Meeting new people while travelling is really good, when they are people you want to hang around with but otherwise those generic hostel conversations become so monotonous and sometimes you just can’t be f%#*ed. Just me? So recently, I took advantage of the offers I had to stay with friends who are living abroad for a few days. I strongly recommend doing it if you happen to know anyone, especially if travelling for a few months. It’s a great way to enjoy some home from home comforts. Plus, they love dropping the routine of their everyday lives to accommodate and entertain you (I would imagine.)
I didn’t think I would find Singapore that interesting, as I thought it would be all skyscrapers and condos. Without a doubt, the food is unbelievably good and there is so much choice, I would have been more than content with the food binge I enjoyed. However, after my short time there I definitely developed a little soft spot for the place.
I only had one full day, with torrential rain for most of it, but headed to Arab Street in the afternoon as there is some older architecture there plus I heard it might be a spot for vintage clothes. I know shopping shouldn’t really be on my agenda with 15 kilos already on my back but I couldn’t resist just ‘checking’ to see what I might find. Arab Street itself, centre of the Arabic Quarter is actually door to door textiles and carpet shops. Towards the bottom of the street itself there are some cool cafes, one run by a very ‘banterous’ Australian guy, who incidentally gave me some questionable directions to find a secret restaurant in Bangkok that is so secret I couldn’t find it – jokes on me Pav?
Once I reached the end of the street I realised the real gold is actually at the two streets parallel to Arab Street. One being Haji Street, a lane jam packed with small boutique shops, cafes and just one vintage shop… it did however have some really nice stuff. Rails and rails of beautifully selected quality second hand dresses and skirts on the first floor that continues upstairs with accessories and jackets. Although I would have loved to have snapped up some stuff, it wasn’t any cheaper or any more unique than what I can find in the UK. I think they source it mostly from Europe anyway. If I lived in Singapore though, ‘Moodswings’ would be a spot to buy some really nice pieces.
The other side of Arab Street is completely different. At Muscat Street, it’s mostly lovely looking middle-eastern restaurants, more traditional ‘shophouses’ and a view of the very grand and golden Masjid Sultan mosque. A really diverse little area! Unfortunately my photography skills are pretty limited in the rain so you will have to go and see for yourself.
From just one taster day in Singapore, it’s definitely a lot cooler than I thought and my friend will certainly be lucky enough to enjoy more visits from me in the future. If anyone has been, please do fill me in on the spots!
From Singapore I headed to Bangkok. On arrival, until I met my friend, I couldn’t bear Bangkok. Coming off the flight and into the city from lovely clean Singapore, it was hot, dirty, confusing and so busy! I think everyone knows Bangkok is a mad place but I’m a little late to the party. To start with, I learnt that getting to grips with the transport options before anything else, really helps you to enjoy Bangkok.
Firstly, metered Taxis are cheap but good luck getting one if you can’t speak Thai or are heading towards a congested traffic zone (I think that’s everywhere in Bangkok!?) I was straight refused a few times! I think it’s best to seek an alternative option first. You can try Uber or Grab but I didn’t have much luck with those either. The BTS metro line is excellent provided you are near to a station but it’s probably the most reliable option. Jumping on the back of a motorbike taxi isn’t something I was totally comfortable with but often it’s the most practical option. Although insisting I was terrified, I did secretly enjoy whizzing around traffic along the busy streets holding on for dear life with one hand and the other holding my hat onto my head. I probably looked cool actually.
Another great way to get travel is on the river and canal boats. It’s cool to get an alternative view of the city and is how many locals get around. The canal boat in particular is super cheap, you can just hop on and pay for your ticket to the person who literally hangs off the side of the boat.
I took the boat and then a short rickshaw ride to get to Bangkok’s most important complex of buildings, The Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and has been home to the King of Thailand for 150 years. Since the late King Bhumibol Adulyade’s death last October, the country is still in its one year of mourning which will no doubt account for far more visits to the palace than normal. When I went, the place was heaving and security very strict. Dress code is of course really important and you can’t just wrap around a scarf or beach sarong as you’ll be sent across the street to buy proper clothing. I even saw one girl sent away for wearing leggings. That’ll teach her.
Once finally inside though, you do enjoy a very beautiful and unique palace.
Aside from some good chill time at said Bangkok friends pool (Singapore did have one too), I visited some malls, ate yet more amazing food (got my £1 pad Thai), visited the Ratchada Train Market and the Chatuchak Weekend Market of which I recommend both highly and I even had a proper-warehouse-rave-night-out. There is so much to do in Bangkok, it reminded me a bit of London, a similar population but with far more grit and far less hipsters.
Thanks to my lovely friends who put me up. During the emotional rollercoaster that is travelling, you gave me just what I needed.
See you in a few weeks?