We started our Thailand adventure by spending some days in Bangkok. We landed at Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi, where we took a taxi (500 bahts) to the hotel. It was a quick trip as the traffic was exceptionally low. We decided to stay at the Chern Hostel because it is very well located – close to all the places we wanted to see -, within our budget and close to traditional little restaurants.
Day 1 – Old Bangkok
The first day, half jetlagged half excited with the want to visit everything, we left the hotel very early in the morning in the direction of the Chao Praya, the river that splits Bangkok in two. Old Bangkok doesn’t really have good transport links with the subway or the skytrain, but distances are not that big. So we decided to walk our way through the city and get the most out of it and the sensations that go with Bangkok!
Our first visit on the list (very very early) was Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, on the other side of the river. But it was being renovated, so we decided not to go in and pay the entrance fee to take pictures of scaffolding. Too bad!
After taking some pics from the other side, we walked to the Grand Palace. It opens at 8:30 am and you’d better arrive early, as there are loads of tourists queueing up before 8 am! The entrance fee is 500 baht and it gives you access to the palace as well as the temples and a museum.
Among the most important places within the palace, you shouldn’t miss the Emerald Buddha temple, really impressive and colourful, as well as the little temples and porches around it; walk around the Royal Palace and its beautifully maintained gardens and some other cool buildings. It was really nice, but honestly, there are just too many people. You can visit the palace in a couple of hours but be advised that some of the buildings are closed to the public during the weekend.
After leaving the Grand Palace, we had a coffee at Bon Pain, just next to the main entrance, and then we continued to the Amulet Market. It’s a nice market to see but we didn’t find it fascinating. We expected a really big market but it’s actually quite small! You may want to know that every little amulet has a different meaning and purpose, but communicating with the sellers in English was almost impossible so we can’t give you much more info. Sorry!
Not far from the Amulet market there’s a modern restaurant and café area, really western-style and directly next to the river. You can also take the ferries and longtail boats here if you want to visit the khlongs (canals). However, the price of the longtail boats being exaggerated, we decided to continue our way down to Wat Poh temple, with its famous reclining Buddha. It is really nice – undoubtedly our favourite temple in Bangkok – and as always it was really crowded. But hey, welcome to Asia! Wat Poh also holds several temples within its complex, one of which has crocodiles.
After a morning full of visits and walking, we stopped for lunch at Eat Sight Story, a restaurant over the Chao Praya river directly in front of Wat Arun, which we found nice but much more expensive than the traditional street food stalls. The view and the location are great! After lunch, we took a ferry for 13 baht per person at (Tha Tien Pier). There are several ferry lines that you can easily identify by their coloured flags; we took the orange line. It was really pleasant, quite relaxing after the long walk, but just bear in mind that seats are limited so you may have to stand for some time. The ferries go up and down the Chao Praya stopping a couple dozen times, so it’s a great way of (re)discovering the city from the river. It’s really nice!
Guided by many blogs and guidebooks, we went to Khao San Road. And to be honest, we found it was too touristy, with nothing but shops, guesthouses, bars and restaurants… We were disappointed! So we found a nice little street restaurant on a road parallel to Khaosan, and it was really nice (50 baht per person).
For us, Khao San Road has no interest at all, even if it’s recommended by “authorities” and nicknamed the backpacker street. But it’s just shops for tourists. We expected a long street with loads of things, but actually we walked throught it and it was over in 10 minutes! So we don’t really recommend going to Khao San Road unless you love shopping and have time to waste in Bangkok! There are more interesting places to visit.
Day 2 – Chinatown
We were lucky enough to be in Bangkok on Chinese New Year’s Day! And the capital is famous for holding a huge Chinatown. So we decided to explore this great quarter, where we spent our morning and evening on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It’s really lively, with a very cool atmosphere. Sure enough we arrived early in the morning so we could skip the crowds, and we were right to do so. We could walk around peacefully, and see all the markets without many people, and a little before midday we could feel the streets bustling up.
There are several things to see in Chinatown, starting with the old and new markets (Walat Mai and Walat Kao), two great Chinese markets located in tiny streets – so beware claustrophobics, it can get really stifling with crowds of people and hot weather.
The Dragon Flower temple (Wat Mangkon Kamalawat) is one of the most magical in Bangkok, specially for New Year, as it gets full of incense and offerings.
Yaowarat Road is the main axe in Chinatown, with lots of decoration and food stalls for the holiday.
There’s also Kuan Yim Shrine, a nice little place.
And the impressively beautiful temple of Wat Traimit, with the world’s largest gold Buddha statue (the story goes that it was covered in plaster for centuries, in an attempt to hide it from the Burmese). The atmosphere here for New Year was really different and worth seeing, but expect to find a real lot of people!
After leaving Chinatown, we came across a kind of electronics market where you’ll find absolutely everything you can imagine, but we didn’t buy anything – we weren’t sure if it was conterfeit. We learnt later that it’s actually called Khlong Thom Market, and it on Woarachk road, which we have then followed to get to Golden Mount. Sometimes left aside by guidebooks, Golden Mount is a beautiful where you’ll have to climb 334 steps and pay 20 bahts per person. But once you’re up there, you’ll find wonderful pray areas and a wonderful sight of Bangkok. It’s great to go around the actual temple to have a 360-degree view of the city. We really liked this little visit, and there’s a nice current of air upstairs – not negligible in a place as hot as Bangkok!
