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Philippines and Thailand: Same-Same but Different

grand palace

Another fear of the unknown was running through my mind as we were about to cross the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Maybe this is normal for a first-timer who heard about many border-crossing horror stories. Even so, I was happy to have written off another item in my things-to-do-in-life list.

Crossing these borders was smooth and easy. You can go straight to the immigration as soon as you get off the bus. I didn’t see any sign leading to the immigration office, I just followed the group of tourists who were walking to a certain direction, which was just a few steps away from the bus stop. After my passport was stamped, I walked to the other side of the path to avoid talking to anyone. It was a few minutes-walk from Cambodia Immigration to Thailand, roughly 100 meters. There are several signage that lead the way to the Thai Immigration. The queue was quite long, but I didn’t worry because I’m with the same group of tourists traveling to Bangkok.

As I fell in line I heard 2 people in front of me speaking in Tagalog. Without hesitation, I greeted them and instantly found new friends. Fortunately, we rode the same van vehicle going to the capital. Instantly, I found someone to talk to during our long land travel.

 

Pinoys in Bangkok

Friends on the road

 

I read that travel time from Siem Reap to Bangkok is less than 10 hours, but in our case, we traveled for over 13 hours due to following reasons:

First, we waited for more than two hours for the van that would bring us to Bangkok from the border. This is one of the disadvantages when taking the connecting bus-van. Initially, I paid for $25 to ride a direct bus, which didn’t happen.

(Check this article on how to avoid scams in Siem Reap)

Second, it was the birthday week of the King. In line with this, a cycling event called, “Bike for Dad” was held, which required some major roads in Bangkok to be closed. This resulted to a heavy traffic.

Getting lost in Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok at 9:00 p.m., the van dropped us off somewhere in Khao San Road. The first thing that greeted me was a street party along “The World’s Best City” for four consecutive years by Travel + leisure Magazine. People were drinking and dancing on the street, many locals were selling different stuff. The energy was high and lively, reminiscent of Malate in its heyday — admittedly, I didn’t experience the Malate scene in its glorious days.

 

Khao San Road

Khao San Road

 

I expected to unload at the Mo Chit Bus terminal and then take the sky train to Sukhumvit, because I read from some blogs that that’s where the van service from the border drop off their passengers. This is not what happened, which made me think our van service was driving illegally, or what we call in the Philippines as “colorum.” This led to another challenge: finding my way to the hostel. Taking a taxi that would drive me directly to the hostel is obviously the best option, however, as a budget traveler, I find it to be expensive. Good thing I was with Anj and Madonna, the Filipinos that I met in the Thai Immigration. We asked for directions on how to get to Sukhumvit, which proved to be a difficult task because of the language barrier. You see, unlike the Cambodians where people can converse in English, the Thais are a little behind when it comes to their English skills. I couldn’t help but compare them with my countrymen because in The Philippines, even our street vendors can speak in English. After realizing that our attempts at conversing wasn’t getting us anywhere, we decided to just take a cab. I was the first one to be dropped off at Hua Lamphong MRT station then the two proceeded to their place. This setup by the way, was difficult to explain to the taxi driver.

 

Bangkok Map

As long as you have your map – You will never be lost!

 

I was amazed when I arrived at the MRT station, all escalators are working, and the place is clean and spacious. It was hard not to compare their train station with what we have in Manila. In truth, we are totally left behind. For one, Thais are disciplined when it comes to riding the train; they fall in line and wait for the passengers to unload first before getting inside the train. In fact, I never saw a single incident of people pushing each other. Also, the train arrives on time and the wagon never gets crowded. These are the things that I hope we practice here in our country.

 

Bangkok Mrt Station

Hua Lamphong MRT station

 

I looked for Analog Hostel using a map, showed it to people as I asked for directions. This was the first time that I used an actual map, the first time I felt lost in a city and actually had fun. Some people directed me somewhere that made me more confused. Indeed, communication was hard, but I was thankful still that they were willing to help.

 Where to stay in Bangkok?

Check out Analog Hostel Here!

Analog Hostel Entrance

Find my slippers

 

I was already feeling exhausted from the long drive and hours of walking, when finally I found the Analog Hostel. It’s approximately a 10-minute walk from Sukhumvit-MRT station and near the Holiday Inn Hotel. By far, this is the coolest hostel I’d ever been. Check-in was easy and the staff are accommodating and friendly. This is the first time I stayed in a hostel where footwear is not allowed. I booked a mixed dorm-type room via Traveloka for less than $12/night. The bed was comfortable, A  C was working fine, and cleanliness was never an issue in the entire property.

