Attraction/Town you are aiming to visit: Bangkok
Distance from Port: 80 miles, 2 hrs by bus
Mode of transport we used: Ship's tour bus shuttle $40 each
English spoken by locals: Yes
Ships tour necessary? Sort of - if you want to go to Bangkok, I would advise it. However, if you are choosing to go to Pattaya, a closer town, then independent travel would be fine. Again, had the ship given us more accurate direction, we might have know this at the time.
Hassle from merchants and taxi drivers: Funny story actually....read on...
There is a ships tour - a bit of a misnomer since it is just a bus ride... a very expensive bus ride for Thailand... right into Bangkok and back to the ship for $40 each. The bus drops you off, and from that point on, you are independent until it's time to get back on-board and the bus takes you back in time for the ship's departure - the key words are "on time". We fell victim to the scaremongering about how the traffic is crazy and how we'd run the risk of missing the ship if we did go the whole hog independently. So we went the with the ship's tour. If wandering around in Bangkok on your own for a few hours is too scary there is also a "Best of Bangkok" tour for $139, though not for us...We fancied wandering at our own pace, not being herded about and having to listen to a guide.
We'd seen our fill of temples and wats. We only had about 3 hrs actually in the city, so we decided to just drop into the Grand Palace...as ya do!
We reckoned that if everyone from the cruise (there were about 7 bus loads of us) was going to do that we'd reverse it, grab a cab from the hotel to the Palace and work our way back on public transport. We'd pulled out Thai Bat from an ATM at the service stop en-route where we also saw these cute solar panels.
By now My Husband was a dab hand at negotiating taxi fares. The first cab asked for 300 Baht - too much according to what we'd learned from the guide and Lonely Planet. The second driver quoted us 200 Baht - that was more like it. Feeling quite on top of things in this chaotic city we jumped in and headed for the Palace.
We had time to conjure up several scenarios ... Perhaps he was really a bank robber and we were in the getaway car! ...Or maybe he'd stolen the car. We were sitting ducks and he was 1000 Baht up... Then just as we were beginning to wonder if we should bail out of the taxi he showed up, grinning and waving our change.
He drove us back to the entrance of the Grand Palace and dropped us off thanking us for the large tip we'd felt he'd earned.
They even have the beautiful tile-work under the eaves!
From the above photo you'd almost think you were at the real thing, until you see the scale against the rest of the palace
I liked seeing the guards. The elephants were so Thailand!
I was impressed by how orderly the lines at the train station were.