Travel Articles Bangkok

Meditation in Bangkok

Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok
Meditation in Bangkok

There’s no doubt about it, Thailand is a genuine draw for the spiritually inclined. Every year, thousands of people visit the kingdom to step away from the material and gain an insight into themselves and the world around them. While many “spiritual tourists” might envisage gaining enlightenment through fasting and sitting cross-legged under the torrents of one of Thailand’s many crystal-clear waterfalls, few might consider a trip to Bangkok’s main business/entertainment area a step down a spiritual path. And that just might be a shame… because it just might be what they are looking for.

Sukhumvit Road in the center of Bangkok is more recognized as street of excess than a place of retreat. It’s where people work hard, play hard and enjoy the bounty of riding the back of one of Asia’s more successful tigers. Yet, like elsewhere in the capital, pockets of spiritual resistance exist providing a ongoing reminder of just what is important in life. Fortunately, for visitors and expats wishing to learn more about the spiritual elements that forge this kingdom’s unique identity, there are people around that are willing and able to offer tutelage and guidance in a language many foreigners understand – plain English.

I recently visited a one-day meditation workshop held at Ariyasom Villa Boutique Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 1 in Bangkok. Unlike many of the hotels in the area, Ariyasom is genuinely fetching – built in 1942 as a family home it is still owned by the family that built it, and they really have made the most out of everything they’ve got. The hotel grounds are not huge, yet their design gives the impression of a vast area that you can wonder through and get lost in. Ariyasom’s gardens offer various nooks and crannies that you can walk around and find yourself a bit of personal space – probably one of the reasons this is an ideal location for a mediation workshop.

As a Brit, and a northerner at that, I haven’t made too many sorties into the world of the spiritual. Although it’s got a few Thai restaurants and Chinese takeaways, there aren’t that many temples or the like in mid-Cheshire. So, although I didn’t know what to expect from this workshop, I did, to some extent, expect to be a fish out of water. It was then very reassuring then to find out that Pandit Bhikkhu, owner of Littlebang and one of the organizers of the workshop, was in fact not Thai like I thought, but from Altrincham, a small town only a few miles from my home. In addition, David Lees, the broadminded owner of Ariyasom, proved to be a foreigner from Mere, which is even closer to my home than Altrincham! At that point in time, the three of us standing there was probably the only incidence of three Cheshire Cats being in the same room at the same time in the whole of Southeast Asia… well, at least I thought so.

Aside from its splendor, Ariyasom has even more surprises. Whereas most hotels in the area push restaurants and “discos” into every spare inch available, Ariyasom offers a spacious, dedicated meditation area replete with a bedroom for visiting monks… That certainly is a first for me.

“My wife is Thai and has been involved in meditation for a number of years,” suggested David Lees. “In fact she runs a blog about meditation. We rebuilt Ariyasom with meditation in mind. With a dedicated facility it’s easy for us to run events on a regular basis. There’s a decent-sized community of English-speaking Buddhists in Bangkok, and we help cater for them. Our events also extend to visitors to Thailand looking to learn more about Thai-style meditation. We get a good mix of people and I think people enjoy our workshops and benefit from them.”

David and his wife obviously talk the talk and walk the walk. While other hotels in the area might squeeze every cent out of their visitors, arriving at 08:30 before the start of the meditation workshop, I was greeted by hot coffee, Pa Thong Ko (the deep fried doughnuts that are a traditional Thai breakfast) and juice – all free of charge. As the day progressed, hot coffee was on tap and a vegetarian lunch was provided, again, free of charge. At the end of the day a variety of Thai fruit was on offer. Alongside offering a huge air-conditioned room for the comfort of meditators, catering for around 30 people in this way was not likely to be a cheap affair.

The workshop itself was also free of charge, and like David said, attracted a mix of backpackers, tourists and well-healed expats, although as the bulk of people seem to know each other, the latter did appear to dominate. The workshop was, not surprisingly, insightful – the Vipassana meditation being taught is better known as “Insight Meditation”. The instruction was provided by Aussie Mike Sansom and German Helge Sansom. Both are trainers at Wat Kow Tahm (Mountain Cave Monastery) International Meditation Center on Koh Phangan in southern Thailand. Mike and Helge walked beginners and veterans alike through the techniques and methodology of Vipassana meditation and the instruction proved both accessible and pragmatic.

Basically, mediation offers the opportunity to reflect. We were told to sit, eyes closed and consider the in and out of our breathing. Directing my awareness towards my breathing proved both easy and difficult at the same time. Becoming aware of my breathing generated a stillness that was immediately accessible, but it was also very easy to drift off into a reverie of thought without really noticing where my mind was going. It’s was sometimes very hard to pull myself away from thoughts of bills, work, commitments, family, and curiously, the theme music to 1980’s British TV program, “Black Beauty” – quite where that came from I dread to think. Obviously some deep and dark place. However, as Mike pointed out, any awareness was beneficial, and as Helge suggested, making a mental note of the mental distractions put them in their place and allowed you to revert to concentrating on breathing. In fact, this for me was the most valuable thing I took away from the day… Just sitting quietly like this, acknowledging the thoughts that entered my head allowed me to really understand exactly what was on my mind. 
    
Later, we were introduced to walking meditation. Although I followed the instruction and understood the technique, the sight of people walking around and meditating at the same time was a little spooky I thought. The technique is intended to be used while you are in motion and with your eyes open. It requires full awareness of your body, its movement, and even the ground beneath your feet and the feeling pressure stepping on the ground creates. I honestly couldn’t do it in front of people, not for fear how I looked, but genuine fear of how others looked. To practice this I needed to find a bit of space well away from others, and fortunately this was possible at Ariyasom.

We were also introduced to guided meditation leading to compassion and understanding. Helge introduced the meditation using an everyday scenario: You are in a shop; the check out desk is slow and you are being inconvenienced. This causes anxiety and perhaps even rage. You might even be moved to complain. However, although these emotions appear to be driven by external events, they are, in fact, only your reaction to external events. Changing your perception, through an injection of compassion, will help alleviate YOUR anxiety. Perhaps the checkout girl is having a bad day; perhaps she has financial problems or other problems at home; perhaps even she has just found out she has lost her job and today is her last day. Each of these possible scenarios would account for today, and each, with compassion, would be fully understandable.

At the end of the day’s workshop, I can honestly say I felt very refreshed – a similar feeling to that you get after having a weekend away, and yet it was really only a few hours. I really did feel I had been given some tools that would help and enrich my daily life. I felt better for the workshop. Our introduction to compassion and understanding was though immediately put to the test. During the latter stages of the workshop, a freak thunderstorm dumped what appeared to be thousands of tons of water into Soi 1. Not surprisingly, given the downfall, the Soi was completely flooded… and just to be fair – this really is the exception rather than the rule in Bangkok these days.

