Thailand is one of the worlds backpacking choice destinations and it is an ideal base for the surrounding Southeast Asian countries. Bangkok airport is one of the three major aviation hubs in Asia, what this means is that there are many competitive priced flight options transiting the Thai capital that you can take advantage of. Thailand is also tourist visa friendly for most foreign visitors, with English extensively spoken by staff in the tourist industry, be it with a funny accent though and words back to front.
Trekking is very popular, particularly in the North where there is still vast areas of virgin jungle and large national parks. When you need to get around, Thailand has an extensive public transport system that is cheap to use. Mainly consisting of very cheap trains, buses and vans. However the budget airlines have made a major impact on these for larger distances, and really are very cheap. For example an hour flight on a Boeing 737 domestically is commonly available for $40USD including taxes. It is very easy to just drop into an outlying province and explore the local area by public transport and see the real Thailand.
Most backpackers start their Thailand experience in Bangkok, most young people suffer ‘sensory overload’ on their first trip to Bangkok. For most it is a bizarre shock, and every hour Westerners see things they never thought imaginable. This ranges from what many consider as simply disgusting foods, like rats, maggots and grasshoppers to simply breathtaking architecture and shopping opportunities. Many say, if you cannot get it in Bangkok you cannot get it anywhere, in my experience this is almost a true statement.
The backpacking ghetto in Bangkok is mainly centered around Khao San Road. Here you’ll find thousands of backpackers, many street bars where they hang out drinking small buckets of coke and whiskey that typically retail for around three dollars a bucket. There are lots of great food, cheap massages, lots of bars and entertainment venues with live music. It should be noted however that the Bangkok rail systems do not service this backpacking ghetto, it is in an area of the city the suffers from massive traffic jams, it really can be very inconvenient to get to and from the airport and to use as a base to explore the city.
This leads us to bring to your attention the underground subway which is called the MRT and the above ground elevated light rail system commonly known as the Skytrain or airport link. Staying near a Bangkok Skytrain station is highly recommended in Bangkok, as you can simply glide over the traffic jams. You may think you know all about traffic jams if you are from Los Angeles or London, but believe me, Bangkoks roads on a raining weekday afternoon cannot be compared too for car traffic jams. Although they are extremely dangerous, with over 13,000 fatalities a year, using a motorbike taxi is very efficient for short distances as you can weave in and out of the jammed traffic at great speed. Yes many taxis are simply a scooter, but they work very well as long as you don’t have an accident which are often fatal.
Many backpackers now stay in the lower Sukhumvit ‘foreigner ghetto’ where you will also find many lady bars. This is one of the largest tourist areas in Bangkok and where many of the finest five-star hotels are located. Don’t be put off, there are many rooms available for $20 a night that have air con, hot water, TV and close to the Skytrain. Bangkok is very well suited for backpacking, just do not forget to take your camera to share your experience with your jealous friends back home online.
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