 

Analog Hostel Common Area

Common kitchen and dinning aarea

Analog hostel common wash area

 

You are allowed to heat food in the common kitchen area, place your leftovers inside the refrigerator, use dining utensils, and grab some complementary snacks. The common area on the second floor is where most of the backpackers hang out. There you can meet new friends or hear them share their travel stories. This was where I celebrated my 25th birthday with people I just met, which an experience like no other.

 

25th bday

Happy Birthday to me – Do I look drunk?

 

Where to eat and what to do in Bangkok?

The next day, I felt more comfortable walking around the city of angels. As long as you have the map and are familiar with the MRT and Sky train stations you will never get lost in the city. If I was impressed to see the MRT, I think I was astonished when I saw the Sky train. I’ve been traveling for more than 4 years using our trains, so I guess you really can’t blame me for comparing Thailand’s train system with the Philippine train system. I don’t even need to mention all of my horror stories in our own MRT. After seeing how efficient and effective the train system in Bangkok is, it made me sad that I and the rest of the Filipino commuters are being treated like second-class citizens in our country.

 

Skytrain Bangkok

Notice how Thai people fall in line?

Inside the Skytrain Bangkok

Inside the Sky Train at 10:00 a.m

 

Appreciate culture

If The Philippines is the home of the impressive century old churches, Thailand, on the other hand, is the home of majestic temples. And the grandest of them all is the “Grand Palace.” The best way to visit it is by riding Chao Phraya Express Boat. Take the Skytrain and drop off at Saphan Taksin station, then take the express boat and unload at Station 9. Entrance fee at the Grand Palace is THB500. Below are some of my favorite photos along my river tour and inside the palace complex.

 

Chao Phraya Express boat

Riding Chao Phraya Express Boat

Thailand Flag

View frm the River tour

 

Grand palace 2

Grand Palace 1

Grand Palace 6

 

Grand Palace 8

Grand Palace 7

 

I can’t recommend any restaurant in Bangkok because I only tried one inside the terminal 21 mall. But I could guarantee that their street food is the best I’ve ever tasted. The best place is outside express boat station 8 near Wat Pho.

 

Bangkok Street Food

The best place to find street food

Bangkok BBq

Look how they skew their BBQ. Effort!

Reclining Buddha

The Reclining Buddha Inside Wat Pho

Inside Wat Pho comples

Temples inside Wat Pho Complex

Shopping

Aside from the impressive temples and flavorful food, Bangkok is also known as a shopping haven. Whether you are looking for a cheap, bargain or glamorous and branded items. Bangkok can accommodate your taste, budget, and style. Shopaholic will surely love this place.

Pratunam Market

Initially, I planned to visit Pratunam in the morning then Chatuchak Weekend Market at night; this didn’t go exactly as I planned. After 5 hours of walking, haggling, and shopping around Pratunam market and Platinum mall, I felt so drained that I decided not to see Chatuchak at night. I know that Chatuchak is a must-see place in Bangkok considering the fact that it is the biggest market. My highschool friend, Aliyah, said (who I met in Thailand after more than 11 years) that “You’ve never been to Bangkok if you didn’t visit Chatuchak.” Well, Aliyah, maybe next time! Chatuchak is another reason to revisit aside from the fact that I badly miss authentic Thai food.

Aliyah Evangelista

It’s nice to see you in Bangkok

To visit Pratunam, take the sky train and drop off at Ratchathewi Station. Then walk along Phetchaburi road, all the way to the Platinum Mall. Another option is to go to Chit Lom Station then have a side trip at Central World. Walk along Ratchadamri road all the way to Phetchaburi road.

Outside Platinum Mall

Outside  Platinum Mall

Inside Platinum Mall

Sale Sale Sale!

