Lively, colourful, and thriving are three words that we pretty accurately describe Bangkok. Providing a perfect mix of commerce, history, cuisine, and fun there is little wonder why Thailand’s capital is one of the most visited cities in the world. A hugely popular destination for Australian travellers, we felt it was about time we put together our Quick Guide for exploring this South East Asian gem. So here it is – grab yourself some pad Thai and a fresh young coconut, sit down and enjoy!
Things to See
- Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and The Grand Palace should definitely be on your sightseeing list when staying in Bangkok. Make sure you dress appropriately and expect it to be absolutely crawling with tourists!
- Wat Pho feels like a peaceful oasis compared to Wat Phra Kaew with much fewer tourists (at least on our visit). It also happens to be home to Wat Traimit – the spectacular reclining Golden Buddha – think 15 metres tall by 45 metres long. Wat Pho is also just a short walk through the local fish markets to the river where you can catch a local boat across the water to Wat Arun for 3Baht.
- Wat Arun is known as the Temple of Dawn but it is just as beautiful at dusk. If you want to avoid crowds, it’s great to get here right as the Temple opens or come back at night. A symbol of Bangkok, Wat Arun is simply stunning. It also happens to be the only Wat in Bangkok that you can climb! The steps are super steep and it’s a bit of a challenge (even if you’re fit) but the 360 degree views of Bangkok are worth the climb.
- No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Floating Markets. You can do day trips to the tourist ones in Bangkok or you can venture a little further afield and head to Amphawa Floating Market. If you can believe it are less ‘touristy’ than the main ones in Bangkok but to be honest that is pretty questionable.
- Banglamphu is considered to be the best example of a ‘Bangkok’ neighbourhood and a great place to stay. It’s here you’ll find the infamous Khao San Rd – a divisive destination for travellers are tourists alike. Regardless of your expectations it’s still worth a visit to try some street food (grasshoppers are yum!) and a cool Chang beer. A few blocks from Khao San is Soi Rambuttri which is ‘same same but different’ to Khao San. There is still the street food, massage joints and restaurants but the nightlife is calmer and the street is a bit cleaner.
- If you have a bit of extra time head out to Phrapathom Chedi in Nakhonprathom province to see the gorgeous Chedi.
Things to Do
- Do a cooking class! My sister and I did the Express Thai Cooking class at Mai Kaidee’s Cooking School which specialises in vegetarian, vegan and raw Thai food. In 2 hours we learnt how to whip up Thai Chili paste, Tom yum Soup, Pad Thai and Massaman Curry – all of which were super delicious! At the end of our class we were taught a traditional Thai cooking song and dance by Mai Kaidee herself and feasted on some Sticky Rice with Mango. It was so much fun and even if you don’t choose Mai Kaidee’s there are loads of cooking schools in Bangkok to choose from.
- One of the funnest and easiest ways to get around in Thailand is on a Tuk Tuk. Sure the cabs have aircon and can be a bit more comfortable but nothing beats the wind in your hair on a speedy tuk tuk ride. Make sure you bargain with your driver before hopping in and if you do insist on catching a cab be sure that that meter is on. Thai locals are generally lovely but there are plenty of opportunists out there too.
- You should also take a long boat ride – we took two we had so much fun on the water!
- If shopping is your thing you will want to head to Siam. Before my visit to Thailand I was told I had to go to MBK and that it was amazing… I hated it and stayed about 10 minutes. I did enjoy Siam Paragon which houses H&M, Topshop, etc but I will say the prices weren’t any cheaper.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest market in South-East Asia and to be honest, daunting! There are maps to help you get around the many sections – clothes, shoes, plants, homewares, books, pets, etc. If you are planning to go to the markets leave plenty of time for the trip. Take with you a lot of patience (for dealing with the crowds), water, a secure bag, comfy shoes and your bargaining skills. While these markets certainly are an experience, if you’re only in Bangkok for a short trip, they can be missed.
Eat and Drink
- If you love street food, treat yourself to dinner in Chinatown, the most concentrated dining experience in Bangkok.
- We went to Steve Café with some Thai friends and it was great! The food was delicious and the river setting is lovely.
- When in Banglamphu make sure you explore some of the quieter back streets. We found some lovely family-run cafes serving amazing thai food for 60baht (look out for Click Me).
- A visit to one of Bangkok’s Rooftop Bars is a must! The Sirocco is the bar featured in the Hangoover 2 but locals told us to avoid the crowds and head to Vertigo and the Moon Bar at The Banyan Tree. It was smashing.
- Thailand is of course known for its food and you shouldn’t leave without trying some of the countries popular dishes including pad thai, deep-fried fish, green curry coconut ice-cream, fresh fruit with chilli sugar, and banana and nutella crepes (so thai!)… oh and the fresh coconuts are pretty special too.