What are some of your favorite memories of Bangkok?
- Food! On and off the streets. Pad Krapow Gai and Khao Min Gai especially, as I was primarily a chicken-eater back then.
- Participating in Thailand’s annual water-fight (Songkran, which is the Thai New Year, usually in April) by driving around the city with friends on the back of a pickup truck and water-sparring with locals all over Bangkok on one of the hottest days of the year.
- Walking around Lumphini Park at 6pm, observing Bangkokians keep fit, sometimes partaking in public ‘jazz-ercise’ sessions too!
- Scrounging around for junk and antiques at the wonderful and unique Train market (Talad Rot Fai)
How would you spend 36 hours in Bangkok?
MORNING - If this was my first time in the city I would start by paying homage to the holy trinity that is the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun in old Bangkok. This could be best reached via a river taxi-ride if your hostel/hotel is based in the city. It would be afternoon by the time you’ve seen all three, so a good lunch stop would be somewhere in Banglamphu (try Chote Chitr for some very local Thai cuisine in a hole-in-the wall off a Banglamphu street) If comfort and air-conditioning is more what you need, then I’d travel back to Central Banngkok and have myself the safest version there is of a Thai street-food feast at Siam Paragon’s Food Hall. (BTS Siam)
AFTERNOON - For the afternoon, I’d recommend checking out Jim Thompson’s House, not far from Siam Paragon, after which I’d spend a little while wandering the streets of Siam Square. If you need a break from all the walking and want to relax a bit before a night out, Bangkok has much to offer in terms of relaxation. I’d recommend a one-hour Thai massage, or a one-hour foot massage at Ruen Nuad in Silom’s Soi Convent, (a taxi ride away from Siam), or if your hotel is near the Sukhumvit area, the Asia Herb Association on Sukhumvit Soi 23 is another good option. Both places offer reasonably priced massages in an upmarket environment. At just 100 baht more than street prices, it’s a no-brainer. If massages however aren’t your thing and you just want to rest your legs and be entertained for awhile, you could go to the Siam Lido or House RCA cinemas for cool art-house film options, or to Siam Paragon for a blockbuster film in 4DX! Alternatively, should you feel like starting your evening/night with an early drink I’d recommend heading to Nest, on Sukhumvit Soi 11, a super-chill rooftop bar, complete with beds to laze around and sip a cocktail in while snacking on edamame beans. Don’t stay here too long though, as the best sunset cocktail to be had in the city is undisputedly at Sky Bar at the rooftop of the Lebua State Tower.
EVENING – Begin your evening by sipping on a cocktail and watching the sun go down on the 64th floor of the Lebua, at the famous Sky Bar. Touristy as it is, you won’t get a better view of the city than this. Then make your way to Sukhumvit for a fulfilling Thai meal, either at Bo.Lan (contemporary) or at Reun Malika (traditional). If you want an exciting and novel culinary experience, I’d also recommend checking out the ‘Dine in the dark’ phenomenon that hit Bangkok earlier this year. (Sathorn)
NIGHT- After dinner, it will be time to decide what kind of night you’d like to experience in Bangkok. There are many kinds nights to be had here –
Night type 1 - Buckets, backpacker style
If youre looking for a classic backpacker style evening, I’d first go home and change, leave my valuables in my hotel safe, and then head over to Khao San Road, where I’d start by walking up and down the road and taking it all in. I’d have my first drink on the street itself and gape at the passers by and the sheer entertainment they provide. For a more intimate and local experience, I’d then look for ‘Hippie de Bar’, which is a somewhat surreal experience, as it’s right off Khao San road, but somehow its packed mostly with Thai indie kids and the music playing isn’t Akon. I’d then head over to Soi Rambuttri, which is near Khao San road, and offers a much more chill vibe and lots of live music. If you want to venture a bit further, Brown Sugar, a famous Bangkok live jazz venue, isn’t too far away. Once you’ve gotten sufficiently tipsy and feel like a trashy night out, I’d head back over to Khao San and pay ‘The Club’ a visit. And once you’ve had enough, youre never too far from a mango-sticky-rice vendor or a streetside foot massage joint on Khao san road!