Thai Iced Tea

Thai Ice Tea after shopping

Baiyoke Sky Hotel

Baiyoke Sky Hotel – Thailand’s Tallest Building

Central World

Outside Central World

I didn’t shop at Terminal 21, but it’s near the place where I stayed so it’s where I usually went whenever I had free time. If there’s one thing I loved about this mall, it’s definitely the concept of every floor, which changes from one culture to another. Someone said that when you visit this mall, you’d be amazed to see their restrooms. It sounded funny but it was true. Because each floor is of different theme, even the restrooms follow those themes. This is the only time in my life I visited all of the restrooms in a mall and had fun doing it. Below are some of my favorite restroom photos;

Terminal 21 Restroom 2Terminal 21 restroom

 

Night life

As a member of LGBT community, I heard a lot of stories about how lively the gay scene and night life in Bangkok are. I was afraid to visit the more “intense” gay places because, hello, I don’t even go to those kind of places in my own country. Luckily, I met a gay Filipino in Bangkok who invited me to visit a bar that night. We went to DJ Station in Silom; entrance fee is THB350 with free 2 drinks. They told me it’s like O-Bar in Manila, but I can’t tell for sure because I haven’t been there.

There is a mini cabaret show before midnight, which I had fun watching. After the show, the place gets darker, people became more energetic, music was louder and lively, then everyone started to party. It was indeed a crazy night where the first floor easily got packed with people from all over the world.

To visit DJ Station, take the MRT then take off at the Silom Station. The landmark is a Burger King. Don’t forget to bring your passport so you could get in.

Bangkok NIght Life

Everything comes to an end and that’s the truth about traveling. Until my last hours in Bangkok, this place didn’t disappoint me. From Sukhumvit to Suvarnabhumi Aiport, which is approximately 24 km, I rode the MRT from Sukhumvit and took off at Phetchaburi Station. From there, I ride the Bangkok Airport link (Makasan Station) and in less than an hour I reached the Airport without any hassle. I recommend leaving your place at least 3 hours before your flight. I almost missed my flight because I didn’t expect the high volume of people flying out.  I even fell in line for almost an hour including the one with immigration plus the ticketing station is far from the terminal gate.

Airport Train

Bangkok Airport Link

inside the airport train

Inside the Airport train

“Same-same but different,” is what I normally heard from Thai when they learn that I’m a Filipino. It means that there are many similarities between these two countries; physically, we look the same, some roads of Bangkok made me feel like I was just in Manila including the traffic, Filipinos and Thais are both hospitable and sweet, both countries have a lot of shopping malls, and Thailand was once considered as a third world country. But there are also many differences, like the fact that Thai people are more disciplined than the pinoys, they have better transportation system, better airport, cleaner and safer roads.

As I head back to Manila, I found myself pondering inside the plane on why the Filipinos cannot do the simple things that made Thailand better. Why can’t we be just like them? Why can’t we fix our transportation system? Why don’t we have a better airport? Why can’t we have a cleaner and safer roads? Why we can’t have the kind of discipline that the Thais possess?  I’m not an economist, but I believe that we were a more competitive country than Thailand many years ago. If we would base it from the GDP per capital during the 50’s, we were way ahead of Thailand, but now we are left behind.

 

Sky

Flying Back Home

 

I’m still hopeful that we will have a better country in the future. If our neighboring ASEAN country can do it, I’m positive that we can also do it. I admire how progressive Thailand is today and I’m hoping that the current growth of our country will continue. I can’t wait to see a better Manila, a better Philippines. I am still proud of my country, but I love how amazing Thailand is.

36 comments

  • Hi Cal Domingez , thanks a Lot for your excellent article i travel and lived in Thailand many years since 1994, i love Thailand and Thai Food of course . You’re right that Thailand has become a full developped country, so of course the Sky Train is amazing , all is very clean & new ,not like the old subway in europe,and Thai people are very disciplined and polite,but many people now moved to Philippines and say that it is cheaper , people are more emotional even confrontational like often in Catholic base country(like France where i am from) that the feeling there is like a mixed of Asia & Central America , that the nature, the beaches , the sea is more preserved & clean, for sure for all over the world Philippines people are known for loving music, danses and very special spiritual healers also …The spirituallife seems very strong in Philippines too, i try to look for a yoga winter job now to visit your country, even the way you are writing about Thailand gave the desire to go Philippines ahah i think that you are a really nice young man Cal Dominguez,Natacha

    • Hello Natacha,

      Thank you for taking time to read my article. I hope to see you here in the Philippines. Let me know if you need any help in planning your visit. Ill be happy to help you.