Some time later, we treated ourselves to a nice foot massage! 150 bahts for 30 minutes at Orchid Guesthouse, not far from Khao San Road, and honestly, it was great! It gave the energy to continue on our way.
But before walking back to Chinatown to celebrate New Year’s Eve, we stopped for a coffee at Budhtricoffee, a western-style café, nicely located next to the town hall.
The celebrations for New Year’s Eve at Bangkok’s Chinatown are available on the web. We wanted to experience the atmosphere, the smells, colours and noises which are somehow magical during this spectacular evening. Among dancers and dragons, Thai princesses and little concerts, we had a really good evening. At Kwong Siew Foundation there was a show of dance, dragons and drums, and with all the lighting and the red lanterns, we felt as if transported to another universe!
Day 3 – Flower Market and modern Bangkok
On our last day in Bangkok we visited the Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat), quite beautiful even if there’s not much to see – and it was a little far from the hotel. We really liked the preparation of flowers for offerings and their transformation into bracelets, collars, bouquets, etc. It was also interesting to see how they preserve the flowers so they stay fresh and lively until they’re sold. They wrap them in newspapers and put a rubber band around the roses to prevent them from opening up.
After a short walk we got on our way to the famous MBK, the most visited shopping center in Bangkok. To get there, we tried the underground and got there quite quickly! The subway works just the same way it does all around the world, so there’s nothing to fear. You can buy your tokens from the vending machines at the entrance, and keep them until you leave the area.
The MBK is a huge shopping center, full of little shops and also some large western-style boutiques. You will find absolutely everything: clothing, shoes, supermarkets, electronics, etc. Upstairs there is an area where they sell only souvenirs from Thailand, as if it were a little market. We’ve heard that you can find electronic goods cheaper than in Europe, but we didn’t dare buy anything. There is an area where everything looked counterfeit and another one with official phone stores. And there are also lots of different restaurants, specially on the upper floors. We decided to try a Japanese place for once, and Taidama restaurant on the 7th floor had a menu of two dishes plus rice plus miso soup for 176 baht. The price was really good for the amount of food, Anaïs couldn’t even finish her plate. If we had known, we’d have taken a menu for two!
And after this shopping break, we headed towards Lumpini Park, via the skytrain. It’s really something to try when in Bangkok and the view of the city is great! At National Stadium station we walked in front of another shopping mall, Si Lom Complex, so we went in just to see the different with the MBK. And yes, the target client was totally different, Si Lom being higher-end.
Lumpini Park is a large park at the heart of Bangkok’s modern area. We highly recommend a stop here, as the views and atmosphere are great. It’s incredibly calm when compared to the streets that surround it, with its nice little lake and the benches under the tall trees. It was really refreshing after a long day’s visit under Bangkok’s sun! There are paddle boats to hire in the lake, and even an open-air sport facility, quite surprising. There are some little temples and lots of people doing sports. Don’t hesitate to explore it! And if you’re planning to visit the Suan Lum night bazaar, just know that it has been replaced by building cranes!
We wanted to finish our last day in Bangkok on a high note, so we took Sathon Tai Road and walked up to Banya Tree Hotel, which is on the left side. We went in to have a drink at Vertigo Skybar, one of the coolest in town. The entrance is practically invisible if you don’t know where you’re going, so when you see the Banya Tree Hotel sign, take the first door on the right, keep going until you reach the reception, then follow the signs to Vertigo Bar. Don’t worry, even if the hotel is deluxe, you can come in for free even if you’re not one of their clients. Just ask the staff, they are really helpful.
Just bear in mind that formal evening clothing is required for both men and women, and if like us you’re not prepared for the occasion, they’ll lend you some trousers. We arrived at 5 pm – yep, it’s kind of early but we knew the sun was setting at around 6 pm and we wanted to take pictures during the day and the night. It’s actually preferable to arrive early – it opens at 5 pm – as it soon becomes crowded and there’s not much space. Drinks are quite expensive for Thailand, but not that much for us Europeans (cocktails 550 bahts). The view is simply breathtaking, it’s a really tall building and the panorama of Bangkok’s skyline is stunning. It was a really good idea to finish our stay in Bangkok at this spot, as it gave us a different look of the city from the one we already knew, and we now keep a wonderful last image of Bangkok in our memories.
Take a couple of socks in your bag everyday, as in all temples you’ll be asked to take your shoes off if you want to get in – we personally prefer to wear socks rather than walking barefoot on a floor where a million people have walked before.
Always carry some tissues on you – specially for us girls, as the toilets there are equipped with a water jet and very seldom paper.
Visit the most important temples early in the morning, before they get crowded.
In a general way, always bring long clothes.
The quarters are quite large, so you may want to dedicate at least half a day to each of them.
Don’t be afraid of eating at the street food stalls or little street restaurants, they are delicious and very cheap!
We will soon publish an article on Thai food. Subscribe to our newsletter so we can tell you when it’s online!
[table id=20 /]