I was about to spend a week in Bangkok (and the first of three visits), but I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard that it was a little overwhelming so I wanted to be sure I was ready for it. However, I feel like there was still so much I didn’t know.
Now while I could tell you everything I did here, there are a million and a half blog posts about all there is to do in Asia’s Sin City (both legal and slightly or possibly illegal). I’m not here to give you another one of those posts. This will just be a short and sweet post about the best local ways to end up doing all of those things, what’s worth it, and what’s not.
- Stay as close as you can to the Chao Phraya river. Doesn’t matter where exactly as long as you’re walking distance to a pier. Forget the expensive taxi/tuk tuk rides. Go to any pier along the river near the biggest sights of Bangkok, hop on the boat with the orange flag, and pay 20 baht (roughly 60 cents). This boat stops at most every pier along the river and is by far the cheapest way to get from Chinatown, to Wat Arun, to the Grand Palace, to Khao San Road.
- If you do need to take a taxi or tuk tuk, I personally recommend tuk tuk. I found that I was able to bargain much more with the tuk tuk drivers as opposed to the taxi drivers and got a 100 baht taxi ride down to a 30 baht tuk tuk ride.
- Don’t want to worry about how to get around but still see all the sights? Download the app Tuk Tuk Hop (available for iPhone but unsure about Android. If you have an Android and find this app, let me know!). It may not be the cheapest way around but it’s the easiest. You pay one fee and hop on and off specified tuk tuks around the entire city to see every temple and attraction you could imagine.
- Wat Pho is amazing. At the time I went, it was 100 baht but so worth it. However, the Grand Palace is 500 baht. And you MUST be covered. When I say covered, I mean, I had sandals on and a tank top but did have a covering over my tank top with long pants and just because I had my toes exposed and a tank top on at all, even though it was covered, I was not allowed in. I did go back another day. However, again personal opinion, but it wasn’t worth the 500 baht. I say skip it if you’re trying to save money.
- Khao San Road is as crazy as you think. But you can definitely have fun exploring this backpackers’ paradise without going too crazy. Biggest thing: before eating anywhere, read reviews. I definitely had a rat run across my foot more than once at more than one restaurant. However, just off Khao San Road, was one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok: May Kaidee. It’s vegetarian/vegan but SOOOO incredible even if you aren’t either.
- Near the river close to the Grand Palace, take your time to get lost in the fish market. Honestly, it’s a pretty brutal smell if you’re not used to it, but such an incredible local experience. I was the ONLY non-Thai person there but was offered free food at every turn.
- To get that smell out of your nose, head on over to Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s flower market. You’ll see vendors trimming flowers, organizing bouquets, and will experience some of the most vibrant and beautiful smells in the world. Seriously gorgeous (and a great spot for some good photos).
- The view of Wat Arun at night is something you can’t miss. It’s absolutely dripping in gold and glitters off the water of the Chao Praya River. For the best view, head to Eagle’s Nest Bar. The drinks are definitely pricey but order a whiskey neat and just enjoy! (Pro tip: Walking down the stairs on your way out, take a look out the windows at the lit-up Grand Palace as well.)
- If you really like shopping, definitely check out MBK. While I wasn’t a huge fan since I really don’t enjoy shopping, this mall is eight floors and absolute insanity.
- Last tip, as for anywhere in Thailand, the ATM fee is extreme (If I remember right, it was around $7USD each time to take out money, no matter what card you have). So while it may be risky, try only taking out large sums of money fewer times.
Extra tip: if you fly out of Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), there’s a rad little quiet area upstairs that watches over the tarmac. After spending over 12 hours in the airport (long story), this was easily the best place to hang before heading into the gates. It’s quiet, a great view, and totally free to walk up to. You’ll see signs; it’ll totally look like you’re not allowed up there, but I promise you are, so go explore!
While Bangkok was a good time (all three times I somehow ended up back there), it was my least favorite of every city/town I was able to check out in my month in Thailand. But like everyone says, it’s a must. So take a long layover here, enjoy it for two or three days, then leave knowing you experienced one of the craziest cities in the world.