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An Update On Bangkok

  • Written by Geoff K
  • February 18th, 2019
  • 16 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I spent just over 2 weeks in BKK, Hua Hin and a quick trip to Ubon Ratchatani. I thought readers would like an update on how things are and hope my observations would be useful to some. I’ve broken down my thoughts into sub-headings so it’s easier to read.

I flew into Bkk in late January and came back on the 10th Feb.

Pollution

The pollution topic continues to dominate the Bangkok news. It’s even made international headlines. So the question is, how bad is it? I stayed in Salaya the majority of my time in Thailand and I didn’t think the pollution issue was that bad in that part of town. Below is a photo taken just after sunrise. Keep in mind Salaya is literally on the border of Bkk, it’s that far from the city.

 

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View from my partner’s condo in Salaya. Bkk in the distance.

 

So the next question is how bad was it in Bangkok city? In a nutshell, I thought it was as bad as what the news was making it out to be, probably worse!

When I was in the city, pollution AQI (air quality index) levels were recorded at anywhere between 80 – 160 on a given day. At 80 – 90, it is considered ‘moderate’ and those readings were usually the readings in the morning. During the day it always rose to the 120 mark where it becomes ‘unhealthy’ and then some days went even higher up to 160. I did wear a mask when I was in the city. Although I do have healthy lungs; I noticed that when the readings did hit above 120 I developed a dry cough. The air was heavier and thicker to what I’m used to and I felt my mask did help. The few days I did make it into the city I was with a mate who flew in from Singapore and he said he definitely felt how bad the air was. If you do venture out into the city, I’d suggest you wear a N95 mask. Make sure you buy one from outside the country as I hear many shops in Bangkok have sold out! Keep in mind, a surgical mask or something below an N95 level mask won’t do you any good as tiny dust particles can enter your lungs without the adequate protection an N95 masks gives you.

If you do have a respiratory illness such as asthma or some other condition all I will say is to be very careful. I’m not a doctor but me feeling of how bad the air was with healthy lungs, I don’t think the air is any good for someone with weak lungs.

On a number of days whilst I was there, I heard reports where school children have been kept indoors to avoid the air quality.

On the Thai news there was a report of how Thais are getting fed up with the air quality and were taking their symptoms to social media where they were seen coughing up blood and showed very red eyes. How valid these cases were I’m not sure. Another news report showed an experiment a Thai man did in his condo in Bkk. He had an AQI reader with him and showed the trend when walking around in his condo. In his bedroom he showed the reading as 50 and then started walking throughout the house, he got to the kitchen and it already went to 110, before he opened the balcony door it reached 140 and then standing out on the balcony it went all the way up to 220. This is scary!

There were plenty of foreigners walking around without any masks. What their symptoms were and how they felt afterwards, I have no idea….

 

Ubon Ratchathani

I had the opportunity to head out to this province for a few days so I took it. Very quiet part of Isaan. Very laid back as well. They’ve got a huge park in the centre of town which I found very nice and relaxing. Plenty of pathways to run around and even some gym equipment.

If anyone needs a hotel there, I’d recommend the ‘Eco Inn’. Very close to town and their rates are very reasonable. On the whole it’s a very laid back town and very cheap. I can’t help but feel it is fairly poor which I’m not surprised being in Isaan and right next to Si Saket and bordering with Cambodia and Laos. Very nice people and I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit that part of the country.

 

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The statue in the central park in Ubon Ratchatchani

 

Bangkok City

The King Power MahaNakhon was until last year, the tallest building in Bangkok! The view from the top is absolutely magnificent and I recommend anyone who wants a great view of the skyline of Bangkok to go there. Some photos below from the top deck. You only have to look into the distance to get a real view of how bad the air quality was.

What was interesting is that we stayed until the sun went down, and yep – it’s true, it was that polluted we couldn’t see the sun disappear into the horizon! One minute the sun was there, the next minute it’s gone but still daylight.

The ticket was only around 700 baht.

 

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Notice Mr. Somchai at the bottom also wearing a mask. Unbelievable view though!

 

PS – If you want a great burger try the ‘Beef & shake’ which is around the corner from this building on the main road. Great burgers and at a fair price as well!

There’s been a lot of talk about how strong the baht is and how prices in the city are soaring. Make no mistake about it, prices are on the rise! I was getting 21.95 baht to the AUD and I have never seen the baht so strong. Even when the GFC hit Australia, the AUD was still giving around 23/ 24 baht/ AUD in late 2008. If anyone thinks the Thai economy is in a bad way, think again. The Thai economy is booming! There was buildings going up everywhere, there was no shortage of tourists and I was losing count at how many brand new BMWs, Mercedes and simply brand new vehicles were on the road in the capital. And then whilst driving around Victory Monument I saw this….. There’s some real wealth in Bkk!