Night Type 2 - Party like an expat a.k.a the Soi 11 crawl –
Start your night at Cheap Charlie’s, a street bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11, (its where expats go to meet other expats) or at The Alchemist. Both can be fun especially if you’re a solo traveller. Then head over to Oskar’s for a mojito, especially if it’s a Wednesday night and you’re a woman (Ladies night) If you want a few more drinks before you’re ready to break out the moves, head back to Nest and enjoy a completely different night-vibe there. Once you’re ready to par-tay you can head to the famous Bed Supperclub, just a few minutes away. If you’re not ready to call it a night at 3am, and your tummy’s craving more than alcohol, hop into a taxi and head over to Sukhumvit Soi 38 for the best street food you’ve ever had (I’m sure there is better street food in Bangkok but the food here is consistently good, and everything is tasty when you’re drunk and hungry) If you’re still not done and want to party some more, go to Narcissus on Soi 23 or to Mixx in Chitlom, both open until 5am; with Mixx attracting more tourists (some of the most random I’ve ever seen in the city) and Nars attracting more locals. Expect commercial dance music in both clubs, sometimes downright awful but hey, when you’re drunk it doesn’t really matter does it?
Night type 3 - Party like a local –
Have a drink or two at Tuba in Ekkamai, or at the unique Iron Fairies in Thong Lor (or both!) and then head over to RCA or Royal City Avenue, which is literally an avenue lined with bars and clubs. Have a drink at Cosmic Café to more diversified music, and then take your pick of Bangkok’s super-clubs, all lined up next to each other. My suggestion is to follow your ears, they all play different kinds of music so it depends on what you feel like dancing to. RCA usually closes at 2am, but if you’re not done drinking yet and want to experience more local activity, make your way to Wong’s, a hole-in-the-wall institution of a pub in Sathorn, where expats and locals go for cheap beer and conversation to music videos from the 80s and 90s. It famously closes ‘when the last customer leaves’ usually at 11am the following morning. Be warned though, it can get overcrowded and smoky.
If its 3am and you’re done drinking but don’t want to sleep through the morning, now would be a good time to freshen up and visit Bangkok’s Flower market – (Talad Pak Khlong), which is usually bustling with activity at this hour. Don’t forget your camera, it’s a visual feast.
THE NEXT MORNING/AFTERNOON
Once you’ve recovered from your night out, take the time out to go and visit Chatuchak market (it is a weekend market only) to fulfil all your shopping needs. It’s the largest market in Asia, and even if you don’t want to shop, walking around it is a unique experience in itself. If it’s not a weekend, but you still want to get some shopping done, then there are plenty of other options to choose from – I recommend Central World for international fashion and books, Terminal 21 for more local and boutique style shopping, Pantip Plaza for 7 floors of electronics, and Platinum or MBK for some serious bargains.
If you’re in the mood for more culture and less shopping, some good alternatives would be a stroll through Chinatown or Yaowarat (best done in the morning) a visit to the BACC or a visit to Dusit Park and the Vivanmek Palace. You can spend the rest of the afternoon being pampered at one of Bangkok’s countless spas, which should prep you nicely for your onward travel!
What kind of practical information should first-time visitors know about Bangkok?
Most locals speak basic English in tourist-heavy areas, but it definitely helps to carry around a phrase book in case you need one, especially if you are exploring other parts of the city, where only 70% of the people you meet are likely to speak English. Locals respond better to Thai and if they can’t speak English well they are usually shy and impatient with tourists and may not entertain you. Taxi drivers and shop-keepers respond better to Thai too, and you have less chances of getting ripped off.
Some useful basic Thai phrases:
Hello! - Sawat-dee-khaa (if you’re female) / Sawat-dee-khap (if you’re male)
Thank you - Khorp-khun khaa (if you’re female) / Khorp-khun khap (if you’re male)
Help! - Choo-ai Doo-ai !
Yes / No - Chaai / Mai Chaai
I want / I don't want- Aao / Mai Aoi
How much? – Tow Rai?
Expensive - Phaeng
Where? - Tee – Nai?
It’s also useful to know some Thai if you are going to try street food in a local neighbourhood. See below for useful food related words.
Spicy – Phet
Very spicy – Phet maak
Not spicy please! – Mai – phet!
