthit (Pier N13) to Na Phra Lan (Pier N9), you only have to pay 15 baht. Not bad, eh?
(Another temple outside the temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Visit the temples. Regarded as the most important temple in Thailand, Wat Phra Kaew is the residence of the sacred image of the Emerald Buddha, which dates back to the 14th century. As a sign of respect, tourists are required to take off their footwear and not point their toes to the Buddha image when entering and paying. Taking pictures is strictly forbidden. The Grand Palace was built in 1782 after King Rama I ascended to the throne. Currently, the whole 218,000 square meter-complex houses 35 temples (including Wat Phra Kaew), offices, shops, restaurants, throne halls, and the royal residence itself.
(Inside the grand palace)
Of all the sacred temples I’ve seen during our trip, nothing beats the one inside The Grand Palace. Tens of thousands of tourists and monks visit the complex every day, and yet all structures and pavements are still very well-maintained. There is no garbage in sight, only the glimmering bejewelled temples. I wish I could describe in detail how beautiful the place is, but I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. Seeing all that beauty was such an overwhelming experience for me that even made me cry at one point. Admission Fee: 500 baht; Dress Code: Anything with Sleeves, Pants/Long Skirt, Closed Shoes/Sandals.
Even though our stay was short, it was one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. Growing up in Bicol, I had countless dreams about travelling to both local and foreign places and learning about their culture. Even if Bangkok is a popular tourist spot, the city is still keeps its traditions intact. Almost all the commercial establishments we visited had spirit houses installed outside, where they also leave food and drink to keep the spirits happy. That in itself is very fascinating, considering that Bangkok is full of travellers from all over the world.
Except for the airfare, the whole three-day trip cost us around 10,000 baht collectively (Php 13,000 when converted). We spent most of our allowance on food and pasalubongs for loved ones, but we made sure not to go over budget. Next time I’m sure we’ll be smarter with our budget and visit more foreign countries. Till then, hopefully I’ve crossed out the rest of the local spots that I’m yet to visit in my bucket list. Life is too short not to see the world.