One of the central points for tourism in the world, a melting pot of cultures, business and design; Bangkok is one of the central hubs of Asia.
For many, Bangkok is a nightmare; when visiting the city for the first time it seems to be near impossible to navigate without spending a lot on taxi fares.
Fear not, with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be embracing the city and discovering a more relaxing approach to the concrete jungle.
For most, the vast city is the gateway to the mountainous landscapes and crystal clear seas of Asia with the option of visiting neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Laos with ease. Bangkok is also one of the cheapest cities to fly to from Europe and the Americas, as one of the top destinations in the world.
Stopping in the city on your trip to Asia is often cheaper than going straight to your final destination! Tried and tested.
The streets of Bangkok are filled with delicious street food, great shopping, huge parks and so much more.
So here are my highlights:
Shopping and Food; Malls and Markets
Shopping and eating are a great combination for those who are not too fond of browsing the racks for extended periods of time – like me. It’s important to have rewarding breaks.
Bangkok has a great range of malls and markets, each with its own style and offering great prices for well-made clothes; not forgetting the numerous pit-stops for fresh snacks, juice and beers.
Bangkok is famous for its extravagantly themed malls. For locals and expats alike, it’s a prime hangout place that offers the additional luxury of air-con.
Most are open until around 10pm and have a food court on the top floor where you can take your pick of a great range of food in a canteen-like setting. Alternatively, for a more formal dine-outs, there are restaurants too.
When it comes to travelling, I’m not too fond of the more Western means of entertainment, however, Terminal 21 has to be one of my most entertaining ventures in Bangkok.
Located in the heart of the Sukhumvit area, the mall is designed to be like an airport with each level being thematic of the big cities around the world; wandering the alleys of each level of the mall is a truly unique experience.
Quick tip: If you do go to Terminal 21, go to the bathroom, it’s the best toilet experience you will ever have. No, I’m not joking, just come back to me when you’ve experienced it for yourself.
To continue with the eating and shopping tour of Bangkok, exploring the markets of the city is absolutely necessary. The two I frequent are the infamous Chatuchak and a slightly newer addition, the Neon night market (Talad Neon).
Chatuchak (more commonly known as JJ market) is one the biggest markets out there. It’s a labyrinth of boutiques, accompanied with endless amounts of tourist tat and household amenities. I am very certain this market has everything, rumour has it you can buy pets there, although, I wouldn’t recommend trying to find this section if you care about animals.
Gear up for a sweaty day of wandering as there is no escaping the heat! Although, there are many coconut ice-cream and juice stalls to keep the sugar levels up and the temperature down.
When wandering JJ, it’s worth hunting around for the boutique shops, if quality is what you are looking for; from my own experience, I have bought one or two items that don’t last too long. My record is one day; I wasn’t too happy about that one. No, I don’t want to talk about it.
Talad Neon is a shiny new market that got its name from the birds-eye view of neon-lit market stalls that make a rainbow. The market front is very easily spotted by a giant neon sign, should you be looking for a selfie opportunity.
On my first visit, it was relatively unknown and still aiming towards local shoppers, however, this quickly changed. Upon my last visit, despite being slightly blinded by a storm and kitted out in a plastic poncho, the signs of elephant pants didn’t go unnoticed.
Quick tip: make sure you stop by the coconut water and ice-cream man in the centre of the market; it’s too good to miss.
TravelHack: Stay Near the MRT/ BTS Line
Let’s face it, we’re all fans of convenience, and transport goes without exception when you are in a city this big.
If a party is what you are looking for in Bangkok, then you’re going to want to stay on Khao San Road, the backpacker haven of BKK. Although, this area is specifically designed for tourism, it’s not easy to get to as the metro doesn’t stretch that far, this can result in a slightly more expensive trip as you are almost guaranteed to be taken on a few taxi tours of the city.
Whenever I stay in Bangkok, I aim for the more local, yet still central areas where not only do you get more for your money, but it’s much easier to access too.
Making sure your hostel is next to the BTS or MRT (overground and underground metro lines) will make your life so much easier when it comes to getting around the city and getting to and from the airport.
With a big city, comes big traffic jams, you want to avoid this as much as possible, there are much better things to do in the city than sit in traffic for hours.
Temples & Chinatown
The temples of Thailand are some of the worlds finest. With endless wonders of finely carved shrines and gold encrusted buildings: visiting Bangkok without seeing one is like visiting China without seeing the great wall – ludicrous!
Most of the temples are within the old town area which does not have the luxury of a metro line, however; although commonly not advised, a tuk-tuk tour could be your best bet for getting around the attractions with ease.
With a little haggling, you will be able to visit several temples for what could be the price of one taxi journey.
I have only ever had one negative experience with this, where a tuk-tuk driver took myself and a backpacker to a temple and then promptly abandoned us. We never paid, so I guess it wasn’t so bad.
Once you having finished the tour, hop on over to Chinatown to wander through the streets, grab a few snacks, fresh 10-baht juices, and soak up the hustle of the neon sign-clad streets. It’s a feast for the eyes, with endless streets selling everything you can possibly imagine and temples on every corner.
Top Temples to Visit:
The Golden Mound
The Grand Palace
The Giant Swing (not a temple, but it’s actually a giant swing, very cool)
If you’ve been backpacking for a while and the 16-hour buses are killing your back, a Thai massage will fix you out in no time.
Bangkok is the home of Thai massage, which was found in Wat Pho, so look no further than Bangkok for ultimate relaxation.
When staying in more local areas, massages come with local standards and local prices; Thai people take massage very seriously, and frequently head to their local masseuse. In other words, the small corner shop with no sign on is going to be one of the best places you have ever been to for a massage.
Ask your hostel or hotel and they will point you in the right direction. If you haven’t had a Thai massage before, don’t go thinking they have the touristic conventional soft touch with a little elbowing here and there: this is not for the faint-hearted but oh, so worth it.
I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this fascinating city! Where are your favourite places? Comment below – I’m in Bangkok as I write!