Vegetarian – Jay or Mang Sa Vila
Chicken – Gkai
Prawns – Kung
Pork – Moo
Fish – Poo
Beef – Neuaa
Rice - Khao
BUDGET – Bangkok has something to offer all budgets, in terms of accommodation, food, shopping and nightlife, so you can be very flexible with how much you will have to spend.
Bangkok is a very easy city to get around in terms of public transport, which spans road, rail, and water travel too! Here’s a breakdown of your options there:
TO/FROM SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT – The airport link is the best way to beat the traffic if you aren’t carrying too much luggage – it leaves the airport every 30-40 mins. Other options are taxis, which can be found at a stand outside the airport.
Airport link – There is an express line that goes directly to Makkasan or to Phaya Thai in the city without any stops in the middle. It leaves every 30 mins and the journey takes approxiamately 15 mins. From here you can switch to a taxi and get to wherever you need to. Price – 90 baht one-way/150 baht return. There’s also a city line that goes to the same stations but makes 6 stops on the way. It leaves every 10-20 mins and costs between 15 and 40 baht depending on destination
ROAD TRAVEL – Bangkok is notorious for its traffic. So travelling by train is usually more recommended if it’s an available option. If travelling by road, I would advise sticking to taxis and motorcycle taxis. Taxis if there isn’t much traffic or if longer distances are involved, and motorcycles if there is traffic or if you are covering a short distance. I would avoid bus travel as a tourist unless it’s absolutely necessary, as there are several bus companies and types that operate and information at bus-stops isn’t clear so you could easily find yourself lost or confused whilst attempting a bus ride.
Taxi rides start at 35 baht and they only run by the meter. If a taxi driver tells you otherwise, he is lying and wants to rip you off because you’re a tourist. My advice is to avoid stalled taxis at crowded tourist spots, and to make the effort to walk further away and hail one that’s already on the move. Always insist on paying by the meter.
Tuk tuks charge more than taxis generally and prices are negotiated before the ride. Try a tuk-tuk ride for novelty’s sake, but stick to taxi’s the rest of the time. Tuk Tuk drivers are notorious for luring tourists to attractions and shops that they receive commission for.
Motorbike taxis are the way to go for short distances, and high-traffic situations. Drivers are very skilled at weaving through heavy traffic. Bikes are also super-cheap and range from 10-50 baht a journey, and most operators only cover local neighbourhoods.
TRAIN TRAVEL – Bangkok has an underground train and a skytrain.
The BTS or the Skytrain – This is an inexpensive and fun way to travel in Bangkok, as it offers passengers great views of the city underneath. There are two lines, and maps are easy to understand – Journeys cost from 15 baht to 60 baht
The MRT or the underground train system. – Cheap and comfortable. Tickets cost 15 baht to 40 baht.
The BTS and the MRT cross paths a few times so it’s easy to transfer from one to another, but are run by two separate companies so you have to buy a new ticket if you’re transferring. Station staff on both lines are very helpful if you need any assistance planning your journey.
WATER TRAVEL – This is the best mode of transport to use if you are living downtown and need to go to the older parts of Bangkok where most historic sights and temples are. The train lines don’t go there, and travelling by taxi there means you could easily spend a couple of hours in traffic. River Taxis depart from several piers on the river, and are a pleasant experience. If you’re confused about what boats to take and what stop to get off at, attendants at the pier are very useful and are used to helping tourists out on a daily basis!
Useful website for all local travel http://www.transitbangkok.com/
What are some precautions that people should take while exploring Bangkok?
Bangkok is a safe city in general, especially for women. However, in areas that receive a high volume of tourists, like Khao San Road, Patpong, and Sukhumvit Soi 11, scams are rampant, and it’s important to keep yourself alert for them
Popular scams –
Cheap overnight buses - from Khao San Road to several destinations. If a bus ticket seems too cheap to be true, it probably is. Spend the extra money on a safe trip and avoid getting your backpack stolen while you’re asleep!
Gem scam – If shopping for gems or precious stones, make sure you know your stuff well, this is one of the most common scams in the city, and tourists sometime spend thousands of dollars on what ends up being worthless glass.
“Sorry we’re closed” - Someone outside a major attraction like the Royal Palace or one of the famous temples in Bangkok might tell you its closed for a Buddhist holiday or for lunch. It also often happens with taxi drivers before you’ve even begun your journey, and they will tell you that they’re saving you a trip there. This person is trying to lure towards another attraction that he probably gives them commission, so don’t believe it until you’ve been to the ticket office and found out that it’s actually closed!
