We were nearing the last leg of our trip. It’s amazing how time goes by faster than a speeding bullet when you’re having fun. 2 weeks prior, I was stuffing our luggage with essentials and carefully positioning items in each nook and cranny like a Tetris Master; ironically, I suck at tetris. Now, we’ve reached the final stretch, and what better way to welcome 2016 than to celebrate New Year’s in Bangkok – home of the most piquant street food experience and a place where first impressions immediately take sudden turns.
Our flight for Bangkok was delayed 2 hours, so it was past midnight when we landed in Suvarnabhumi Airport. If I had known how difficult and packed it was going to be, I would’ve added some major pep in my step. I was leisurely walking through the airport and taking snaps until I caught sight of the lines to get through customs. It was worse than the wait for Cars Land at Disneyland or the Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It took 2 hours just to get a passport stamp. I felt terrible for the person the hotel assigned to pick us up from the airport. He waited almost 4 hours for our arrival, so we made sure to tip generously.
We stayed at Centre Point Sukhumvit 10 Hotel . Based on my research, Sukhumvit area is among the ideal places to stay in Bangkok. It has something to offer all visitors. There’s plenty of nightlife and dining options, and more importantly, many areas in Sukhumvit are part of the BTS Skytrain route – a rail based mass transit system in Bangkok. The BTS Skytrain connects to other systems, so traveling through Bangkok can be a breeze. I was surprised with how convenient transportation hubs are in Bangkok. The signs are clear, so it’s easy to get around. The trains are also air-conditioned; perfect for the slaughtering humidity.
We booked a suite at Centre Point Sukhumvit 10 Hotel. Agoda had the suites on promo, so we took advantage of the low price. The rooms were very spacious, equipped with washer and dryer, and your personal kitchen. Though our stay was pleasant, I’m going to book another hotel in my next visit. The hotel has a tuktuk that brings you to and from the main road, but it wasn’t readily there. The service also stops after a certain hour. The 10 minute walk from the main road to the hotel can be quite distant especially when you’re 3 Chang beers deep.
If you plan to visit Bangkok, stay at a hotel that’s close to the train stops. I suggest reviewing this map, and choose a hotel in close proximity. Traffic in Bangkok is terrible, so the best way to get around is using public transportation; otherwise, you’ll rack up the taxi meter. Tuktuk drivers stagger their prices for tourists, so though viable, tuktuks are usually more expensive than taxis.
There have been so many highlights on our trip, but eating our way through the busy streets of Bangkok has been among my favorites. The streets are over flowing with food options from egg wrapped pad thai to a heavenly plate of mango sticky rice. Hundreds of must eat lists are published online like this and this, but sometimes the best ones are the ones you stumble upon by accident. Whether you did your research or not, the choices are endless. You may lose you way in Bangkok, but you’ll never go hungry.
For a celebratory New Year’s dinner, we booked the Loy Nava Dinner Cruise. It’s a 2 hour cruise through the Chao Praya River serving a 10 course traditional Thai meal. Each couple gets a bottle of wine and party favors. I was not highly impressed with the dishes, but they were still good nonetheless. I did, however, enjoy the cultural dances on the boat and the sweeping views of the temples and hotels along the river.
After the cruise, we headed to the Sheraton for the midnight countdown. It was the ideal location to view all the spectacular fireworks display. For a moment, I couldn’t believe I was in Bangkok welcoming the new year. In 2015, our flight was delayed 7 hours, so we ushered the new year at the airport. This definitely made up for last year’s mishap. The energy, the fireworks that lit up the Chao Praya skyline, and the midnight kisses altogether made a promise. It marked a clean slate accompanied with a prudent action plan: Exploit the opportunities and make it a prosperous year.
The night was still young, so we decided to head to a Ping Pong Show. Yes…the first exploited opportunity was a chance to see a Ping Pong show. I’ve heard stories from past visitors and did a bit of reading about it online, but nothing could have ever prepared me for what we experienced. If I could choose one word to describe it, that word would be sketchy. From beginning until the very end.
We asked the taxi driver to bring us to a ping pong show. I was expecting to be brought to the Red Light district (as pictured above), but instead, he dropped us off at what seemed like an abandoned building. There were no people in sight except a group of men sitting around a table in front of the ping pong establishment. I said we wanted to go to Super Pussy, but he insisted this was much better. I can’t even recommend the place because it had no name. It was located in Bangkok where the streets were not bustling – the kind of place where Dateline stories take place.
As we stepped out of the taxi, the owner (or so he says) immediately approached us. It was a 10 minute negotiation over the entrance fee until we settled to an agreeable price. Never take their first offer. We paid 250 baht each which covered the entrance fee and one beer from the initial price of 700.
Taking pictures or video was strictly prohibited, so I hope I can provide a sneak peek to our experience without spoiling it for you in case it’s on your bucket list. The women partake in various acts primarily using their pubococcygeus muscle for “tricks.” Some acts were very skillful while others were just downright unimaginable. Though it’s called a ping pong show, interestingly only one or 2 acts actually used a ping pong ball. Performers can be quite aggressive when asking for tip, but you can still respectfully decline.
It was an awkward ride home to say the least. There were things we wish we could un-see. For the working women, I can only hope this is something they have chosen to do out of their own free will. I hope that whatever tribulations they are going through, may their tunnel light appear soon, so they can do something more rewarding. At the end of the night, I’m just glad we made it all in one piece considering our initial predicament.
We spent our last day in Bangkok visiting the famous temples. There are tour guides available for booking, but we managed on our own. Entrance to the temples is free except for Wat Pho – home of the Reclining Buddha. The entrance fee for tourists is currently priced at 100 baht.
The grounds were swarmed with tourists and visitors paying homage to their gods on New Years day. Dress code is strictly enforced, so make sure to be covered up when you visit. For a list of rules, click here.
The temples were beautifully constructed, and the craftsmanship was exquisite. Exploring the grounds was a calming experience despite the opposing factors to peace – the crowds, the loud chatter, the tourists forgetting to take their shoes off when entering the temples, and the blistering heat. Underneath all the chaos lies whispered prayers full of gratitude and hopes for a better new year. Some eyes were shut while others were filled with longing.
It was late afternoon by the time we got back to our hotel. We gathered our belongings and hopped on the BTS to the Hua Lamphong Station for our trip to the north. We feasted on the very limited offerings at the station, and I regretted not packing snacks for the 13 hour overnight train ride. We boarded at exactly 7pm and set off to our next destination: Chiang Mai, so stay tuned….