We stayed at Born Free for three nights and used this as a base for exploring the sights of Bangkok. Our first challenge was to conquer public transport. Due to being in Khao san road area it limited our options as the sky train or the MTR are not available there. So instead of using overpriced taxis or tuk-tuks we decided to travel by boat. The Chao Phraya express ferries run along the river that goes through Bangkok. There are a number of different options for boats, the most common being orange local express boats and tourist boats. We decided to use the locals boat as you pay 15B for a single journey no matter where you are travelling to versus 40B for the tourist boat. The tourist boat is said to be less crowded and there is some explanation of the sights apparently but we are on a budget! It was surprisingly very easy to use. We went to Phra Arthit pier, the nearest one to us and worked out the pier we wanted to get off at.
We then paid 15B at the pier (you can pay on the boat too) and waited for a boat to come along that had an orange flag (tourist ones are blue). When it pulls up the turn over of people is very quick. A huge number of people exit the boat and then you get onto the boat. The boats did get very crowded with the attendants constantly shouting “walk walk” to encourage people to move up the boat to let others on. Our first journey we missed our stop by a couple of piers as I had looked at the name of the pier we needed rather than the number and then not seen it. When we realised we got off at a further pier and decided to walk to our destination.
On our first day, we decided to do the major sights so we walked from the further pier to the Royal Palace (which we should have got off at The Chang pier for). It made for an interesting walk and we found places we planned to visit later in the day on the walk. To enter the palace our bags were checked and then you enter the palace courtyard to buy your tickets (400B each). The palace was very crowded with tourists and locals as we ended up getting there at about 11.30am. However, it was stunning with gold, gems and detailing all around. It was very ornate and impressive.
We also visited Wat Phra Kaeo which is inside the palace grounds and houses the Emerald Buddha which was absolutely stunning. To enter any temples in Thailand you have to remove your shoes and throughout the day we definitely got used to doing this. It is also surprising how quick your feet get dirty travelling Thailand as you have to take shoes off when you enter hostels too even if their communal areas are outside. You also have to dress respectfully at temples with your legs and shoulders covered. Whilst at the palace we also saw huge lines of Thais queuing for hours in order to visit the remains of the king who had recently died. It was quite a humbling experience to see so many people coming from far and wide to pay their respects.
We spent a couple of hours here before walking a few minutes down the road to Wat Pho. It cost us 100B to enter Wat Pho site, which is the home of the huge reclining Buddha. We initially thought this was quite expensive as we thought it would just be one temple with the large reclining Buddha. The site itself though was expansive with a number of different temples and statues… and so many different Buddhas! To the point where we actually got lazy and couldn’t be bothered to take our shoes off anymore to see any more Buddhas. You could easily spend a good few hours looking around the site if you wanted to explore it all.
From here we took the river crossing ferry for 4B to the other side where Wat Arun stands. We decided to view this solely from the outside. It is an impressive structure but it is diminished at present as there is scaffolding all over it. Instead, we found a locals restaurant in the area behind Wat Arun and had a very nice Spicy Pork soup for cheap before taking the boat back to our area. The journey on the boat is a great way of having an incredibly cheap river cruise! In the evening we ventured to Rambuttri area again for curry and a Chang as we felt like we had deserved it with all the walking and exploring!
On our second day, we had a much lazier morning eventually venturing out to have breakfast where we both had some spicy salads, much different to our usual breakfasts but very tasty! We then made our way using the ferry to Chinatown (getting off at the right pier this time as we were now pro’s!-Ratchawong). Chinatown, Yaowarat Road, was very busy and we spent hours wandering through the markets that sold clothing, food and anything else you could think of. We snacked on steamed pork buns before stumbling briefly over to Little India where we had to try the Pakoras. After this we spent a good hour trying to find our way back to the pier, weaving our way through the alleys and backstreets. We made it back to the pier late afternoon with very sore feet. It did mean that we had great views of the sun setting over Bangkok and Wat Arun though!
The next morning we checked out of our hostel but left our bags there for the day as we couldn’t meet our Couchsurfing host until the evening. To get to our Couchsurfing hosts we had to use the river boat taxi’s that weave along the canals or “Khlong” boats so we decided to use the morning to see if we could find the nearest pier for this which was a 20-minute walk. We easily found the Golden Mount pier with a bit of navigational help from maps.me (great for downloading offline maps!). Armed with cheese and ham toasties from 7/11 we checked out the Golden Mount. This is a free temple a 20-minute walk from Khao San road area. There a number of steps that wind up the mount giving you amazing views of the city and at the top there are 360-degree views of the city. All the way up are the prayer bells which give the place an incredible atmosphere when rung. It is apparently a great place to go at sunset and there is supposed to be Thip Samai close by which claims to be the original stall for pad thai. We did not get to try this though as it did not open until 5 pm.
After walking back to our hostel and relaxing for a while at 6 pm we made the walk with our rucksacks to the Khlong pier and stumbled onto the boat with all our luggage, where we then said how many stops we were going and paid our fare. Fares are decided by how many stops you are going but vary between 10-20B. The boat got very busy as we got further into the city as it was rush hour for commuters and it is easier for a lot of Thais to use the river taxis then get stuck in traffic. The sides of the boat have makeshift screens of plastic which passengers have to pull up to stop themselves from getting wet. We had to keep an eye out for our stop as the boat literally pulls over and you jump off of it. Luckily we were on the right side of the boat for our pier as I don’t think we would have been able through all the people to get off of the boat with all our luggage had it of been on the other side. We got off at Pratunam pier in the middle of the central shopping district where we walked to meet our Couchsurfing host Will.