Now, after the fact, I couldn’t tell you why I decided to revisit Bangkok. I think it was just because it was ‘on the way’ to Tokyo from Singapore. But perhaps it was divine providence that led me there.

The sprawling, slightly dystopian metropolis of Bangkok

Completely unwittingly, I would be in Bangkok for the Thai New Year, also known as Songkran. Depending on your predisposition, this could be a good or bad thing. The Thai celebrate Songkran by having a citywide water fight in the streets; anyone and everyone is fair game for a complete drenching. Additionally, people are off work and take the opportunity to party like crazy – and the Thai people know how to party. Turns out people travel from all across the world to be in Bangkok for this festival, which hasn’t run for the past 3 years due to COVID. I had completely cheesed it and arrived at the perfect time to participate.

All smiles after wading through one of the many water fights happening in the streets

Before hearing about Songkran I had done some research into the various tourist sites and trips I wanted to do while in Bangkok. Well, best laid plans and all – much of that planning went out of the window once I arrived. The first half of my stay here was a whirlwind of drinking, visits to Soi Silom 4 and joining up/hanging out with many new friends. I met people from all across Asia who were here for the festival and the parties. I was largely in the minority as a caucasian Brit; which meant people were super friendly, coming up to me all the time to ask about me and share a beer. I always maintain that it’s the people you meet in a place that you remember way more than the sights. So in that respect, my visit to Bangkok was incredibly rich.

Soi Silom 4 was the place to be. And where I was most evenings.

There’s only so much I can write about the parties though. They were frequent, and they were fun. Apart from that, and in between hangovers, I did manage a fair amount of sightseeing. Bangkok has many cultural sights and I battled through the punishing heat and thick pollution to visit some of them. This was my second time here by the way; I remember visiting several of the temples, Chinatown and Khaosan Road before. This time however, I felt less like I had to visit particular places. When I backpacked through SE Asia aged 23, I remember feeling obliged to go to specific places because they were supposed to be so amazing or whatever. This time, my mindset was totally different and to be honest it surprised me. I let myself be guided much more by my own interests, to go with the flow and see what happens. The younger Charlie would have really struggled with that!

Wat Pho
The biggest Buddha at Wat Pho
Jim Thompson House

In stark contrast to Singapore, getting around Bangkok could feel like a bit of a mission. 8 lane highways with unpredictable weaving traffic, pollution that blocks the sun and pavements obstructed by all manner of food carts and vehicles made a short walk into a test of endurance. Bangkok is not a green city either, so walking about isn’t particularly pleasant. Riding the bus was an adventure though, and I was impressed with the BTS train that runs above the chaotic streets below. Public transport was affordable and by the end of my stay I was beginning to move about like a local, navigating my way around the city centre on trains, buses and taxis.

The chaotic streets in the city centre
Getting a <£10 cocktail on the 50th floor was a highlight, and the last thing I did before leaving!
There was some reprieve from the traffic chaos inside the stunning Benchakitti Park

Something I did remember from my previous visit and that held up this time also, was that the shopping in Bangkok is absolutely amazing. Obviously I really shouldn’t be buying too much this early into my trip – everything I buy I’ll have to carry with me for the next few months – but I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of items of clothing, which all cost under £10. I visited the new Iconsiam mall, which is like a cathedral to consumerism and was so large I could easily have spent a whole day walking around exploring. It makes the shopping options in London look like crap. Hanging out in the air conditioned malls is a favourite pastime of the locals too, as it’s an excellent way to beat the heat. So in that way, going shopping was sort of a cultural thing to do.

View from IconSiam Mall
Various views of the epic malls and shopping districts in Bangkok

Overall though, the highlight of my visit was spending time with the people I met (including those I met in Singapore who were also coincidentally in Bangkok this week!). I made friends with a Bangkok native named Bast who made many great suggestions for restaurants and bars. I feel so fortunate to have met such lovely people; it’s them who truly made my time in Bangkok so terrific.

My favourite spot in Bangkok
Thanks Bangkok, I had a blast!

1 Comment

  1. Your comment about revisiting places struck a chord with me too. When I first visited Bangkok, or indeed any place in Asia, I tried to see it all, or as much as was physically possible for a mere mortal. The reason being of course is that I felt the chance to do it again would never happen. But, such are the quirks of life, a few years later I did get a second chance, and then a third, a forth, and so on. With each visit, the attractions offered by the main ‘tourist’ sights diminish proportionately and you end up visiting none of them, or maybe one or two for old-time’s sake. Instead, we become happy to frequent coffee shop/street eateries/supermarkets etc to soak up real life as it passes before us. I note you called into James Thompson’s house, now that is a place we revisit whenever possible – by the way, the book about him by William Warren is worth a read.


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