Even if you are only Bangkok for a couple of days, likelihood is there will be something happening that will provide you with the type of experience I had on Sukhumvit Road. Key places at look for events have already been mentioned – the Littlebang website gives broad details on what’s happening in Bangkok while mind.matters.at.ariyasom will provide you with specific details of what’s happening at Ariyasom.

I really recommend that you get involved in something while you are here. At the very least, you’ll take home with you a greater understanding into what Thais find commonplace, and that in itself, will be much more of an understanding of Thailand than some take home with them.

Staff Writer

Eating Your Way Through Bangkok

Eating Your Way Through Bangkok
Eating Your Way Through Bangkok

Whether you are visiting Thailand for the first time or have been living there for longer than you can remember, there is always something new, interesting and exotic to experience. What has always been the most dear to me is the multitude and availability of local dishes and cuisines (both traditional and fusion style) that really express Thailand’s culture and the Thais flavor and attitude towards life.

The Misnomer of Street Food: So often when I host an overseas visitor they are amazed at the sheer number of people eating on the street asking me “How safe is it really and do people get sick?” If you’ve been to India, then eating fresh fruits, noodles, grilled chickens and other curiously looking meats from the street vendors in Bangkok is nothing. I’ve been eating from food stalls/street vendors/push carts for years and find that dining in this manner is no more dangerous than eating in a restaurant except for the fact that you are eating in plastic chairs, perhaps share a table with another hungry patron or breath a little exhaust from passing cars here and there; but generally the food is fresh, well prepared, very tasty and overall fairly safe to eat-street vendors don’t like to carry a lot of over-head; most cannot afford to so everyday they go to the fresh markets buying only the amount of ingredients that they anticipate using in a given day; very seldom do they store meats and vegetables like a restaurant.    
     
When trying to decide which food stall to eat from (as there are many to choose from) it’s best to observe where the locals eat (of course using your judgment to a certain extent) and if there is a line, a lot of chaos, and definitive smells that draw a curious sense and hunger; then you are probably at the right place.

Sukhumvit Soi 38 has a plethora of street vendors hawking various dishes such as Moo Grob (crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli, chili and oyster sauce), Ca Pow Gai (Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice), and Kuaytiaw Raat Naa (Fried Noodles with Pork & Vegetable Gravy) among others-my favorite is Ba Mee Puu (Egg Noodles with Crab) served from a push cart about 20 meters on the right hand side of Sukhumvit Soi 38 when coming from Thonglor BTS. At the corner of Soi Convent and Silom road (Friday and Saturday nights only) P’ Uan (meaning fat in Thai; not to be construed in a negative sense as in the western culture) serves up the best Moo Ping (Pork Thai Barbecue) in Bangkok-the pork is grilled and caramelized to perfection where the robustness of each bite intensifies leaving you not just tasting the Moo Ping, but experiencing it.

My Pad Thai and Noodles: The first meal that many Bangkok “first timers” order is either Pad Thai or Fried Rice as they want to compare these dishes to the familiar dishes that they get in their own home country (an normally associate these dishes as not being too spicy). Pad Thai is made up of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, and a combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu; for a slight variation of Pad Thai from the traditional sense, I recommend Pad Thai Thip Samai (Salaya, Puthamonthon, Nakornpathom, Bangkok, (0) 81630 6444); established in 1966 that serves two definitive dishes such as the Pad Thai with large prawns enclosed in an egg omelet (Pad Thai Kai Ho) or the Pad Thai Song-Krueng where the Sen Chan or grass noodle can be laced with crab meat, ground cuttlefish and/or sliced mango.

Located in Pranakorn, Somsrong Pochana’s kitchen creations originate from the Sukhothai Province serving Sukhothai noodle consisting of BBQ pork with green sprouts in the noodles and delicately sprinkled with dried chili’s for taste and intensity—for a less spicy flare the Thai Spaghetti with coconut milk, pineapple, & dried shrimp (Kanom Jeen Sao Nam) is a safe bet. Soi Watt Sangwej (Opposite Sangwej Temple), Pra Atit Rd., Pranakorn Bangkok, (0) 2 282 0972.
If you like Duck and happen to be in the Phaholyothin area, a must try is the Steamed Duck Noodles at Yothin Duck Noodles food stall (#1301 Soi Paholyothin 11 (beginning of the Soi), Paholyothin Rd., Bangkhen, Bangkok, (0) 2 278 1738) where the duck meat effortlessly falls off the bone releasing the succulent juices and natural ripeness of the duck.

Don’t Be Scared – Just Eat it!: Bangkok has lots of hidden delicacies and interesting cuisines that are often overlooked as newcomers and veterans of Bangkok tend to stick to the same restaurants over and over again. There is so much great food out there to be eaten that I encourage everyone to venture away from the more touristy areas into the more unknown or ‘less frequented by foreigner ones.’ Talk to locals, people watch, read online reviews, get yourself lost in China town. Whether you have a strong passion for food or just like to enjoy a good meal, get out and do a little exploring. You won’t like everything you taste as you’ll have good meals and bad meals, but who cares-it is all part of the experience! The main thing is that you have fun and learn a lot about the Thai culture, people and food along the way.

The above are just a few examples of some places to enjoy while dining in Bangkok. For more information visit www.PekoPiko.com featuring Bangkok’s Best Restaurants, Street Food and Hidden Cuisines along with restaurant information, user reviews, and saver promotions-everything you need to guide you on Where to Eat and What to Eat in Bangkok. If you like what you’ve read above I recommend PekoPiko’s ‘Old Bangkok Eateries’ section for other similar restaurants.

Written By Jason Buckalew, Bangkok Foodie Photos By Pukky Churuphant.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Questions and Answers

Suvarnabhumi Airport Questions and AnswersQ: Kemal writes: If i come to thailand…how can i go from airport for to khaosanroad,airport-khaosan if there bus which number? And nearist which railway station to khaosan road…

A: Taxi, bus, airport pickup – nearest railway station is Hualumpong.

Q: Andreas writes: “Hi, I need the cheapest way from Bankok Airport to Khao San Road?”

A: By airport bus – 150 Baht per person – 05.30 to 24.00 hours daily. It takes from there around 1 and half hour, getting off at the last bus stop near Khaosan Road.

Q: Mike writes: “Hello, what are the options for getting to Hua Lamphong Train station from Suvarnabhumi airport, please.”

A: AE4 Suvarnabhumi-Hua Lamphong (by expressway) – taxi to Morchit MRT and MRT to Hua Lamphong.

