They say it’s better to see it once, than to hear it a thousand times. And that’s something I’ve learned while travelling, you can hear lots of stories about a place but you can never from an opinion without experiencing it. When it comes to places like Bangkok, there are so many opinions. Some say you either hate it or love it, and that couldn’t be more wrong. I guess you can now say that I definitely loved Bangkok.
My last big travel of 2018 was to Thailand. I got to visit Bangkok, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. To be honest I always wanted to visit Bangkok because I’ve heard so many stories, some people hated it so much and others had nothing but amazing things to talk about. So you always hear about this love-hate relationship that people have with Thailand’s Capital.
I’m not here to convince you that Thailand should be on your 2019 bucket list but, if you are considering traveling to Asia this year i can give you 10 good reasons to visit Thailand and 10 places you must visit in Bali (Indonesia). With that being said, let me introduce you to Bangkok and it’s little gems that’ll put you in the mood to start looking into your new vacay.
Bangkok's Facts & Stats
Was trying to find a word to describe Bangkok, but I’m yet to find it. Thailand’s Capital has a population of about 8.28 Million, and if that sounds quite a lot then let me tell you they open their arms to roughly 21.5 Millions tourist every single year. No wonder you can’t move in the markets, Hein!
We tend to leave our “bigger” travels to the end of the year, preferably the months of October and November. Just a preference really, however, if you’re planning to travel to Bangkok then let me enlighten you on the best months. While it won’t make a huge difference, I’d say November or February because it’s at the beginning and end of peak season (December to January). That means that you can get pretty good deals when it comes to flights and hotels, and you can beat the crowds.
September and early October are the rainiest months, so try to avoid those months if you can. However, when we traveled at the end of October I still caught a bit of rain but nothing we couldn’t handle and actually didn’t really ruin any of our plans. It rained from 12pm to 2pm, we took that time to have lunch indoors or went shopping for a little bit.
Do’s & Don’ts:
- Dress respectfully at royal buildings and temples. Bring a scarf or sarong to cover shoulders and legs.
- Don’t touch another person’s head.
- Be respectful of locals, don’t raise your voice.
- Don’t take photos of police or military figures.
- Do not say anything critical about the Thai Royal Family.
Remove your shoes indoors.
Things to be aware:
- Refuse any taxi driver who quotes a certain rate for a fare. This happened to us there, the price is usually three times the real price.
- Don’t trust it, we ended up learning that it was best to ask in the Hotels reception what was the rough price for certain trips.
- Ignore when locals tell you that an attraction is closed for a Buddhist holiday or any other reason. Unfortunately is usually a scam (set up) to get you to go “shopping” in their friends stall in a market or their independent shop.
- They have apps similar to “Uber”, keep your method of payment as money instead of paying through the app. Unfortunately, some drivers will pretend that they are lost in order for you to cancel and get paid a fee anyway. Talking from experience.
- When getting a Tuk-tuk, please don’t get a cheap priced “day tour”. They’ll just round and round the city and skip most attractions and instead, they’ll take you to “gem” shops (crystals), tailors and crafts stores.
Getting around Bangkok
It couldn’t be easier to move around Bangkok. their public transport system is efficient, easy and quite cheap as well. However, their transport system is still quite limited in some areas and that’s when Tuk Tuks come in handy. While there, we got to travel in pretty much all methods of transportation’s that were available. We used the train, local bus, coach, Sky train, MRT (tube), taxi, boat, Tuk Tuk and obviously the plane. Guess I’m pretty qualified to give info when it comes to public transportation.
Bangkok has two airports, Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang International Airport. However I only got to travel to the first one, to the city center is quite easy to get to by either metered taxis, the Airport Link train and city buses. Because we landed at night and we were quite tired from our flight, we took a Tuk Tuk from the airport to Soi Rambutri which cost roughly 9£ (2 px). Cheaper options are the bus that can cost you about 1 to 2 £. Use Rome to Rio website to get an idea of costs and methods of travelling to your accommodation.
The Skytrain is the quickest and easiest way to get around central Bangkok. It has two lines, the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line. If your accommodation is in the Sukhumvit or Silom area, the BTS will be your best friend since you can avoid traffic in Bangkok. However, if you are staying in Rambutri/Khao San Road then it’s a bit more difficult to get the BTS as you either get to the station by boat or Tuk-tuk.
