Bangkok is one of those cities that has absolutely everything going on. If you want culture it’s there, If you want a bit of 21st century sleekness it’s there and if you need a city escape to some greenery it’s also there. In fact, they are often right next to each other, cohabiting as a perfect mix. And let’s not forget the food – it’s to die for!
If you’ve read my other post about my visit to Thailand you will know that I found it to be a bit hit and miss and I have a lot of regrets about my time there. But I absolutely loved Bangkok. And under the chaos that comes with such a vibrant and bustling city, there are a tonne of things to do and many of them are simply unmissable. There’s so much that’s completely unique, so if you’re going to Bangkok, prepare yourself for a lot of exploring!
Visa – With a British Passport, no visa is needed – you can stay for up to 30 days. I ended up having to leave Thailand so I went to Malaysia and then came back in to Thailand. So you can always do that if you need!
Money – The local currency is the Thai Baht and at the time of writing this, 1 Thai Baht = 0.023GBP/ 0.029USD. It takes a bit of getting used to but you’ll feel like a millionaire going to the ATM!
Overland from Cambodia – Cross the border from Siem Reap by bus. When I did it I had to get off the bus with my luggage, go through passport control, baggage checks and fill out a form. Then at the other side I got onto a minibus. I don’t know if this always the case, and it sounds odd, but it worked! Just go with it.
By Plane – The main international airport is the Suvarnabhumi Airport and there’s easy access to the city centre by the new Airport Rail link for just 45 Baht. This line also connects to the MRT underground and the BTS Skytrain so it’s really easy to get to where ever you need to be for cheap. Bear in mind that the Airport link tickets can’t be used on the BTS or MRT so you will need to get a separate ticket if you are switching to these.
The fantastic choice of public transport in Bangkok is a budget traveller’s dream! As I’ve just mentioned, there is the BST Skytrain that can get you around a chunk of the inner city (but not all of it), the MRT underground which covers more of Bangkok and it does connect with the Skytrain so you can switch between them. If you fancy hitting the roads then there are tuk tuks aplenty and the public buses have an extensive network meaning you can get pretty much anywhere. And if you want to escape the roads and have a little slice of relative calm then you can hop onto the river taxi and for a very small price ride the full hours trip along the river if you fancied it.
KEEPING SAFE IN BANGKOK
Pickpocketing is very common in Bangkok so make sure you only carry what you need and keep a good hold of your bag. As well as this, there are a lot of scams that happen so keeps your wits about you! One of the most popular ones is being approached by someone saying that the Royal Palace is closed. At that point they offer you a tour round the palace and other sites as well, and they also take you to a gem shop to be purchased at a discounted rate. If you buy some then you possibly will get the gems but they will be poor quality. Also, just generally be wary of anyone who approaches you saying they have a friend who can help with whatever.
THINGS TO DO
THE HISTORICAL SIDE
THE GRAND PALACE
Although the King no longer lives here, The Grand Palace is still the official residence. The Palace is a complex is home to some of the most sacred places in Thailand so you can’t miss it! It costs about £15 to enter and there is a strict dress code so make sure you plan your outfit.
WAT ARUN AND WHAT PHO
Across the river from one another, at Arun and Wat Pho are each amazing in their own way. Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in Thailand and is home to the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. Going across the river, you get an amazing view of the height of Wat Arun. Up close, there’s so much detail to this temple it’s pretty mind blowing. As with the Grand Palace, there is a strict dress code.
So Wat Pho has the largest reclining Buddha but Wat Intharawihan has the largest standing Buddha at a soaring 32m! It’s also covered in 24 carat gold Mosaic so you really can’t miss it.
Also known as the Golden Mount – it’s pretty obvious when you see it why it’s called this; it has a completely golden roof to the temple. Located on a hill, this Temple also has amazing views of Bangkok and I think this was actually one of my favourite spots I visited! Trust me, the 300 steps around and up it are worth it.
Although it’s not exactly the prettiest thing to look at, the Democracy Monument in the middle of Ratchadamnoen Klang Road is pretty damn important. It was built to commemorate the 1932 coup which ended the restrictive absolute monarchy, so represents the freedom of the Thai people.
This is a huge shopping mall where you can find tonnes of the and high end shops found all over the world a well as a cinema and an aquarium, just for good measure. Naturally, I couldn’t afford a thing, but if you’re into window shopping this is pretty damn perfect.
Located just a couple of blocks away you will find the MBK Shopping Mall. It’s HUGE and pretty much has everything from clothes to watches to cameras. It kinda feels like a giant market with more permanence. Some of the goods are of the fakery kind which you expect in Thailand as well. Due to the nature of it, it’s a good place to get some haggling in.
CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET
This is something you can’t miss – one of the world’s largest weekend markets! It contains over 15,000 stalls and is held every Saturday and Sunday. It gets crazy busy so I would advice you to get there early! I know I’ve just said that MBK houses everything, but the Chatuchak Market REALLY has everything. So spend time getting lost here and pick up some souvenirs.
All 3 of these shopping hot spots can be reached by the BTS Skytrain.
WHERE TO EAT
KAO SAN ROAD
This is the backpacker hot spot, and for good reason. It’s lively, crazy and full of places to eat and drink. Here you will find food ranging from gourmet restaurants to a guy selling bugs to eat (do it, they’re not that bad!). My advice is to try a bit of everything! As with everywhere, the main tourist places are not going to be the cheapest overall, but it’s pretty damn cheap still! There are also loads of places to drink along this road to wash it all down with.
Head down the 1km long strip of Charoenkrung Road and you can take your pick from tonnes of street vendors. It will undoubtedly be heaving but if it’s busy you know it’s gonna be good!
STREET FOOD ANYWHERE
As with everywhere in Southeast Asia, you will find food stalls all over the place. Don’t miss out on trying some delicious Pad Thai and Thai Curry as well as some lesser known dishes like an oyster omelette (Hoy Tod) and grilled fish (Pla Pao) and any bbq’d item on a stick is always amazing!
Ok, so I’m only going to talk about one here because museums can be pretty dry, but honestly, this one was pretty out there! If you’re into a bit of gore and weirdness like I am then you have to go to the Siriraj Hospital Medical Museum. It’s full of old school horror film style medical equipment and experiments. I won’t go into too much detail as it’s really not for the faint hearted but let me just say that they have a preserved man standing upright in a cabinet who was killed for the murders of 6 Thai Children. Go and check it out if it’s your thing as I really don’t think there’s anything quite like it anywhere else.
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW
THE SEX INDUSTRY
So this in infamous in Thailand and particularly in Bangkok. It’s very visible with loads of massage parlours and girls working the streets. In busy places like Khao San Road you will find touts trying to lure tourists into clubs or to see a ‘ping-pong’ show.
Although establishments offering ‘special services’ is legal in Thailand, Brothels are not. And let’s be honest, we all know what’s really going on. It’s so important to remember that sex trafficking is prevalent and underage girls are being sold into it. It’s not monitored or regulated so I don’t want to sound preachy but if you’re thinking of going to Bangkok for this kind of thing, maybe take a long hard look at what you’re contributing too.
Bangkok is also known for being incredibly liberal for the LGBT community. There appears to be no stigma about being who you want to be which is just amazing! I don’t know what the preferred term for Lady Boy is but I don’t mean to cause any offence! Everyone is accepted which I guess is another huge draw for people all over the world!