Q: Gwyn Jones writes: “Dear Sir, travelling from UK to Phuket on 2nd Jan 07. Best case scenario is that luggage will be checked through to hkt from Manchester. On arrival in the new airport will I be able to remain in ‘transit’/collect boarding pass from Thai Airways desk and eventually clear immigration in Phuket, or will I have to clear immigration on arrival and check in again at domestic? Any advice you have will be appreciated. Thank you in advance.”

A: We presume you can go directly to domestic and your luggae will be transfered to your on flight. Again, we are looking to hear from people who can confirm this…

Q: Cheryl writes: “I’ll be flying from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok on Oct 13 using Air Asia. Will it be at the same terminal as all international flights. I’ll be staying at Mandarin Hotel. What is the taxi fare from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Mandarin Hotel. My departure time is very early in the morning around 7am. Will your taxi stop at the proper arrival area or to a certain place whereby I need to use your shuttle bus. Is it easy to get a cab early in the morning let’s say 4am.”

A: Sorry – again we don’t know… has anyone been to Mandarin Hotel from the new airport? If so please let Cheryl know…

Q: Bbaker writes: “I am trying to find hotels/guesthouses near the NEW airport and am having trouble as all tour books and sites still list places near the old airport. Please advise.” We have had a number of people asking this question…

A: We don’t know much about about discount accommodation and if anyone has details let us know. However, there’s Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, Royal Princess Srinakarin, Grand Inn Come Hotel, and Novotel Bangna amongst others.

Q: Larry writes: “I used to take the airport bus from the old airport all the way to Tower Inn. Will I be able to take the same bus from the new airport?”

A: We don’t know for sure, but it’s pretty unlikely – the old aiport and the new airport are opposite ends of Bangkok!

Q: Ocean writes: “Where is the taxi stand for taxis into the city at the new airport?”

A: Public taxis taxi stands are located on level four of the departures concourse.

Q: Han s. Chen writes: “Hi; I will be in BKK on Oct.3 at 11;45 PM , this is a scaring time to arrive of a new airport, I don\’t know the latest airport bus to Khaosan Rd is what time and is Rte 551 bus directly going to Khaosan Rd also if not which bus is?! Would you please tell me this urgent and confusion questions.Thanks in advance for your helps of this anxious awaiting questions. Best Regards Han Chen”

A: We don’t know about the 551 – can anyone help? The AE2 goes directly to Khaosan Road and costs 150 Baht. the journey takes an hour and gets to KSR by expressway.

Q: Wim writes: “Do the bus services from Khao Sarn Road to the new airport (556 and AE2) have 24 hour service?”

A: Sadly – we can’t find the answer… anyone?.

Q: Tony writes: “Hi. I’m flying into Bangkok from Samui on Monday and on to Bahrain on Tuesday. Is the old airport totally gone or is it still being used for domestic fligts? “

A: Our understanding is that the new airport will deal with both domestic flights and international flights… the old airport will be used for charter flights and some domestic routes, althoughn not key routes.

Q: L.Mogan Muniandy writes: “What is the taxi (meter) fare from Airport (New) to Grande Ville Hotel?”

A: Sorry, no idea… anyone?

Q: Mike writes: “There is an airport bus advertised from Suvarnabhumi airport to the On Nut BTS Station – does this come off the Expressway down Sukhumvit Road from Nana ie past the Landmark Hotel or does it come to On Nut for passengers to get the BTS up towards Nana. It is very difficult to find this out. Thanks,”

A: We don’t know the answer to this one…. Anyone?

To contact the person asking the question click on his/her name. Please CC your answers and comments to us here: info@khaosanroad.com. Contact us with more information.

Suvarnabhumi Airport – Insights

Suvarnabhumi Airport Questions and AnswersRyan writes: “John, something for travelers who want to take a less expensive way to go to the airport. From Khaosan to the airport by taxi is about 400 baht. I did it for 340 baht last night. Brought my parents to the airport. On the meter… no ‘special deals’. 65 for the toll ways – (40 for the first one, 25 for the second) and 50 for the airport surcharge. We left at 23.00u and 35 min. later we were at the airport. Fast and not to expensive. Back was different. As my friend came with me, we decided to split up. He takes a taxi and i took the bus, number 556. He took a taxi at the departures level, were the taxi’s drop off people. It is not allowed to pick up people there but at 00.30 there are no security guards…

So he made it back, 35 min. back to Khaosan – 240 on the meter and 65 for the toll ways. No 50 baht !!! I went with the bus, had to wait 1 hour for it. So at 01.30u I left from the airport and 35 min. later I was at Khaosan. For 35 baht, this was ok. If your not in a rush or carrying to much luggage, the bus is a fine alternative. If you are in a rush and don\’t mind the money, take a taxi. Note: the busses don’t drive on a schedule.

It might be possible that you have to wait a while to get a bus. However, the information counter at the public transport terminal is very useful and gives you all kinds of alternative routes to the city. You can take the 552 bus to and get out on Sukhumvit. From there bus 511 to Khaosan… And so on. Just ask them, they speak good English and were very helpful at 01.00 in the morning! Regards Ryan”

Shai Pinto has been to the new airport twice already so he should have a few insights… here’s what he has to say…

The bottom line for the new airport is – it’s big, it’s easy if you know your way around airports,and it isn’t such a big change as expected. As I have managed to go through the new airport twice in it’s first 3 days of operation here is the lowdown for you to update everyone.

Basically, once you get out of the baggage claim you are still on the arrivals floor 2, and you have a few options:

1- Go down 1 level and get an airport authority taxi – it will cost you a flat rate and it is expensive

2- Walk out the doors of the terminal – there are 3 curbs or sidewaks ahead off you. The first one has a big stop for the shuttle bus – this bus will take you to the transport centre, a seperate building 10 min drive away. From there you can take regular taxis, buit they add at least 50 baht rack rate surcharge. You will also have to wait for the bus a bit. BGy the way – make sure you get the express one, or you will end up stopping at all kinds of buildings along the way (usefull if you have a special fettish for new airport buildings, hangars or storage rooms..)

3 – As you exit the doors – just flag down the first taxi you see. They will all stop even though they are not supposed to, and they all seem just as lost as you do, so they will hurry up to take you before the funny man with the whistle and the uniform chases them away. It also helps with bargaining..

4 – As in the old airport – go up to departures and grab a taxi that just dropped off passengers. it still works…

By the way – only go meter!!! it is exactly 220 baht to KSR (3 journeys, same price), and if you pay the tollway fees add another 65 Baht.

In summary – new airport or not, just walk out the door, hail the first taxi to drive by, say meter, pay for tollway, and in exactly 45 min you will be at KSR.

