Cost: ££ – cheap when you’re out there but flights can be expensive
Rating: 7/10 – certainly worth seeing
Tip length: 2 nights is plenty
I would recommend visiting Bangkok as part of a bigger trip (Siem Reap / Chiang Mai / Hong Kong etc.) Return flights can be booked at £350 if you plan in advance. I think generally they’re around the £500 mark. Always check SkyScanner for best fares.
Both times I have visited Bangkok I have been with my parents who have Holiday Inn points so we got the rooms for free (wahoo). The hotel is really nice and in a good location near the river. I looked online and you can book a room at Holiday Inn Silom for 2940 BAHT / £70.
Search booking.com / AirBnb and find a place to suit your budget.
Currency is the Thai Baht which is another confusing one. £1 = 42.19 BAHT! Roughly work it out as 1 GBP to 40 THB and you should be okay.
There is no Uber in Bangkok but taxis are very reasonable and on a meter. Some taxi drivers will try to agree a price before you hop in… this will be more expensive than the meter. You can jump in a Tuk Tuk for a true Bangkok experience… also very cheap (although surprisingly more expensive than a taxi!). Agree a price before you get in.
Another great way of avoiding the traffic is the River Express Boat.
*BE CAREFUL*… unfortunately some people are out to con you! A seemingly nice man offered to help some lost looking tourists (us) find the ferry port and took us to a private boat place where they were charging the equivalent of £20 for a boat trip. He got very annoyed when he knew I was onto him and we walked away. We eventually found the correct terminal and paid 20 THB / less than 50p each for a journey.
There is a Subway and there are buses although we did not use these.
What we did…
1 – Wat Pho
Wat Pho / Temple of the Reclining Buddha is a must see! It has an absolutely massive Buddha which is 15 metres tall, 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. For good luck you can buy a some coins and drop them into the bowls which line the outer walls. There are 108 bowls which refers to the 108 positive actions / symbols that ‘helped lead Buddha to perfection’. The money goes towards helping the monks, as well as Wat Pho renovations.
It costs 100 baht (£2.50) to enter and you can book a guide for around 300 baht (£8) although we did not. To go inside the temple you have to take your shoes off. You also need to cover your shoulders and legs. Spend some time walking around the courtyards and looking at the many Buddha statues. Wat Pho is also famous for its massages if you fancy one after a long day of sight-seeing.
*BE WARNED*… both times I’ve walked to Wat Pho, men nearby have told me that it’s shut (it’s not) and that they can take me to Golden Buddha instead. Don’t be fooled… double check yourself before jumping in a tuk tuk somewhere else.
2 – The Grand Palace
The most famous landmark in Bangkok, the Grand Palace was built in 1782 and has been home to the Thai King, the Royal court & the administrative seat of government for over 150 years! It costs 500 baht (£12) for a ticket to see the temples and the palace.
Remember to bring clothes to cover your shoulders and your legs or else you will not be allowed through the gates. There are plenty of people selling trousers / scarves outside but you’ll pay top dollar (or baht). Plan ahead and bring your own if you can; as you can see, I have a beautiful mix of a t-shirt, a dress and harem pants on in the photo above to the right!
Inside is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is one of Thailand’s most sacred sites (no photos allowed). This Buddha dates back to the 14th century and the robes on the Buddha are changed with the seasons by the King which is a very important ritual.
It’s important to note that the Grand Palace closes at 3.30pm so make sure you get there early. We did not know this and very nearly missed our chance to see it.
I kept seeing monks all over Thailand and Siem Reap (Cambodia) on their phones and taking selfies which seems like a contradiction, but I guess monks must move with the times too. Check out the modern monk part 2 pictures below… (part 1 in my Siem Reap blog).
3 – Views!
Try to get to Lebua at the State Tower (5 min walk from the Holiday Inn Silom) for the most spectacular views of Bangkok. A drink will cost you a fortune but it’s worth sipping on one to take in all in.
You might recognise the Lebua Sky Bar as it is featured in the film The Hangover Part 2. They have a strict dress code so make sure you abide by the rules…
Gentlemen, make sure you’re looking smart in long trousers and shoes.
Ladies, dress nicely and don’t wear flip flops.
Lebua is also a hotel if you’ve got a decent budget for your trip. If you book in advance you can find a room for about £210+
4 – Asiatique The Riverfront
Quite a cool place to see. It’s an open air shopping centre by the river. There are loads of restaurants / stalls and plenty to browse.
We had an amazing last supper at Fire & Dine which was in the centre of it all.
5 – Khaosan Road
Khaosan Road has been described as the ‘centre of the backpacking universe’. It is home to many backpacker hostels / guesthouses, hotels, bars, restaurants and massage parlours.
6 – Pat Pong
Pat Pong is the ‘entertainment district’ in Bangkok where you’ll find the infamous ‘Ping Pong’ shows. It’s one of the most famous red light districts in the world. You’ll see the girls in the bars on the street offering their services as you walk through the market. Soi Cowboy is another famous location for ‘entertainment’ which I did not see.
I understand many travellers want to visit and perhaps even experience these ‘gogo bars’; if you do, please be kind. It breaks my heart that these girls have to do this to earn money. CLICK HERE for some more info on these areas as I only walked through.
7 – Bangkok Flower Market
The first time I visited Bangkok was the 1 year anniversary of the late King’s death and so there was an amazing flower show in Pak Klong Talad (the flower market). Normally it’s a wholesale and retail fresh flower market where you can buy beautiful flowers at a very low price. It’s near to Wat Pho if you fancy visiting.
8 – The river
We enjoyed walking along the riverbank, close to the flower market and Wat Pho. There are many restaurants and markets in this area too.
You will likely be approached by men trying to sell trips / tickets for elephant treks or monkey and tiger shows. Please think twice about doing this. The day trips advertised would look amazing to an innocent tourist who wasn’t aware of the cruelty. These animals are treated horrifically and suffer daily abuse for entertainment.
I have written a blog about my time volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand and the sad life of a captive Asian elephant. I would be so grateful if you read it… the more people who are aware of how cruel it is, the fewer people will participate in abusive elephant tourism. Educate yourself!! Below is how the elephants are trained 😦
I only talk about elephants in the posts linked above, but the other animals used for entertainment will be treated similarly.
There are lots of street sellers you’ll see all over Bangkok, offering food / goods. The mangoes are amazing in Thailand; mango and sticky rice is the best thing ever and I would suggest you eat as much of it as you possibly can.
You’ll also see many interesting temples wherever you walk. (Elvis = my temple).
Thai people REALLY love the King (although it is illegal for them to say anything otherwise). At 8am and 6pm the national anthem is played and people stand still to honour the King (tourists are expected to stop still too). You’ll see shrines to the royal family all over Thailand and notice locals stop by them regularly.
What I struggle with is that you see poverty in Thailand… many people begging on the streets / subjecting themselves to degrading work / working hard for next to no money, yet they have gold leaf temples still being built. You could probably argue it’s the same with all religions / monarchies, but for some reason in Thailand the contrast seemed that much more startling.
Other which I did not do…
Wat Arun – a riverside, ornately tiled temple
Yaowarat Road – Chinatown district – markets, street-food, shops
Golden Buddha – massive golden statue of Buddha
CLICK HERE for more ideas if you are in Bangkok for longer than a couple of days.
In conclusion, Bangkok is a great city to a visit for a short amount of time.