Where To? Bangkok
How long? 6 days
Thoughts: Calm & Chaos, Modern & Ancient
13WoW – Bangkok
The sleeping train from Nong Khai railway was one of the most advanced trains I had ever travelled in (the one to Sapa was antique compared to this). As seemed to be the signature of anything high class and “expensive”, the air con felt high enough to freeze my bottle of water. The train was spotless and had some high tech control functions that I had never even seen back in the UK. One of those functions was the ability to turn the seats into bunk beds to enable you sleep with a comfortable mini mattress and clean blankets as well as pillows; which all came sealed in plastic protective encasing.
When I got hungry, I visited the cafeteria area located at the centre of the train and bought a hot meal of Pad Gra Pow with a cup of tea.
When I finally arrived with my backpacks, front and back, I decided to walk towards the one area I knew I had to explore; Khao San Road. Bad idea.
An hour or so later, after getting lost multiple times, finding morning markets, asking strangers directions through google translate, I wandered into a posh hotel sticking out like a sore thumb and borrowed their wifi. Soon I was settled into what turned out to be one of my favourite hostels in Bangkok; Bed & Butler Hostel.
Must see in Bangkok!
The delightful hostel owner was pivotal in showing me where to visit in Bangkok, and making sure I didn’t miss out on any of the key spots!
The Golden Mount, also known as Wat Saket, sits atop a low hill and when you climb the 318 steps to the top, you will find a giant shiny gold chedi. Inside the 58-metre chedi, there is a Buddha relic where many devout Buddhists go to worship.
As well as Buddhist worshippers and monks, it is also a popular location for tourists because of it’s fantastic views over Bangkok.
Said to translate as “Temple of the Niece” this temple was built in 1846 by King Rama III for the princess’ granddaughter. This temple is best recognised for the multi-tiered structure, 36 meters tall featuring 37 metal spires, which represents the 37 virtues toward enlightenment in Buddhist belief (known as the Loha Prasat). A stunning location to visit!
This is the most famous landmark of Bangkok, the Royal Palace. It is a building complex which has been home to the Thai Kings for 150 years, it is also home to the most famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is within the complex. If you want to venture inside, it’s 500BHT for visitors (free for Thai) and there is a strict dress code you must adhere to.
Come here for day and night markets, cheap shopping, street food, restaurants and just generally awesome vibes!
Khao San Road
This is the real tourist spot, you come here to drink and party! One of the most famous streets in Bangkok, you are guaranteed a good time. There are bars all along this street, next door to one another and all competing for your business. You also have street food as far as the eye can see, I got a stir fry for as cheap as 30BHT. If insects take your fancy, you can try things like deep-fried scorpion, but if you just want a photo, they will charge you!
You also have clothes selling in the night market and beauty salon’s open late, which proved useful for me to get a quick manicure!
Be prepared to drink, dance and make new friends!
Shopping & Markets
- Tha Maharaj – a fantastic newly built shopping centre with everything you could ask for. Costa, for those who really couldn’t live without, a selection of restaurants, shops, beauty salons and more. I got a fantastic Thai massage from one of the salons here; cracked my entire spine into place ooooh! And it’s right by the river.
- Siam Paragon, Siam Square & Siam Discovery – mostly designer outlets and trinkets for those with extra pennies in their pockets but still some great shopping bargains to be found. Also the location of the place that changed my life; the Hello Kitty Mansion!
- MBK Center – another shopping centre with mostly world-wide brands, also the location of McDonalds for those who wouldn’t live without. But, there is a fantastic market outside of the shopping centre which sells local street food, trinkets and clothing at fairly reasonable prices.
- Pratunam Market, Makkasan – a real local treat! Clothes and shoes as far as the eye can see in this busy market. Get the real Thai prices here and haggle (if you dare).
- Silom Road & Phat Pong (Night Markets) – great night markets, not very big but a good chance to try the local street food and buy some reasonably priced clothing.
Markets were 90% about the food, for me, and 10% about buying really cheap clothes! These are but a few of the intriguing and unique delights that I tried in Bangkok.
Come to this large green area in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Bangkok. Here you will find fountains, lakes that you can take a pedalo on, large green areas, but also people in their hundreds either cycling, or following a crazy zumba-style exercise routine in the pathways en masse.
You will also see another rare sight; Komodo dragons wandering around the park and swimming in the waters, as well as turtles.
Jim Thompson’s House (river taxi)
Jim Thompson is famous for reviving the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time that he disappeared, he was one of the most famous American’s in Thailand. This was his home, you can visit his front yard like I did and see as they make silk before your eyes. If you pay a little extra, you can have a tour around his house and learn more about him and the silk industry.
Phra Pokklao Bridge & Memorial Bridge
Phra Pok Klao Bridge is a bridge that crosses the Chao Phraya River, created to alleviate the congestion on the adjacent Memorial Bridge. The Memorial Bridge opened in 1932, erected by King Rama VII to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty. Located at the end of the Memorial Bridge, is the King Rama I Monument which is dedicated to King Rama VII.
Boat ride on the River
If you want to avoid paying extortionate tourist prices on a tour of the Chao Phraya river like I did on my first day in Bangkok, then consider this alternative experience of the boat taxi. The price is as low as 10BHT and it can get you straight to Jim Thompson’s House as well as other destinations. A man collects your fare after you board the boat, whilst it’s on it’s route whilst balancing on the outside of the boat, hanging onto the roof.
As I rode in the bus to the airport at 6am, I realised this marked the end of my month and a half in South East Asia, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I would spend 1 night in the UK, re-pack my bags and the next stop was going to be; New York!