The Good Stuff: A Passage to Little India

Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand

One of my favourite parts of Bangkok is its Indian neighbourhood, known as “Little India”. This hidden jewel in Bangkok’s crown is full of gorgeous food, interesting sights, and a real impression of what it’s like to walk down an Indian street.

Bangkok’s Indian community first settled in the Phahurat area soon after King Rama I ordered its construction in 1898. The area has expanded over the years, and now merges into the southwestern edge of Chinatown.

The soi, or lane, known as “Little India” runs parallel to Phahurat Road. Read on for photos galore, and details of how to get there.

On entering the lane, you’ll find food stalls selling hot snacks; while posters of Hindu gods sit alongside a child’s bicycle. The sights and sounds of India are everywhere, as locals go about their daily business. I arrive at lunchtime, and that only means one thing: time for lunch! There’s one place I go to eat every time I visit Little India: Punjab Sweets.

This fantastic restaurant is a real treat. TV programmes stop every 3 minutes for advertising: Fair and Lovely face cream, Indian Oil, Bharti Life Insurance, Belmonte Academy of Style, and Reliance Mobile Telephones (only 999 Rupees). There are a couple of dishes I like to order when I go there: chhole batore (a plate of chickpea curry, potato curry and lime pickle, served with puffed-up fried Indian bread), and samosa chana (chickpea curry with 2 crunchy, hot samosas). I’m taken right back to my memories of street-side eating in Delhi, and I wash these delectable treats down with a glass of hot, sweet masala chai. This is way better than any expensive Indian restaurant food; plus, it’s totally authentic, and so easy on the pocket as well: my fantastic lunch set me back a mere 70 Baht. Icy-cold drinking water (in a jug on your table, safe to drink) is free of charge, too, so you can really cool down from the heat of the street.

I’m tempted to stay even longer at Punjab Sweets, as the sweets themselves have caught my eye. They’re quite beautiful. The gulab jamun (sweet fried dough balls in rosewater syrup) nestle under edible silver leaf; the ras malai (milk curds flavoured with cardamom and saffron) also grab my attention. But alas, every time I come here l enjoy my chhole batore and samosas far too much to have room for any of these delicacies. Punjab Sweets also stocks an extensive range of spices and cooking ingredients, if you want to try your hand at making a real curry.

Out into the street I go. It’s time to soak up the spectacle of this part of town. Wandering through the lane, there are so many things to look at. It’s interesting to see how Indian and Thai culture blend a little bit here. Indian food stalls serve

Thai curries to Indian residents. Shop doors feature different written languages, for the understanding of all.
   
A man makes these chewy snacks which turn your mouth, and your saliva, bright red. The experience will set you back about 5 Baht, and it’s like nothing else. Try one!

A beautiful gurdawara, or Sikh temple, sits a little way down the soi. This is said to be the largest gurdwara outside India, and is built of opulent white marble.

If you’re lucky, you may find that your visit coincides with some special occasion in the temple’s calendar, as I was when I took the pictures above.   
 
Visitors to the temple are made very welcome, and there is usually someone there to show you around – an interesting way to spend a little time.

Remember to remove your shoes and cover your head when you go any higher than the ground floor; the customary yellow headscarves are provided for this.

Little India also holds some exotic treasures for fans of browsing and shopping.

Wandering into one establishment, I am soon the proud owner of 3 CDs of beautiful Indian music (80 Baht each) and a bottle of heady rose perfume oil from Mumbai (300 Baht). Walking further, I also pick up a red beaded necklace for 100 Baht, some Burmese cooking ingredients, some natural Neem soap, a rolling pin (50 Baht), some curry pastes, and a box of saffron (70 Baht).

So that gives you an idea of what this area of Bangkok is like. I hope you will give it a try.

Getting there:

In fact, it’s possible to approach the Indian district from the westernmost end of Chinatown’s chaotic Sampeng Lane; from there, turn left onto Chakraphet Road, cross the footbridge, and go left along the pavement. A few minutes along on your right is the entrance to Little India.

However, to avoid the crush of Sampeng, and for a more peaceful journey along the river, here is the route I always take. The journey begins at river-taxi pier 13 (Banglamphu) on Phra Arthit Road.

Take a boat that is heading down the river: if you look to your right from the pier, you can see them approaching under the Rama VIII Bridge with its golden suspension cables. Get on a boat with an orange or yellow flag.

Orange-flagged boats charge 13 Baht per person, while on the yellow-flagged “Tourist Boat” you pay 18 Baht. Do observe the pier numbers as you make your way down the river. The numbers are on blue-and-white signs on the platforms. Look out for pier number 6: Memorial Bridge.

You can see the green Memorial Bridge as you are floating along. On the Tourist Boat, the helpful guide will announce (in English) when you are about to reach your stop, so get ready to get off. Cross the road in front of you, and you will see a huge, ornate Thai Buddhist temple, with its adjacent white spire. Walk towards it and go to your right.

Keeping the temple on your left, walk along and you will soon be in the busy Chakraphet/ Chakphet (the spelling varies) Road. 

Now you’re on the home strait. Pass the Chinese temple on your left, continue along Chakphet Road, and look out for the Royal India restaurant on the other side the road. And before you know it, you’ll be at the entrance to the Little India soi (lane). Look out for the “India Emporium” shopping mall that’s being built, and you’ll know you’ve found your destination. Phew! Happy exploring!

About the author: Liz Clayton

Liz Clayton has been living in Thailand for 2 and a half years. Her first year was spent in Bangkok, last year she worked in Prachinburi province near Isaan, and now she is back in Bangkok for a few more years.

She enjoys looking for new places – finding the little hideaways which aren’t on the usual backpacker trail.

Fortunately, she is passing what she finds onto KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. 

Bangkok Skytrain – BTS

Bangkok Skytrain BTS
Bangkok Skytrain BTS
Bangkok Skytrain BTS
bangkok_skytrain_bts_4

It’s no secret that Bangkok has a traffic problem, and traveling between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. can be frustrating and time consuming as you become lost in a series of traffic jams. However, there is an alternative that can make traveling through the city easy and enjoyable.
The Bangkok Mass Transport System – usually called the BTS or Skytrain – began operation on December 5, 1999. It is an elevated metro, consisting of two lines and 23 stations. For people wishing to explore the center of Bangkok, the Skytrain offers a fast, pollution-free service and a different vantage point.

The average journey costs 10-30 baht, much cheaper than a taxi or tuk-tuk. The automatic ticket machines only take 5 and 10 baht coins, so take plenty of change if you want to avoid queuing at the change counter. You can also purchase a day ticket, which offers unlimited trips for just 120 baht.