      Thanks,

      Cai

  • […] I was happy to see some of our neighboring countries who made it this year. There were Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Further down the list, I was hopeful I’d see my dear country, the […]

  • Thailand is better food but the Philippines has better looking guys. Also English is much more prominent in the Philippines and its cheaper. I chose the Philippines .

  • […] my second time here in Bangkok and for someone who has been here for quite a long time, seeing scores of foreigners walking […]

  • Hello, read your comments with interest, and agree with nearly all of it, but one thing that I constantly hear that is simply not true is the idea that Thais generally do not have good English. I have been going to Thailand for over ten years and have never found many people who do not have good English. I lived there for two years and learned to speak reasonable Thai and was constantly reminded that there was no need to do it. Are you sure that some of the problems that you experienced were not due to Phillipine incorrect English not being understood? In English, ” Rest Room” for example, has no understood meaning and would therefore not be understood in Thailand. If you were wishing to dispose of refuse, did you ask for the correctly termed item in the English language, a ” Rubbish Bin” ? The people of the Phillipines have quite a high regard, ( over inflated ) of their ability in English, but much of it is incorrect slang American English, which would not typically be understood by Thai people.

    • Hello Ronnie,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m positive that you read the entire article but I would just like to ask on where did you get the idea that I said Thai’s do not have good English. I remember I mentioned “Thais are a little behind when it comes to their English skills” I believe that’s totally different. I mentioned this on the article because of the situation I had with the taxi driver we really had a hard and long time explaining what we want to happen and where we want to go.

      Are you sure that some of the problems that you experienced were not due to Philippine incorrect English not being understood? Aside from explaining where I want to go and arrange our drop off points with my friends to the taxi driver. I don’t have any issue with them. Thanks 🙂

  • Wow! this place is beautiful , I would love to travel to thailand one day

  • Hi There!

    loved reading ur adventure through Thailand and Bangkok! there is so much to see and do there! I was there myself back in February and i was completely blown away with this massive enchanting city!

    Great blog!

  • A Thai stumbled upon your blog. Glad to know that you enjoy your time here.

    I live in Chiang Mai, another tourist destination. It has different culture and, from what I’ve read in tourists’ blogs, different in atmosphere from that in BKK. If you haven’t been here, please take this reply as and invitation.

    TH, like every country in the world, has both good and bad things, also good and bad people. Hope you see the first ones wherever you go.

    Welcome and be our guest again anytime.

    • Hello,

      I’m planning to visit Chiang Mai soon. I hope to meet you there. Thank you for the invite, I appreciate it 🙂

  • wow! this place looks great! i really hope i can visit this place one day. 🙂

  • I’m seriously in love with Thailand. I was there last 2014 and went back in 2015 with the boyfie. I love the food, the culture, the transportation, everything! I actually want to live there. I do hope na sana maging parang Thailand ang Philippines but I think it’s their culture that made them more progressive than us. Hayy..

    • I understand you Mich. Who doesn’t love Thailand. Yeah food, culture, transportation and take note! MURA! pinag isipan ko n ngang mag work sa Thailand hahahaha 🙂

  • oh im inspired.
    How long was your trip? budget?

  • Now that’s what I call a travel journal! Nice one. Makes us, your reader, almost feel like we were there. Definitely makes me want to visit. But somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. So, thanks for the impressions and beautiful photos.

  • Amazing pics! Would love to visit these places some day!

  • Never been to Thailand but I’ve always wanted to go. Really great photos!

  • What an adventure! Beautiful pictures! It looks like you had a great time!

  • What an adventure! Beautiful pictures! Looks like you had an amazing time!

  • Great pictures! I would love to travel to thailand.

  • I loved American version of Thai food. Would love to go to the country to try authentic Thai food, see those bathrooms (amazing photos) & I think the culture is exciting. It was fun reading your detailed travelog & I’m glad your travels are safe.

  • yup they’re kind, one of them held my hand while crossing on the street , because they think i cant cross the road

  • You sure had one heck of an adventure in Bangkok. Had I known it’s a good country to visit, I would have gone there instead of HCM. But oh wells, at least, I have something to look forward to. And I am definitely going to that mall and visit all of the restrooms. It’s so cool that each floor has a theme!

    I wish the same for our country, that we’d have a better transportation system and that we have disciplined people. I am not losing hope, maybe someday it will happen.

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