A few first impressions from Bangkok

Last modified 16.03.2022 | Published 31.05.19851980's, South and Southeast Asia, Thailand, Travelogue

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Bangkok is the city where the bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free. Or so the song goes. I would be back for more impressions but I continued north as soon as I could.

This article is part of a diary based travelogue from a six month journey in 1985 to several countries in East and South East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand


Wednesday 29.5.1985, Koh Samui – Surat Thani – Bangkok

I left Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui and went into town. There I found quite a few travel agents and bought a combined ferry/bus ticket to the railway station in Surat Thani and a train ticket to Bangkok for 177 baht. The price was the same if I had bought the tickets separately.

The train was leaving the same afternoon. Quite a few travellers left Koh Samui on the boat (2.5 hours), with the bus (0.5 hours) and with a 3rd class ticket on the train (13 hours). I managed to get some sleep on the train as it wasn’t full.


Thursday 30.5.1985, Bangkok

When we arrived in Bangkok in the very early morning we were welcomed by a heavy rainfall. Thank you for that…

There are apparently two areas with cheap guest houses here, one near Malaysia Hotel and the other near Royal Hotel. I and a couple of other travellers (two Germans) went off to the latter area, a street named Khao San.

We looked around a bit and found:

  • 160 GUEST HOUSE (MARCO POLO). About midway in the street, on the south side, down a little alley, follow the signs. Dorm bed for 40 baht. They also have singles and doubles but they have no sound insulation whatsoever. Helpful and nice staff, clean and quite pleasant. Bus #53 from Hualampong railway station. The place seems popular among Israelis, there are lots of them.


I bought an excellent map for 30 baht. That was a bit expensive, but worth it as it lists all bus routes in the city and also an all-Thailand map on the back.

I got directions on how to find the Norwegian embassy (bus #2) and a note in Thai to show the conductor. The knowledge of English does not appear to be very strong among Thais. I found the way on my own after sitting on the bus for almost an hour. The traffic here is notorious and the distances are quite big as well.

At the embassy I was told that I should call home myself and tell my bank to send a telex (a cheque later on) that a cash advance from the embassy was alright. The entire matter could be arranged by tomorrow – luckily.

I then went to the GPO and picked up two letters from home and a lovely one from Carrie. Later I called my mother (240 baht), bought a fake “Lacoste” T-shirt for 50 baht and then went to the TAT – the tourist information. I picked up quite a few brochures and returned “home”.

I thought of going to see some Thai-boxing but the cheapest ticket cost 200 baht so I gave up that thought.

In the guest-house I agreed with one of the Germans to pay Patpong Road a visit. The road is actually two small streets notorious across the world and recently the object of a hit-song (“One night in Bangkok”). It’s about go-go-bars and live-shows.


It was a new experience I concluded a couple of hours later. I had seen go-go dancers before, although not stripping nude as here. On the other hand neither of us had ever before witnessed a so-called live-show.

We were hailed several times by men who wanted us to visit their bar. We dropped by a place offering happy-hour beers for 30 baht. The live-show consisted of girls doing various artistic performances with their vaginas. We left before the fucking started. The girls are cute but this was contrary to my preferences. I did not like this, and neither did they.

Earlier in the evening I had passed by a couple of brothels. Through the window I could see the girls sitting on some sort of a podium under a red light. It was simply to go in and pick a number. I don’t know the cost, but in the bar the price was 500 baht (18 USD) for both an hour and twelve hours.

This was my night in sinful Bangkok, the oriental city “where the bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free” as that hit song goes.


Friday 31.5.1985, Bangkok

I went for the embassy again – the buses are only two baht. I got my cheque and a reprimand that the embassy was not a bank. Upon handing over the cheque of 15200 baht (555 USD) in the correct bank, I was told that no tourists were allowed to buy travellers cheques. That meant I was now required to carry with me a lot of cash – which is not good.

I bought the guidebook “West-Asia on a Shoestring” (Lonely Planet) just in case I would be able to venture west of Thailand. I don’t really know now if I get time after this. I’ll see when I return to Bangkok in a few weeks.


Read more

The introduction to this journey to East and South East Asia.

Previous chapter: Underneath the palms of Koh Samui, Thailand

Next chapter: Northern Thailand: Amid temples, travellers and hill tribes of The Golden Triangle