Called Rot Fai Fah in Thai – car with fire up in the air – the Skytrain connects with areas such as Siam, Sukhumvit and Silom. The best way to experience the Skytrain from Khaosan Road is to take the ferry from pier 13 to Saphan Taksin, which connects with the last stop on the Silom line. It is good to note that the stations on the Skytrain use a slightly different phonetic spelling to usually seen on maps and signs around Bangkok. Try saying the words aloud and if they sound similar then you’re on the right track.

Here’s a break down of what you can find at each stop:

Silom Line

Saphan Taksin: Journey starts here. Follow the signs from the river up the steps and purchase your ticket.

Surasak: Not much here, but there are some good, cheap restaurants.

Chong Nonsi: Close to the Thai Immigration Bureau on Soi Suan Phlu (Sathorn soi 3).

Sala Daeng: (Interchange with MRT). This is the stop for Patpong, where you can barter in the market or slip into one of the bars for livelier entertainment. Stop here for Convent Road.

Ratchadamri: Stop here for elevated views of the horse racing track, or some of the swankier hotels such as the Regent Hotel.

Siam (Central Station): Bangkok’s main shopping district. Siam Square, Siam Centre, Discovery Center, Paragon and MBK are all close by.

National Stadium: End of the Silom Line. Jim Thompson’s House is a short walk from here.

Wongwian Yai: Gets you over the river and closer to some of the main tourism sites.

Sukhumvit Line

Mo Chit (Morchit): A good way to get to Chatuchak park and market. Suan Rot fai, the park behind Chatuchak, is also worth exploring. Connects with the North-East Bus Terminal and MRT.

Saphan Khwai: Stop here for Thai-style bars and go-go bars.

Aree: Villa Market Complex can provide food for homesick palets, as can the range of restaurants and cafes.

Sanam Pao: Means ‘Shooting Field’ in Thai.

Victory Monument: Stop here for live music at the Saxophone Pub, or explore the stalls dotted around this area.

Phaya Thai: Here you will find some restaurants offering delicious Isaan food. Look out for ‘Tee Sud Isaan Inter Restaurant’.

Ratchathewi: This is the stop for Panthip Plaza and the Pratunam Shopping Center, which has a good international food court.

Siam (Central Station): Change for the Silom line to go back to Khaosan Road.

Chit Lom: Stop here for up market shopping centers such as Amarin Plaza, Gaysorn Plaza and Central World Plaza.

Ploen Chi: There is a sky bridge connecting to the pedestrian bridge next to the British Embassy.

Nana: Home of Nana Plaza, and the main soi with its inviting neon-clad bars as well as Nana Hotel and Landmark Hotel.

Asok (Asoke): Interchange with MRT. Stop here for Soi Cowboy.

Phrom Phong: The Emporium is here and you can also explore The Queen’s Park (Benja Siri Park).

Tong Lo (Tong Lor): Soi Tong Lo (Sukhumvit 55) has a wide range of bars just waiting to be explored. Check out The Robin Hood Pub, Wiches Tavern and Coliseum Brew Arena.

Ekkamai: Connects with the Eastern Bus Terminal. The Science Museum here is worth visiting.

Phra Khanong: Get off here for the Hua Mark Stadium.

Om Nut: Closest stop to Suvarnapoomi airport – for now, at least.

See the BTS website

Bangkok Underground – MRT

Bangkok Underground - MRT
Bangkok Underground - MRT
Bangkok Underground - MRT

The relatively recent addition of the Mass Rapid Transit network (MRT) has made traveling around Bangkok much easier and dramatically decreased the amount of traffic on the roads.

The MRT (also known as the Bangkok Subway or Bangkok Metro) is known as Rot FAI Die Din in Thai; ‘car with fire under ground’. It was opened by HM King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit at 19:19 on July 3rd, 2004.

The MRT is particularly useful for people traveling to/from Hualomphong Station as it runs from there round in a horseshoe shape to Bang Sue, which is also located next to a railway station.

The MRT comprises 18 stations and intersects with the BTS at three points: Chatuchak Park, Silom and Sukhumvit. It is impossible to get lost on the underground as there is only one line. Some of the most frequently visited stops include Kamphaeng Phet, Chatuchak Park, Silom, Asok (Sukhumvit) and Lumpini.

Single journeys are quite cheap, costing 15 baht for one station, whilst a ticket from one end of the line to the other costs 39 baht and takes about 25 minutes. You can also buy san unlimited one day pass for 120 baht, a three day pass for 230 baht and a thirty day pass for 800 baht. It is a good idea to carry a supply of 5 and 10 baht coins for the automatic ticket machines. You will be issued with a plastic disk, which you lightly press against the barrier to gain admittance.

The trains can carry 40,000 passengers an hour in each direction and arrive every five minutes during peak times – 07:00-09:00, 16:00-19:00 – and every seven minutes at non-peak times. There are also TV screens and soft music to entertain you while you wait.

Although traveling on the MRT is quite simple, you may want to bear the following tips in mind:

The MRT is air conditioned throughout, and sometimes gets so cold that it feels as though it were designed by polar bears! Take a sweater if traveling more than a couple of stops.

If you are visiting Lumpini Park, do not get of at Lumpini Station but exit at Silom Station instead. Lumpini Station is close to Lumpini Stadium and the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Phaholyothin Station, rather than Lad Phrao Station, is also the closest station to Central Lad Phrao.

Bangkok Underground - MRTAlthough Chatuchak Park Station is the closest station to Chatuchak Park, Kamphaeng Phet Station is the most convenient station for Chatuchak Weekend Market (J. J. Market).

It is worth bearing in mind that the Thailand Cultural Center Station is actually quite a distance from the Thailand Cultural Center. Visitors to the center may want to get a taxi from the station.

See the MRT website.

Denis Hemakom, 808 Club, Royal City Avenue (RCA), Bangkok, Thailand

808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
royal_city_avenue_808_2
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand

On RCA, we spoke to Denis Hemakom. Denis has the luxury of being a partner of 808 Club, which a quick sound check with a young Thai club fanatic we know confirmed, is “the hottest place on RCA”. 100% Thai, yet a native of Washington DC, we could find nobody better to give us an insight into the club scene in Bangkok, RCA in particular, and what exactly brought Grandmaster Flash to town.

