Bangkok … “City of Angels”… the world’s hottest city… my first destination in Southeast Asia, the first of many on an 8-month long life-changing journey – this is the place that first opened my eyes to the fascinating world of Thailand.
Set along the Chao Phraya River, the beautiful skyline of Bangkok is one-of-a-kind. It’s a city filled with magnificent temples – including of course the Grand Palace – home of Thailand’s king. Surrounded by street food, floating markets and endless varieties of elephant pants, head out for some exploration of this unique city. With a coconut ice cream in hand and a few hundred baht in your pocket, you’ll be set for the day!
My first glimpse of Bangkok came after 30 hours travel time (+11 hour time difference) and needless I arrived as a very jetlagged half-asleep zombie lugging a giant suitcase and backpack filled with everything I needed for the next 8 months through this unfamiliar city and just barely making it to my hostel. After getting a solid 15 hours of sleep, I awoke the next morning ready to embark on my adventures for the week! I started off my first full day joining a free tour from my hostel and joined 15 others in a van out into the busy Bangkok traffic. During my time living in Thailand, I found a sort of “home” in this crazy city as it was both the first and last place I spent some time as well as a transition point for many trips in between. So during this time, I got to know this city pretty well. So here are some of the must-dos if you take a trip to Bangkok:
1. Take a Floating Market Tour:
Anywhere you go in Thailand, you will find markets plentiful – every town has at least one outdoor night market where you can find countless food options and shops for clothing and other items. However, Bangkok has a unique type of market where vendors are actually floating on the river in boats selling their fruits, vegetables and other foods. On my first day, I had a tour at a floating market where we took a scenic boat in the Chao Phraya River which led us through the market area where we bought some fruits and continued to go through some local villages where we waved Hello to some people who lived in houses along the river. Outside of the floating market, we passed through a market which had endless food options. There are several floating market tours available throughout Bangkok, but I had the chance to go on a more local tour which was less populated by tourists.
2. Tour The Grand Palace:
Easily the most well-known tourist attraction in Bangkok, The Grand Palace is flooded with 8 million visitors every year. The home of the Thai King and Royal Court, this palace is nothing short of spectacular. Despite the crowds, you’ll see for yourself it is in fact grand! It’s hard to describe in words this piece of architecture but the enormity and detail that goes into this place is incredible. One thing to know before visiting this or any other temple (if you’re a novice to temple touring) is that you must wear clothes that cover your shoulders and legs in order to enter them – which I know probably seems difficult in the scorching heat of Bangkok.
3. Walk along Khao San Road:
The infamous Khao San Road “Backpacker Land” is another one of the most well-known areas for tourists. The street is filled with hostels, hotels, shopping, and plenty of delicious food options. If you’re looking to get a taste of traditional Thai culture, this probably isn’t the ideal place but I’d say it’s definitely worth stopping by and it is a great place to find good food!
4. Enter Wat Pho & The Giant Reclining Buddha:
Probably more likely known for the Giant Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is another truly incredible temple to tour with slightly less tourists than the Grand Palace. Not quite as grand, but definitely equally exquisite in its intricacy and detail, Wat Pho is a temple to be remembered.
5. Walk through the Malls:
Thailand might not be considered as the most technologically advanced or developed of all countries, but they sure go all out for their malls. Bangkok has no shortage of malls – and in fact has two of the top 10 largest malls in the world – including Central World (#3) and Siam Center (#10) both of which are just a train stop apart. If you want to do some shopping, aside from all of the many outdoor markets throughout the city, you have endless options in the many enormous shopping malls of Bangkok.
Yet another beautiful temple, translated as “Temple of Dawn”, Wat Arun is famous as it is commonly portrayed in the iconic Bangkok skyline. Another representation of the intricacy of Thai temples, Wat Arun will not disappoint.
7. Take a Tuk-Tuk Ride:
There’s no way you can take a trip to Bangkok without taking at least one mildly terrifying tuk-tuk ride. I took multiple tuk-tuk rides – all of which I feared for my life a little bit. But it’s all part of the adventure. Seen above, I squeezed in a tuk tuk with 4 of my fellow travelers!
8. Taste Authentic Thai Food:
World renowned, Thai food is some of the most unique, spicy and flavorful. It uses some very distinct and different ingredients in their cooking than we are used to in Western culture. Some of the most popular dishes include: pad thai, tom yam (coconut milk soup), som tam (papaya salad), pineapple fried rice, stir-fried vegetables, and coconut ice cream. While here, it’s necessary to try some new local delicious flavors.
One of the most unexpected things that I ended up doing during my stay in Bangkok was attending a muay thai fight. Muay Thai is a popular type of boxing in Thailand. Although it wouldn’t be my first choice of things to do, I’m glad that I got to experience seeing one of the popular sports in Thai culture firsthand.
10. Spend a night out at a rooftop bar:
One thing a lot of people think about when going to Bangkok is the movie the Hangover 2 which shows the elaborate rooftop bar so many tourists try to make a trip here for a fun night out. There’s numerous other rooftop bars as well. Although, before deciding to make a trip to one of these, make sure to dress fancy. I heard that they have a strict dress code – also the drinks and food are much more pricey than what you typically see throughout the city.
With so many diverse options of new adventures and places to explore, I’m sure you will find Bangkok as fascinating a destination as I did. The food, the temples, the sights, and overall cultural experience will most certainly leave behind an impression. Bangkok is a city you will never forget.