Ticket price starts at 15 Baht, equivalent to 0.40£
MRT is a little bit like an underground train, that runs a little bit slower than the London tube. But,. having said that it is quite efficient. It covers the northern section of Bangkok, it has 2 lines (blue and purple) and connects you to Bangkok’s central train station at Hua Lamphong. It is the most convenient transport if your accommodation is in the northern section of the city. Like the BTS it has no stations near Rambutri/Khao San Rd.
Airport Rail Link SA City Line
Looks like a train underground, quite like the MRT. It connects Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok (+/-30 min trip). Ticket price 45 Baht, equivalent to 1.10£.
Bangkok is full of traffic I must say, however, is not that difficult to travel around in a taxi. Surprisingly I was not stuck in traffic for a while, provided that you are aware that like in any other city traffic jams happen at certain times of the day. It is safe to travel in taxis and you’ll see multiple companies of taxis, if you’re not comfortable to just wave at a taxi, then the app GrabTaxi is for you.
If you’re going to use a taxi just be mindful of a few things so you don’t get ripped off. Avoid taking the taxi during the morning and evening, also make sure you write down the name and/or address of your destination. Do not accept flat rates, ask them to turn on the meter of politely decline their price offer. Be careful when using apps like GrabTaxi, keep your method of payment as money instead of paying through the app. Talking from experience, some drivers will pretend they’re lost because there’s a cancellation fee and in other cases, they’ll put on the app that they’ve arrived when they didn’t. you have a few minutes to reach the car in order not to be asked for a fee.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Bangkok without travelling in a Tuk-tuk. We used it loads, as we stayed in the Rambutri area and there not many transport links there. But, I’m totally not complaining because I loved my rides. At first, it was a bit scary because it seemed that they had no traffic rules whatsoever but hey I’ve survived. There’s a few mixed thought when it comes to Tuk-Tuks, and you’ll hear loads of travellers telling you to avoid them, but I had no problems whatsoever.
Like any other travel method, there are things to have in considerations and to be mindful about. Like I’ve mentioned before, avoid getting the cheap priced “day tour” because it’s usually a scam. Also be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in the Tuk-Tuk, 9 out of 10 times they’ll give you a pricey fare, so make sure to negotiate it.
Must visit TEMPLES
Before going to Thailand some people told me that I’d either love or hate Bangkok, that I’d be completely templed out. Whether you love or hate it, we all can agree that Bangkok has some of the jaw-dropping temples in Thailand. 95% of Thailand is Buddhist hence why you’ll see plenty of Temples across the country. Thai’s call them “Wats”, so when googling them on maps try using “wat” instead of “temple”. In Bangkok, you can find all kinds of temples, from small temples of tiny alleys to massive ones.
Located in Phra Nakhon District, very close to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It is also quite possibly, one of the most famous in all of Thailand. Most people know this temple because of the 46-meter long, 15-meter high Reclining Buddha.
The reclining Buddha is not only the masterpiece in the complex but there are also colourful treasures that will definitely catch your eye. Wat Pho is also home to a well-known massage school, where you get a massage for fairly low prices.
Open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Price 100baht
The Temple of the Dawn, or Wat Arun, its located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Whenever you look up Bangkok on google images, it is often the image that shows up, the temple across the river.
A fun fact about this temple is that the reclining Buddha, which can now be seen at Wat Pho, resided first in Wat Arun. As you walk around the area, you can find decorated ceramic tiles and colourful exquisite pieces of porcelain.
Price: 50baht entrance fee
The temple of the Golden Mount or Wat Saket, located outside the old Rattanakosin island area of Bangkok, is a well-known and much-revered landmark in Bangkok. A climb to the top of the mount is a journey of more than 300 steps, however, the climb is definitely worthy.
Even though it was so many steps to climb up, there are many rest places to stop at and appreciate the view on your way up. It has some of the most beautiful views over Bangkok, it has 360º view.
Price: To the Temple is free. However, to the chedi you pay 50baht
Located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew best known as ‘The Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ is one of the most visited Temples in Bangkok.
The official name of Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok is Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram (Temple of the Holy Jewel Buddha), is open to the public when not being used for important religious ceremonies by the royal family.
Foodies & Goodies
Hands up who’s a foodie? I know I definitely am! Thailand is full of the most gorgeous street food, which I’ve mentioned before in my “10 reasons why you should visit Thailand” blog post. According to Lonely Planet’s survey, Bangkok tops the world as the best city to visit if you’re a food lover. That goes with saying that in every corner you’ll find a food stall.
