Thailand

Entry Info

Niras Bankoc-Boutique Hostel&CoffeeFor finishing off the Bangkok series, I’d like to introduce a hostel which I stayed at for a week. Using hostelworld.com, I found Niras Bankoc-Boutique Hostel&Coffee which had got very high ratings from the user reviews. Besides, the fact that it had few bad reviews gave me an even better impression of them. And in reality, it was so comfortable to stay there and I would definitely come back if I had the chance to go to Bangkok again.

The hostel is located at the old city area which is surrounded by many temples and it took about 20 minutes to Khao San Street on foot. Actually there are a lot of hostels near Khao San but the area is very noisy as Khao San is a very busy street. On the other hand, Niras Bankoc is situated at a quiet local area and we wouldn’t be bothered by any noises. However, the location could be only one minor point as well because so local is the hostel situated that no taxi drivers are able to find there. I suppose taxi drivers in Bangkok don't know about the roads well but anyway you must keep a guide map to the hostel which is provided at the reception.

I always use hostelworld.com to find hostels because it's actually not really popular in Japan. In other words few Japanese would stay at hostels from the site. As I expected, Niras Bankoc had visitors mainly from Europe and I rarely saw Asians there. This made me feel like I was in a foreign country. However, very surprisingly the owner of the hostel can speak Japanese reasonably well. According to him, he used live in Japan as an exchange student for a year. He said to me that he would like to have more Japanese visitors there.

In terms of the quality of the rooms, I totally agreed with the reviews. I stayed in a 4 bed dorm room which was not really big but I was sure the room was absolutely safe and clean. I guess most of the visitors, who prefer staying in a rather quiet hostel, are actually polite and friendly. And the building was spotlessly clean. In Thailand, where the idea of sanitation doesn't really exist, the cleanness of the hostel was notable.

I must also mention the café on the first floor.. The photo on the top of this entry is there and it has a very modern Asian style. On the hot days I stayed in Bangkok, I always ordered big green tea frappe and sat on the chair for long time. Besides there is free Wi-Fi available for the hostel's visitors and you can use the Internet as much as you want if you have your own laptop. Actually, I wrote a lot of this blog there.

The price tag of 500 baht approx. is quite expensive compared with the Bangkok's market price. However, Niras Bankoc, which refers to itself as a Boutique Hostel and receives many good reviews, was absolutely accommodating and worth the extra cost. Highly recommended.

Entry Info

19th (Tue)
Jan 2010

[day7] Ayutthaya Short Trip

Ayutthaya Short TripOn this day, I decided to go to Ayutthaya which was reasonably close to Bangkok and famous for the ancient temples. Although there were some one day tours from Bangkok city, according to my research, I could hire a tuku-tuku and make a sort of private tour around the area. The market price of it was 200 baht per hour. Considering I was going to stay there for a half day, it would cost 800 baht. As I was travelling alone, the total cost of the private trip is not really different from the price tag of an organised tour which was about 1000 baht but I rather chose the private trip in favour of the flexibility and spontaneity. The train set off from Bangkok Central train station.

Local Train to Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Short TripThere were two types of trains available: an express train with a light meal which takes an hour to Ayutthaya and cost 400 baht for a single trip or a local train which takes about 2 hours and cost 15. Without any doubts, I chose local. I believe, local trains would be more interesting and thought provoking if we travel only a few hours as we can legally intrude on local people's life on the train and I had felt the same thing when I'd been to the local market. The train went through a sort of slum area and the view from the window was gradually changing to rural landscapes. I saw people living in small huts which looked like garbage bins and swimming in a black colour river. An old man, who in fact had lost one of his legs, was mumbling something in front of me on the train. I had known there were a lot of people like them while I'm travelling as a First Class Backpacker. I didn't want to make a simple donation with cheap instant compassion but wished there would be no poverty in the world. But meanwhile I also wondered how many people can actually live upon this planet.

Negotiation for Tuku-Tuku

While these complicated ideas had been occupying my thoughts, the train had arrived at a big station and many people got off from the train. I asked a lady next to me 'Ayutthaya?' and she simply nodded. Yes, it was Ayutthaya station. Once I walked into the street from the station, a group of toutes approached me. Every 3 meters, they tried to catch me for their tuku-tuku. However, I had information that it was better to go to the opposite side of the river by ferry and I could make a negotiation more smoothly there. I just ignored the toutes and walked for while, I found a tuku-tuku driver and tried to talk to him.

"I want to go to some temples." "Oh, I can go to these places." The driver showed off some postcards to me. He knew how to deal with tourists and I was excited at the photos of the old temples. "How much?" "200 baht per hour. It's a rule." I showed him my watch and suggested, "What about 600 until 5." At the time, the watch showed 1:15. In other words, I asked an extra of 45 minutes. During the conversation, the other tuku-tuku drivers had been coming by and the driver who hadn't wanted to miss a customer led me on the backseat of his tuku-tuku and started driving. After a few minutes we started negotiation again. "OK, 300 baht per hour." "What!? You told me 200 just before!" Well, it was very hard to tolerate their ripping off attitudes. "OK, I get off. Bye-bye." I tried to get up from the seat. "Oh, sorry 200 actually" I was sure he didn't feel sorry at all. "Well, what about 600 until 5" "Uh, yes, OK. I take you to the station at 5 and 600 baht" The negotiation finished sooner than I expected. I guess it was just 20% off and hit a reasonable line for him.

