I really don’t know where to begin with this blog as Bangkok is such an amazing city. Mick and I fell in love with this place, I know it’s not for everyone but in a city where so much is going on at every given moment you just feel that you’ll never tire of life here. We reached on the 10th of April and the airport was crazy, hoards of people rushing here and there. We managed to get a cab…. just so you know, there will be a huge queue to grab a taxi but be patient and your turn will come. We were headed to Thonglor area, it took us around an hour and cost just 400 Baht (around €10) to get there, it is Bangkok after all.
We reached the PlayHaus Hotel which was where we were starting our tour of Bangkok, we chose it as it was different and really quirky, each room had a movie, play or musical theme, the staff were super nice too. Thonglor is a super hip area with loads of cute restaurants and bars but as is the norm you can still find loads of street food vendors cooking great Thai food. The Thonglor BTS (Bangkok Transit System) was only a 10 minute walk away from our hotel too which made its location a major plus for us. One of the first things you’ll notice about Bangkok as you walk around are the ‘pockets’ of litter, it’s as if they choose a spot and everyone just throws their rubbish there, I found myself wondering why the local council doesn’t just place a skip or something in these spots…….the worst thing about them is the fact that the street vendors also pour away the left over’s from customers’ meals and it can get rather smelly……as can the sewerage system, which is somewhat multiplied by the searing heat. One of the worst things though is the spitting, I hate people that spit and unfortunately Thais do it a lot.
The BTS is great way to get around Bangkok, as is the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit). You can get day or weekly passes which work out a lot cheaper, if in Bangkok for a few days it’s so worth it as you’ll probably use the trains a lot!! It’s a very uncomplicated system that only uses 3 lines to cover the whole of the city; the BTS Skytrain, has 2 lines, the Sukhumvit and Silom lines and the MRTA Subway line. The main ‘hub’ stations that connect these lines are Siam and Sala Daeng .
Everyday we chose to see a different area of Bangkok. We tried to get to the Golden Palace, in fact we did get there but unfortunately it was closed to tourists on that day and only open for Thais as there was a holy festival……we knew we were in Thailand during Songkran so it kinda made sense but I have also read that this is often a scam used by people outside the palace to refer tourists to more lucrative boat tours instead. As I knew about it we weren’t fooled when they offered us a boat tour so be aware of that, they could charge you up to 3000 Baht (€80) for a boat ride. We used a tuk tuk to take us to the Golden Palace and it was so much fun, you just can’t visit Bangkok and not have a ride in a tuk tuk. Always negotiate a price before you step in though, it’s customary to barter! We paid 200 Baht (around €5) from Mot Chit BTS station to the palace. As we weren’t able to see the Golden Palace we went to Wat Arun by a shuttle boat (different to the dodgy boat tours I mentioned earlier) from Tha Tian Pier, which is situated in a side street but we asked for directions and everyone we asked was willing to point us in the right direction. We would have loved visiting Wat Arun in it’s entirety, unfortunately on this occasion there were loads of renovations going on and a lot of the site was inaccessible but we still managed to enter the grounds (50 Baht….€1.50 each) and managed to take some great photo’s. The gardens are kept immaculate with lush green grass, fountains and monuments and there were stalls to buy a refreshing drink or a few souvenirs and it’s beauty is made all the more stunning due to the fact that it’s located on the river bank.
If shopping is your thing trust me there is no shortage of that. There are so many malls and they are all immaculate, seriously though if you want high street brands there isn’t a lot of difference with the price you will pay back home. Instead opt for the markets and trust me there is an abundance of markets in Bangkok. Our favourite was Chatuchak Market, it is to die for if you’re the market type!! Mick and I loved every moment. You need to travel to Mot Chit by BTS and the market’s are right there. You can find EVERYTHING that your heart desires in this place and the food’s just amazing. Its open Saturday and Sunday only but there’s a reason for that…….It is huge!! So huge in fact, it has it’s own map!! We walked around all morning and still never managed to see it all……although truth be told, you really do need a map in there, it’s like a maze. Another Market we went to was the famous PatPong, the market sells everything and we picked up some great items for our home but the weird thing about this place is that on each side of the market there are strip joints and you get loads of people trying to entice you to enter and watch a show….. if this is your thing then a visit to PatPong market should be in your plans….
Our next port of call was the Ibis Riverside hotel, the reason I chose this place was that it was situated on the river bank. The first night, Mick and I checked in quite late and decided to grab some dinner from 7 Eleven….how classy and romantic?! I know not very fancy but we sat on the wall of the hotel right next to the river and had a 35 Baht dinner…….oh, by the way, that’s less than a euro!!! hahahaha……we just watched the world go by and the water below as we munched on our chicken and prawns with rice microwave dinners with a chocolate bar for dessert!! and it was lovely.
The closest BTS from the Ibis was Krung Thoburi which was literally a 10 minute walk from our hotel. If you want a decent hotel then check this place out, the grounds of the hotel are beautiful although Mick found it a bit too Holiday Inn Express-like and said it had the feel of a ‘2 days in Bangkok for business’ type hotel rather than one aimed at holiday makers. I beg to differ but hey…..