If you’re going to Khao San Road, make sure you watch your belongings well, pickpockets in this area are exceptionally skilled. With the number of bars on the street, they tend to strike mostly at night when people are several drinks down.
Another word of precaution – if you are planning on watching one of Bangkok’s infamous ‘ping-pong shows’ beware of being scammed – Touts line the streets of Patpong offering tourists certain deals, but they usually change their prices when you enter one of these bars, and you then have no choice but to pay.
Bangkokians are trendy and enjoy dressing well. Locals have a individual sense of style and a trip to Terminal 21, Siam square or a night out in RCA can leave you feeling quite underdressed if you decided to bring only backpacker-wear with you.
Temple dressing advice - When visiting temples make sure your shoulders are covered and that what you’re wearing on the bottom is at least knee-length.
Thais are generally quite conservative with how they dress and women tend to not to show too much skin when dressing to go out.
Any other indispensable pieces of advice to share?
- Watch your feet! Feet are a sensitive subject in Thai culture – it is the norm to usually take your shoes off before you enter somebody’s home, and it’s considered very offensive to touch something with your feet, or to sit with your feet up on furniture
- Venture outside Khao San Road if that’s where you’re staying – it’s an antithesis to everything Bangkok stands for!
- Best place to change currency – Super Rich (look online for your nearest branch)
- Websites I found useful while in Bangkok
www.agoda.com for hotel bookings all over Thailand, at special prices
www.travelfish.com Resourceful site with personal input from its readers regarding travel in Asia
www.thaivisa.com for just about everything Bankgok-related!
www.bangkokartmap.com for the latest in art and cultural events around the city.
Beautiful temple just across the river from Wat Pho
Fun riverside bar and bistro, great when the weather's nice.
cheap and cheerful drinks on one of bangkok's favourite party streets.
Other spots to visit while here - Cheap Charlie's next door, Oskar's down the road, sophisticated bar and bistro, Nest - lovely rooftop bar at the end of the soi, Bed Supperclub or Levels if you feel like dancing afterward.
Highest rooftop bar in Thailand, makes for incredible views of the city.
After hours club in Central bangkok - closes at 5am. Expect a lot of seedy tourists and commercial dance music. Makes for some entertaining people-watching.
Not for the faint-hearted. This hole in the wall, after hours institution is perfect if you fancy drinking early into the morning with 90's music videos for company.
bangkok's most famous club - egg-shaped with all white interiors including beds, expect a lot of tourists, loud music and very strict bouncers (you have to have ID on you)
late night club in thong lor
Gallery Bar in Thong Lor
Love this bar. Weird and quirky choices of interiors, eclectic music, a young and trendy local crowd
Chilled out streetside bars near Khao san road, a more laid back alternative to Khaosan.
Stuck in the madness of khao san and want to escape? This jazz and blues bar is an institution in Bangkok and perfect if you're looking for something more relaxed.
A gem of a bar hidden away right in the heart of Khao San. Good music, outdoor and indoor areas, perfect if you want to avoid the hordes of tourists outside, since the clientele is mostly local here.
Must - see
Enjoy a massage here after you visit this gorgeous temple
Go here before dawn with your camera and be rewarded with some of the most colourful photo's you'll take in the city. - Bangkok's flower market.
This mansion is the world's largest golden teakwood structure, and is a breathtaking sight. You could also visit Dusit Zoo, which is nearby.
Always has interesting exhibitions on and the building itself is worth a visit.
This is a good place for designers across different fields. Massive design library - it requires membership but you can do a trial day there for free.
Full of life and energy, this park is as famous for it's monitor lizard population as it is for all it's activity. Highly recommended.
A must-see for hoarders and shopaholics. Asia's largest market, it never gets old. You can pretty much find anything you're looking for at this market.
Dance the night away at Royal City Avenue - an avenue basically lined up with most of bangkok's super - clubs. My personal recommendation Cosmic Cafe for drinks before you go dancing. (for the music mostly)
My favourite bar in the city - Super chill rooftop space with seating options ranging from bar tables, dining tables, sofas, or beds if you just feel like lying around and enjoying the view. Great spot for afternoon/sunset drinks too.
