I'm setting off on a three month trip from mid-Sept. My girlfriend and I are due to spend 5 weeks in China, then she has to return for work while I continue to travel solo. I arrive late at night in Bangkok and plan to spend a couple of days there prior to heading to Cambodia (will probably fly into Phnom Penh).
I'm a little uneasy about turning up in Bangkok so late on my own so have booked into an airport hotel for the first night. My question is, is it worth spending much time as a lone traveller in Bangkok, and if so, any suggestions as to where to stay and what to do (I ought to mention I'm 34, so need to take it easy, some of the time!)? Also, does anyone have any recommendations for the places to stay and for how long in Cambodia? I'll be in Cambodia for about 2 weeks, prior to returning to Bangkok to fly onto Sydney.
Thanks in advance for your experiences and advice!
IMO 2 days is more than enough for Bangkok.
2 weeks for Cambodia sounds about right, too. Depending on what you want to get done obviously. I'd recommend a minimum of 3 days for Siem Reap, 2 for Phnom Penh, Battambang and trekking in the north east. You can get hostels for as little as a dollar if you look.
I was 34 too.....
Bangkok is a 24 hour city. Millions of tourists arrive late at night and head directly into the city. Unless you got the "real" expensive hotel at the airport, some of the hotels that are advertised as to "being close" to the airport are not that close but you are in areas not convenient to see the city from unless you pay for meter taxis.
When you say that you will arrive late at night at Suvarnabhumi - what time is late for you? There is a cheap rail service from the airport that is available until midnight. The price to get from the airport (Airport Rail Link) is only 45 baht to the Pratunam area. There are meter taxis that also leave from the airport 24 hours a day. They are regulated, fare depends on the meter. You pay toll charges during the ride - clearly posted at the toll booth, most tolls are 70 baht or less. You also pay a surcharge using the airport taxi that is 50 baht. No surcharge for taking a meter taxi back to the airport. Little old ladies traveling alone often use a meter taxi from the airport to get to their hotels in the city. Hotels are in all price ranges in Bangkok. Khao San Road has cheap accommodation as well as Sukhumvit and some in Siam area.
The Rail Link also meets up with the Skytrain and the subway. The subway can take you to the Hualamphong train station. Besides connecting with the Rail Link the Skytrain also connects with the Ekamai bus terminal. No Skytrain in the Khao San Road area if that is where you are planning on moving to after the airport hotel. When you need hotel recommendations for any city always mention a price range. Once you leave the Bangkok area you have fewer hostels but more guest houses and small no star hotels available. In Bangkok a room with air, hot water, private toilet and shower, TV plus maid service will start around 600 baht.
Is Bangkok worth a visit - of course it is! Would you fly to France and not visit Paris or to England and not visit London? In the Sukhumvit Road area you have restaurants to walk to, Skytrain of course, shops, malls, travel agencies for tours and plane tickets, nightlife, supermarkets, etc. Bangkok even late at night on Sukhumvit Road, Nana area, has many tourists and locals wandering around, shopping from street vendors, carousing at bars or sitting at little street cafes. Bars close at 2 a.m. At your age I would skip Khao San Road because that is where kids usually choose to stay, slightly older try an area where adults stay. Thailand has excellent bus and rail service.
From Phnom Penh you can take a boat ride up to Siem Reap if you want. Siem Reap is worth a visit if only to say you have been there. Where to go and what to see depends on what you like.
Just don't waste all of your time at beaches frying your skin off. Chiang Mai in Thailand is a nice place to visit. For your ride to the airport from "downtown" Bangkok there are meter taxis available all night long. When in Bangkok and you need to use a taxi only pay the meter fare! If you bargain the fare you pay more than what you would with a meter. Have small bills and even coins for paying taxi fares in Bangkok. Tuk-tuks will cost more than meter taxis! Bangkok has a zillion taxis, wave a moving taxi over and tell the driver to use the meter. When he agrees then get into the car. Meter starts at 35 baht. Time and distance determines the fare. Bangkok is cheaper for transportation than many cities in the West. (Wait until you get to Australia to see how cheap it is in Asia, unless you only go first class and stay in best hotels then Asia can also be expensive!)
Understand you visa requirements for Thailand and Cambodia. Wait until you get to Thailand to convert any cash over to Thai baht for the best rate. Money changers available at the airport 24 hours a day. If you intend to use a debit or credit card in Asia remember to notify your bank ahead of time so your ATM withdrawals are not denied because of suspected fraud. In Thailand travelers checks are easy to cash. For Cambodia US dollars are also a de facto currency. But you will need Cambodian currency for making change. Don't leave Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam because no one wants their currency when you leave those countries.
There is train service from Bangkok through to Malaysia and on to Singapore as another option to consider. (Visa requirements are not the same for every country, even if you need a prior visa depends on the passport you will travel under.) For Thailand, UK, US, Canadian passports are eligible for a free 30 day Visa Exemption stamp which allows you to stay in Thailand for 30 days when you fly in. If you return overland at land entry points you can only get 15 days free with above passports. Google up Visa Requirements for various countries.
[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jul-2011, at 06:36 by karazyal ]
Thanks for the info. Good to know other 'oldies' do this travelling malarkey! I never thought I'd spend too long in Bangkok, beyond the time needed to see some of the sites. Thanks for advice re Cambodia too, I'm thinking of flying into PP then making my way back to SR and fly to BK from there.
Wow, thank you for the detail! I'm going to take that message with me as a travel guide! My intention is to stay near the airport on the night I arrive (for the sake of convenience with shuttle to hotel), then find a half decent hostel in the city. I will give the Khao San Road a miss for the most part, I know my limits (and preferences!) these days! I'll probably head to PP from there, and catch some buses around Cambodia.