Bangkok is probably the world biggest, most bustling traveller hub. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed by the craziness so our CRM Excutive Carmen steps forward to create this handy city guide to help you make the most of your stay. Here’s our shakedown of Bangkok.
The first thing you should know is that Bangkok is a mega-city of multiple personalities. With over 6 million people living there, you can pretty much find anything at anytime of day or night; the city is peppered with corner shops called 7Eleven.
It’s got a fearsome party reputation – Hangover II was filmed here – and that’s no exaggeration, there’s everything from Ping Pong shows, down somewhat suspicious side streets (don’t google it), to super plush sky bars. The city is a natural hub for all travellers/explorers landing in Southeast Asia as it’s connected to, well, just about everywhere. So if you are looking to start your trip here, it’s a great place for meeting like minded people, going in your direction.
Markets pop up like umbrellas in the rain, all over the city throughout the week, so the shopping is great – especially if you like to haggle. Of course, as Thailand’s capital city, so there is also a wealth of historic, religious and modern cultural sites to see. So let’s get down to it, here’s what to do in Bangkok and how to do it…
Visit Bangkok's famous Floating Markets.
Here’s how to explore the world’s best traveller hub
Getting there and away
The international airport is on the outskirts of the city, so the easiest way to get into town is in one of the yellow taxis. However, you can also catch a train or a group bus if you are feeling confident. When you arrive, pick up one of the free city maps available at the airport. Locating the place you are staying at, or another touch point, before you leave the airport will ensure you look like you know what you are doing, this means you’ll be far less likely to be targeted by local ‘guides’.
If you’re leaving, then there are tonnes of buses will ferry you to your next destination in the sountry or further out in Southeast Asia, with pick up points dotted around the city. Local tourist shops are the best way to pick where you are off to next, and how you are going to get there, but be prepared to haggle. These little shops also serve day trips that will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to see the amazing sites within a days drive. If you’d rather get a bit of a plan in place before you get there (and make sure you get a good deal) check out our range of day trips.
Where to stay
With such a massive variety in travellers, Bangkok is renowned for having great places to stay at very affordable prices. The Khao San Road is set just west of the river. It’s toted as the party hub of Bangkok, but it’s also got everything from 12 bed dorms for pennies a night to 3 star hotels with rooftop pools that won’t make your purse weep either (and that’s on a travelling budget too).
Elsewhere in the city, Sukhumvit Road, Prom Pap Sattru Phai and Silom Road are good locations with great access to the skytrain and hostels to 5* hotels. Ultimately, the city has a very good transport infrastructure, so you have the freedom to choose which sites you would like to be closest to and take it from there.
The Grand Palace is one of Bangkok's biggest attractions.
Eating and drinking
Whilst you won’t want to drink water out of the tap here, stalls full of mouth watering food can be found on street corners, along the street and just off the street – everywhere. From traditional Pad Thai to fresh coconuts to bags of crisped insects, you can find everything. If you want to sit down, many restaurants have comprehensive seating areas from cosy couches, to sun chairs to stools along extended trestle tables, to traditional seating.
It’s safe to eat street food, in fact it’s encouraged, most travellers do it, it’s cheap and it’s where you’ll try some of the freshest, most authentic, most delicious local food. Just try and choose to order from a stall that looks busy, and therefore keep their ingredients fresh due to their fast turn over of customers, to massively decrease your chances of getting sick from food that’s been there for a while waiting to be bought.
As you will discover with most shop types in Bangkok, restaurants group together snuggling in next to each other and spilling out into the road with makeshift expansions. These restaurant hubs can be found in various places across the city including Chana Songkhram and Sukkimvit Road (where you will find the infamous Cabbages and Condoms restaurant). If you are looking to cram as much into your Bangkok time as possible, the night markets are all surrounded by restaurants so you can shop till you drop, then have a great local meal too.
There is a fantastic travel infrastructure in Bangkok that caters to every kind of traveller. If you want to escape the heat and zone out for a moment whilst you get whisked to your next destination take a yellow taxi. The skytrain travels across the city for sites that are a little further out. It is clean, organised, fast and a good way to see the city too as you are up high enough to see most of the sites you pass. River boats run up and down the central river in Bangkok, this is a great way to see the city and enjoy some cooling air as you speed down the river, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, these boats also take on a special quality as you get the sunset whilst you ride.
The most immersive and cheapest way to get around though is by tuk-tuk. A little bit like sitting in a wheelbarrow with an engine and a roof, these small taxi’s will whisk you around the city, allowing you to stop and start whenever you see something you like. If you want to go exploring you can hire one for the day and more often than not your driver will add in some hints and tips too – don’t forget to haggle on price and include a tip for your driver at the end of your journey.
Taking a tuk tuk ride in Bangkok is an absolute must.
What to see
As the capital city of Thailand, unsurprisingly Bangkok hosts a feast of temples and Thai cultural hotspots. The Grand Palace, home to the Kings and Queens of Thailand is an architectural wonder; its ornate interior decor demonstrates extremely skilled Thai craftsmanship and the history of the royal family. All locals will recommend differing temples to visit, two that are great fun and beautiful are Wat Arun and the Golden Mount. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the East bank of the river is best viewed at sunrise as it takes on an ethereal quality.
Climb the spiraling steps through waterfall features to get to the pinnacle of the Golden Mount where you will be rewarded with beautiful statues, prayer bells and gorgeous views. Bangkok is also great for shopping, Siam Square houses one of the largest Thai malls with a massive range is price bands and products. However, the night markets really bring bargain hunting into its own and each market has a unique specialty. Patpong Night Market stretches down a broad street, selling anything from fake bags to DVDs to ornate clocks, it’s also surrounded by interesting pubs and clubs. Saphan Phut sits next to Memorial Bridge and draws a young Thai crowd looking for deals amongst the milieu.
If you have time to take a day trip, there are plenty of options in and around the Bangkok countryside. Tours can take you to the historic River Kwai, tiger temples, elephant sanctuaries, waterfalls and floating markets.
So it won’t come as a surprise that Bangkok can get pretty hot, it’s actually got the highest average temperature in the world. Temperatures are at their hottest between March and August. There is also quite a long rainy season from May to September, really picking up in June. During this season it’s imperative to carry around a small waterproof as whilst most often showers are short and in the afternoon, there can also be unexpectedly long periods of unremitting rain due to the cities height above sea level.
Humidity is also pretty constant throughout the year so remember to drink as much water as possible to make sure you don’t accidentally dehydrate.