Tom’s Adventure Through Southeast Asia Part 1 — Bangkok, Thailand
Sometimes you just have to get up and go. When you leave behind everything you know: your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work at and put yourself in a totally new environment, you’re able to learn more about yourself and what you really want out of life.
I started writing this blog post in a hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had a simple blogging setup of my smartphone and a Bluetooth keyboard. I planned on blogging while on my trip but as I learned, travelling has a way of sweeping you off your feet with places to go, people to meet and beers to drink! Now that I’m back in Canada I will be publishing a blog post on every city or town that I visited.
Last year I started making some positive changes in my life which made a substantial impact on my daily habits and what I focused on. Right before I started planning my trip I completed my first half marathon, something I had a lot of fun preparing for that summer. Finishing the race gave me a sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt since graduating university. On that day I vowed to always be working towards something bigger than my current situation and to never settle for good enough.
It’s weird looking back that my decision to travel Southeast Asia can be traced back to Casey Neistat. If you’re not familiar with him, he is a filmmaker famous for his YouTube channel with over six million subscribers. He regularly posts vlogs of his life, a project that keeps him in a constant state of filming and editing his videos with little rest or sleep.
Last year Casey announced that he would stop daily vlogging (he has since continued vlogging, although he no longer posts every day). I was sad at the time as his videos had become a part of my daily routine. But I noticed that the top comment on his last daily vlog mentioned that the new best daily vlog was a channel called Lost LeBlanc.
Lost LeBlanc is run by Christian LeBlanc, a young filmmaker and entrepreneur from Vancouver who started posting videos on YouTube during a semester abroad in Bangkok, Thailand. He returned to Canada after travelling to start an accounting job, but he quit soon after to pursue travelling and YouTube full time. Two years later, his videos have over twenty-five million views and he is just shy of a quarter million subscribers as I’m typing this.
My desire to travel goes back to when I was in university, but it was Christian that got me to seriously think about making that desire a reality. So I requested a leave of absence at my current job from mid February to mid April and started planning my two month trip through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
On February 16, the time had come to leave Canada for my trip. It was snowing when my grandpa dropped me off at the airport in Toronto and it still really hadn’t hit me that I was about to be further away from home than I had ever been. After more than nineteen hours of flying I was finally in Bangkok.
My original plan was to take the shuttle from the airport to my hostel as it was cheaper than taking a cab. But I ended up meeting two guys in the airport from Alaska and Germany and we split a cab into town together. If you’re considering solo backpacking but you’re worried about feeling lonely, don’t be. Within minutes of being in Thailand I was already meeting people!
I had booked a private room at a hostel called Lub d Siam. Staying in dorm rooms is much cheaper, but the plan was to splurge for my first night so I could get a good sleep after flying. But with the time change and the adrenaline of being in a totally new environment, I only ended up getting two hours of sleep. I was only able to sleep for about two hours on the plane so not a whole lot of sleep in total, but fortunately I felt fine the next morning to start my adventure.
Bangkok seems to be a place that travelers either love or hate, and even those who love it can only take so much of the city before moving elsewhere. For those looking to escape the big cities back home for beautiful, natural landscapes I can see why Bangkok can be underwhelming.
I was in Bangkok for four days and five nights and I loved every moment. My first full day began exploring the city’s famous temples: the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. There are lots of ways to get around the city, from bus to Skytrain to tuk tuk to cab, but if you’re heading to these temples I definitely recommend taking a boat or water taxi along the river. Sure, the river smells kinda bad but as long as you don’t think too much about what’s in the water splashing up on you then you’re in for a fun and unique experience.
Even though I was travelling solo it was surprisingly easy to meet people. When I was in line for the river boat I met two sisters who I believe were from Switzerland. They were heading to the same temples I was so we explored them together. The entrance fee for the Grand Palace is 500 Thai baht (or roughly 20 dollars Canadian) but it’s well worth it as it’s a large area with a ton of temples. You could easily spend the whole day walking through here if you wanted to. You could take a guided tour but we decided to just walk through the palace ourselves and it was still great.
The next temple was Wat Pho which is famous for its giant reclining Buddha statue. As you can see, this thing was massive and was truly a sight to behold. The surrounding area was very similar to the Grand Palace but it’s definitely worth it for the reclining Buddha alone.
