Bangkok, the city that has a population half of our entire (little) country! Usually a first spot when arriving in Asia, it’s hot, humid, huge and overwhelming. I thought I would be prepared (Jochem had already been to Bangkok before) since I’ve been to India quite a few times and thought nothing could beat that, but it managed to surprise me! It’s easy to get lost in Bangkok in some way or another, but no matter how much time you decide to spend, there are definitely some typical Bangkok experiences not to miss!
Khao San Road
Notorious or illustrious (depending on how you look at it) Khao San Road, is the first thing I think of when someone says Bangkok. I blame it on The Beach, that highly underrated Leonardo DiCaprio movie. We really did not want to stay in a hostel there, we’re old and need our sleep, but did spend a few evenings there. It’s loud and busy, it’s where you come to drink cheap cocktails, get tattooed, eat bugs on sticks, dance and watch new arrivals or ones that really should have left Bangkok years ago. Dive in head first!
Bangkok’s Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is probably the most famous one in Thailand. And yes, it’s touristy. Whereas back in the day, vendors were selling fruits and vegetables, nowadays there’s a lot of trinkets in the mix. Get there early (7:30-ish) and the canals will be relatively quiet. Even if you get there and it’s crowded, it really is a sight. Bargain your way onto a boat or get a cold drink at one of the upstairs terraces and watch all the almost accidents.
Jochem was here some 10 years ago, and did not recognize it anymore. He was a bit conflicted about it, but it really goes to show how tourism changes things.
Find A Rooftop View
Bangkok is full of high rises, and there’s no shortage of some epic rooftop views. The internet is full of lists with the best, the most affordable and most upscale sky bars, so it’s not hard to find one. We stayed in Bangkok Sukhumvit and chose Above Eleven as it was close to our hotel and it looked cool! We didn’t get this one off an ‘affordable’ list and so our 2 cocktails dented our daily budget quite a bit, but the views, the breeze(!) and the service made up for a lot.
We love ourselves a good Chinatown! Bangkok’s Chinatown is a huge mix of Chinese and Thai culture and the largest one in the world. Going in without a plan (if you have the time!) will result in some unexpected finds. From temples to shopping and of course, food, it’s easy to spend a full day here. Yaowarat Road in the evenings are where the best food stalls are to be found and if you need a bit of a breather, Wat Tramit is where you can admire a 5 meter high golden Buddha.
Check this in-depth post to make the most out of your visit to Bangkok’s Chinatown!
There’s no shortage of temples in Bangkok, but making a selection beforehand will help you manage your time. The most famous ones, Wat Arun and Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha) will be the busiest, (and arguably the prettiest) coming early morning pays off. If your knees and elbows aren’t covered you can borrow garments at the entrance.
Getting a tuktuk to go around some of the temples and sights is very tempting, but if you do it, make a deal on the rate beforehand, and check that the place you’re getting dropped off is actually what you wanted. We learned this the heard way (hello, tourist trap!) and were dropped at a tiny temple god knows where. We didn’t mind, it was quite pretty and we had some fun with the neighbors, but we felt a bit dumb! On the other hand this might also count as one of those ‘Bangkok experiences’!
Bangkok can be daunting and a bit of an assault, but it is the perfect introduction to Asia! The food is amazing, the people friendly and you’ll never get bored. It’s the best place to connect with fellow travelers or do your own thing.
Don’t forget that Bangkok also serves as a hub for a little island hopping. If you’re feeling adventurous (and have time), skip the plane and take a train instead, the perfect way to soak up your surroundings! If you’re looking to move to Laos after Bangkok, you can even book a train to Nong Khai at the border and cross from there. It’s hassle free and easy.
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