After one week of island hopping it was time to go north, to Bangkok. In this project, we are aiming for long-term, slow traveling. We will be moving much slower and staying longer in the places we find most interesting. We will also be avoiding flying as much as we can. From Koh Lanta to Bangkok we decided to use the mix: mini-van + night VIP Bus. This was a little bit on the expensive side, but we wanted to have as good as a rest as we could. The voyage was as smooth as it can be. We slept much better is this bus than in any plane or bus before. We received a few snacks, onboard entertainment and enough leg room.
Bonus & top tip of the day: the bus stops halfway through to have dinner and they say something in Thai. At this point, FOLLOW the Thais and you will get a free meal in the restaurant! Don’t stay on the bus or go to the other stores! Follow the Thais, go to the table with them and enjoy the free food… 🙂 We certainly did!
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and by far its biggest city with 8 million people and its metropolitan area reaches the 14 M. According to a recent study, Bangkok is also the most visited city in the world! This makes Bangkok an incredibly buzzing city, full of life and activities for everyone. Bangkok has a mixture of tradition and modern Thai culture. The city landscape itself goes from the futuristic skyscrapers to the old markets and the Buddhist temples.
There aren’t many metropolises as diverse as Bangkok, with gourmet restaurants and boutique stores on a walking distance to unique street food and antique markets. We weren’t expecting to like Bangkok as much as we did! We wandered around the city way too much but we couldn’t help it, each time we went out we found new interesting things to see and do. Though, it’s a big city make sure you have a plan and a good itinerary for your visit to Bangkok.
What to do in the most visited city in the world?
Try the Sky-train (BTS)
The sky-train is an attraction in itself. It’s sleek, modern and fast to get around. It isn’t cheap, but it won’t break your wallet. The sky-train passed close to our guesthouse so we used it a lot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go to the old center, Wat Pho, Khao San Soi… Also, be aware (or enjoy) of the crazy rush hour.
Walk, Walk and Walk
Is there any other way to really know a city? Walking will make you see, smell and listen to Bangkok. You will find new markets, streets and buildings. You will see the locals and the tourists… It’s our favorite way of getting around almost everywhere. But please don’t forget that Bangkok is huge and can be very hot! What looks like a small stroll on the map, can be 5 or 10 km under a torrid sun 🙂
Take the boat in the Chao Phraya river
The Chao Phraya river is one of the iconic images of Bangkok. It’s also the easiest (and cheapest) way to go to downtown. Take the orange express boat for 15 Baht and enjoy the view of Bangkok skyline from the river. Again, like the Sky-train, the rush hour can be crazy, but that’s also a way of experience Bangkok. If you don’t want it, you can always take the touristic boats or hire a private longtail boat to cruise the river. Either way, this is a must do in Bangkok. It’s where the traditional, old images of Bangkok will come to your mind…
Go to Chinatown
Bangkok’s Chinatown is huge full of shops. It looked like it was somehow organized between different kinds of stores. Arts being together with arts, audio shops with audio shops, and so on… Of course, food is all over the place. 🙂 The most interesting part was the gold… So many gold stores… We can’t believe there is a market for so many gold, even in Bangkok. However, apparently, there is! When we were there it was Chinese new year, so it was even busier than usual.
Go temple hopping – Don’t miss the Wat Pho and Wat Arun
Bangkok has hundreds of temples, so we will list them all just for you… We know you want to visit them all! Right?!? 🙂 No? OK…
We really only went to 3 temples (Wat), and we recommend you to visit at least a couple of them. Wat Pho (where the giant reclining Buddha is) and Wat Arun (aka temple of dawn) are some of the most famous and interesting. Note that these temples are big tourist attractions and can be crowded. Also, Wat Arun is under rehabilitation, so you may not be able to go to the top and see the views.
We also went to Wat Phra Kaew but check below in the “not to do list” for details…
We love street food. In Bangkok (and most of Thailand) there are street food sellers in every corner. We are talking about: sausages, shakes, waffles, rotis, fruits, BBQ chicken, pork, shrimps, crepes, salads… Even restaurants serve into the street. Some of them have the kitchen right in the street/market. In the streets of Bangkok, you can eat almost everything you can imagine.
Street food is very cheap, you can have a meal for something between 1 and 2 Euros.
Chatuchak Market is a weekend market and it’s the biggest market in Bangkok. You will need many hours to navigate the whole market, and probably won’t be able to. It’s very easy to get lost inside, but don’t worry, it’s also great fun to discover the market from the inside. What can you buy in Chatuchak? Well, anything and everything: clothing, arts, antiques, food, plants, pets, furniture, ceramics and many many other things. Apart from the obvious food and beverages, we particularly like roaming around the pets and animals sections.
Wang Lang Market
We love markets and Wang Lang was one of our favorites. Especially because of the variety and delicious street food. This market is open every day except Sundays, from 07:00 to 20:00 and it is mainly used by locals. There is a hospital nearby so many people go to market for lunch. We ended up trying several dishes and almost everything that seemed different, looked and smelled delicious. We ate an omelet with coconut and vegetables which became our favorite dish in Bangkok 🙂 The cool thing is that the market is very easy to go, just catch the orange express boat and stop in the pier N10.
Siam Paragon, Central World Plaza, etc
If you are into shopping, Bangkok, particularly the Siam area, is full of shopping centers with high-end stores. Or maybe just having some fun people watching, we saw a queue to enter the Louis-Vuitton store of Siam Paragon…
We were in Bangkok during Chinese new year and Lumpini Park had a big party/festival, both with Chinese and Thai motifs. It was full of people, with concerts, food, shows, etc. We spent a very nice evening there. During the day Lumpini Park is a place to go to exercise, people watching or just relax by the Lake or in the grass. It’s a very pleasant city park, right in the middle of the financial district and the most modern neighborhoods of Bangkok.
What NOT to do in the most visited city in the world?
Traffic in Bangkok is a big problem. In some streets seems like it’s rush hour all day! So, a taxi can become expensive and take much more time than we expect. Furthermore, we really disliked our experiences with taxis. We were very badly served both times we had to use it. Once the driver basically didn’t want to take us where we wanted to go and acted like he didn’t know what we were talking about. The other he decided to show us around… Bad luck, we already knew that zone quite well.
Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
This is probably a very polemic advice, but if we knew what we know now it wouldn’t have gone there. At 500 baht per person, we found it is really expensive for what it delivers. Wat Phra Kaew is a very beautiful temple, arguably the most majestic in Bangkok. However it’s always crowded, really overcrowded, and the experience feels more like a tourist trap than a temple. Furthermore, inside the temple of the Emerald Buddha, you are only allowed to go slightly inside the temple, with dozens of other people doing the same. We were so far way we could barely see the Emerald Buddha, (it’s a very small Buddha). To finalize you can only see the outside of the Grand Palace, you can’t tour the inside or even get close to it…
We know you will probably end up going there anyway, We understand it’s one of the biggest attractions of the city, but we don’t believe it’s worth it…
Go to the smaller floating markets ( & ) on weekdays.
They are closed, as we learned the bad way! ops 🙂
Stay too long in Khao San road
Well, we only really walked down the street once and then left. It’s just the place where the backpackers go to get wasted… Not really our kind of fun. Do yourself a favor and don’t limit your self to this street. Bangkok has so much more to offer!
Bangkok deserves some of your travel time and budget. It’s a fascinating city with much more to it than you would think.