Travelling to Thailand has always been in my bucket list, so when we finally took off on the 3rd March I couldn’t be happier. Even though it is almost the same size as Spain, Thailand offers everything from rainforests, coral reefs and paradise islands to ultramodern cities like Bangkok. Plus the lower costs of living and travelling around Thailand explains its popularity as a holiday destination. Did you know Thailand was the most visited country in Southeast Asia in 2013? Our 2-week stay in this South Asia’s country with 66 million people residing there started in the capital - Bangkok.
Most Western passport-holders will automatically receive a 30-day stamp upon arrival at the airport, so no need to apply for any visa beforehand. From the airport we took a taxi (around 400-500baht - €10) to our hotel - the famous Lebua State Tower from the Hangover 2 movie. Make sure to tell your taxi driver that you prefer the meter not a fixed rate. Arriving to our hotel (after our 2-hour to Paris plus an additional 11-hour flight to Bangkok) and finding out that we have been upgraded to a suite for the best news of the day! We checked in, relaxed and hit the crazy city with crushing humidity that leaves you constantly sticky.. but once you get used to that, you start noticing the cool things that Bangkok has to offer.
Bangkok transport options:
For us taxis were always the best option - they have air-conditioning, they're fairly clean and cheap. ONLY if they drive you by the meter (which they often refuse).
Funny small open-air taxis that try to rip you off and make you stop in different places so they can get gasoline coupons. There is no meter, so all you can do is try to find one with a friendly driver and negotiate a fair price. Then enjoy the ride - it’s worth trying out at least once!
The cheapest option, but doesn’t take you everywhere because of it’s fixed route. The system consists of 34 stations along two lines: the Sukhumvit Line running northwards and eastwards, terminating at Mo Chit and Bearing respectively, and the Silom Line which serves Silom and Sathon Roads, the central business district of Bangkok, terminating at the National Stadium and Bang Wa. One-day Pass includes unlimited travel within the duration of a single day for 120 baht (3€).
Here are my suggestions for ‘What to do in Bangkok’:
1. Chatuchak Market aka the market of everything!
Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world's largest weekend markets covering area of 27 Acres that is divided into 27 Sections, containing more than 15,000 booths selling various goods. This market is a must-visit place when travelling to Bangkok! This is a great place to find anything from Clothing, Accessories, Handicrafts and Furniture to Pets, Books and Food! But you do need one skill - bargaining! Never settle with the first price they give you, but when negotiating try not to be too aggressive. One trick that always works is to start walking away and soon you will hear them yelling at a cheaper price for your requested goods!
Friday (Wholesale day) 6am - 6pm.
Saturday & Sunday (Miscellaneous) 6am - 6pm.
More info www.chatuchak.org
2. Asiatique Market aka Cool & clean night bazaar
Asiatique is a brand new hip night market facing the Chao Phraya River and Charoen Krung Road. With over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex, this market is open from 5pm, so spending here the whole evening is not a problem. I found some amazing souvenirs and original Thai handmade clothes and accessories from Asiatique. And it’s not more expensive than other markets, just put your haggling skills to test and you can get everything with a ‘special price’. Besides shopping we enjoyed amazing Thai food here. You can also find higher end restaurants and bars with live music and shows. What I loved about this market was that it is so clean and new - very European compared to Chatuchak. We even spent our last night in Bangkok there, since we loved it so much. The easiest and fastest way to get there is via their free shuttle boat from the Saphan Taksin pier. It only takes ten minutes, and the boat runs until 11pm. Also this is probably the only market in Bangkok where you can find a stall by looking at a map. Asiatique is split into four categories to help you find what you are looking for without too much hassle. This night market is definitely worth dedicating an evening to.
Opening Hours: 17:00-midnight
3. Grand Palace - Most famous landmark in Bangkok
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok continues to attract tourists with its beautiful architecture. What I do recommend is to visit it as early in the morning as possible, since during lunch time and in the afternoon before closing its packed with tourists making hard to admire all the beautiful details of the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. We got there with the Chao Phraya River Express boat. Get off in the Chang Pier, and enjoy a 7-minute walk to the Grand Palace’s main entrance. Watch out for random people approaching you and trying to scam you. They will tell you that the palace is closed or some other stupid lie, so be aware!
Opening hours: Open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm except during special royal ceremonies.
Entrance fee: 500 Baht (€12)
Dress code: Dress appropriately. Women need to cover their shoulders and knees. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops. If you're wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.)
4. Khao San Road aka The crazy street
Known as Bangkok’s young and budget travellers aka backpackers Khao San Road is a short street located a kilometer north of the Grand Palace. This road offers a wide range of budget hostels, an array of restaurants and bars, an army of food trucks offering Pad Thai (and other Thai street dishes), and even fried scorpio sellers. Before turning into a travelers’ hub, Khao San was one of Bangkok’s main rice (khao san in Thai) trading port, and that’s where its name came from. We spent one night in Khao San Road and we had a blast. Although I would never stay there, I found it very fun and amusing for one night.
5. Ultra modern shopping malls
From Paragon to Central Embassy Phloem Chit Road has it all. Walk along this road and you will discover the best and biggest commercial centres you have ever seen. From Chanel to H&M there is something for every budget and shopper. My favourite was the Central Embassy. It’s Bangkok’s first ever ultra-luxury lifestyle mall built on the grounds of the former British Embassy – hence the name. Happy shopping!
I also recommend you to have a massage whenever you can, because they’re so good at it and it costs as little as 10€ per hour. A great recommendation we got from the Lebua hotel concierge was to eat in Nalin Kitchen, just a 10-min walk from the hotel. Great food and super nice people! And if you have the budget, be sure to have a Hangovertini at the rooftop of Lebua State Tower - great views of the city. Hope you enjoyed a quick summary of my Bangkok visit, I will also recommend you a great hotel to stay in my next blog post - the five star Oriental Residence! Stay tuned..