In my first day in Bangkok my Tuk-Tuk was almost run over by a truck, I was refused entry to a temple, and I was sort of kidnapped by my Tuk-Tuk driver and taken to a tailor so to try out a suit. Something was telling me that this trip was going to be different…
Bangkok is chaotic with traffic and noise and over-packed with people, but beyond this is a city hiding true gems in its people, its temples and its sights.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, ITS RULES
Whether you go to a restaurant, somebody’s house, or another country, there are always rules you need to be aware of. Well, Thailand’s temples are no different, and one of those important rules involve dress code. Unfortunately it kept me from visiting Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Crap right?
Although I wouldn’t get a second chance to visit the Grand Palace (for now), knowing this allowed me to be better prepared for my other visits to other temples.
BEING A TOURIST IN BANGKOK IS HAAAAARD!
Being a tourist in Bangkok, or anywhere else in Thailand, is hard…touts will smell you coming a mile away! At the bus station they will wait for you at the door, tell you they work for the “Bangkok Transit Authority” and of course, ask you where you’re going and lead you to “the only bus company that goes there”. They will even should you an ID. Politely shroud them off and move inwards to book with a bus company of your choice.
Taking a Tuk-Tuk is both an awesome experience and a nice way to see the city (if you don’t mind the smell of gas), but even sometimes the driver might try to get some extra cash off of you, and not in the usual way. As tourists, we are all used (sadly) to being overcharged for rides and taxis taking the long route to get us to our destination. But this is Bangkok…things are done differently here!!! Here your driver might be insistent that you pass by a tailor shop to see some (what he described as) Armani suits, or may take you to a jeweler to see some “precious” stones (yeah right!) or to a tour company to book your next destination, and they will reassure you that it is “on the way” to where you want to go. These places give Tuk-Tuk drivers coupons for gas, or a small commission for any one who comes into the shop. If you have time take a look around (but don’t buy anything…it’s overpriced); I even got my measurements taken (and paid a deposit) for a suit which I ended up not ever picking up…so don’t feel too much like a loser if you actually do. (See my Thailand Tuk-Tuk Scam post for how I got scammed by Tuk-Tuks, twice).
BUT BANGKOK IS WAY MORE THAN THAT
But Bangkok has so much to offer, from temples to floating markets to just meeting its people, everyday in Bangkok was something different than the last, here are MY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK:
1. Visit the Ayutthaya Ruins
An UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ayutthaya ruins were founded by a king in 1351 and served as the capital of Thailand until 1767. The site is about 1 hour away from Bangkok, and while many tour companies will charge about $40 or more to get you there and back for the day, the trip is doable by minivan/bus from the Northern bus terminal, or by train from the Hualamphong station, each for a fraction of the price of the tour.
The site is impressive and fairly well preserved so it is easy to imagine it in its glory days.
2. Shopping at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Many of you may have already seen this market in postcard or pictures from Thailand. Being the most famous floating market in the world, it is definitely worth a visit. The market is situated about 2 hours from Bangkok and can be reached by bus from the Southern Bus Terminal (look for buses with a destination of Damnoen Saduak).
Here you will find vendors of all types, from souvenir shops to fruits and vegetables vendors. Damnoen Saduak is open all mornings from 5AM until noon; locals around the area do their shopping here during the early hours of the morning, while prices are hiked up later in the AM as tour groups arrive. Therefore it may be worth waking up very early to get some good deals…and also to avoid the bumper-car feeling this place has when it’s crowded.
The area around the market is a peaceful residential area, and is well worth a visit if you want to catch a glimpse of everyday life.
3. Stroll through Khaosan Road
Khaosan Road can better be described as the center of the backpacking universe. This short (1KM) stretch of road has hostels, restaurants, shops, bars and clubs, and pretty much earns its name as the “backpacker ghetto”.
Here you will also find many travel agencies for daily tours and will also assist with entry requirements to any other countries in your agenda.
Khaosan road is worth a visit, however unless you like crowded areas or are just here for the partying, I suggest booking your stay outside of this area as prices for accommodation can be high for small boxed-in rooms not too well isolated from the crowds outside.
4. Get a Traditional Thai Massage
Although painful for the uninitiated, getting a traditional Thai massage is a must when in Thailand. Your body will be stretched, compressed, and pulled in ways you thought impossible and you will probably feel like you’re taking a beating while the thought of “did I pay for this???” keeps going through your head. At the end, however, you will get out of each session feeling rejuvenated, trust me :).
5. Stroll Around the Streets of Bangkok
One of my favorite things to do anytime I go somewhere new is to take a walk aimlessly through the streets of the city to see people doing their everyday thing. Go to see markets, temples, parks, and just hang out outside of the tourist areas to see everyday life in Bangkok.
WHERE I STAYED
@HuaLamphong – Across the street from Hua Lamphong train station and a subway station at its corner, this very nice hostel is a very good base for your movements in Bangkok. Rooms are clean and big, and staff will also book any tours and arrange transportation for you. The hostel has a restaurant, but does not include breakfast with the price.
What are some of your highlights from your visit to Bangkok? Did I miss any sites from your list? Let us know in the comments below.