The interiors could be mistaken for a Tim Burton movie set - fun bar, live music, definitely more suited to a one-on-one drink.
24 hour coffee shop that serves thai food too - next to patpong and silom bts.
One of my favourite spots for Sunday brunch - Delicious food, delicious coffee. I recommend the strawberry french toast.
Cafe that serves delicious food - great breakfast/brunch/lunch spot.
This one's for the insomniacs - Open 24 hours - Coffee, tea, smoothies, juices, ice cream, cake, and a popcorn machine if you'd like to take your laptop there and watch a movie on their comfy sofas. Enjoy one of the city's most famous chicken and rice stalls downstairs if you do go here.
DEAN & DELUCA Mahanakorn
If you feel like a bit of New York in Bangkok :)
Channel your inner designer as you enjoy a coffee or tea at Kiosk. A beautiful and inspiring space with gorgeous views of bangkok, this coffee shop is based in the library of the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (top floor of the upmarket Emporium Shopping Mall)
Nice spot for a coffee break
Sushi bar in bangkok
Japanese, home cooked style food
Contemporary cuisine, upmarket restaurant
Authentic Thai cuisine
Japanese cuisine in Lumphini
authentic thai cuisine
Boutiques & Street stores selling young and trendy local fashion in the city - Don't miss
Modern fusion Thai cuisine
Expat crowd, great food although run by non-thai management - very nice cocktails too!
Papaya salads and more!
tourist favourite, thai food for a good cause
Not a coffee shop but a very family orientated Thai restaurant. Great desserts too!
The food court is the safest place to try street food, if you're worried about actually eating on the street.It occupies an entire floor of Siam paragon, and offers a massive range of eats to suit any mood or budget!
Enjoy a coffee or tea at this authentic and ornate Chinese space at BTS Asok - free wifi
In the heart of trendy Thong Lor/Ekkamai
One of my favourite spots - Lovely cosy restaurant off Sukhumvit, perfect if you're tired of Asian food and fancy a lghter meal!
Upmarket and chilled out. Good for a meal or for a cocktail. Nice outdoor area as well
The highest rooftop in Bangkok. Food's expensive but youre really just paying for the view. Which can also be enjoyed by the bar (Sky Bar) if you prefer just having a drink there.
Restaurant and bar, great sushi and pizza!
Beautiful rooftop in Sathron at the Banyan Tree hotel.
In my opinion the best Indian food in bangkok - and a beautiful view too!
A unique and amazing experience for the brave - Staffed by blind wiaters, you are guided into a pitch dark restaurant and you can only rely on your other senses to guess and enjoy your food - you will find your sense of taste magnify into double of what it is when you're normally eating,
for a delicious, thai meal that feels homemade. Casual, cheap and cheerful
Great italian food, yummy desserts too. Perfect if you're planning to party on Soi 11 later!
Tradiitional Thai food
Delicious contemporary Thai food. Great for a date or an intimate dinner. Upmarket restaurant that serves modern Thai food.
For all the vegetarians out there that feel they are missing out on authentic Thai food - this place serves 100% vegetarian thai cuisine, delicious, fresh and super cheap!
Street food near patpong - try the chicken with yellow rice, and grilled pork! If you're not up for street food, you can pop into Coyote for some mexican food or margaritas
For cool boutique style local shopping
Asiatique - The riverfront
This is a massive riverside shopping/food/entertainment complex on the banks of the Chao Phraya - Great food options and prices on everything range from cheap to expensive. Something for everyone.
Can't leave bangkok without a few gifts from Jim Thompson! - home of Thai silk and a lot of products that use it.
Get off at Thong Lor station and walk to Sukhumvit Soi 38 for a street food feast! Delicious food served right on the street, very safe. Plenty of options too. Wash it down with a Singha beer and a mango-sticky rice near the fruit stall. It's delicious!
For a lebanese fix
Also recommend Beirut, another Lebanese restaurant in bangkok with branches in Silom and Thong Lor.
Couldnt find this on the map - the complex is actually called Nihonmachi - (Japanese Village) - Its a complex of aunthentic Japanese restaurants with different regional cuisines on offer - A must visit if you're craving authentic japanese food.