Mesmerizing Bangkok

Sorry it took me a while to write about my stay in Bangkok but my week in Finland has been quite busy so I haven’t really found a place or time to write anything. I arrived to Finland on Friday 13th of March and have been already in three different cities. First weekend I spent in Helsinki at my friend’s house and then I came to Noormarkku and Pori to visit my family and during the week I also went to Tampere to meet my thesis supervisor. Yep, back to reality! Shortly, the first week in Finland has been great! The weather has been perfect so far (cool and sunny), I’ve met few familiar faces and I have slept a lot.

But let’s talk about Bangkok which was an amazing city!! I’ve heard different opinions about it; some say it is smelly and not nice, and some had said that it is a very cool city. I spent there only 2,5 days but still I can say that it is so interesting and fascinating and I could definitely go back there. Yes, it was a bit smelly but it wasn’t so bad and the city is full of places worth of visiting.

I didn’t want to be running through the city so I chose few places where I decided to go and I’d say all of them were worth of visiting. I visited Wat Pho (the Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun, Golden mountain, Forensic museum, MBK shopping mall and Lumpini Park. I also went to the beloved and dreadful Khao San road which is more like a touristic hell. It is a shopping and restaurant street occupied by tourists. I tried to spent my last bahts there but in the end I did a poor job in shopping. I bought couple of things, had a foot massage, ate a lot and drank few beers and even still I had some bahts left.

Moving around in Bangkok was really easy and it was so nice to have different transportation options because especially in Vietnam and Cambodia and in the islands of Thailand there aren’t many different options for moving around the city. In Bangkok one can choose from a ferry, subway, skytrain, bus, taxi, motorcycle taxi and tuk tuks. I tried almost all of the different transportations and I’d say that if possible avoid motorcycle taxis and tuk tuks if you are travelling alone because they are quite expensive. And if you decide to use a taxi, use only meter-taxis because if the taxi drivers try to set the price in advance, you end up paying a lot more than you should. I noticed that moving taxis are most likely meter-taxis and taxis that are parked are most likely the “bad deal taxis”. I also heard that the pink taxis are the best but also green + yellow taxis are reliable too.

Also one advice with any of the drivers in Bangkok is that make sure that your driver knows your destination! I mean you really have to test him whether he really knows where to drive. So you should study a bit the map and explain to the taxi driver where you want to go because otherwise they might start driving and then later be lost because the driver never really knew where to go.. I also learned to just skip the drivers that had no clue where to take me. I noticed that it can save your time, money and nerves…

I can’t really say why I liked Bangkok so much. Maybe it was so nice to see a big city after Vietnam and Cambodia because Bangkok truly is a big city. It has lots of skyscrapers and other interesting buildings, many places for tourists and I just liked the vibe of the city. I also had a chance to meet up with a Thai friend who I met in Japan. That was just a perfect ending for my trip in Asia.

I stayed at Old Town Hostel:

  • a bit far from the touristic areas
  • close to one pier where one can hop on a ferry
  • very big and neat hostel
  • good beds and facilities
  • very nice and helpful staff
  • one can store their bags for free for up to 30 days
  • I paid 290 bahts (a bit over 7 euros) per night in a 6 bed mixed dorm

Found my favorite destination so far: Battambang

Before entering Cambodia I had heard so many travelers say that Cambodia is their favourite place in South East Asia. My expectations were high but I couldn’t find “the magic” from Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked those places but something was missing.. until I came to Battambang! As soon as I stepped out of the bus I knew that this place would be special. And it was! I had no setbacks except when I tried to leave from Battambang. I will tell you about that in another post..

Even though Battambang is the second largest city of Cambodia it seems like a cute little town. Everything was almost perfect. The people, even the tuk tuk drivers, were very nice, my guesthouse was great, the city was compact but had things to do and to see, the food and drinks were affordable and tasty. I really have no complaints except that it was extremely hot in the middle of the day and the mosquitoes were meaner than in other places where I’ve been. But really, the people were really friendly and they treated you like you are one of them or their friend. I didn’t feel like “a walking money machine”. The people seemed to be interested in you and specially the children were so adorable. I heard and saw so many cute “hello” greetings and waves. My heart melted!

I spent a bit over two days in Battambang. On first day I explored the city randomly and visited some temples. I also went to see a bat cave which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Everyday thousands of bats fly out of their cave to get food and hundreds of tourists go to see this. I have to admit though that it was a very cool view! On the second day I did a half day bicycle tour with Soksabike. I had a really great guide and I was the only one doing the tour on that day so that was great. We went to the countryside and visited some local families and I was able to see e.g. how they make rice wine, rice paper, dried banana chips and rice cake cooked inside a bamboo. That trip was the best tour that I have ever made! I thought at first that it is a bit pricy, 27 USD, but after the trip I think it was totally worth it. I had a chance to try the delicacies, practice some Cambodian sentences and cycle which was so nice. I have really missed actually doing something active. I think we cycled 20km in the end. I could have cycled more because it was so much fun.

From the snacks that I ate during the tour, I liked the rice cake the most. It was so good and I think it is better than sticky rice. You peel the bamboo and eat the “cake” with your fingers. The crust is a bit harder than the inside and the texture is little dry but not too dry. My rice cake was made of coconut milk, rice and red beans. Yummy! Even though I really enjoyed the tour it was a bit sad to hear the reality of the families. They work so hard and the profit from their hard work is not big. All these experiences make me think the times when I complained that my paycheck is not big enough. Of course everything is relative and Finland really isn’t a cheap country to live in but I guess most important thing is to whine less and appreciate more what one has.

On the last evening in Battambang and in Cambodia, I got a chance to go to an open-air concert that was sponsored by Ganzberg beer brand. I went to the concert with my bicycle tour guide and his friends. I was very happy to be there because it was full of Cambodians and it was just the perfect ending for my time in Cambodia. I heard Cambodian pop and saw interesting performances. One thing that I have noticed from all the Cambodian music videos and what I was told about the songs is that Cambodians have lots of love songs! I mean a lot. :-D

Funny thing is that I got also an invitation to a wedding party but I declined the invitation because I think it wasn’t a good and a safe idea. The person who invited me to the wedding was the tuk tuk driver who took me to the bat cave. I hardly knew him and I would had been dependent on him because the wedding party was held like 5km outside the city. If only the party would had been inside the city I could had considered going..

Comments about the Ganesha Guesthouse:

  • Very nice, friendly and helpful staff
    • I even got a needle and a thread to fix couple of holes and they would had given me the whole thread if I would had wanted to take it.
  • They have a movie room and they show The Killing fields movie every night and the ticket is only one dollar
    • Very well-made movie but also really sad. I recommend watching it but the subject is very heavy.
  • Mosquito net and a personal fan
    • A con is that you can’t use both at the same time because they just don’t work together. Either you are free from the mosquitoes or free from the heat.
  • Free pool and free towel
  • Good food in the restaurant
  • Only 4.5 USD per night in a mixed dorm

Yesterday I arrived to Bangkok and I noticed that I was missing Cambodia a bit. Overall I really liked Cambodia and Battambang was the crucial part to make me fall in love with the country. I really would like to visit Battambang again and also go to Kep and to Kampot for which I didn’t have time this time. Cambodia, until we meet again ♥

PS: I hate mosquitoes!!!!!

PPS: Has anyone ever heard about a Ganzberg beer??