What attracts the planet’s peripatetic youth to Thailand’s capital? For many, their quest is of a spiritual nature; a quest for discovery – to find people different to themselves and situations they would never encounter back home; to learn and to grow… and, of course, to take in some of Bangkok’s “kickass nightlife”. But with all of this passion for discovery abounding, you can sometimes wonder if the KSR “decompression chamber” actually has a safety net around it. It’s sad to say, but many a traveler on KSR never actually makes it further than the police station of an evening. Some of those that do venture out only get as far as Rambutrri Road, where they fill their journals with vivid descriptions of their “taste of Bangkok the traveling masses rarely encounter”. Well, as Ricky Fitts said, “Never underestimate the power of denial”. With a philosophy that aspires to get people off Khao San Road, KhaoSanRoad.com had to intervene. We took a look around to find something worth getting off the strip for – and we came up with RCA.

On RCA, we spoke to Denis Hemakom. Denis has the luxury of being a partner of 808 Club, which a quick sound check with a young Thai club fanatic we know confirmed, is “the hottest place on RCA”. 100% Thai, yet a native of Washington DC, we could find nobody better to give us an insight into the club scene in Bangkok, RCA in particular, and what exactly brought Grandmaster Flash to town.

RCA started life as a failed investment – a street full of shop front offices that were finished just in time to greet a massive downturn in Bangkok’s real estate market. The area’s fortunes
turned when a couple of Thai pop stars bought up some of the offices and opened them up as cafes/bars. Through their fame, and their choice of local bands as entertainment, they encouraged an immediately loyal clientele. When members of the government raised their eyebrows at role models as purveyors of alcohol fueled entertainment, the pop stars sold up, but RCA’s fame as an ‘alternative’ venue remained. The rest, as they say, is history.

Compare RCA (or ‘Royal City Avenue’ by its proper, but now somewhat outmoded name) and KSR, and you might be entering the Twilight Zone. To imagine what it is like, take KSR, shake off all the travel agents, hotels and guesthouses, and you are left with the clubs and entertainments venues. Now, add a genuine club culture with top local and international acts, and you have RCA. What’s curious in the comparison is that RCA caters to a local market with acts like Grandmaster Flash and Ed Banger, while KSR, where the bulk of visitors might have at even heard of DJs of this magnitude, in general, does not. Why then aren’t legions of die hard clubbers heading from KSR to RCA as part of their Bangkok itinerary? We ventured to 808 Club to find out.

808

We enter a dimly lit 808 Club – clothed in black ‘808’ t-shirts, the club’s bar staff and security receive a military-style briefing in preparation for tonight’s big act – the DJ legend Grandmaster Flash. Opposite, Grandmaster Flash’s crew are setting up turntables and checking sound levels. It’s all go in here tonight, but despite the backdrop of industrial efficiency, we get a warm and generous greeting from a calm and relaxed looking Denis Hemakom. A Thai-American, Denis looks a lot younger than his 32 years.

KSR: So, how long have you been in Thailand?

Denis: I was brought up in the US, but I came to Thailand often, and I moved here full-time 4 and half years ago.

KSR: And were you involved in the US club scene?

Denis: Actually, I was involved in the bio-tech industry, but I also used to run DJ events and parties on the side. We used to do things like throw a party in the desert 2 or 3 hours out of San Diego – that’s when I was living in California.

KSR: In the desert? That’s sounds like a lot of organizing?

Denis: Not really – these weren’t ‘Burning Man’ type events. There’s a plateau in the desert we called ‘Fat Man’s Crack’ which was this huge crack in the ground that tapered off into something the size of a footpath. We’d set up speakers and we’d have about 400 people there. They were pretty intimate affairs.

KSR:
You obviously know your stuff – so the first question should be about the club scene in the US and the club scene in Thailand; are they at all similar?

Denis: Totally different. In the States a venue might be just a bar and a dance floor. It might even be a warehouse. There the focus is on the music – here people want the package; the sofa to sit on, the table to have their drinks – that’s part of the club experience. I am not saying one is better than the other – both are unique.

KSR: So where does 808 fit in?

Denis: We looked at Astra (the former name of the club) and thought hard about where it went wrong, and how we could fill the holes. Yes, it’s a compromise between a US club and a Thai-style club – we have tables, but not so many, and we have a dance floor. We really feel like we have created a genuine international club here. Our biggest investment was the sound system – if it’s not the best, it’s equal to the best in Thailand.

(A post interview walkabout around RCA revealed some clubs in the area, like Denis said, had an intriguing nature. One of the wings of Route 66 typified what Denis was talking about – rows and rows of school desk-sized tables where you’d expect a dance floor. The advantage though was punters had plenty of room to house dispensers the size of mini-beer kegs, each holding about 5 liters of ‘Vodka and soda’ – very handy, if potentially life threatening.)

KSR: And what about the music?

Denis: To be honest, the ‘cutting edge’ in Bangkok might really only be what the ‘Top 40’ clubs might play in the US. The House is the same as the US, but there’s no real Hip-Hop hardcore here.

KSR: Do the locals really understand the music?

Denis: Not in the same sense someone in the US might – not really, but the changes are encouraging. When we opened 6 months ago and we had a big name in, I’d send pictures back home and my friends would say, ‘Is that Thailand?’ – they’d just see rows of white faces with maybe a couple of Asians – a similar dynamic to clubs in some parts of the US. We had ‘DJ Nu-Mark’ here and he said the same thing – he felt he might as well have been playing in the US. But even in the short time we have been open – 6 months – there have been changes. Now when we bring in a big name we can expect much closer to a 50/50 split between Thais and foreigners. Regular nights, it’s a typically Thai scene, but at events like Grandmaster Flash – well, you’ll see tonight.

(And although it was probably more 40-60 loaded in the favor of foreigners, he was closer to the mark than we expected.)

KSR:
So, in the West a lot of ‘youth culture’ – for want of a better word – comes from grassroots, the streets, and works its way up to mainstream. Here in Thailand the music on the streets is the music farmers listen to in the Northeast of Thailand, or Ad Carabao-type ‘Songs for Life’ music – which is never heading for mainstream. If club music doesn’t have any roots in Thailand, can it ever be anything more than fashion here? I mean, let’s face it – the people who come to your club are pretty well off.

Denis: Maybe, but the people who come to 808 don’t come here because they are rich; they come here because they like the club and the music we play. Yes, the people into this music have traditionally been pretty well off in Thailand – they’ve studied abroad, they have done an MA at college in New York or Washington, but they’ve grown an understanding and appreciation for the music. They have brought it back, and they have made it accessible to people in Thailand. Bands like Thaitanium – they spent a long time in New York. Clubs like Route, Slim, Santika sprung up to cater for the demand or adjusted their format, all
big opulent places – where we fit in is by providing something a bit different. Yes, we want to make money – but we also want to be accessible. We could charge 1,000 Baht ($35) at the door for Grandmaster Flash, but we are not, we’re charging 700 Baht ($21). Like you said, in the US things start at the street and work their way up, while here there has been a trickle down. We play a part in educating people so that they start to feel going to a club is a good way to spend their time. We want people to come regularly, not just for events.

