Before we left for Thailand, we heard all sorts of stories about Bangkok. The general consensus seems to be not to spend much time there. I wasn't sure how we'd feel in the chaotic city. We loved our first day in Bangkok, but were worn out by all the hassle at the tourist spots the next day. On our second trip to the capital, at the end of our 2 week trip, we'd gotten really sick in Ao Nang and were too ill to get out of the hotel. On the one hand I wish we'd only booked one night either end of the trip, but on the other hand, it worked out just right. I'd of been gutted if we'd been ill anywhere else, but we'd already done Bangkok at the start so didn't feel like we were missing out on anything.
Expect to be harassed around the temples by people trying to sell you things or even just send you in the wrong direction for no apparent reason. We had one incident where a taxi driver took us to a random pier and we were almost forced to spend 1000THB each on a boat trip we didn't want to do. Instead we refused and walked away but it took us an hour to get our bearings. I probably wouldn't of been brave enough to wonder around on my own without Gordon. It made me suddenly aware of how easy it is to get conned and I was really wary of everybody after that, even the ones who seemed genuinely helpful! Just make sure you tell the taxi driver where you want to go, don't let anyone tell them in Thai for you.
It wasn't all bad though! Like I said our first day was really fun and we did enjoy the temples once we eventually found our way into them. If it's your first time in Thailand, I'd definitely say give Bangkok a chance and spend at least one day exploring the city. If anything you'll appreciate how laidback everywhere else is afterwards!
Things To Do
Shop at the markets - This was my favourite thing about Bangkok! We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and headed straight for Chatuchak Weekend Market. It's one of the biggest and busiest in the city, you could literally get lost. We stopped at an eatery in the market and tucked into gigantic plates of chicken satay and phad thai, and I had my first taste of Thai iced green tea.
We saw loads of stuff we'd of liked to buy but as we didn't want to trail it about for 2 weeks, we thought we'd come back when we returned to Bangkok at the end of the trip. Obviously we hadn't planned on being sick so that didn't work out! I never got to bring home any matcha tea or coconut bowls! It's my biggest regret - just buy things when you see them guys, and don't forget to haggle for a decent price.
Visit the Temples - It is worth it. We decided to visit the the 3 main attractions in one day as they're all so close to each other. Wat Pho houses the famous reclining Buddha, and The Grand Palace (not a temple as such, but the previous home of the Thai King) is where you'll find the Emerald Buddha - which was a lot smaller than I expected! It's also packed with Chinese tourists. We could barely move due to the amount of people visiting at the same time, which took away from the experience and we left pretty quickly.
Wat Arun was my favourite. You have to get a boat across the river to reach it, which is probably why it's quieter than the others. It was far more peaceful which I feel a temple should be! We had a delicious lunch of chicken & cashew nuts with rice for just 100THB (£2.30) at a small café by the pier. Expect to pay to enter the temples in Bangkok, and go through a separate tourist entrance at some. You should also dress respectfully, making sure your knees and shoulders are covered, and remember you will have to remove your shoes!
Drink at a Rooftop Bar - There are loads of these in Bangkok, with the most famous one probably being the Sky Bar from the Hangover. We visited Above Eleven, which was just round the corner from our hotel on Sukhumvit 11. The views were fantastic and we enjoyed the experience - our cocktails were top notch but the food was average in my opinion. You can get much tastier dishes for a lot less money elsewhere. There is a dress code so do make an effort, but they didn't seem too strict about it!
The Siam Center - This was the only place we ventured out to on our final day! A huge shopping centre with an awesome food court, next to the Siam Paragon (where you'll find Chanel, Dior etc.) We didn't get to enjoy it properly but I could easily have spent a couple of hours here had I been feeling better. The Moomin Café for a cup of Moomin Mamma's hot tea was about as far as we got! Avoid taxis and catch the BTS Skytrain to get there.
Find a Secret Cocktail Bar - Speakeasy's are a big deal in Bangkok right now. We happened to be staying right around the corner from Havana Social, which is next to Above Eleven rooftop bar so make a night of it like we did. You enter the laidback Cuban style bar through a "phone box" by entering a secret code! Just phone ahead to get the number, or ask your concierge to do it for you. Expect rum based cocktails, live latin music and good vibes!
Where to Stay
Aloft Sukhumvit 11 - A few people recommended this hotel and we went ahead and booked it after reading Kristy's review. The hotel is brightly decorated with subtle Thai touches in amongst the modern design. Other than the location - right next to some cool bars and plenty restaurants, and round the corner from Nana BTS station - the pool was my favourite thing. Watching the sunset over the city with a cocktail in hand was pure bliss. Free wifi and complimentary bottled water were also a bonus.
Avani Atrium - If I had to be ill in any hotel I'm glad it was this one! It was slightly further out of the city centre but still had a metro station within walking distance. The staff were lovely and helpful, and brought us toast and chips to nibble on when we couldn't stomach anything else! Within the hotel you'll find the Japanese steakhouse Benihana, which also specialises in sashimi and sushi, all prepared right at your table. Something I definitely would have liked to check out under normal circumstances.
Taxis - All taxis in Bangkok should be metered. Make sure the meter is on before you start your journey! You can arrange a set price with the driver instead but we learned the hard way that this will cost a lot more. When we first arrived in Bangkok a taxi to our hotel cost us 1000THB (roughly £23). The second time we got a metered taxi to the hotel which cost just over 300THB (approx £7). Granted these were from different airports to different hotels but it's a hell of a difference. Grab your taxi ticket and wait in the queue.
Water Taxis - While you can get around by taxi or tuktuk, you'll likely spend more money and more time in traffic than you'd like to. I recommend figuring out the water taxis on the canal. It's easy enough, the locals will help you and it cost us just 13THB (30p!) to get from one end of the city to the other. A huge difference than the 500THB (£11.50) taxi we got in the morning, that didn't even drop us off where we wanted!
Trains - We used both the MRT (metro) and the BTS Skytrain to get about. The skytrain took us from our hotel (Nana station) to the Chatuchak weekend market (Mo Chit) for just 40THB (92p). From the Avani hotel we were able to walk to the Phetchaburi station and catch the MRT to Sukhumvit where we switched to the Skytrain for Siam. It's really easy to figure out - if you can handle the London underground or Paris metro, you've got this.
How long would you recommend staying in Bangkok?