Hey hello again!
I promised I would write more in-depth about my adventure through SE Asia and first up is Bangkok, Thailand. After a grueling 2:50 AM flight out of Chongqing, we arrived and stayed in Bangkok for 5 and a half days to explore and eat all the yummy food we could. My group was there from January 18th through the 23rd (which Google tells me is one of the best times of the year, weather-wise, to go) before moving on north to Chiang Mai. I’m going to talk about my favorite things we did, my best food experiences and where I stayed. (TLDR; Long post ahead, CTRL+F for the things you need to know).
Favorite Things to do:
1. Boat Taxis and River Boats
Bangkok is called the Venice of Asia because of all the canals that split the city. Boat taxis and river boats are the cheap and local way to travel around the city. They only cost between 8-20 Baht depending on how far you were travelling. We asked our hostel’s employees for help on where to get on and off the boat according to where we were going that day. It was a really fun way to get around the city and watch the employees walk effortlessly around the edge of the boat as we flew down the canal.
2. Tuk-tuk Ride (And the Tuk-tuk Scam)
Ah yes, the obligatory Thai tuk-tuk ride and tuk-tuk scam. In case you didn’t know, tuk-tuks are open taxis that you can negotiate the fare with the driver. We were a group of 4, so squishing into a tiny tuk-tuk was always a lot of fun (and slightly dangerous). It’s a fun way to get around the city and see a lot because you can negotiate to have one driver take you around all day.
But beware! There is a famous tuk-tuk scam in Bangkok where someone will approach you in a touristy spot and ask you if you need help or directions anywhere. They will be extremely nice, maybe offer you a map, and tell you that that day is Buddha Day and all the temples are free. They will offer to get you a deal with a tuk-tuk driver that will drive you around all day to different temples for around 40 Baht. But during your trip around Bangkok, they will take you to their buddy’s suit or dress shop to offer to handmake you a suit or dress. This isn’t a dangerous scam, but a more so annoying and distracting one that will take away valuable exploring time. If you want to take a tuk-tuk, you are better off negotiating your ride yourself so you don’t get sucked into visiting a suit shop (unless, of course, you’re in the market for a handmade, tailored suit or dress). If you don’t like the tuk-tuks, Uber and Grab both worked perfect for our group in Bangkok.
3. Khao San Road
Khao San Road is a big tourist and backpacker destination in Bangkok. Bars, restaurants and hostels line the street and at night, souvenir vendors and food hawkers come out to entice the tourists. Here, you can get your “I-Travelled-to-Thailand” elephant souvenirs (pants, bags, wallets, shirts, everything has elephant print) and enjoy delicious street Pad Thai!
4. Wat Arun
Was Arun is located in the Southeast of Bangkok, across the Chao Phraya River. This is by far one of the most beautiful and unique temples I saw on my trip throughout SE Asia. It is a white temple with designs made of colorful pieces of porcelain. Wat Arun was extremely photogenic and is where you’ll probably want to take a few (hundred) photos for the ‘gram. We took one of the boat taxis from our hostel down to Wat Arun. The entrance fee to the temple was only 100 Baht and as with any temple and place of worship, be sure to dress appropriately! There are cover-ups and sarongs available at the temple, but it does cost extra to rent.
5. The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha are located within the same area of Bangkok. This is a popular location for scammers to try and get tourists, so be aware. As you walk to the main gate of the palace, many scammers will try and tell you that they work at the Grand Palace and unfortunately, it is closed for the day for prayer. They will then try to convince you to take a tuk-tuk and go to another temple and inevitably try to get you to buy a suit. If this happens, just ignore them and find your way to the front entrance and follow the crowds to the ticket windows.
The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a large area that you can walk around and take pictures of the beautiful temples. I would recommend at least 2 or 3 hours to explore, if not more to really see everything and enjoy the architecture. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha requires the guests to dress appropriately and take off their shoes. Once inside, it’s considered rude to take pictures because it is a place of worship and taking photos of Buddha is inappropriate. My favorite thing here was listening to the monks as they chanted their prayers and enjoying the beautiful golden facades of the temples. All of the buildings were so intricate, I couldn’t help but take photos of the small details.
You are not allowed to actually enter the Grand Palace, but you can take photos of the stunning facades and protective statues on the outside. There is also a museum that is free for people that have purchased tickets that explains the architecture and building process of the Grand Palace.