KSR: In your opinion, what does RCA have to offer?
Denis: It offers some really great clubs – Route 66, Flix, Slim, House of Bangkok, 808 of course – they are all good places. It also offers diversity – down the road you have ‘Old Leung’ – it’s a rock venue. There are clubs here full of students dancing to local pop music. You get live bands down here. Some good places to eat. Also, it’s an Entertainment Zone – that means we get a license to do this and we can legitimately stay open until 2:00 a.m. We’re still going when you get kicked out of most places in Bangkok.

KSR: It’s clear RCA has a genuine club culture and you have international acts here that Westerners and others might already know, so why aren’t there legions of clubbers coming down from KSR?

Denis: We have asked the same question and didn’t really come up with an answer. Perhaps it’s the distance in uncharted territory…

KSR: You mean they’re shit scared?

Denis: (smiles) Or perhaps they are in Thailand and they don’t want that sort of thing – perhaps they came here to get away from clubs. We tried piggybacking a few acts down there (KSR) when they came to Astra, but it didn’t really work out. Who knows – if you find out the answer let me know! (smiles)

KSR: Would it be a good thing? Herds of foreigners in a traditionally Thai scene?

Denis: Anything that gets people to see more of Thailand has to be a good thing.

KSR: OK – RCA, Bangkok. Why Grandmaster Flash?

Denis: Well – it’s personal!

KSR: So this is just for you?

Denis: (smiles) Right – you see in this job I have had the opportunity to meet some of my heroes. Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier – as I was growing up Grandmaster Flash was the man. He was just – you know… a hero. So, yes this is just for me, but it’s also a safe bet. We’re going to sell out tonight – it’s not a problem.

KSR: Aren’t you worried about too many old people turning up with walking frames or electric wheelchairs?

“Yes – they’ve been on the phone all day today”, interrupted Dave, Denis’ British partner.

KSR: Have they been asking ‘Is it the real Grandmaster Flash?’

Dave: That’s right!

KSR: So what’s the next big thing at 808 after Grandmaster Flash?

Denis: Ed Banger August 2 – it’s the one we’ve had the most requests for.

KSR: OK – well good luck tonight and good luck with Ed Banger.

Denis:
Thanks.

Three hours later, Grandmaster Flash was making people make some noise and work up a sweat that could only have meant bar receipts for the evening were pretty good. It was a good night, and despite Dave’s worst fears, a packed house wielded not a single walking frame and no fire risk bylaws were broken. Strange how things change and stay the same. I guess quality always does and Grandmaster Flash played an awesome set. Although it lacked some of the presence his earlier days mustered, it was still powerful. But what’s to compare – there was nothing when Grandmaster Flash started off, so of course he was going to be amazing then. OK – it wasn’t the 80s, but Grandmaster Flash in Bangkok? Has to be awesome enough!

If you ever feel like venturing off KSR and ending up at RCA, probably the best way is get a taxi to Hualumpong Railway station and catch the MRT. Get off at Praram 9 station, and get out of the station on the ‘True Head Office’ side (you will see the signs). From there, take another taxi to RCA. Yes, there is a bus route, but you don’t want to bother late at night – bear in mind RCA is a late venue… things really don’t really get going until around 10:30-11:00 pm.

Tip: Leave before 2:00 am. When the masses move onto the street, getting a taxi is a bitch, and at that time of night you aren’t going to find another way back to KSR easily.

If you want to know more about 808 Club visit their website.

Hospitals in Bangkok

BNH Hospital, Bangkok, ThailandThe number of people flying to Bangkok to receive major surgery testifies to the fact that its hospitals – both private and government – are world class. If you are in Bangkok and cost is a problem head to Chulalongkorn University Hospital, Rama IV Road (Tel: 0-2252-8181). It’s a government hospital with some of the best doctors in town. If you need to get to a hospital in Bangkok quickly, Bangkok Adventist Mission Hospital is closest to Khao San Road. Get there by ordinary bus #11, 12, 44 or airbus #44. If it’s an absolute emergency get in a taxi and tell the driver this: ‘By rong-payabaan mi-shun row-row’. Click here for hospitals around Thailand.

 


Here’s a quick list of hospitals in Bangkok:

Phyathai 1 Hospital
364 Sri-Ayudhaya Road.,
Rajhathevi Bangkok 10400
Tel: 0-22452620-1, 0-2642-7373
Fax: 0-2245-5488 Phyathai 2 Hospital
943, Phaholyothin Road,
Samsenni, Bangkok 10400
Tel: 0-2617-2444 ( Automatic 100 line)
Fax: 0-2271-2306

Phyathai 2 Hospital
943, Phaholyothin Road,
Samsenni, Bangkok 10400
Tel: 0-2617-2444 ( Automatic 100 line)
Fax: 0-2271-2306

Phyathai 3 Hospital
207/26 Phetkasem Road.,
(Phetkhasem 19/3),
Pakklong, Phasricharoen Bangkok 10160
Tel: 0-2869-1111

Bangkok Hospital
(formerly known as Bangkok General Hospital)
2 Soi Soonvijai 7
New Petchburi Road
Bangkok 10320
Tel: 0-2310-3101/3102
Fax: 0-2310-3367

Bangna Hospital Km. 3
Bang Na-Trat Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2393-8534-5
Fax: 0-2398-9531

Bumrungrad Hospital
33 Sukhumvit Soi 3 Wattana
Bangkok 10110
Tel: 0-2667-1000
Fax: 0-2667-2525

Central General Hospital
362/114 Pahonyothin Road
Bang Khen, Bangkok
Tel: 0-2552-8777
Fax: 0-2552-0666

Lad Prao Hospital
2699 Lad Prao Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2530-2244
Fax: 0-2935-0021

Dental Hospital (Dental only)
88/88 Soi 49, Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok
Tel 0-2260-5000
Fax: 0-2260-5026

Nonthavej Hospital
30/8 Ngarm Wong Wan Road
Bangkok
Tel: 589-5489-91
Fax: 589-8753

Mongkutwattana General Hospital
34/40 Chaeng Wattana Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2574-1000-1
Fax: 0-2574-4856

Pakkred Vejchakarn General Hospital (Government Hospital)
132/215 Chaeng Wattana Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2960-9655-9
Fax: 0-2960-9666 Police Hospital
Rama I Road.
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2252-8111-25

Ramkhamhaeng Hospital
2138 Soi 34, Ramkhamhaeng Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2374-0200-16
Fax: 0-2732-3977