If you’re a foodie then obviously Bangkok is where your heart is, street food can be found everywhere in Thailand and in Bangkok there is no shortage of little mobile kitchens all over the city. I am getting hungry just thinking about all the food. We love Thai food so every place we had a meal was first class. Mick will confirm that I love nothing more than researching everything from places to go, things to do and of course my favourite….food to eat!! Every restaurant we went to we loved!! We never had a below par meal. Supanniga in the Thonglor area serves authentic Thai food, Rabbit in the kitchen, to be fair Mick stumbled across this one as we searched for a pub to watch the Arsenal match in the Siam Area. Okay the name isn’t very Thai but the food was out of this world, we highly recommend this place. Ruen Urai though is a restaurant that I can truly say was on a totally different level…. The best Thai food we had during our entire trip, very upmarket so it was a bit more expensive than the average restaurant (expensive meaning €25 – €30, so not even expensive by european standards) but it was so worth it…… and for dessert?……After You Dessert…. guys……if you have a sweet tooth…..scrap that……even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you must go to After You Dessert because you must try their take on desserts. They are scattered all over Bangkok so finding one isn’t too difficult……hands down the best dessert I have had in my life!! SHIBUYA HONEY TOAST is a must, YUMMY!!!! It is literally a small loaf of bread, toasted, buttery, caramel, ice cream………ok I need to stop………Guys, it’s a must!!!
If you want some peace and serenity …… because generally Bangkok is all about chaos…. the Lumpini Park in Sathorn area is a great place to escape… although every time we decided to go it rained and we found ourselves running for cover, this hardly helped as it rained so hard each time that we inevitably got soaked through, it was fun though… but it was like we were destined not to enjoy the park!! Before the aforementioned deluge on our second visit though we sat on the grass with some snacks we’d bought at a vendor at the parks’ entrance and chilled for a while. We saw a massive Komodo dragon which Mick was all too happy to get close to and take photo’s and video of whilst it was walking towards the river but it seemed harmless enough. The park is the equivalent to Hyde park in London and is rather beautiful place to while away the time. In the afternoon they set up street food stalls (of course) and you can grab some great Thai food and chill. There were people exercising, jogging and some just lying on the grass reading a book.
We visited Chinatown on a Saturday morning, we paid 150 Baht for a cab from Sathorn area and it took around 20 minutes with Bangkok traffic, personally, I was not impressed at all. I know that loads of people love Chinatown but I had very different thoughts. First of all, half of the shops on the main street were Gold and jewellery merchants which I thought was weird, then we went through the back streets to ‘see the real Chinatown’ and it totally lacked character. I was so disappointed as I’d read how lively it is and how it’s such a wonderful experience and a great place to visit. There were loads of stalls selling rubbish and I couldn’t say that the street food was out of this world either because it wasn’t, but hey this is my opinion and you may love it so give it a go……..although I probably haven’t said much to encourage you….
Asiatique on the other hand is a cool and rather different place in Bangkok. Cool shops, restaurants, bars, a small outdoor market, Thai boxing shows, cabaret shows and even a fun fair…..There is also a ferris-wheel that resembles the London Eye……just a touch smaller…. You can get off at Saphsin Taksin BTS and walk down to the Sathorn Pier from there they offer a free boat ride to Asiatique, it took less than 10 minutes and the ride on the river to and from is beautiful for taking photos of the surroundings. Its something a bit different from the Bangkok norm but a great way to spend a few hours. It looks prettier during the night when all the lights are lit up though so you may want to consider that when visiting.
On the last two days of our 3 week tour of Bangkok we decided to splurge and stay at a very fancy hotel, the majestic Banyan Tree. WOW, WOW, WOW pretty much sums it up. We stayed at Club level (ok, now I’m showing off a bit) and boy do they look after you?! We paid €490 for 2 nights…. I know thats a lot… but let me tell you it was worth every penny. The price included the most amazing room on the 31st floor, two main meals, one at the Bai Yun and of course the famous Vertigo Restaurant located on the 61st floor, you can just imagine the view of Bangkok from up there!! You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to dine at the restaurants as they are accessible for non residence too but be aware that there is a dress code, no shorts or flip flops. The hotel is situated in the Sathorn Area which is the business district of Bangkok but a 10 minute walk in either direction and you were at two train stations, Lumpini MRT and Sala Daeng BTS. We were in awe with the Banyan Tree, the first day we didn’t want to leave the room is was just beautiful. The bathtub was next to the wall-sized window that overlooked the city from the 31st floor and we could look out and admire the beauty of Bangkok. Let me just say that after 3 weeks of backpacking this was pure luxury. We all deserve a bit of luxury sometimes and if you want to indulge don’t think twice, just book it.
One thing that slightly surprised us…….well, Mick more than me….was the fact that as Thai’s are such a big fans of English football, amongst other sports, there was very few places to actually watch the matches in Bangkok. Now, when I say places I mean areas. There are plenty of pubs scattered around Bangkok that show the games but due to the time difference most of these close before the end of the match, as Mick rather annoyingly find out as he missed the last 20 minutes of a Monday night game. So if football is your thing, head out to NANA. Nana is the ‘late night’ district of Bangkok, here you will find a plethora of bars, pubs and clubs but we were directed there specifically to watch the football. After being totally ignored at one of the biggest pubs in the area (not going to even give it the recognition by naming it) we hastily made a retreat and found a fantastic little pub called The Pickled Liver, great atmosphere, great service, top pub to watch the footie.
To sum it all up, Bangkok is perfect for those who love the big city, those that love to experience new cultures, those that love to shop and those of you that want to visit a place that can fill every single hour of your trip with something different and new. It really has it all….
So much so that Mick and I are already saving and already planning for our next visit….. 🙂 ……..can’t wait!!