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Trip Report Bangkok didn't do a thing for us & we won't be returning

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We've just returned from a 6 week trip to Cambodia and Laos (hope to get a comprehensive trip report together in the next few weeks), and we ended our trip with 4 nights in Bangkok. When I was making plans for our trip, I had asked here about Bangkok and got a lot of very helpful replies, so I thought I'd report back on our thoughts after our visit.

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/bangkok-what-do-you-like-or-dislike-about-it.cfm

I'm posting this mini trip report because I want to provide the perspective of a non-Bangkok-fan for future travelers who are trying to decide if Bangkok is a fit.

In a nutshell, we didn't like Bangkok. It was the least favorite place we visited on this trip and for us ranks way down on the list of places we've visited throughout the world. As a contrast, in this trip we also visited Phnom Penh and had zero expectations for the city. We liked Phnom Penh a lot more than we thought we would.

We're quite well-traveled, we've visited lots of less-developed countries and cities, we're in our 60s, we fall in the mid-range or moderate traveler category, we aren't shoppers, and we aren't foodies looking for top restaurant experiences. Now we can say we've had a taste of Bangkok, but we've already decided if we ever fly though Bangkok again as a major hub we'll just be in and out only using it for transit purposes.

For both my husband and me, our first impressions weren't very good. We thought maybe as we became more familiar and gave it time, the city would grow on us. It didn't. For us, the city is too spread out, mostly unattractive, not a good city for people who like to walk, too hot and humid, only interesting in certain spots, has too many generic stores, and is difficult to deal with as far as being easily visited. Bangkok wasn't all bad, and I can definitely say that we did see some interesting places, but what we saw was enough for us. We won't be returning to see what we missed out on.

We always find rivers and water-based things interesting, so the saving factor for us was that we stayed at a very small, funky hotel (Ibrik Resort on the River) directly on the river. When I say on the river I really mean it. Our room was at river level, and we had a deck right on the water. This provided us with hours of entertainment as we watched the boat traffic up and down the river. For us this place was a good fit, but it is not for everyone.

Upon our arrival in Bangkok on a Friday afternoon we found out that we were in the city for a long holiday weekend--Makha Bucha which is a major Buddhist holiday commemorating the spontaneous gathering of some 1250 disciples of the Buddha nine months after his enlightenment. The fact that this was a holiday on Monday was a mixed blessing for us. On the one hand, there were lots of people off for the long weekend and some things were closed because of the holiday. On the other hand, we got some fabulous cultural insights by observing what was happening at the temples on Monday (the actual day of the holiday).

As far as the biggie tourist sites, we visited the Grand Palace and the temple with the Emerald Buddha. Due to the holiday the throne rooms in the palace were closed, and the temple was absolutely mobbed on Monday by religious adherents coming to pay their respects. We also visited five or six other wats and the Royal Barge Museum. And, we made several trips by boat up and down the river and took two rides on the skytrain. The neighborhood right behind our hotel was more of the old-fashioned, traditional area, and we walked through the area a lot.

On Sunday we signed up for an all day tour by small boat through the narrow canals of Thonburi where we also visited some off-the-beaten-path wats and a food market where locals come on the weekends. We didn't see any tourists at this partially floating market at all. The tour was pricey but we felt we got our money's worth it, and we had an excellent guide. We'd recommend it (other than the Thai puppet show) http://www.thaicanaltour.com/

So there you have it. I know lots of people like Bangkok, but it wasn't for us. If we hadn't already had pre-paid hotel reservations, we might have listened to some fellow travelers we met towards the end of our trip. When they heard our Bangkok plans for four nights, they told us it was two nights too many. They were right when they said there is lots to do in Bangkok, but they just didn't find it worth dealing with the aspects of the place they didn't enjoy. We'd agree with them.

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