If you read my 2016 year in review post at Christmas (it seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?) you will recall that I said I would be travelling around South East Asia for a few months with my boyfriend starting in Bangkok. Well we arrived in Bangkok last week after a fab but very chilly whirlwind tour of the UK to see F&F, it was actually -5 with freezing fog in London, can you believe it? The weather almost scuppered the flight, but thankfully we got away with only a small delay and good ‘ol Etihad held our connecting flight in Abu Dhabi. Amazing!
If you visit Thailand, or even visit the South East Asian area, the likelihood is you will fly into Bangkok too. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport is a huge regional hub and currently one of the busiest airports in the world. However, most people fly into Bangkok, maybe spend one night and then head off to the islands. I’ve done it myself! Bangkok is a crazy big city and flying in you really appreciate what a behemoth it is, with it’s imposing sky scrapers and giant advertising screens, I swear you can make out the ads on those screens as you fly over city! Along with towering buildings Bangkok is famed for 4 things: Temples, shopping, street food and nightlife, so if you have more than one day to spare and don’t want to just run screaming from this bonkers city I have created a 4 day itinerary that captures all the best bits of Bangkok.
Day 1: Grand Palace, Temples of Wat Arun and Wat Po finishing off in Backpacker hotspot Khao San Road.
The Best way to see all 4 of these sites is by the Chaophraya River, take the Chaophraya Express boat from Sathorn Pier, which can be reached by BTS Sky Train or MRT (metro). There is a hop on hop off tourist boat too but they charge 150 baht compared to 15 baht a journey on the boat the locals use so I say, just do as the locals do, but keep an eye on which stop you’re coming up to as they barely moor the boat to allow passengers off so you need to be quick! If you start at the Grand Palace (which you should) you’ll be looking out for stop N8, disembark and turn left out of the pier. Ignore ANYONE who tells you, you are going the wrong way. This is a scam! Just continue to the end of the road and join the queue
The Grand palace, which is the official royal residence, although it is mainly, used for ceremonial purposes, also house a number of beautiful temples including the emerald Buddha, carved out of a single piece of gemstone. This attraction is really popular with tourists, and since King Bhumibol’s death late last year thousands of Thais have also been turning up to show their respects. Although the mourners are kept separate from the tourists the sheer number of people waiting to go into the Palace can be a bit chaotic.
After the Palace, head back to the pier and directly opposite is Wat Po ( the reclining Buddha) again; ignore anyone who asks you where you’re going, as they’re likely to point you in the wrong direction. If you’re stuck there are a couple of street maps or consult an offline map on your phone.
After Wat Po, head to Wat Arun (Temple of the dawn) which is on the opposite side of the river. Head back to the pier and jump on the river crossing ferry for 4 Baht each. Wat Arun is currently being restored, but you can still get amazing views from climbing the tiers and the calm of the gardens is a nice relief from the crowded sites across the river. After a full day of temples, you’ll have worked up a real thirst, so why not head to backpacking mecca, Khao San Road? Just hop back on the Express boat heading north (pay another 15 Baht) and jump off at N13 and follow the crowds to khao San Road. KSR can definitely feel a little intimidating, especially if this is your first experience of Bangkok nightlife. The whole area is full of street hawkers, bars pumping out music, bright lights and lots of people a bit worse for ware. People either love or hate KSR, but it needs to be seen to be believed, so just go check it out for your self. At the end of the night you will probably need a taxi, make sure you haggle hard with the taxi driver or better still, walk a bit further away from the area and order an Uber. You will pay a lot less than the rip off prices of drivers hanging around KSR!
N.B. For the palace and the temples make sure that you dress conservatively, covering your knees, ankles and shoulders although cover-ups can be rented onsite if you do forget.
Day 2: Lumpini Park, China Town and cocktails in the Sky Bar.
Lumpini Park is a huge central park in the city, an oasis of calm in this crazy city. Lots of beautiful palms, decorative pagodas and sculptures are dotted around this idyll. You can sunbathe, work out on the giant gym, have a go on the swan pedalos and try and spot the giant water monitors, which inhabit the moat around the park. And if you’re lucky enough there may even be an event on in the park like the Thai culture and tourism festival I tumbled into.
After chilling out in the park for a few hours, head to China Town for food and shopping. Located in Yaowarat, you can get there from Lumpini Park by hopping on the MRT to Hua Lamphong. There is a huge Chinese population in Bangkok and the city is also very popular with Chinese tourists. The area boasts over 1km of market stalls selling all sorts of wares, but the best bit is the tasty, tasty street food. You may not recognise what everything is, but just give it a go, everything is super cheap so you can have a real feast while walking down the street. If you’ve still got some energy after all that, head to one of the famous roof top bars. Either the Lebua Tower Sky Bar, that was featured in the film “The Hangover” or Vertigo at The Banyan Tree hotel. Both of these bars are pretty swanky and have prices to match, but you can’t beat the view of the city all lit up at night whilst sipping on a cocktail. Guys will need to wear shirt, shoes and smart trousers (no shorts or flip flops) and girls should dress up, basically don’t look scruffy, and all should be good!
Day 3: Chatuchak weekend market, Jim Thompson’s House & partying in Sukhumvit
Chatuchak weekend market is like the daddy of all markets, you will find everything here from art work and sculptures to fancy soaps, rugs, antiques and of course lots and lots of yummy food. It’s like a giant maze of stalls a bit like Camden markets in London, once you’re in you’ll wonder how the hell you’ll get out. Take the MRT to Chatuchak Park station or the BTS Sky Train to Mo Chit. Go early (10/11ish) and aim to leave before 3pm, as it gets unbearably busy by then.
After the market take a tuk tuk (there are loads waiting outside of the market) to Jim Thompson’s house. Mr Thompson was a British spy and silk trader and his house is built in the traditional Thai style, so really worth seeing if you want to experience some of old Thailand in what is a very modern city.
And for the evening entertainment it’s got to be Sukhumvit. The smaller roads (soi) that shoot off from Sukhumvit Road are crammed with bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Each Soi has it’s own different vibe, Soi 21 is the infamous Soi Cowboy, and Nana Plaza on Soi 4 are full of Go-go bars, clubs and some interesting “shows”. But Sukhumvit Sois aren’t all about sex shows, I like Soi 11, with favourite ex pat hangout Cheap Charlie’s and Sukhumvit’s own rooftop sunset bar Octave.
Day 4: The Malls – MBK, Siam, Discovery, and Platinum
I know what you’re thinking, “why would I go all the way to Thailand and visit a silly Mall?” I know, I get it but Bangkok does malls very well and they have a string of them connected to each other by elevated walk ways that are connected to a number of Sky Train and MRT stations, which makes them really easy to get to and around. As by now you’ll have noticed that Bangkok is really not a pedestrian friendly city (hence all the TukTuks and moto taxis) it’s also pretty smoggy and noisy from the endless traffic, so the Malls offer a nice bit of relief from the sounds and smells and they’re nicely air-conditioned too, so no more sweaty lip! haha
Take the opportunity to get a few supplies before you head to the islands (pro tip, sunscreen is cheaper in Bangkok) or souvenirs before heading home. Each mall has it’s own character, some low budget and others full of designer shops.
After all that rushing around you’ll be desperate for some beach time, I certainly was! I’ve been travelling around Krabi Province this week. Drinking coconuts, lying on the beach and swimming in crystal clear waters. Bliss!! Don’t worry; I’ll be sharing my adventures on here with lots of photos, and tips so you can get your Thailand wanderlust on. And if you’ve been to southern Thailand I’d love to hear your suggestions on where to go next.