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

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Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:02 PM
  #1
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Bangkok didn't do a thing for us & we won't be returning

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...e-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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Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:28 PM
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I think Bangkok is one of those polarising places that people either love or hate.

My first visit was in 1987, the next visit was nearly twenty years later. Since then I've returned about 5 times trying to "get to love" Bangkok, but I just don't.
Nowadays I still use it as a transit point, and try not to leave the airport.

Everyone's different.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:49 PM
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Yes, we are all different. I'm glad you gave Bangkok some time - sorry you didn't love it like I do. Thanks for reporting back.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:56 PM
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Julies, I wasn't fond of Bangkok either, until I stayed in the very room you did. I was thinking as I read the beginning of your description, if only julies had stayed at the Ibrik in the room over the water with the bathtub that drained into the river, she'd come to like it as I did. And it was definitely my best experience in the city. If I go back again, having since stayed in other parts of the city less pleasantly, I'm sure I'll stay in the same neighborhood, although the Ibrik itself has gotten too expensive for me. But I'll always remember the sound of the boats just outside my bedroom and the water lapping under the floor.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:26 PM
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Thanks for reporting back. Can't say I'm surprised, lol. The river is fascinating, though, isn't it?

Looking forward to the rest of the report (I liked PP too).
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 11:03 PM
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Different strokes for different folks. I've been going to BKK since the 90s and still love the place and wish I could live there 6 months out of the year.

Happy Travels!
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 11:35 PM
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Julie, I love this post, and its honestly, the "why" not just the opinion. Not because I've been to Bangkok, and have an opinion one way or the other based on experience, but because it's great to read a variety of reactions--especially for someone like me who's not been there.
A few yrs ago I had time for a three day/ two night stopover Delhi to SFO. Choices: Bangkok or Singapore. Coming from the chaos of India, I figured SG might be more of a restful stop. Sounds like, at least based on what you wrote, I made a good decision at the time.
Looking forward to the rest of your travel stories of this trip.
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Feb 24th, 2016, 08:56 AM
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Julies - so sorry it wasn't for you. But now you can say you've done it and understand what people are talking about when they talk about Bangkok. Looking forward to reading along.
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Feb 24th, 2016, 09:00 AM
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I posted this precisely because I know that different people have different takes on the same places. And, what makes a place interesting or attractive to me may not be what others are looking for in a place. I believe the travelfish website refers to Bangkok as a love it or loathe it place. I wouldn't go so far as to say we loathed it, but we were definitely further on that end of the spectrum.

MmePerdu--Staying at the Ibrik on the river was the one thing that really made our visit to Bangkok somewhat likeable. We kept reminding ourselves how we'd really feel even more dislike for the city if we'd been in a typical hotel room somewhere else. I laughed when you descrtibed the bathtub draining into the river because I swear at high tide I could also hear the sink gurgling as the gentle waves went up and down. I'm also glad to hear your take on staying in various locales in the city because we wondered if perhaps our dislike of the city was based on the fact that we had stayed in a "different" locale than most people do.

To us, the river was the best part of the city.
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Feb 24th, 2016, 01:00 PM
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Thanks for reporting back. I agree, everyone has different tastes. I'm planning on 6 nights in Bangkok next month, but I'm hoping I enjoy it more than you! I will have to look into the hotel you mentioned, the bathtub sounds pretty awesome!
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Feb 24th, 2016, 10:45 PM
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I agree with you, I lived and worked there for a year and I only go back if in transit.

Most of the people are fantastic but it does attract a lot of low life's.

The city is a soulless urban sprawl with very limited things of interest for me.

Even the river is a bit depressing to me, it's so polluted probably, but at least a lot of the hotels are world class without the matching price tag
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Feb 24th, 2016, 10:47 PM
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Didn't mean to write probably as I know it is
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Feb 25th, 2016, 06:24 PM
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Sorry you "lost" 4 days of your trip esp at the end. I always find travel, live and learn. That's what it's all,about really. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 03:32 PM
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Btw, I appreciate your honesty. Sometimes these boards seem only to focus on the good and it makes it hard to evaluate if you might like a destination. I appreciate
hearing both sides.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 03:38 PM
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We have been to BKK 5 times, we love it! Great shopping, restaurants, and fabulous hotels and it has good transportation infrastructure.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 04:53 PM
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sorry it didn't work for you. our first trip was so so, but after that it became our #1 spot... working on trip 20 now
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Feb 26th, 2016, 06:14 PM
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Bangkok is my favorite city, but I appreciate that not everyone agrees. At least you gave it a try!
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Feb 26th, 2016, 08:22 PM
  #18
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"Great shopping, restaurants, and fabulous hotels and it has good transportation infrastructure."

I think this is where individual differences and desires come into play. I can see why someone who was looking for the above would enjoy the city. However, as I said in my report, we aren't shoppers, we aren't foodies looking for great restaurant experiences, and we aren't into wanting the luxury hotel experience. If people (like us) aren't looking for those things, then it is easier to see why we found it unappealing.

We are all different.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 09:40 PM
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"Great shopping, restaurants, and fabulous hotels ..."

Entirely agree with what julies said about this. Which is one reason why I suspected she would not be a BKK fan.
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Feb 27th, 2016, 03:28 AM
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Yes, reading julies posts nd TRs, I thought it highly unlikely BKK would appeal to them.
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