Hi all, Susan here from www.BraveWomenTravel.com
I hope you’re following along with me on my month in Thailand as a female traveler. I’d like to talk quickly about how to get around safely and without paying too much to taxi drivers or tuk tuk drivers.
You will either fly into one of two international airports. Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang. If you are planning to fly to your next destination, let’s say Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai, then I would suggest strongly that you pick a hotel that is fairly close to the airport. Still within a fair taxi ride, just not the other side of town.
The taxi from the airport and return will be the most expensive you pay for your entire stay in Thailand, and it doesn’t matter which city you are arriving in or departing from. The fares are 5 times the price as when you are in the city. Also, you want to save time. If you are only in Bangkok for 3 nights, stay close to your airport. I flew to Chiang Rai from BKK (Suvarnabhumi) and from Chiang Mai to Phuket from DMK (Don Mueang) .
They are both large, and here’s a big big tip…when you are booking a connecting flight where you have to pick up your luggage and check back in, YOU MUST HAVE AT LEAST 2 HOURS BETWEEN ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE. There are no exceptions. For ex: You book a flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket, but you have to stop in Bangkok for the connecting flight.
You are using the same airline but they still make you get your luggage, go to the ticket desk and hand your luggage back in. If you DO NOT HAVE 2 HOURS, and the flight is late, the departure desk closes 45 min prior to scheduled departure. It doesn’t matter that your original flight was 45 min delayed. If you had 2 hours and the flight was delayed you would be fine.
…From Personal Experience…
I had to get another ticket issued and wait until the next flight 3 hours later. If there are no flights you’re stuck in Bangkok for another night. She was adamant that the system was closed and there was nothing they could do. I showed up 30 min prior, had lots of time to go through security and find my gate, but my ticket times were only 1.5 hours apart. Just didn’t give me enough time. I did not know this, what a waste of time!!
Tuk Tuk Ride
In almost any picture of Bangkok you’ll see the thousands of bikes, tuk tuk drivers and taxis. They are on every street all through Bangkok, 24 hours a day.
If you are in a hotel for more than 3 days, you’ll see the same Tuk Tuk driver there every day. It’s obviously been good for them and they like familiarity, and so do I. I met a driver, who only had one tooth in the front, seemed like a nice guy. We agreed on 100 baht to take me to see Wat Arun, which from where I was stationed, across the river. No biggy as there are bridges everywhere. It was a good 20 min ride and for $4 USD, seemed fair to me. I wanted to have an experience riding in a tuk tuk so I said, deal.
He picked me up as scheduled and once he had me comfortable, he pulled over and said, ‘I take you to this nice ladies shop, you don’t have to buy just look look’ I said, ‘but I don’t want to go to a ladies shop’ this conversation continued for 3 or 4 minutes where he shared with me that he gets compensated for taking guests there. They pay him 5 cents a litre for gasoline. He say, ‘you no buy, just look look’ I say, ‘Okay’ hahaha…
Learning the Hard Way…
Oh, ya, and it’s on the way….right…we stop, he say, you go look I wait here. Of course the shop is lovely, a few steps up from the malls, items are priced a little higher but still very nice.
I see a top that’s lovely. His price is 500 baht. For you madame, you buy 2 I give you discounted price of 800 baht. Sold, we write up the bill and off we go. Everyone is happy! I’ve got two lovely tops, one for my beautiful daughter in law Melissa and one for me.
We set out for Wat Arun. The nice thing about the tuk tuks is that they are similar to a motorbike. They can weave in and out and get ahead of the cars. They scoot up the middle and get to the front of the line because in Bangkok, no matter the time of day, there are always lineups.
He takes me to the pier, I’m trusting that he is taking me where I need to go. He says, ‘okay, come with me’ He takes me to a woman that is sitting taking money and she says the private boat up river and over to Wat Arun is 1500 baht…Huh is my response. I want to go to Wat Arun but I thought the driver was taking me there. Aww, I see, this is another little game to get more $$ I am confused still and don’t really know what I’m doing.
This is only day 2 in Bangkok, and I’m still trying to get my bearings. She comes down to 1200 and I say to her, okay, but I want to see what I’m paying for…she yells at me, no, no you can’t see, you can’t go there. Okay, but I’m not giving you 1200 for something I don’t even know what it’s for, so I walk away.
He’s upset and drives me over one block to the public pier and asks for 140 baht, I said no, 100, okay. And off he goes and I’m left again, on my own.
Adventures in Sightseeing
I walk up to find that this is the Chao Phraya express boat which will take you to a number of stops, to go to Wat Arun is 45 baht but you’re with 100 other people…for me, I don’t really care. You can stay on the boat for an additional charge and go to The Grand Palace.
I get off two stops before Wat Arun to visit the Flower Market and have a bite to eat. The market is old and comes with all the smells that you can imagine. The Pak Khlong Market is on the river and I decide to buy some fruit on a stick, pineapple and a fruit I thought was mango but was not. I got sick from them, so be very cautious of where you buy. It might have been the water, but who’s to say.
I enjoy a really great lunch of soup from a women inside the mall, and I actually returned at the end of the day for the same soup, only a large bowl this time.
I realize that Wat Pho is only 4 or 5 blocks up so I decide to walk the distance. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It’s one of the largest temple complexes in the city. The temple is famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf.
Entrance to the temple costs 100 baht and you can visit any time between 08:00 and 17:00.
I look at my map and realize that the Grand Palace is only another 10 minute walk, so away I go.
You can also get there by Chao Phraya express boat. You can get off at either Tha Tien pier on the Southern end of the Palace complex or at Tha Chang pier on the Northern end.