6. Lumphini Park
Lumphini Park is outside of the old city but is a short and cheap Uber away. When we went, we stumbled upon a Thai Tourism Festival that showcased all the different regions of Thailand (including their coffee and food, yum!). The park itself was also nice to walk around and I assume that many events are held here when the weather is nice. I would recommend asking your hotel or hostel workers if any fun events are going on in the park during your stay. You can also pair this up with the Banyan Tree bar and have a relaxing stroll through the park before heading over for a drink at sunset.
7. Banyan Tree Hotel Rooftop Bar
Going to a rooftop bar is on any must-do list for a Bangkok visit. We chose the Banyan Tree Hotel’s bar because of its reviews, prices and distance from the park. We were able to walk from the Lumphini Park to the hotel and just elevator up to the bar. Banyan Tree Hotel has two bars available: Vertigo & Moon Bar and the Saffron Sky Garden. Vertigo and Moon Bar has a strict smart casual dress code while Saffron Sky Garden is casual and both bars do not open until 5PM. Saffron Sky Garden is also not located on the rooftop of the building, but a few floors down still with outdoor seating and great views of the city (and delicious Mai Tais). It was a lovely evening filled with picture taking of the city and yummy cocktails as the sun went down. I would recommend getting there right when it opens or making a reservation before hand at Vertigo & Moon Bar to get a table because it got busy as the sunset.
8. Muay Thai Fight
Our hostel was able to tell us about two Muay Thai stadiums around Bangkok that we could go to. We settled on the one that was within walking distance from our hostel (Rajadamnern Stadium). When we arrived at the fight, we were given our seat and price options (the options ranged from about 1000 Baht to 2000 Baht). We settled on the Club level which cost 1800 Baht. The view was level with the ring and workers come around taking your food and drink orders. I’m not very interested in the fighting sports, but overall, it was good experience and I would recommend everyone to see one Muay Thai fight while in Thailand.
9. Golden Mount
Wat Saket, also known as The Golden Mount costs only 20 Baht for foreigners to climb the 344 steps to reach the top. I don’t think that the climb was difficult, and you can get great photos of Bangkok from the top! It was also very peaceful just climbing the stairs, listening to the monks praying and the Buddhist bells chiming in the wind. After Wat Arun, this was second favorite temple that I visited on my trip.
You cannot leave Thailand without indulging in a massage! The prices are incredibly cheap that even if you’re traveling on a budget you could afford one. Anywhere there are tourists, there is someone asking you if you would like a massage. I had a few at a location on Khao San Road and also on Rambuttri Alley (I think we went to Darin Beauty Salon and Massage). We found that the locations on Rambuttri Alley and off of Khao San Road were a bit cheaper with the same quality and less noisy.
BONUS: Kitty Cat Café
If you miss your fur-baby or just need some pet therapy on your trip to Bangkok, Kitty Cat Café is the closest cat café to the old city. It was extremely clean and the cats all seemed well-cared for and happy. We went right when it opened before we flew north to Chiang Mai and it was very quiet and relaxing!
My Favorite Spots to Eat:
Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant
Delicious vegetarian and vegan options (I had falafel and pancakes here!).
Street Pad Thai
Any chance you get, just eat it. A good complimentary side for your Pad Thai would be veggie spring rolls with sweet chili sauce.
We came here 3 out of 5 days just for the delicious Pad Thai!
Eureka Coffee Tap
This is located by Lumphini Park and Banyan Tree Hotel. It has delicious nitro coffee and Thai milk tea!
Right on the Chao Phraya River, N10 Coffee is a fun place to go watch the river boats and enjoy more of the specialty Thai milk tea.
Place to Stay:
Baan Nampetch Hostel
This is one of the best hostel experiences I’ve ever had in my life! I can’t recommend them enough. The staff there is so friendly and helpful. They remembered all our names, asked us if they could help us with directions and called us a taxi that would use a meter to the airport. The rooms were comfortable, clean and had air conditioning. The bathrooms are shared on each floor but are cleaned throughout the day and I never had to wait to use one. They have a free breakfast in the morning for all their guests that included toast, cereal, cookies, fruit, coffee, milk, water, juice. The location was north of Khao San Road which was nice because it was still close to the fun and active parts of the city but far enough away that we weren’t failing to fall asleep from the parties.
Reach out if you have any questions or suggestions for more fun things to do in Bangkok! Next blog post will be about Chiang Mai and ENP! 🙂