When travelling to Thailand people usually spend a day or two in Bangkok, quick in and out, on to the next place type of situation. Which makes sense, as time is tight and Bangkok is often the springboard to sunnier/sandier destinations. But with only one or two days it’s usually a race to fit all the popular tourist spots in.
As you can imagine, tourist places mean lots of tourists, lots of tourists means lots of slow walkers, selfie sticks and that one tour guide who just has to shout everything. Combine all of that with 30-degree heat and its understandable why people say ‘I hated Bangkok.’
When I first got to Thailand I thought I hated Bangkok too. It was as hot as it was busy and I was not prepared for it. I spent my first few days exploring the temples so I continuously felt sweaty, stressed and needing a good 12 hours sleep. Which for most people is the exact opposite of what you want to feel when on holiday. So I completely understand when people say they didn’t enjoy their time here. But once I got settled and stopped going to the busy tourist spots, I saw Bangkok for what it was and realized it was a pretty amazing place to call home.
With over 40,000 temples in Thailand, and the most popular ones being in Bangkok you will want to make a list of the ones that appeal to you most. There are countless websites recommending ‘the top 8’, ‘top 7’, ‘top 5’ temples in Bangkok but I would recommend visiting as many as you feel.
My favourite’s, and the ones I took my friends to see are Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. That being said, whichever temple you decide to visit, it is sure to be an incredibly unique and interesting experience, so don’t feel pressure to do them all.
It is worth mentioning that in some temples they adhere to a strict dress code so dressing appropriately is recommended. Generally, it means no sleeveless tops, no shorts or skirts above the knee, or sports wear and always take your shoes off before going inside the actual temple. Basically, dress like you’re going to see your grandma, nice, smart and conservative.
If an impromptu temple visit occurs and you don’t feel dressed for the occasion no biggie, you can always rent clothing before you go in. It’s not the most fashionable but it’s cheap and generally hassle free.
In Bangkok, you are never short of transport options. You’ve got your tuktuks, boats, the MRT (metro), the BTS Sky Train, motorbike taxis and of course, thousands of normal taxis.
I don’t think any trip to Thailand would be complete unless you take a journey in a tuktuk. They’re fun, they make good a photo op and sometimes they can actually save you lots of time in traffic as they are able to wriggle their way through.
The traffic in Bangkok, like any other major city, is immensely insane, one time I got stuck in a taxi for 2 hours and I was only travelling 6 miles away. So if you were in a rush I would recommend seeing if there is an MRT or BTS station close to your destination. They’re easy to use, fast, and reliable, they also have the best air conditioning. Honestly it’s that good you’ll be happy to miss your stop.
Taxis are the probably the most common choice as they are generally everywhere no matter what time of the day or night and hailing one is easy enough. Try to make sure you have small notes and always insist they put the meter on rather than a fixed fair. Believe me, taxi drivers will do anything to try and get you to do otherwise.
So, first on my list is the famous Khao San Road. I think it is a benchmark for any traveller’s trip to Thailand. I even took my parents when they came to visit as I feel everyone should at least witness the rebellious road for themselves.
You’ve got bars after bars, row upon row, towering heels selling towers of beer to flip-flopped back packers and partygoers. Each bar promising stronger drinks, and louder music than the bar next door. Neon lights glitter the road in an almost grimy Las Vegas style fashion.
Food stalls stay open until the last reveler calls it a night, so there is always the opportunity to get a late night drunken snack. Fried rice, fried chicken, or if you’re feeling pretty adventurous and wanting to embrace the spirit of Khao San, why not try the infamous deep-fried scorpion? A Khao San Road delicacy if you will…
Next on my partying hit list is The Ratchada Train Market, an evening market that runs from Wednesday – Sunday near MRT Thailand Cultural Centre. The Train Market is one of my favourite night markets in the whole of Thailand, and believe me I’ve been to many (and so will you by the end of your trip FYI). It is a thriving hub for drinking, eating, shopping, hanging out and watching live music.
My favourite aspect of the market is the food; there is honestly so much choice! It’s a one size fits all kinda’ deal, and there is something for everyone, even for the fussiest of eaters. There is a huge selection of Thai and Western food vendors amongst the many rows in the market.
A popular choice is the spiced chicken strips and the pork ribs. There are plenty of stalls selling these and the bigger the queue, the better the food! They even give you plastic gloves to eat them so you can say goodbye to smudgy fingerprints all over your phone! Fear not veggie and vegans, there are plenty of other options too!
If you’ve come to the Train Market to party then you will not be disappointed. With bars on top of bars, quite literally, you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice. Live music, DJ’s, western music, Thai music and the odd random tune here and there makes the Train Market the place to get a real taste for Bangkok nightlife. You’ll find your locals, hipsters, families, bikers, expats, after work drinkers, late night partiers, and foodies all together in this one spot.
Bars With a View
When it comes to sky bars in Bangkok, there are plenty to choose from. The skyline may not reach the glitzy heights of New York but there are still some staggering views, especially around sunset, when you can feel the city come to life.
One of my personal favourites Sky Bars is Octave Bar in The Marriot Hotel Sukhumvit. Not only does it boast incredible 360-degree views of Bangkok from 45 floors up, but it also has an in house DJ playing laid-back tunes creating the perfect chilled vibe. They also offer a selection of Thai fusion tapas if you fancy a bite to eat.
Now the best, if not most important part of this sky bar is the cocktails. Not only are they incredibly delicious and an absolute treat for the taste buds, but they are also a treat for the purse strings. If you arrive when it opens at 5pm, you can enjoy 2-4-1 cocktails until 7pm, getting to watch the sunset while you are there. Most sky bars do some sort of 2-4-1 special offer, but Octave is the best value for money with a laid back atmosphere.
If you’re here to shop then Bangkok is definitely for the city for you. There are hundreds of options catering to all different types of budgets. From the markets to the malls there are bargains to be had.
In the centre of Bangkok there is Siam Paragon. One of, if not THE most luxurious mall in Bangkok, filled with many high-end designers such as Hermes, Prada and Luis Vuitton. It also has lots of high street brands, a food court, top rated restaurants, bars, and a cinema. It really is the ultimate luxury-shopping destination if you are after a taste of the finer things in life.
Another incredible market in Bangkok (I did say you will go to many a market) is the Chatuchak weekend market. It is the perfect spot to fill all your shopping needs as you meander your way around the 8,000 plus stalls it has to offer. From clothes, to stylish yet affordable home ware, one of a kind art, clothes for your pets (yep, that’s a thing) and a ton of other random/cool stuff you would find it difficult to not buy anything here.
There also lots of food options and a quite a few cool outdoors bars which are perfect when you want to take 5 and take stock of what you’ve bought. Chatuchak is perfect for all budgets and there are plenty of bargains to be found.
Last but not least, is the MBK centre, if you’ve come to Thailand in the hope of finding yourself a designer bag without the designer price tag this is the place for you. MBK is home to over 2000 shops so there are literally thousands of shops for you to browse in. If you haven’t done so already this is the best place to test out your haggling skills. Don’t be afraid to try and knock a few baht off and have fun whilst doing so. The worst that can happen is they say no, but they might just say yes. I hope my tips have been helpful and you get to fall in love with Bangkok just as much I have. It really is an incredible city with so much to offer.