 

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Ferrari at Victory Monument.

 

Prices seem to be a big topic. Although I will say Thailand is becoming expensive, my trip hadn’t cost me all that much as I didn’t have to pay for accommodation staying at my partner’s condo. I was in Thailand for 16 days and thought I’d give a breakdown on my expenses as Stick did in his column to compare.

All prices are quoted at AUD and currently exchange rate is around 21.95 baht/ AUD:

 

Airfare $680 (I flew Jetstar and booked 3 months in advance. A direct flight from Melbourne in to Bangkok but not the most comfortable).
Accommodation $210. As discussed, I stayed with my Mrs. most of the time. When we did go away we shared the costs of accommodation.
Spending money $ 400
   
Petrol cost to drive to airport $0. I organised my brother to drop me off and pick me up.
TOTAL $1290

So, where did I spend all my money? Majority was spent on– food! Believe it or not, it’s true.  Firstly I’m a coeliac and I have to be careful what I eat. Whilst I don’t get a reaction when I do consume gluten, it is very bad for me and I need to avoid it any way I can. I have no idea what’s in a lot of Thai food so I try to stick to basic farang food. The other thing is, I don’t particularly like Thai food nor Asian food in general. Yes, you read that right. I’ll eat it but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. A dish such as Pad Thai or a good chicken fried rice is aroi maak but to me it doesn’t compare to any great farang food I eat. Maybe that’s just me. As for spending money on other items, I don’t barfine and in fact only spent 2 nights in the nightlife areas. More on that later. Nor did I buy many presents.

The condo market is still asking ridiculous prices. I overheard a farang talk to his Thai girl about the advertisement he saw from the BTS and heard him say he couldn’t believe what they were charging for condos. I myself can’t see how investing in a condo in Bangkok makes a good investment. I think there’s going to be an oversupply in the condo market and the workmanship of most condo buildings leaves me wondering if you’re not going to have problems with it in a few years to come. Do a google search on a building in Sydney which was selling top floor apartments for $830,000 AUD and now the building is crumbling and is falling apart…..and this happened in Australia! I’m only speculating that third world countries would only offer worse.

However, second-hand condos could be a viable option. Funnily enough, they are reasonably priced and I’m trying to convince my partner in purchasing one. They’re not popular amongst the Thais. It seems that the Thais want all their homes and condos brand new and they don’t seem to budge on second hand. I think the average Thai would rather bulldoze their purchased home and rebuild it from scratch rather than live in its second hand…..

 

Ko Kret –

Ko Kret Island is situated just north of Bkk and I had the fortunate pleasure by one of my partner’s colleagues to take me there on an outing.

We caught the boat along the Chao Praya River until we got to the last stop. Then we caught a bus to the pier where a boat frequently goes between the main land and to the island. It was a long journey getting there but we got to take in the sights and scenery along the way.

Ko Kret Island has a bit of an interesting history. The Island itself was actually built by Rama 3 when the Chao Praya River was one of the major transporting routes and they basically cut into the land shortening the length of the Chao Praya. This resulted in creating an island. It’s said that at the time there was a minority group who fled Burma and resided in Thailand and these people were given the island to live on. There’s approximately 5,000 people currently living on the island and has a perimeter of approximately 6 km. Their main industry is pottery/ clay making.

It was a great day out! Mainly because I simply wouldn’t get the opportunity nor even have heard about this place unless a local Thai took me. My partner really doesn’t like the heat and limits herself outdoors and I never would have ventured here by myself.

The only issue I had was that to see the perimeter of the island, you either had to walk, rent a bicycle or a motorbike. We opted for the bicycle and although was the best option, some pathways along the 6 mm journey were really narrow. Narrow enough for you to really test your balance without falling off!

 

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Narrow lanes made it very hard to manoeuvre.

 

 

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One last point I’ll make regarding Bangkok city is the ‘Zilingo’ add on the BTS sky train. What is it with this add? I timed it and it seems that every 2 and a half minutes the same add comes on!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0OFT1eROI0

LOL this is more of a fun fact which may drive you nuts if you’re travelling long distances on the BTS. J

 

Hua Hin

Currently my partner works in Hua Hin 1 day a week so she likes to drive up the night before and stay at her accommodation at her Uni. Her room at Uni being a dormitory on campus she gets for free which is practically designed for Smurfs, if I’m around we always book accommodation for the night at a hotel or serviced apartment to make it more comfortable. When booking accommodation around Hua Hin, you don’t need any confirmation that prices are on the rise…. The service apartment we used to get only 6 months ago on the main street just past Soi 88 near the Bangkok Hospital in Hua Hin set us back 1,200 baht a night and now charges 1,400. Not much difference but that is a 15% increase in just 6 months. And it seems that any decent hotel or serviced apartment is charging this amount. Not a bad deal for a foreigner but this is expensive compared to local prices.

