One of the central points for tourism in the world, a melting pot of cultures, business and design; Bangkok is the hub of Asia.
For many, Bangkok is nightmare; when visiting the city for the first time it seems to be near impossible to navigate without spending a lot on taxi fares.
Fear not, with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be embracing the city and discovering a more relaxing approach to the concrete jungle.
For most, the vast city is the gateway to the mountainous landscapes and crystal clear seas of Asia. Bangkok is one of the cheapest cities to fly to from Europe.
In fact, stopping in the city on your trip to Asia is often cheaper than going straight to your final destination. Tried and tested.
The streets of Bangkok are filled with delicious street food, huge parks and so much more; here are my highlights.
Shopping and Food; malls and markets
Shopping and eating are a great combination for those who are not too found of browsing the racks for extended periods of time, such as myself. It’s important to have rewarding breaks.
Bangkok has a great range of malls and markets, each with it’s own style and offering great prices for well made clothes; not forgetting the numerous pit-stops for fresh snacks, juice and beers.
Bangkok is famous for its extravagantly themed malls. For locals and expats alike, it’s a prime hangout place that offers the additional luxury of air-con.
Most are open until around 10pm and have a food court on the top floor where you can take your pick of a great range of food in a canteen-like setting. Alternatively, for a more formal dine-outs, there are restaurants too.
When it comes to traveling, I’m not too fond of the more Western means of entertainment, however Terminal 21 has to be one of my most entertaining ventures in Bangkok.
Located in the heart of the Sukhumvit area, the mall is designed to be like an airport with each level being thematic of the big cities around the world; wondering the alleys of each level of the mall is a truly unique experience.
Quick tip: If you do go to Terminal 21, go to the bathroom, it’s the best toilet experience you will ever have.
To continue with the eating and shopping tour of Bangkok, exploring the markets of the city is absolutely necessary. The two I frequent are the infamous Chatuchak and a slightly newer addition, the Neon night market (Talad Neon).
Chatuchak (more commonly known as JJ market) is one the biggest markets out there. It’s a labyrinth of boutiques, accompanied with endless amounts of tourist tat and household amenities. I am very certain this market has everything.
Gear up for a sweaty day of wondering as there is no escaping the heat, but there are many coconut ice-cream and juice stalls to keep the sugar levels up and the temperature down.
When wondering JJ, it’s worth hunting around for the slightly nicer looking shops if quality is what you are looking for; from my own experience, I have bought one or two items that don’t last too long. The record being one day; I wasn’t too happy about that one.
To make matters worse, I didn’t realise I had a rip on my ass until I got home.
Talad Neon is a shiny new market that got its name from the birds-eye view of neon-lit market stalls that make a rainbow. The market front is very easily spotted by a giant neon sign, should you be looking for a selfie opportunity. On my first visit, it was relatively unknown and still aiming towards local shoppers, however this quickly changed. Upon my last visit, despite being slightly blinded by a storm and kitted out in a plastic poncho, the signs of elephant pants didn’t go unnoticed.
Quick tip: make sure you stop by the coconut water and ice-cream man in the centre of the market; it’s too good to miss.
TravelHack: stay near the MRT/ BTS line
We’re all fans of convenience, and transport goes without exception when you are in a city this big.
If a party is what you are looking for in Bangkok, then you’re going to want to stay on Khao San road, the backpacker haven of BKK. Although this area is specifically designed for tourism, it’s not easy to get to as the metro not doesn’t stretch that far, this can result in a slightly more expensive trip as you are almost guaranteed to be taken on a few taxi tours of the city.
Whenever I stay in Bangkok I aim for the more local yet still central areas where not only do you get more for your money, but it’s much easier to access too. Making sure your hostel is next to the BTS or MRT (underground and over-ground metro lines) will make your life so much easier when it comes to getting around the city and getting to and from the airport.
With a big city, comes big traffic jams, you want to avoid this as much as possible, there are much better things to do in the city than sit in traffic for hours.
Temples & Chinatown
The temples of Thailand are some of the worlds finest. With endless wonders of finely carved shrines and gold encrusted buildings: visiting Bangkok without seeing one is like visiting China without seeing the great wall; ludicrous.
Most of the temples are within the old town area which do not have the luxury of a metro line, however; although commonly not advised, a tuk tuk tour could be your best bet for getting around the attractions with ease.
With a little haggling, you will be able to visit several temples for what could be the price of one taxi journey.
I have only ever had one negative experience with this, where a tuk tuk driver took myself and a backpacker to a temple and then promptly abandoned us. We never paid, so I guess it wasn’t so bad.
Once you have finished the tour, hop on over to Chinatown to wonder through the street, grab a few snacks and soak up the bustling daytime in the area, it’s a feast for the eyes, with endless streets selling everything you can possible imagine and temples on every corner.
Top Temples to visit:
- The Golden Mound
- Wat Pho
- The Grand Palace
- The Giant Swing (not a temple, but it’s actually a giant swing, very cool)
- Wat Suthat
- Wat Thepthidaram
If you’ve been backpacking for a while and the 16 hour buses are wreaking havoc on your back, a Thai massage will sort you out in no time.
When staying in more local areas, massages come with local standards and local prices; Thai people take their massages very seriously and frequently head to their local masseuse, so the small corner shop with no sign on is going to be one of the best places you have ever been to for a massage.
Ask the folks at your hostel and they will point you in the right direction. If you haven’t had a Thai massage before, don’t go thinking they have the touristic conventional soft touch with a little elbowing here and there: this is not for the faint-hearted, so you might want to ask them to go easy on you.