Wat Arun was the third and last temple of the day. It’s on the other side of the river so it requires a quick boat ride to get there from the other two. It seemed to be going through some renovations (hence the scaffolding) but that didn’t take away from the beauty of this unique temple. By this point it was mid-afternoon and it was getting very hot out. If you’re going to tour the temples for a half day like I did, make sure you start as early in the morning as possible!
By this time it was around noon and I had to head back to check out of my hostel. The hostel was in a district called Siam which is known for its shopping malls. Now if you’re like my mom, you’re probably wondering out of all the things to do in Bangkok, why would I want to go to a mall? But the thing about the malls in Siam is that they are massive, air-conditioned hubs for locals and travellers alike to escape from the heat. They also have great food courts, and it was the food court in MBK Center where I had my first authentic Thai meal. It couldn’t have been more than two dollars Canadian!
After lunch I headed to my next hostel which was in the Khao San Road area. Khao San is a famous meeting place for backpackers from all over the world. My hostel was actually on Rambuttri Alley, the street directly parallel to Khao San which is essentially Khao San Road 2. There are alleys connecting the two streets which feature loads of gift shops, restaurants and bars. If you’re a backpacker this area is a must, and I ended up loving it there so much I stayed at a hostel there for the rest of my time in Bangkok.
At this point the weekend had begun so I decided to check out the Chatuchak Weekend Market with some people I met at my hostel. Chatuchak is the largest outdoor market in Thailand, and while I wasn’t all that interested in buying any souvenirs yet, the guys from my hostel picked up some customized passport holders for their girlfriends back home. We also ate our way through the food court which was fantastic.
After we were done with the market we headed back to the hostel. We decided we were going to go to Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district that night. This area is known for its nightlife and is filled with upscale clubs, restaurants and hotels, giving it a totally different feel from Khao San Road. The club we went to was called Route 66 which was a lot of fun. Drinks there were much more expensive than on Khao San, but it was about equal to the prices at clubs back home so it was okay to do for one night. This was the only bar during my trip that had more locals than tourists which made for a unique and authentic experience.
The next day I decided to go see some more sights in the city. Unfortunately, I fell victim to a scam so I’ll explain what happened so it doesn’t happen to you if you go to Bangkok. I was walking outside near the National Museum when I was stopped by a man standing next to a giant map. He was very friendly and recommended some places I should check out including a giant Buddha statue, the Golden Mount, and a few other places I can’t remember. Not only that, but he could get me a tuk tuk driver that could take me to all these places for only 30 baht or about a dollar Canadian! So I got in the tuk tuk and the driver took me to the giant Buddha.
Once I was done there the driver said he was taking me to a store that was his “sponsor” where I could look around for a bit before going to the Golden Mount. This is when I got suspicious because I had read about this kind of thing online before. Basically how it works is that they take you to a store where the owner pressures you into buying stuff. I asked the driver how much the drive would be if we skipped that and it went up to 300 baht! Even at a price ten times the original, ten dollars for a tuk tuk for the day wasn’t terrible. Unfortunately, the tuk tuk driver dropped me off at Golden Mount, said the trip was over and drove off!
This kind of thing is pretty common and it’s more annoying than anything. But still, make sure you ask some locals what the typical prices are for tuk tuk rides and any scams they’re aware of just to keep yourself informed. It’s pretty common for tuk tuk drivers to quote tourists ridiculous prices for rides. Tuks tuks are more of a novelty experience anyways. You should do it at least once, but you’re better off taking public transit or getting a cab that will turn on the meter for you. If they won’t turn on the meter just walk away and try another cab.
Anyways, Golden Mount (also known as Wat Saket) is a temple on a hill accessible by a set of steps surrounded by gardens and waterfalls. It was brutal climbing the steps in the heat but it was worth it for the nice panoramic view of the city at the top. Be sure to bring water with you as the water in the temple is overpriced.
My last day in Bangkok was spent exploring Chinatown which felt like you were in a totally different city. I had my first “treat yo self” meal of the trip here as well. I had a delicious, multi-course meal for about the same price you’d pay for a standard meal with a drink back in Canada. Needless to say it was unreal.
That night I headed to the train station to catch my sleeper train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. My time in Bangkok had come to an end for now, but I would be returning in April for the Songkran festival at the end of my trip. With everything that I saw and did keeping me busy, it wasn’t until I got on the train that I started thinking about how much of my trip was waiting ahead of me. The anticipation for what was next is hard to put into words, and I’m excited to share it with you too.
If you liked this post be sure to click the 👏 below. Look out for my next blog post on Chiang Mai coming soon!