I accept that I can be a fussy traveller. I do like luxuries when I can get them, and will sometimes go somewhere more expensive if I’ve gone too long without them. However there are 3 things I judge accommodation by – and if I can’t get all 3, I can’t stay too long. Ideally I’d get all 3, but I can live with just 1 or 2. They are the Three S Words:
And yes, I’m just as surprised as you that my three things can be linked by a letter, live with it. Ironically, an optional fourth is ‘social’, but excluded on the grounds that I’ve never stayed somewhere solely for the company.
Simply put, I like to feel safe and clean, while getting a good nights sleep at the end of it. If a hostel can give me these 3 simple things I’m fine – they even outweigh WiFi, which I’m sure most of my friends will drop dead in faint over hearing.
Sadly, the Born Free Hostel is failing me in just about every aspect. Security? They only have the small lockers for valuables rather than the large ones that can fit my whole bag, and there’s no lock on the dorm room door – I don’t even get a key. Shower? Only cold (though from what I can tell in Thailand, that’s standard for hostels) which I can live with, but the bathroom is a ridiculous design that makes everything wet and makes no sense. Its been outfitted to be a shower room without putting any thought into what that actually entails. Sleep? This was the cincher – I woke up in the morning completely exhausted. The bed is hard and uncomfortable, and I could have slept another 8 hours if I’d had another bed.
I go to Chiang Mai tonight, but I’m supposed to be coming back here for 3 more nights afterwards. No way – if I can’t sleep or shower, and have issues with the security, I have to find somewhere else. There are literally hundreds of hostels in this area of Bangkok, one of them has to have a vacancy. Its kind of sad, because the people here are genuinely the nicest people, and they run a tour company as well, but this place and I just don’t click.
So that’s what I do with my morning, scout the area for hostels that look more appealing than my current. Find a few hopefuls, and when I head back, do some online booking and pick the Samsen Skyline Hostel. Its about 2 pounds more expensive a night, but looks like its well worth it.
With that done, I hop to my next order of business, shopping. After a month and a half of cold, and half a month of heat, my luggage is well and truly trashed. My bicycle shorts have finally fallen apart, my jeans were abandoned in Siem Reap (Chinese laundry ruined the jeans, though they were pretty near their expiration date when I left anyway, and its been too warm to wear anything more than a vest top to bed for weeks), and although I did bring some vest tops and normal tees, I am sick to death of the t-shirts I brought (and not particularly light for the sun anyway). And since Thailand is full of stalls filled with cheap clothes, I go out to refresh my gear for the sun.
First of all, I just head North up the main street (which I later learned was South, go figure) and found myself back on the street I’d been on the night before – my hostel was not far away at all, even the tuk tuk had taken a ludicrously long way. The market wasn’t as busy naturally, but plenty of the clothing stalls were set up.
However – this market seemed a little pricy to me. I’m sure you’re supposed to haggle, but I honestly had no idea what a person is supposed to pay, and nothing was properly catching my eye. Most of the tops I saw were pretty poor quality, so when I had my fill, headed back down towards my hostel again. There were stalls here too, and seemed a better price overall. Ended up buying another pair of bicycle shorts, 2 strappy vest tops, 1 blue vest top (which I later learned was a little too short sadly), and a pair of the classic backpacker ‘harem’ pants. Seriously, I think 90% of the westerners (and a few of the locals if I’m honest) have been wearing these things, normally in blue or red with elephants or sun designs on em. I was a little more eclectic and bought some stripy multicoloured ones instead. Think they look great – even though they’ll inevitably be relegated to the jammy/lounge around the house drawer when I hit Oz.
Sadly, once that was done I was a little at loss as to what I was meant to do. I’d gotten lax with my planning once I passed Vietnam and hadn’t actually looked up Bangkok at all. And everything looked as if you had to leave in the morning, or be willing to shell out some cash.
As such, I did kind of squander my day in Bangkok, lounging around (I know, shock horror – could have done that at home for a tenth of the price), and going out to explore the area. I did at least find something of interest with the help of a gentleman who wished me happy new year while I was walking around, and pointed me in the direction of a local temple. The Buddha temples were getting ready to celebrate New Years, so there were a lot of decorations and donation events going on.
This was the Wat Indra Vihern, and is supposedly near another temple with a reclining Buddha, but when I went in the direction pointed to me, ended up in a dead end on top of a bridge. A rather pretty bridge, but that was about it.
The area I’m in seems pretty nice at least. There’s plenty of shops, hostels, restaurants and just about everything else you could want. And its a stones throw from the very busy night market and a lot of tour companies. If I forget to plan something when I’m in Chiang Mai, I’ll have to focus and appreciate it properly when I come back.
When its time to head off, Born Free help me blag a taxi with a meter and I head off to the train station. Pay an incredibly tiny amount for it (you really DO need to haggle here…) and hop on my new accommodations.
When booking the Thai trains, I’d planned ahead and booked while in Russia 2 days after the ticket office opened up. I booked this early as I’d learned trains in Thailand quickly booked up around New Years and if you had to get from one place to another on a certain day, book early. You do pay an extra surcharge to the company, but its well worth it, considering that my first attempt was rejected as they were already fully booked after just 2 days, and I heard people at Born Free trying to book that day with no luck whatsoever. As such, I ended up in the second class upper bunk, since the seat51 website recommended them. Had heard horror stories about insects and the like, but just the way the beds were made seemed worth trying.
(The company I used by the way was Asia Discovery, part of the Royal Exclusive Travel company, and I can recommend them for communication – the office was closed before I arrived in Bangkok but they made sure to get the tickets to the hostel beforehand and let me know they’d been delivered).
In second class, you have 2 wide seats opposite each other (big enough for 2 people easily, and do so when its a ‘day’ train). You can slot a table between them when dining, but when night falls, the conductor gets you to move, and pulls the seats forward and dumps on a mattress before making up the bed. Then the cabinet above is pulled down, revealing another bed above, and each gets a curtain for privacy and to block out the light. As for the insects…I did spot a few small cockroaches but nothing obvious or terrifying. Ordered breakfast despite the price since we wouldn’t get in until 10, and then curled up for the night.