Words || Amelia Liew
Place Travelled: Thailand
Favourite city: Bangkok. It’s known internationally as ‘the land of smiles’ and it lives up to that reputation. People are so damn friendly you’ll want to cry when you leave. Also my favourite city to visit on a tight budget – a meal from a street vendor will cost you about $1.50 AUD, shopping is amazing and there’s a good mix of cultural sights and modern city comforts to keep you entertained.
Five items that were an absolute must-have on your trip to Bangkok:
- A powerbank – I chose to use my phone to take pictures and videos so my battery drained completely within a few hours of use. Buy a powerbank that’s at least 10,000 mAh capacity. It’ll charge your phone about 6 times before it’s out of juice.
- A traveller’s SIM card – You can pick up a SIM card at both international airports in Bangkok. My advice is to pick the one with the most data, don’t worry about the calls/texts as you won’t want to use international roaming anyways. Once you’ve got as much data as you need you can skype/snapchat family and friends to your heart’s content.
- Bottled water – Don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Seriously, don’t do it. Locals buy bottled water and so should you if you don’t want to spend your entire trip groaning on the toilet. Try to find your local supermarket and buy big 2L + sized bottles to keep in your room. You can then refill a smaller bottle instead of paying more at street vendors. Just consider that the money you save could add up to a few meals later down the track.
- Apps – I can’t live without my smart phone. Well I can but I don’t want to. Before I went to Bangkok I made sure to hit up Google Play Store with buzzwords in the search like ‘Bangkok’, ‘Thailand’, ‘Thai food’ and ‘offline maps’. My most frequently used apps were the Currency Converter, Google Maps, Lonely Planet Guides and Meetup.
- A crappy looking but sturdy bag – Pickpockets are everywhere. I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s a fact of life. One of the things you as a student traveller can do to make yourself less of a target is to bring a sturdy but cheap bag with you. I prefer a shoulder strap bag to a backpack as it’s harder for thieves to get to. A cousin of mine recently went on a trip to Bangkok and had her purse slashed with a machete.
Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled in Bangkok?
There’s a tiny lane between Rambuttri and Khao San Road. It’s a bit spooky at night and it looks like the kind of place you’ll get mugged at, but it leads to my favourite bar in Bangkok. Simply called “Happy Bar”, you have to be a bit drunk to find it and a bit mad to go back the next night, but honestly I couldn’t get enough. I ended up meeting lots of interesting people there while listening to surprisingly good reggae covers. The beers are so cheap you’ll find yourself with instant friends just by buying a round. The place is so hidden you won’t find it on google maps. I recommend trying though!
Weirdest thing to happen you on the trip?
There are some strange things in Thailand. I saw Nazi flags sold at Chatuchak market, penis shaped amulets at every knick knack shop and hilarious Engrish signs at food stalls. I think one of the weirdest things though was trying a skewer of mystery meat by the side of a road. I couldn’t figure out what I was eating exactly so I snapped a picture and sent it to my parents (as you do…). Their response was, “We don’t know what it’s called but every chicken has one”. Yeah, nah. Don’t ask your parents about random meat you’re eating by the side of the road.
What was the budget like?
I was in Bangkok for 9 days and my budget was about $1000 AUD. I’d gone out of my way to book an accommodation and flights package when it was one sale so I paid about $400 AUD for return flights from Penang, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand (accommodation included). Since food and shopping were so cheap I only ended up spending $700 while I was there.
#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?
- Chicken rice – Holy crap it’s good! I’ve had chicken rice in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia and so far, Thailand wins by a mile. The sauces are different, more vinegar based and the chicken is so succulent you’ll dream about it.
- Thai tea – Sold on just about every street corner, it’s a unique blend of tea that’s smooth with caramel notes. It’s bright orange and you can drink it with condensed milk or lemon.
- Insects – Most people think it’s a gimmick to lure in gullible travellers, and maybe they’re right, but insects are also the food of the future. They’re sustainable, don’t require much food or water to survive and are a fantastic source of protein in areas that are hard to farm. I’ve tried a lot of bugs (perks of being raised by open minded, South East Asian parents) and the ones I’ve had in Thailand are fantastic. My advice is to start with fried mealworms. They taste like seasoned French fries!
What advice would you give to other people travelling?
Be bold. Learn to say no. If you don’t, you’ll end up with shopping bags full of crap you’ve been pushed into buying or you’ll be scammed by Tuk Tuk drivers and left in the middle of nowhere. It’s scary travelling alone, especially as a female, so you have to be the one with a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. I’m not saying you have to be aggressive but let it be known just by your stance and by walking away from a sketchy situation that you’re in charge.
My travel mantra is…
“Everything will be alright in the end. And if it is not yet alright it is not yet the end.”
For the first 2 nights I was on my own in Bangkok I was terrified. I kept thinking that something bad was going to happen if I went out of my comfort zone. Then I bitch slapped myself out of it. What’s the point of travel if you don’t push yourself to do new things? Don’t take unnecessary risks of course, but that also doesn’t mean that small risks can’t be good for you. The best times I had were eating weird things and getting completely lost and having to rely on other strangers for advice. Once you let go of the need to feel secure all the time, you’ll be a lot happier.