Bangkok. Omg, what can I say? Where else in the world can you find a beautiful Buddhist temple down the road from a bar trying to sell you a live lady-boy sex show?! Where else can you eat the best street food of your life for 50p and then get ripped off buying a scorpion on a stick that tastes like Frazzles?! It’s crazy, it’s busy, it’s hot. It’s worth a visit in my opinion, but you need no more than 2 days here. By the morning of our third we were ready to get the hell out!
Here is my definitive guide to the best bits of Bangkok all squeezed in to short space of time.
What to see
You’ve got to join the rat race and go and see all the temples in the city centre, you just can’t not. If you go to Bangkok and don’t get a picture of the Grand Palace then you basically didn’t go. They are busy, but they are equally beautiful. The main temples; Wat Phra Kaew (the Grand Palace complex), Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) are all easily accessible by the river ferries or by foot. The most expensive entry fee is the Grand Palace which costs 500 baht (roughly £10) and the other two are around half that.
We also visiting the Golden Mount which is a slight walk out of town but still easily reached on foot from the city. I would thoroughly recommend this because firstly, it’s a beautiful building and really relaxed and less busy than the main temples and secondly, when you get to the top you get this jaw dropping view of the Bangkok city skyline. Trust me, Bangkok is a lot more beautiful from up here than it is up close! It is also a very small fee to get up there – literally next to nothing.
TIP: Go early, or late. Bangkok is HOT and there are several hundred stairs to get to the top of the monument. It is a fairly gentle climb though and suitable for those with moderate fitness.
What to do
Other than sightseeing there is not a huge amount to do in Bangkok that doesn’t involve shopping, drinking or sex shows (sorry to lower the tone!) We actually didn’t end up going to any of the ‘special shows’, we had heard bad things about getting scammed for huge entry fees or expensive drinks, but a lot of people will be of the opinion that when in Bangkok – you’ve got to see what it’s famous for! There is no shortage of tuk tuk drivers all too happy to take you to a ‘ping pong show’!!
Shopping and night life wise I would recommend the ‘Khao San Road’ – a street in central Bangkok which is backpackers and hostel heaven. We stayed here – more on that later – but even if you don’t it’s definitely worth a visit. The market stalls sell good quality boho/hippy style clothing and jewellery which you can barter down. Never accept their first price! It’s always a rip off. We also spent one evening in a really nice rooftop bar on this road which had an excellent live band. If you like a drink (not saying that we do but.. we do) it’s more cost effective to buy the famous Thai ‘buckets’ which are literally buckets of alcohol and mixer. Let’s just say you get a lot of spirit for your money.
Something else I would recommend in Bangkok if you’ve got a free evening and fancy a night away from the craziness is an evening river cruise with dinner. There are lots of good deals about – including excellent food and drink options. Bangkok is seriously beautiful all lit up at night. The cruises start in the modern ‘skyscraper’ hotel district and head up river to see all the temples in their illuminated glory. TIP: do your research! We had a lovely traditional boat cruise with authentic Thai food (you can view our cruise company here) but we did see some Ibiza-fantastic party boats which looked like they might be best avoided.
Where to stay
If, like us, you want to get in the thick of things and experience Bangkok at it’s craziest then the Khao San Road is the place for you. It’s a road dedicated to backpackers and their drinking habits. We spent two fun evenings here but honestly, we wouldn’t stay there again. The hotel come guesthouse we stayed in was good value and did the job but it was so loud at night. The main thing that annoyed me about the Khao San Road was that you couldn’t even step out of your accommodation for a coffee without getting hounded by tuk-tuk drivers offering you a ‘best price tour of the city.’ TIP: this is not genuine and NOT best price.
Of course, there are some high-rise, modern things of beauty where you can stay for a fee. Most of these hotels are located on the riverside in the ‘Bangrak’ district and offer their own ferry shuttles to the town centre. If you have a bit more cash to burn and are looking for something a bit more swanky you will have a variety of options in this area.
What to eat
Authentic Thai food is INCREDIBLE. My advice for Bangkok. Eat and eat lots. If, like most tourists, you are heading southwards to the islands next, I’m sorry to tell you the food only goes downhill from here! The food in Bangkok is cheap and mostly delicious. And the street food is some of the best we had in Thailand. The Pad Thai stalls on the Khao San Road sold the best Pad Thai we had during our stay. And don’t worry about hygiene when eating street food, trust me; we only got sick once during our whole stay and it was from a pizza in an upmarket restaurant! Fill up on the good stuff in Bangkok and try new things. Even bugs and scorpions if you fancy it!
What to avoid
It sounds horrible but avoid anyone who seems like they are trying to help you! Any friendly local who wants to ‘show you the city’, ‘give you directions’ or assist you in anyway, 99% of the time they are trying to get money out of you! Know where you are going in advance and NEVER take your map out in public! You will be swarmed with ‘help’. Also, anyone who tells you the Grand Palace or some other famous attraction you are heading to is closed just carry on they are LYING to try and get you to go somewhere else with them. We saw so many people falling for this one and it’s the oldest scam in the book! Also avoid; Western food (unless it’s in an extremely high end restaurant), tuk-tuks (rip you off! Take metered taxis instead and pay half the price) or any offers of ‘free drinks’.
It’s humid. All the time. Bear this in mind when packing.
Avoid the cats and dogs no matter how cute they are, you don’t know where they’ve been.
Always make sure you have cash when haggling for goods/transport. If you negotiate them down to 100 baht and then try to pay with a 500 note they are unlikely to give you the correct change!
When visiting the temples, make sure you wear long trousers (ladies and gents) and ladies cover your shoulders. It’s not the end of the world if you forget; but better to take your own than be forced to wear one of these sexy numbers:
Planning a whistle-stop stay in Bangkok can seem a bit daunting, so I hope some people might find this guide useful! Enjoy yourself – there’s no where else quite like it!
Until next time,