Bangkok is not actually the real name of Thailand’s capital city, it boasts a substantially longer and more complicated name – “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. Fortunately, the Thais are big fans of nicknames!
An eclectic mix of temples, street vendors, tuk tuks and malls, Bangkok is an exciting buzzing metropolis which never seems to sleep, most 7/11s are open 24hours!
The metro is very new and a great way to travel (as long as it goes near where you want – unfortunately it doesn’t go near the kings palace / Wat Pho). Theres also the sky train to whisk you from north to south Bangkok. But the cheapest way to travel is by bus (and google has very accurate information on which bus to take and where), most tickets cost only 9 baht and you can pay onboard.
Now what is there to do in Bangkok I hear you ask! In no particular order here are my top 8 things to do in and around Bangkok (plus a few other musings).
1) Fill your belly at a floating market
In old Thailand, boats were mainly used for local and regional trade, to easily transport goods to the customers. This way of life meant that areas along the river were the first to be populated and also gradually increased the number of floating markets.
The combination of cute wooden houses huddled by the riverfront and boats drifting down the river filled with fresh fruit or colourfully clad vendors grilling meat is really the picture of tranquility (even with all the noise!)
If you don’t want to go too far from Bangkok, Taling Chan is not too far from the city centre. It is open from 7am to 4pm on the weekends. I would recommend heading here for lunch time so you can enjoy the novelty of grabbing a bite to eat from a boat. Hire a longboat to easily explore the market.
About an hour and a half drive south west of Bangkok are 2 more floating markets. You can get here from Bangkok by heading to Mochit bus station, head to the platforms in search of minivans (generally people were very helpful when we asked), it should cost around 90 baht per person, and you will need to wait for the van to fill up (about 10-20mins). You can buy the return ticket once you’ve arrived (last minivans are around 18h). You can easily travel from one market to another so I would suggest visiting both floating markets and the train market in one day.
To find the Venice of the east head to Damnoen Saduak floating market (picture above). Its many interconnecting channels are bordered with wooden huts selling various merchandise whilst boats cruise down the canals full of mango, grilled meat and much more. It is very touristy though so make sure you go early. You will need to hire a longboat to explore the market, you can either share with other tourists or hire your own (the entire boat is around 2000 baht an hour but this is definitely negotiable). I would recommend staying for at least one hour.
Amphawa floating market is a smaller and more authentic market (pictured right). It’s set down one branch of the river and you can easily explore the markets to the sides of the river or pay 50 baht per person to tour around the river (the market is small though so the tour isn’t too useful if you only want to shop – the tour is more to show you the various temples along the river).
Both markets are only open on the weekends.
2) Marvel at the Maeklong railway market
If you head out to the floating markets make sure to check out this market set on a railway.
Expect it to be crowded as even with not too many people you still have only a small place to walk (along the tracks). Plus I was there around 14h and there was a tarpaulin over the walkway to shade from the sun.
This market doesn’t have any stands with cooked food but you can buy your groceries or just enjoy the novelty of it! Watch the vendors quickly retreat their stands as a train approaches! There are only a few trains a day so make sure you time your visit.
To get to the floating markets head to the main junction (come out the end of the market turn left and left again). You should see a few of the jeep taxis and you can get to Amphawa for only 9 baht.
3) Explore the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya
Another day trip out of Bangkok is to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Ayutthaya. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767, when it was destroyed by the Burmese. You will find countless ancient ruins scattered about the town, including the impressive buddha head in a tree at Wat Maha That!
Similar to the floating markets you will need to get a minivan from Mochit bus station for around 60 baht. You used to be able to get the minivans from the victory monument but this had been closed for a year when I was there (December 2017).
The ruins and different monuments in Ayutthaya are quite spread out (some 15km out of the centre) so you’ll need to decide on what you want to see before deciding your mode of transport once there. There are tuk tuks who will drive you to all the main locations which will take about 2 to 4 hours – you should be able to haggle down to 1000 baht for 4 hours. If you want to only do the central monuments then you can hire a bike for around 20 to 50 baht or you can walk. You will need to pay a small fee (around 20 to 100 baht) to enter the individual ruins.
4) Watch the sunset from a sky bar
Like most cities there are many different sky bars to choose from in Bangkok. Initially I wanted to go to the Lebua as I’d seen it on Instagram but after further research (and trying to go there at 18h when it opens) I found it to be crowded (huge queue) and expensive – plus there are no seats and it opens after sunset…
Luckily a friend of mine who is from Bangkok kindly suggested a few other sky bars for me and I ended up choosing the threesixty rooftop lounge at the Hilton. Located right on the riverside you can walk up to the helipad to enjoy 360 views of Bangkok or just chill out in the cosy chairs with a view down the river. Cocktails are around 450 baht and they are open from 17h (and no queue!). Watch the sunset and the city light up!
Make sure you check out the dress code of the sky bar you plan to go to as a lot of them enforce a strict policy on men wearing trousers (or pants for your Americans) and tops with sleeves.
5) Gasp at the intricate details of Wat Pho
The oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, Wat Pho is just brimming with colour and character. The entrance fee is 100 baht and ladies make sure you cover your shoulders and no short skirts/shorts.
Here you will find the enormous lying buddha as well as many intricately designed stupas.
6) Climb up Wat Saket (the Golden mountain)
The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, and is built on an artificial hill. The hill is painted with a pearl sheen so from a far the whole mountain shines!
Entrance fee was only 20 baht. Climb up the stairs and accumulate good karma by ringing all of the bells (no I’m not joking be prepared for a lot of noise!). Listen out for the wind-chimes that circle the temple and climb right to the top for a spectacular view over Bangkok.
7) Cruise down the river
An easy and cheap way to travel round the city is by boat.
You can choose to either take the local line (from any pier – it has no flag and costs around 10 to 20 baht but it only runs on weekdays) or the tourist line (from any pier – blue flag and costs 40 baht a trip or 100 for a day pass). You can buy tickets beforehand on the pier or on the boat.
If you’re near the river make sure to check out the impressive Rama VIII bridge.
8) Khao San road
A buzzing hubub of activity! Head to Khao San road (located near the kings palace) to peruse the markets (great place to buy those famous elephant Thailand trousers!), chill out with a foot massage and try the local delicacies (grilled scorpion on a stick…!). There are loads of bars here so it’s great by day and night! Head to Rambuttri alley (parallel to Khao San road) for cheaper local food.
Another popular attraction that didn’t make it into my top 8 is the grand palace. I personally avoided this choosing only to view it from the outside as it looked very crowded and had a 300 baht entrance fee. You could also check out one of the many malls – central world being my favourite!
Have fun in Bangkok! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!
If you’re interested in learning more about my spendings for my 7 month trip, check out my blog “How to Travel on a Budget in Asia“.
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