Rajavithi General Hospital (Government Hospital)
Rajavithi Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2281-1246
Fax: 0-2246-8270

Saint Louis Hospital
215 Sathorn Tai Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2675-5000
Fax: 0-2675-5200 Samitivej Hospital
133 Soi 49, Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2392-0011-9
Fax: 0-391-1290

Samitivej-Srinakarin Hospital
Bangkok
488 Srinakarin Road
Tel: 0-20-2731-7000 Samitivej Hospital
133 Soi 49, Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2392-0011-9
Fax: 0-391-1290

Thai Nakarin Hospital
345 Bang Na-Trat Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2361-2712-61
Fax: 0-2361-2788 Thonburi Hospital
34/1 Soi Saeng Suksa (Soi 44)
Issarapharp Road
Thonburi
Tel: 0-2412-0020-7
Fax: 0-2412-7343

Vibhavadi General Hospital
51/3 Ngarm Wong Wan Road
Bangkok
Tel: 0-2561-1258-67
Fax: 0-2561-1466 Bangpo General Hospital
95 Pracharat 2 Road
Bangsue, Bangkok 10800
Tel: 0-2662-587-0144
Fax: 0-2586-0024

Suvarnabhumi Airport


Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand

The Thai authorities wanted to sell Suvarnabhumi (pronounced su-wan-na-poom) Airport as Asia’s new international hub and gateway to the region. They wanted to make an impression and they succeeded, despite over-running and a few difficulties. Located 25km east of Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, from an old Sanskrit word meaning ‘Golden Land’, is grand. It’s not the biggest nor will it be the busiest airport in the world but it is a grand gesture from a country keen to be a serious global player in the transport sector.

It boasts the tallest control tower and the biggest single terminal in the world. Maximum capacity runs to 45 million passengers a year – less than Heathrow, with almost 70 million international passengers, but with room to grow. There are plans for a further two runways and another terminal which, combined, would take total capacity to around 100 million.

The airport is built on an 8000 acre site formally known as ‘Cobra Swamp’ that took five years of land reclaiming in order to get ready for construction, which finally started in early 2002.

So what’s it like?

The architects (Murphy/Jahn) have really created a great atmosphere with Suvarnabhumi and you get a great feeling of openness and space the moment you enter. It’s light, spacious and feels relaxing; a breath of fresh air compared to the previous airport interntational airport, Don Muang. It’s definitely conducive to a calming travel experience.

On entering the airport it’s worth a look around and upwards. The structure is a maze of steel and glass, and enormous concrete pillars.

One point worth mentioning is the arrivals areas. They are smaller than I imagined given the amount of people coming through the arrivals gates at any one time and the amount of family and friends that usually gather.

Getting There and Away

Of interest to inhabitants of Khao San Road will be transport to and from Suvarnabhumi. Fast forward five or more years and the options will be plentiful; high speed underground train, specialised bus links etc. But for now the options are limited.

Leaving aside the expensive limousine service and transport provided by/for first class hotels there are two options at present; bus and taxi. The former being convoluted and the latter being pricey.

Getting the taxi from the airport is clearly cheaper than getting to the airport. Having checked with several taxi drivers at the airport the cost breaks down thus: 50 baht service charge (rumoured to be increased to 100 baht soon), about 65 baht expressway fees and between 300 and 400 baht on the meter, depending on time of day and traffic.

Basically they’re talking 500 baht all in. Traffic permitting it should be possible to do the journey to KSR in less than an hour There’s been some confusion concerning the amount of taxis licensed to enter the airport. Originally they were greatly limited but now the authorities have increased the number of licenses. They’ve also added a restriction on the age of taxis so only reasonably new taxis will be operating out of the airport; up to five years old is the figure being touted.

When I checked with the taxi drivers in KSR it was a different story. They are refusing to use the meter and asking 700 baht plus the expressway charge, and presumably a tip on top. Basically it’s going to cost you for around 800 baht. It might be better trying for a taxi off KSR, there’s more chance of the meter being used then.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, ThailandI asked around a few travel agents and it seems that no one is offering any kind of airport bus from KSR yet, but it’s surely only a matter of time before someone sets this up. It might be worth asking around all the same as I didn’t go to every one in the area and there might some enterprising guy already on the case.

A cheaper option is the bus. The BMTA say that the best way from KSR is to get the number 503 air-con from Rajdamnern Avenue to Victory Monument and then take the 551 air-con to the airport. Total cost for this option is less than 70 baht (just the bus fee).

Route details are below:

Public Bus Service to Bangkok and area

Bus Number 549 – Suvarnabhumi – Minburi
Bus Number 550 – Suvarnabhumi – Happy Land
Bus Number 551 – Suvarnabhumi – Victory Monument (Expressway)
Bus Number 552 – Suvarnabhumi – On Nut BTS station
Bus Number 553 – Suvarnabhumi – Samut Prakan
Bus Number 554 – Suvarnabhumi – Don Muang Airport (Expressway)

Public Bus Service to other provinces

Bus Number 389 – Suvarnabhumi – Pattaya
Bus Number 390 – Suvarnabhumi – Talad Rong Kluea
Bus Number 825 – Suvarnabhumi – NongKhai

Buses aren’t allowed to the passenger terminal, they drop you at the Public Transportation Centre and there’s a free shuttle bus which will drop you outside the airport, and make the return journey on arrival. The airport is well signed so finding the bus pick-up/drop off point isn’t difficult.

Whilst the bus is pleasantly cheap it does have the disadvantage of taking a lot longer, being much more inconvenient and a real pain, especially if you have a lot of luggage to carry.

There is also the option of a combo of bus and taxi. Take a bus down to Sukhumvit, perhaps the no.11 air-con, and then grab a taxi. This might work out a hundred baht or so cheaper. Then there is cab sharing. If you find a few other guys heading out to the airport pitch in together and lessen the cost.

Try to avoid the ‘hey, what’s 800 baht in dollars/pounds/euros/shekels etc anyway’ attitude. These guys are taking advantage pure and simple and giving in to them hurts locals as well as other travellers. Once they set a figure as a norm then it sticks and everyone has to pay the price.

If, on arrival, you’re feeling particularly flush you could opt for the limousine service operated by Airports of Thailand. They have nearly 400 cars operating 24/7 from the limousine pick up area on the arrivals level.

Another expense worth mentioning is departure tax. At present it is 700 baht.

In a few years time the high speed underground train will link the airport to the existing sky train and underground networks making travel to and from the airport considerably easier and cheaper. But until then, unless you’re lucky enough to have someone meet you or take you, it’s the options listed above.

Suvarnabhumi definitely makes entering and leaving Thailand a pleasurable experience.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Map