I often have people asking me advice on traveling to S.E. Asia, especially with regard to Thailand, I think probably because it is the most popular destination for South Africans in S.E. Asia and I suppose for the rest of the world also.
This series of posts are specifically for budget travelers…if you are looking to do Thailand being shuffled from the airport straight to a resort you are doing it wrong. The whole experience of a holiday in Thailand is the people and the adventures you come across when you least expect it, not a mani pedi next to your pool at your over priced resort.
So my first and most important piece of advice would be:
DONT BOOK ANYTHING! Besides your air ticket of course.
Anyone who tells you to book accommodation before you depart has either never been to Thailand or stands to make some money off your booking. Not only is accommodation of all kinds available at the ‘drop of a fake dreadlock’ but it is cheap!
Cheap in SA is around R500 a night for a decent room….in Thailand it’s about 6$ a night for a room with a bed, aircon and a TV with a western toilet…and a window if you are lucky. This accommodation is a dime a dozen but make sure you ask to see the room first to check if it’s clean. My first night in Bangkok back in 2010 I made this mistake and spent the night on mattress stained with what looked like a large amount of blood, I had already paid for the room though so I tried to ignore my gag reflex and thank God for remembering my sleeping sheet.
Start on Khao San Road
Now KSR, dunned the Gateway to S.E. Asia is not everyone’s cup of tea. On the 7th day just before God decided to rest he burped and out came KSR. It’s definitely one of those things you just must see when you go to Thailand but like a lot of those ‘must sees’ once you have seen it there’s no real reason to go there again.
Having said that, it is a hub for cheap accommodation, cheap drinks and cheaper women…or men. Especially if you are travelling alone or in a pair KSR presents a great opportunity to meat hoards, literally hoards of fellow travellers, ask advice or find a travel mate. I would recommend asking fellow backpacker’s advice over going to a travel agent or a tout along the street.
Here is a little snippet of writing from my last visit to KSR:
Khao San road the only place in the world where you can enter a shy first time traveller and emerge a weary looking hippie with fisherman pants, various woven bangles, the obligatory tribal tattoo and of course a set a fresh dreadlocks…all for under $20.
KS road really is a inner city jungle, where hangers replace vines and gazebos and hundreds of intertwined electricity and telephone wires make a great canopy.
The much feared hill tribe women and the touts replace the jaguars, stalking you wherever you go with either a ‘crrrrooaak cccroakk’ or the rather awful ‘puuut’ …which supposedly represents the sound of a ping pong being…well you know popped out. The hundreds if not thousands of drunk English and Australians, put any elephant drunk on Marula fruit to shame, managing to make a ridiculous amount of noise, break anything they come across and still have the thick skin to think its normal to act that way.
Lets not forget the kings of the jungle…the famous lady boys…distinguishable by their adams apples…and if that’s not enough to tell them apart they are usually singing :
“Now I’m the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP
I’ve reached the top and had to stop
And that’s what botherin’ me
I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I’m tired of monkeyin’ around!”
But I digress!
I arrived in Bangkok and headed straight to KS road for a much needed nap…traveling with flu really isn’t fun. My driver Narathorn war really awesome and I found out he lives in his car and every 3 months he travels South to the border of Malaysia to give his family the money, even more surprising was that he is the same age as me…what different worlds we come from.
I stayed at a hostel/guest house called Lucky house just of KS road so there was no noise, its a really nice place value for money AND its clean…something not common along or near KS road. I met up with Craig my one friend..fluent in Hebrew…which was surprisingly helpful. After assuring me that he ‘hated’ shopping and ‘didn’t see the point’ we spent about 4 hours traversing the jungle deciding what shorts made his legs look better. =)
We decided that while we were weighing up which colour palate best suited his complexion to get a beer from 7/11…because they are much cheaper and you can walk around with them.
JACKPOT we found a beer for BHT25..about R6 only to find out it was rice wine and even the Thais don’t drink it! I even tried to give mine away to a beggar who blatantly refused it. Lesson learnt!
After getting hit on by a few more lady boys we decided to get some rest as we both had early starts the next morning.
Bye for now!
Some useful links are:
Lucky House – I have stayed here 3 times and have been satisfied each time. Be sure to get on the good side of the receptionist and she will give you a few much needed extras for free! Its also just off KSR so there’s no noise!
Official KSR website– Everything you need to know about the place and more. They are generally rather good with keeping their news stream updated.