When eating street food there are a few things you need to take in consideration. Eat only if it’s being prepared there and then, if it looks fresh and if the line is full of Thai people. Eating street food is not only delicious but it is also a great way to get to know the locals, their culture and gastronomy.
Mondays are street cleaning days in Bangkok, and street food cart vendors usually take the day off. You can still find some stalls, but don’t always count on Mondays for street food.
During the day, Chinatown is dead, meaning that even though you have stalls with nick-nacks, you can’t find street food. So, chose night time if you’re planning on visiting.
If you’re looking into trying all sorts of food, and by that, I mean really weird stuff, Chinatown is the place for you.
The easiest way to get to Chinatown is by taxi or tuk-tuk, however, if you’re up for a stroll then you can take the MRT to Hua Lamphong station, and then walk to Chinatown from there which should take you roughly 10 minutes.
Full of street food, Sukhumvit 38 is home to the most inexpensive food in Bangkok. However there’s not much variety, but you can find the most popular dishes in Thailand such as Pad Thai, papaya salad and Khao Pad.
A handful of street foods pop up during the day, everywhere you look between Khao San Road and Soi Rambutri you’ll for sure find a food stall. By the night, those streets become alive, full of music, food stalls, crafts stalls and so much more.
The streets also have restaurants, from cheap traditional Thai eateries o expensive restaurants. While we were travelling in Bangkok we only ate in a fancy place and I must say that I much prefer my street food or the thai eateries, to be honest.
The best Markets to visit
I touched this topic roughly on my previous blog post where i talked about the reasons you should visit Thailand. Markets are huge in Thailand, and Bangkok has got quite a few interesting ones. From Chatuchak to the train and floating markets, Bangkok has it all. I am sure you must heard of at least one of this markets.
Well, let me tell you something about Chatuchak Market… It is HUMONGOUS, you guys i literally spent hours there browsing the stalls. It holds 8000 stalls and it’s the largest market in Thailand. The Market is open from 6 am (however some stalls only open after 8 am) to 6 pm over the weekend. I’d definitely suggest you visit early in the morning, we didn’t listen to people’s advice and ended up roaming around in the middle of the crowds. Its still doable, but its harder to see things and browse properly.
This is a great place to buy all your souvenirs, so make sure to leave some empty space on your suitcase. If can, try the fresh coconut ice cream while you check out the stalls, there’s also plenty of food stalls for you to indulge yourself with Thai gastronomy.
Location: Kamphaeng Phet MRT station or BTS Mo Chit (there are signs to indecate the way to the market, form both stations)
Price: Entry free
Maeklong Railway Market
Best known as the train market or ‘life-risking market’, Maeklong Railway Market is located in the Samut Songkhram Province. Like any other market, they sell seafood, vegetable, fruits, fresh and dried food, meats and other things. The really cool thing about it is that it is located within an area where the train goes through. Meaning that from time to time, sellers take their products off the rails for the train to cross. Space is super tight and you need to jump over things or move to alleyways so you don’t get run over. Keep in mind that if a local tells you to move over, please do so. I wasn’t listening and could have been run over (ain’t kidding).
There are ways to get to the train market on your own, by taking multiple public transportation or a taxi. However, we booked a tour via the click2gothailand website. We booked the Half day Maeklong Railway Market & Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. It costed 490baht (+/-12£), which included Pick up from your hotel or meeting point (Khaosan, Silom, Sathorn, Sukhumvit (Soi 1-24), Asoke, Pratunam), train tickets, tour and long tail boat ride.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
There are quite a few floating markets in Bangkok, however we only got to visit this one. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of the most popular floating markets in Thailand. It is located in the Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi Province located about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. The market is open everyday, from 6am to midnight. You can find anything and everything there, from fresh food to souvenirs.
Floating markets are what the name says, you’re in a boat or on land shopping from the marketers in the river. The canal is 32 kilometers long and has more than 200 branches. There are also stalls inland, but i found it to be cheaper to buy from sellers in the river. You can bargain things, but just be mindful of what you ask for. Remember that it is their job and that can’t just send hand crafted items for ‘nothing’.
It’s a super cool experience I gotta say. Be sure to put it on your list to visit.
Location: There are buses, both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned, running from Bangkok Bus Terminal (Southern Line) to Damnoen Saduak every day
Price: Entry free, there’s a fee for the boat