When the Atlanta Hotel turned us away with our bikes (the only place so far to do that) we ended up in the nice and spacious Omni Apartments, where bicycles were welcome (even on the 26th floor), the pool was shabby but clean, the gym had lots of equipment and the breakfast was free and delicious. It was very centrally located to the tourist attractions and public transport, so we didn't need to bring the bikes down until it was time to leave.
The apartment was also centrally located to western bars and massage parlours, and it seemed as though every single (we hope), overweight, 50+ year old, British man was staying in our street (Soi 4) to take advantage of the local hospitality. And the girls (and also lady boys, which we saw many of) were eager to make everyone feel welcome and loved in Bangkok.
We didn't like the city. It was dirty and made of concrete. I am sure there are some nice parks and pockets of beauty... but overall it is not an attractive place. And it seemed as though everyone was trying to get money out of us.
Internet is very expensive. Even the hotels and coffee shops that would normally have free wifi were charging high rates. The taxi and tuktuk drivers refuse to use the meter and if you won't pay them more than the locals they don't want to take you.
We took a taxi to the bike shop and the driver agreed to use the meter, but only if we went to a tailor and looked around for 5 minutes while he got his fuel voucher for bringing them Western tourists. He explained times were tough - tourist numbers were down with the protests and all - so we agreed to go to his tailor. It was WAY out of our way - in the opposite direction - and then we got caught in traffic. But we wanted to help him out so we didn't complain. But then when we got near the bike shop he kept driving around (even though he'd talked to the shop on the phone and knew where it was) to get the meter up. When we yelled at him to stop and let us out, he didn't give us enough change. We'd gone into the pushy, tailor shop to help him and he tried to rort us.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise though. When he'd first mentioned tourist numbers being down we asked him if he was a red shirt, which he admitted he was, and that he attended local meetings every day. We asked if there would be any fighting and he said no, only talking. He said they were very angry and wanted elections, because they loved the ousted leader Thaksin, who has been declared guilty in court of stealing billions from the Thai economy. When we questioned the driver about why he supported a thief who was corrupt he didn't seem phased, in fact he laughed and just said Thaksin looked after the poor people and they still loved him. It seems that most poor people don't care that the man embezzled billions, because as the driver said 'he would have done the same if given the opportunity.'
There were however some highlights of Bangkok - including Ocean World at the Siam Paragon shopping centre, particularly the little fish that eat the skin off your feet (they loved Sam!) and the sharks - everyone loves sharks (when they are behind very thick glass). The shopping centre also had a selection of prestige cars which was a definite highlight for Sam, not so much for Shanna. And we watched How to train your dragon on Imax 3D - not only a cute movie, but amazing in that cinema.
To keep the journey moving we went to a Cannondale bike shop to stock up on supplies like anti-friction cream, lube, tubes and patches. And Sam spent half a day putting new chains on both bikes (he is so clever) in preparation for the limited supplies and rough conditions of China.
Once we'd done all we needed, we quite happily went back to the station and caught a train out of Bangkok, to Ayutthaya.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia