Updated: Feb2013

Bangkok for Beginners - "Don't judge a city by its reputation"

By Wendy Merrett, September 2012

September 2012 and at the grand old age of 32 and 89/122 I head to

Bangkok for the first time. I must admit I am not sure what to expect. I am thinking of dirty, smoggy and definitely noisy cities, busy.... oh and sleazy and quite possibly a bit scary. In fact I’m hoping that we will be in and out as long as it takes to get our Myanmar visa.

But then as we are heading from the airport into the centre of Bangkok and on to the backpacker central area that is the Khao San Road something doesn’t feel quite right. The roads are busy but bizarrely quiet. I think that maybe I have gone deaf, then it hits me - nobody is beeping their horns! Not only that, cars slow down and even stop when you try to cross the road! What is this place?? A million miles away from Hanoi and Saigon that’s for sure.

I’d read about the Khao San Road and heard that it was a bit of a party central, happy hours, 24 hour McDonalds etc and not really my cup of tea,

but it is where the cheap places to stay are. In fact we didn’t stay on the road itself, we stayed across the street over Thanon Samsen on Soi Rambuttri, where it was quieter and cheaper. And we didn’t eat there; it’s actually a lot more expensive. And we didn’t drink there; again it’s a lot more expensive. We didn’t even shop their suspecting that the 7-eleven adds on a Khao San tax! It baffles me why the place is so busy yet so much more expensive that the parallel roads. But who am I to judge? It just means that there is more space in the cheap places for the rest of us!

A short walk along Thanon Samsen and over the canal takes you to a

lovely quiet area with small bars and cafes. You could almost be in a European city. This is not what I expected and I find myself beginning to quite like Bangkok. As with any capital it is a city with many sides, the tourist places, the cheap bars, the shopping malls and the parts that you are best to avoid. As long as you know where you are going Bangkok has got a lot to offer.

My favourite past time becomes travelling on the river ferry. Sometimes because we need to get somewhere and other times just for the ride. For

15 baht you get to see some great sites and watch the commuters go about their daily life away from the busy roads. There are also a number of really interesting sites and temples. Although the palace is quite pricey at 400 baht it is quite a stunning building. I was a bit put out that my pashmina wasn’t enough cover for my shoulders so I had to hire a lovely blue shirt, but customs are customs and I didn’t want to miss walking around the temple and the palace grounds. The skyline is dotted with Wats (temples) including the Khmer influenced Wat Arun which you get a great view of from the river ferry. Chinatown is a great place to walk around and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city and of course get some good food. Now don’t get me wrong, some parts of Bangkok are still quite odd. Being served
by a miserable looking bloke in mini skirt and high heels takes some getting used to. My theory was they were jealous of my femininity, even though they had bigger boobs! And being shouted at as you walk down the street “Yoooooo waaaaan Maaasssssaaaagggggeeeeeeee” does grate after a little while. But the worst thing about Bangkok is not Bangkok but the tourists. Yes that is correct. Groups of westerners wandering down the street beer in hand, busking, juggling and flame throwing to pay for a bucket of cocktail and then heading off to the islands ‘to like trav
el man’ or actually to swing in a hammock and drink more buckets. Maybe I am getting old, maybe I am jealous that I can’t keep drinking until 8 in the morning anymore. Or maybe I’m just sad that they haven’t taken the time to get to know Bangkok a little better. Because do you know what, it ain’t that bad J

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In Thailand, elephants have traditionally worked with humans in the logging industry and as the trucks and heavy machinery of the day. When in 1989 the government officially banned all logging activity most of these elephant's went into the tourism industry, "trekking camps", circuses and wandering the streets of the big cities begging, are the new reality for these animals. Elephant's World was founded in 2008 to function as a 'retirement home' for elephants that have been injured during, or are too old to continue with, this type of work. We are a non-profit organization, meaning we are funded exclusively by visitors and donations and every cent we earn goes towards making our elephants lives as pleasant as possible and, of course, retiring new elephants.[more]

YMCA Bankgok
The YMCA is a world-wide recognised organisation. Get in touch with us to volunteer for Summer Camps and Enlgish Day Camps. [more]

Pattaya Orphange
In 1972, Rev. Fr. Raymond Allyn Brennan, a Redemptorist priest, was requested to go to help work at St. Nikolaus Church, Pattaya, temporarily, and one morning when he opened the church door he saw a newborn child left at the stairway front. Not knowing what to do, he took care of the child, asking his friends about “how to give milk and how to change the diaper”. News about the fostering of the child spread, resulting in more children being brought to give to him, most of whom were fruits of the presence of the U.S. military base at Sattahip. 
During the Vietnam War, Pattaya became a favorite place of the American servicemen who came for recreations, so there were a large number of abandoned children. A military officer and Father Ray consulted each other on how to find ways and means of aid. [more]

Lanta Animal Welfare
Lanata Animal Wlefare (LAW) is based on Koh Lanta in the south west of Thailand. LAW’s objective is to relieve the suffering and pain of the animals on the island through sterilisation and care. To date, we have sterilised and treated over 6,000 animals.
You can help us by: Adopting one of our friendly dogs or cats from Thailand (our animal adoption programme makes taking an animal from Thailand to your country a very simple process) and you will have given a beautiful animal the home it deserves. [more]

MAP Foundation
They come seeking employment, livelihood and, for some, refuge. Nearly all migrants from Burma support their families and communities in Burma by sending home money they earn in Thailand.  Migrants may also seek to establish a safe and stable life for their family in Thailand.  The military dictatorship of Burma denies the existence of this pattern of migration to Thailand and consequently fails to safely provide its people the necessary documentation to leave Burma or enter Thailand legally.  As a result, nearly all migration across the border to Thailand has been irregular and the migrants are completely undocumented. It is thus very difficult to estimate the number of migrants from Burma living and working in Thailand. The largest number of migrants from Burma to register for a temporary residence card was 921,492 in 2004, which probably only represents a third to a quarter of the total number of the migrants from Burma in Thailand. [more]

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Anek Kuson Sala
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