Hua Hin has always been one of my favourite spots. Its clean, not as built up as other parts of Thailand, has a lot cleaner air than Bkk and it seems that overall the quality of foreigners does seem to be better.

Whilst Chao Lay is a popular seafood place for foreigners and Thais in Hua Hin, if you want better seafood and cheaper prices try the back streets of Cha Am. My Mrs. swears by it and says the food is nicer and cheaper as well. However, that is somewhat 25 minutes away by car so I can understand why not so many foreigners don’t make the trip to Chaa Am when they’re in Hua Hin.

 

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My Mrs. polished this off by herself it was that delicious!

 

 

I checked out Hin Lek Fai hill. It’s about a 15 min drive from central Hua Hin. Great view but the monkeys were a real pest! One monkey would simply not get off my car. I started driving and it still wouldn’t budge. When I left the carpark, I got out of the car and threatened it with a shoe before it made a face at me and finally jumped off the car. I needed to be careful as it would have jumped into the car if the opportunity presented itself, and then how on earth was I going to get it out of the car? These monkeys really have no shame and they’re definitely not scared of strangers…..

 

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The view from the top of the hill

 

 

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Nightlife

Or should I say the decline of…..

As I mentioned earlier, I had a friend fly in from Singapore so I stayed at the Nana hotel for 2 nights (where else?). The hotel is called the mothership for a reason…. I got an old room which hadn’t been renovated and was surprised to see no cockroaches in the bathroom. Ha-ha. Yep, those rooms were that dirty at one stage. But for the price and location, seriously – nothing beats the Nana hotel!

One observation I noticed was all the Western women roaming around Soi 4. And not just the area but the hotel as well. Not sure what that’s all about? And some come by themselves and not with their husbands. My guess is they’re simply having a look around at what all the fuss is about but it is a bit of a strange scene when you see 2 females walk around at the Nana pool and having breakfast in the dinning room. As mentioned in the Stick column, some roam around the Nana bars. Some look to be having a good time in the bars and are very generous with their money, I see them splurging on drinks and tips. Perhaps they’re sucked into the sick buffalo story as well? Others sit with their boyfriends and look as though they’d really rather be somewhere else…..

I visited Butterflies, Billboard and a few outside beer bars such as the Hillarys. That’s actually all I could be bothered with. My mate from Singapore bar fined a girl from Butterflies and paid, get this; 600 baht for the barfine, 2 drinks for her at 400 baht and ST 3000. That’s 4000 baht total! Time and time again, I reiterate – it is cheaper in your Western country to get laid than The Thai go-go bars. Don’t believe me? 4000 baht = $180 AUD. That buys you 45 minutes at most Melbourne brothels where sex is legal and all above-board. And these days with ST meaning the time until the deed is done, and then out she goes, it equals 45 minutes in a lot of cases. So we’re on par between the price for the girl in the west vs the east. We haven’t even included accommodation nor air travel. Take those two things into account and you’re paying a lot more for go-go girls than in your Western country. When I have this discussion with friends back home, they don’t believe me. When I pull out a spreadsheet and start plugging in numbers, it seems they want to run away. Some people don’t want to know the reality of it and that’s fine. Just please don’t say that the go-go bars are cheap. They’re simply not.

Drinks prices are getting to ridiculous levels. Most bars charge 150 baht for a drink, that’s $7.50 AUD. I can get cheaper drinks in my local bar where I live in Melbourne. Not to mention water is also charged at this amount. I’ve come to the point where I don’t buy water in bars. I buy it at 7-Eleven where I pay 7 baht and walk in with it. If I buy an alcoholic drink, no one says anything. Some readers think I’m a cheap Charlie but I can’t help but think we’re really getting sucked out of every dollar in the tourist areas.

Spent 1 hour in Soi Cowboy. If you want a tourist precession where everyone walks around taking selfies, then look no other place… Had dinner at Sam’s 2000, definitely great food and a reasonable happy hour. After dinner I didn’t walk into one bar. I simply had no interest.

I think if you wanted some P4P action, you’re far better off with freelancers, but that’s just my observation.

On another note, the footpaths around sois 3 & 5 are being ripped up and repaired:

 

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Overall I had a great time in Bangkok and Hua Hin with the Mrs. One thing that seems to be a trend is there’s no shortage of tourists everywhere. Chinese, Indians, the Arabs (particularly around sois 3 and 5) and Westerners. There’s more western females now than ever before and the place seems to be more diverse with the bar industry seemingly only being a small part of why people come to Thailand. Prices are creeping up, and a holiday in Bangkok for the average tourist is definitely no bargain anymore.

 

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Keep well and God bless.

 

Geoff K

 

The author can be contacted at : [email protected]