Oct 04 2011

Bangkok for beginners

Published by at 12:06 pm under Practicalities


Whenever I get to a new city, I immediately realise there are about 10 million mysterious things going on. Confusion escalates as I suddenly remember I never looked up how to get around town or whether or not I could drink the tap water. To avoid that type of confusion when you roll into Bangkok, here are a few tid-bits that will hopefully answer those first day questions.

National pride

Here he is.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the king and royal family treated with the utmost respect and reverence. How, you ask, will this play into your Thai day-to-day? Aside from the massive photographs of King Bhumibol Adulyadej that you see all over the country, if you happen to be in a public space at 08:00 or 18:00 you will hear the national anthem broadcast over loud speakers. When this song is played everyone stops what they are doing, stands up and freezes in place. Follow suit. It is particularly neat if this happens while you are caught in the middle of skytrain rush hour. No matter how quickly people are moving at 7:59, at 8:00 everything stops. Additionally, the king’s anthem is played at the beginning of many activities, most notably before movies. You will be prompted but be sure to join the rest of the theatre as they stand in a show of respect.

Eat the ice!

Dead flies in a drink are far more worrisome than Bangkok ice.

Tap water is not recommended to drink in Thailand, but the number one thing to keep in mind is that no one drinks it, not even the locals. When at a restaurant or hotel you will never be served tap water, everything is always purified. Drink up!

Ice is also typically fine to drink, though you may want to be wary of the shaved ice you get at street stalls. While it’s likely made from purified water, the ice can be transported in less than hygienic conditions. In general, any ice cubes round with a hole in the centre are fine.

Breaking bills 

When you get money from an ATM, it is incredibly annoyingly dispensed in 1,000 baht notes. If you try and use this 1,000 at a street stall, in a taxi, in a tuk tuk, it’s a safe bet that they won’t have change. 7-eleven will become your best friend for many reasons, but one is that they are the surest place to get change; in a blissfully air-conditioned environment to boot.

Public transport stops at midnight

Like Cinderella, this baby goes to bed at midnight.

The MRT and BTS are two of the most efficient and frugal ways to get around town. While they unfortunately don’t travel to Khao San Road, if you are staying near Sukhumvit or Silom you will undoubtedly use them. They stop running at midnight and resume service at 06:00. If you are out on the town and need to get from place to place then taxis will be a safe option.

Obviously, these do not answer nearly all of your Bangkok worries but hopefully we’re getting you started.

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