The Grand Palace
Grand Palace was built in 1782 For King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) and is located in the Rattanakosin area, Bangkok.
The Grand Palace located in the old city of Bangkok on the banks of the Chao Phraya river is one of the must see sites of Thailand. This complex is one of the most famous landmarks of the country and offers spectacular buildings and sacred sites.
The complex is surrounded by 1,900 meters long walls and houses among others Royal residences, the throne halls and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It housed the center of government and the Royal Court and became the center of the Kingdom.
The Grand Palace served as the official residence of Thai Kings until the reign of King Chulalongkorn at the end of the 19th century.
Today the Palace is used for a number of Royal rituals, state banquets and other official functions. Some parts of the Palace like the Inner Court are not open to the public.
Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall & Borom Phiman Mansion
The two oldest buildings are the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Phra Maha Monthian. The main function of the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall built by King Rama I is to host the lying in state ceremony for Kings, Queens and members of the Royal Family. During this ceremony a large number of people can pay their respects to the deceased.
One of the most recent buildings is the Borom Phiman Mansion which was built early 20th century by King Rama V. This building is built in western style and was built as a residence for future Kings.
Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The Wat Phra Kaew or “Temple of the Emerald Buddha” on the grounds of the Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s most sacred places. The small Buddha image is believed to be more than 2000 years old and was created in India. Since then it was moved a number of times and in 1434 it was re-discovered in a temple in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand.
Although people back then believed the Buddha to be made from emerald, it is actually made from green jade. With the changing of the seasons (summer, rainy season and cool season), the robes of the Emerald Buddha are changed by HM the King of Thailand.
The walls of the Hall are covered with mural paintings depicting a number of events in the Life of the Lord Buddha, including birth, death and Enlightenment.
Emerald Buddha in the Palace temple
The Royal Monastery is surrounded by walls covered with beautiful and very detailed paintings of the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. Large parts of the Ramakien were written by King Rama I and King Rama II. Many of the paintings tell scenes about the battle between good and evil. They were first created when the Palace was built in the 18th century and since then restored several times.
Visiting the Temple and Palace
Since this is a sacred place, please follow the dress code. This means no short pants, no shirts without sleeves, no bare feet. As in any temple in Thailand, please take off your shoes. Near the entrance of the Palace complex is a booth where proper clothes are provided if needed.
Although photo and video equipment is allowed in most of the Grand Palace, inside the Wat Phra Kaew temple they are not.
The address is: Thanon Na Phra Lan, Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok.
Opening hours are daily from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm.
Entrance fee is 500 Baht per person. ($20 USD)
If you show up in short pants or sleeveless shirts, clothing can be rented at the entrance at 200 Thai Baht per person.
I then walked across the street to catch the water taxi to go across the river to Wat Arun…finally! Wat Arun is almost directly opposite Wat Pho, so it is very easy to get to. From Sapphan Taksin boat pier you can take a river boat that stops at pier 8. From here a small shuttle boat takes you from one side of the river to the other for only 4.5 baht. (15 cents)
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok. This is not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different from the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water. Entry to the temple is 100 baht. The temple is open daily from 08:30 to 17:30.
Some More Stops
I enjoy Wat Arun and start looking for a boat to take me to the floating markets. I am unsuccessful, even after asking two separate couples if they wanted to go and share the ride with me. Cost alone is 2500 baht ($75 USD) and I just don’t want to pay that kind of money when two other couples might split it with me..no luck…so no luck for me either. Another day!
I take the water taxi back to the other side of the Chao Phraya River. 4 baht. Hard to handle! The taxis leave every 15 minutes and just sitting on the boat waiting is very peaceful (as long as you have a seat) And, the old days are gone where younger adults get up and give an old lady their seat. Sometimes it takes someone in authority that they would look up to to get them out of their seats. A few times they yell at the younger guys and say, ‘get up, let her sit down’ haha.. It’s all good and I’m very appreciative!
Now I’m back on the other side. I enjoyed lunch so much I walk back the 5 blocks to the gal who made the soup and order a large size. I want to sit near the window but she won’t let me. Not my space she says. So she has relinquished me to a table against the wall. It’s fine. She makes my soup. I don’t really know the ingredients but it was great the first time. It should be great the second time and they didn’t disappoint.
After I’m done I walk out the main road and attempt to waive down either a tuk tuk or a taxi. It cost me 100 baht to get here, I assume 100 baht to get home.
Now, I must say, 3 days in Bangkok and I’ve become smart at how they work. 100 baht is $3.50…not much for Americans and Canadians. I know it will take 20 min. The time is 3:00 pm and they always have excuses. Busy busy….rush hour…take too long!! All are valid, but I don’t really care. I just want to get back to my hotel.
So I stand out in the middle of a round about and start flagging down drivers. Too far…400 baht…NO!
Oh. rush hour, too far … 400 baht…this guy took 5 min to figure out where I needed to go on my map and said, no, he wouldn’t take me for any amount of money??
Then a driver came along and explained it too me. It’s very far, the traffic is very bad and it takes too much time. Cost you 400 baht no matter…by this time I’m afraid of having to find a hotel I’ve been out here so long. So, I begrudgingly agree and he takes me to my hotel.
Well kind of, he’s right. The traffic is fairly bad but not like at 6 pm. My hotel is off of a main road and the taxi is at a stand still. So, I pay him his 400 baht and walk the rest of the way. It’s not worth sitting in a taxi for 10 min when I can walk it.
My day is complete, I’ve wandered the city, seen The Flower Market, Wat Pho, The Grand Palace and Wat Arun.
It’s not without it’s safety issues. Luckily, there are a number of simple, logical steps you can take to protect yourself from risks….