Upgraded?

Ayutthaya Short TripThe tuku-tuku which had only one passenger started driving again on the country road. The seat was simple and stiff. The roof was just made as a cover from the sunshine. However the breeze which hit my cheeks was absolutely delightful. Humming a song I was pondering on a Japanese road movie when suddenly the tuku-tuku stopped at a weird spot. The driver's wife got out from the passenger seat and walked into a normal car. The driver told me that I should go with his wife in the car because he was worried about the weather. It was actually cloudy weather but I suspected he wanted to make use of his tuku-tuku. I was only one passenger on the tuku-tuku which was capable of loading 6 people. He must have intended to go to another business afterwards. Confirming that I would pay only 600 whichever the vehicle was, I got into the car.

Ayutthaya Short TripThe tour was well arranged by the wife. She at first showed me one of the postcards on which was drawn the first destination and ignited the engine. After 5 minutes of driving, we arrived at the first temple. She would wait for me and what I needed to do was simply come back to her place after I finished the sightseeing. It was a really easy trip indeed. By chance I saw a group of tourists organised by a Japanese tour agency and they seemed to have a very precise schedule. On the other hand I was totally flexible as long as I cared about the return trip train. What is more, after the walking under the strong sunshine, an air-conditioned Mitsubishi Lancer was awaiting for me. The backseat on a decent car which had got cushion seats was comfortable enough. I actually appreciated the strange upgrade.

Impressions of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Short TripBy the way, I almost forgot to mention about my impression of the temples. In fact it was the most impressive place of my stay in Thailand. There were not too many tourists around and I could observe the temples thoroughly. And most importantly, the scenery was absolutely incredible. I felt like as if I was in a different world even though Ayutthaya was only 2 hours away from Bangkok. Besides, if you know "tiger shot (not from Tiger Woods)" the reclining Buddha would make you mumbling the word. It was a very funny place.

Trap Again

Ayutthaya Short TripNevertheless, a huge trap was waiting at the end of the day. When I was looking around an old deserted temple which had no visitors apart from me, I heard some dogs barking. Actually, they were running after me! No joking, Thai wild dogs tried to attack me. I felt a real danger about my life and dashed to a shop at the entrance. The sales lady managed to get rid of the dogs but my camera hit the ground severely as I was utterly in hurry. Seriously, be careful about dogs in Thailand. They basically don’t have leashes. It was a really traumatic moment similar to an incident that occurred many years ago. A little consolation was that my D300 still works well even with some scratches from the accident.

Entry Info

16th (Sat)
Jan 2010

[day5] Bangkok Temple Tour

Bangkok Temple TourAs I thought 'maybe I should go more sightseeing.', I decided walking around the famous temples nearby. There are plenty of view spots around my accommodation and I took a full day private walking tour for old temples.

Grand Palace

Bangkok Temple TourI firstly visited the Grand Palace since it looked like the most famous one. Although one strange guy said to me, 'Grand Palace not opened! From 13:00!' when the view of the building appeared in front of my sight, I simply ignored him. Actually, it was opene indeed. You must not believe strangers even if someone talks to you on a street. The entrance fee for the palace was 350 baht. Considering one full meal would cost 100 baht only, this is quite a nice deal but I had to admit that it was a tourist spot and paid it. Incidentally, they have a strict dress code at the Buddhist temples in Thailand. You won't be allowed to enter the site and have to rent a special costume if you expose your knees or shoulders. It should be safe to wear clothes which cover a reasonable area of your skin even if it's too hot outside.

Bangkok Temple TourThe Grand Palace was a classic tourist spot. Although the actual site was quite large, there were too many tourists, including myself, to observe the buildings and statues. Maybe I should have learnt more Thai history but honestly I couldn't really enjoy it there. Well, one interesting thing was a group of local girl students who talked to me in English. In Japan we have a custom like this. When you are on a school trip, you have to challenge your English by talking to foreigners to ask for a photo shoot with them. It was a funny moment as I didn't know this custom exists apart from Japan and I also asked to take a photo of them.

Wat Pho

Bangkok Temple TourAfter the Grand Palace, I went to Wat Pho which is famous for the big Reclining Buddha. The entrance fee was a humble 50 baht. There were not many tourists except for around the Reclining Buddha, and I could look around the area with calm. Typically, the arrays of golden Buddha statues along the walls were absolutely magnificent. I was totally captivated with the mysterious view of the Buddha statues repeated again and again on the dark corridors. I'd prefer here to the Grand Palace as it's nicely quiet and many spots to see.

Wat Arun

Bangkok Temple TourThe next was Wat Arun which is famous for its steeple located on the other side of the river. You could use a tourist ship for some hundred baht but the owner of my accommodation recommended me using a local ferry which cost only 3 baht for a single trip. The information from honest local people is always appreciated. I could climb up to the steeple there but the steps were incredibly steep. I had to grip the handle very tightly and in fact found a sense of vertigo. Nevertheless, the view of the Bangkok old city from the middle of the steeple was spectacular and worth trying to climb up.

Bangkok Temple TourWell, I travelled through the main sightseeing spots in Bangkok pretty much in a day. But I had ample days in Thailand and I started considering going to Ayutthaya when I was eating dinner of Thai fried rice and fruit shake.

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