Bangkok must be one of the most exciting cities in the world to travel to. It's full of colour, buzz and sound.
The city centre is like an open market, with hundreds of locations where you can find everything you can possibly imagine. Bangkok is famous for its night markets and many of them come alive as the sun sets and stands take over the streets. You will never get bored of finding a new venue to dine or drink to enjoy the Thai rich cuisine, tasty, spicy and nutritious. For the younger crowds Bangkok is a heaven of night life entertainment. Bangkok comes to life much more during the night. Locals and tourists alike come out to dine, walk, shop or enjoy the cities entertainment or shopping malls which stay open till late in the evening.
Bangkok has an average temperature of around 30C year round so not matter which season you visit make sure you bring plenty of protection, sun glasses, a hat, comfortable walking shoes and drinking lots of water. The best season to arrive in Thailand is at the cool season, December to February when temperatures are in the high 20's. Humidity is always a high factor to consider so no matter when you come it always going to feel hotter.
Another time to travel is at the rainy season, June-September were the sun is overcast by the clouds which act as a protection. It can be pretty wet when it does rain so taking an umbrella is suggested. It's not recommend to travel during the hot season, March to May as temperatures can reach 35C, a constant intense sun light, high humidity and pollution is not a good mix to visit Bangkok!
From Bangkok main airport (BKK) you take the City Link Rail which costs 45 baht and gets you into the centre at Phayathai Station in 30 min. From here you can then connect to the Skytrain. From the other airport, Don Muang (DMK), there are busses direct to Mo Chit station where you can connect to the Skytrain. (Bus A1) or Victory Monument (Bus A2). Alternatively, you can go direct into the city centre to Central World/Siam with bus A3 or to Khao San Road, with Bus A4.
The city has a very convenient transport system called "Skytrain" and together with a traditional Metro system (MRT) it connects all major points around Bangkok. It operates from 6am to midnight. The fares start from 15 ฿ for a one stop ride and increase depending on the distance. You can buy a smart card, called "Rabbit", which enables you to top up the card and use the Skytrain system much faster than paying for single tickets all the time. It costs 100฿ for the card and an initial 80 ฿ minimum top up.
Alternatively, you can buy an unlimited day pass for 140฿ for all the Skytrain network.
When getting the Metro, you can use single tickets from 16฿ to 42฿. Alternatively, the Stored Value Card is an easier way to travel and you can top up the card as you go, the initial cost is 180฿ (with 100฿ travel). There are also day cards (140฿), and 30 day passes. (approx 1400฿).
Busses in Bangkok are very cheap (from 9 or 15 ฿). If you are confident to get busses rather than the metro then its a even cheaper alternative and you will ride like a local. It's a fun thing to do as well in Bangkok, as busses are often open and have that old-fashioned look about them. However when stuck in traffic it can be a very hot and slow ride.Not advisable in the city centre at rush hour.
To follow the busses it's enough to know the number, check the routes at Bangkok transit. Some busses in Bangkok metropolitan area are free of charge to increase the use of public transport, you can distinguish them by their red colour and rather old looking style with no air con! Below you can find the map for the Bangkok transport system:
Teak Boats are also a common way of transportation in the city. They are essentially, longboats driven by a converted lorry engine. There are bigger ones in the main river but you can also find thinner ones navigating the many canals in Bangkok. Fares start from 10-20฿ depending on the distance. For more information check, Khlong Boats Transit. Some boats along the river also provide a tourist service taking you to the popular destinations and announcing stops in English and what to see there. You can identify them by a blue flag. Fares are a little higher at 40฿. But they are much faster and less crowded than the commuter boats (Orange flag, which cost 15฿ one way).
TIP: Take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin, from here you can walk to the river boat pier. You can take a Tourist Boat ride to many of Bangkok's attractions, including the Grand Palace. The trip takes 20 min and costs 40฿
Khlong Boat (canal boat)
Tourist boat (blue flag) and Commuter Boat Express (orange flag)
Moving around the city centre is easier by Tuk-tuk. They are a two or more seater bikes which can drive you faster in the traffic than any other transport mean. They are fun to ride and cheap, however due to the pollution in Bangkok you will breath a lot of black smoke so a short trip is more than enough. Prearrange the price with the driver before you get on and don't let them take you to another destination other than what you asked for as they tend to go to Taylor's or jewellery shops where they receive a commission by taking you there.
Some Tuk-tuk offer tours of the Grand Palace, Sleeping Buddha, and the Khao San Road area for 40 ฿ for one hour but these trips will definitely take you to one of previous mentioned shops for the driver to earn more money. If you have not done this before then it would be a good recommendation nevertheless.
Last but not least if you're really want to travel faster in rush hour and don't have access to Metro or Skytrain, it's popular to hire a biker. These driver's a regulated biker's offering a second space on their's scooter's for a paying passenger. Prices are regulated by the government starting at 20฿. Ask the driver for a set price and make sure they provide you with a helmet. They tend to drive fast so hold on tight!
Going to Thailand is not all about partying and having fun. Bangkok has a very rich and ancient history and it's worth to spend a day or two exploring it's major landmarks, temples and places of culture.To the west of the city you will find many of Bangkok's main buildings, including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (Sleeping Budha) , Wat Arun (name also temple of dawn, a riverside Temple with a Landmark Spire), Memorial Bridge, Democracy Monument, Wat Saket (Golden Temple on the hill), Bangkok national Museum, Wat Traimit (Golden Budha Temple), Jim Thompson House and Khao San Road (Backpacking area full of markets, restaurants and souvenirs) are all worth visiting if you staying more than a few days.TIP: The heat, pollution and traffic can be factors to take into account when travelling in Bangkok. Try to avoid walking at midday when the sun is at its strongest and take water, damp tissues and sunglasses to protect against the sun. Try to plan one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening. A slow and relaxed pace needs to be kept not to get over exposed to the climate if you are not used to Southeast Asia.TIP: Take a Tuk-tuk tour. Often the tuk-tuk will wait for you and take you around if you ask them in advance about your itinerary. In Khao San Road area you can get a city tour for THB 40, (In addition they will take you to some Taylor shops, where the drivers get commission if you spend some time showing interest in the shop).Below you will find a list of activities and attractions not to miss whilst you are in Bangkok:Wat Pho: it is the home to the Reclining Buddha which stands at fifteen metres tall and forty six metres long, the feet alone are measured at over five meters. The whole statue is covered in gold leaf. Inside the temple there are 108 bowls and on the way in to the temple you can buy coins for the bowls. The history behind this is that Buddha completed 108 positive actions on his way to becoming perfect.
Bangkok Grand Palace: is the most famous attraction in the city. The palace at one time was the king’s home as well as the place where the government of Thailand carried out their work. A trip to the palace can take many hours as there are over 214,000 sq. meters to cover. Be aware of potential scams when outside the palace and only pay the entrance fee when you are actually going in. Note that you need to wear long trousers and no hats, tank-tops, or skirts aloud in the palace.
Wat Arun: This temple is one of the most beautiful you will see in Bangkok. The temple is named after Aruna, the God of Dawn. Situated on the bank of the Chao Phraya River is this beautiful temple that stands at 79 metres tall. The tower is covered in ceramic tiles and coloured porcelain making for an incredible sight when you catch it in the right light. The temple itself is guarded by a pair of mythical giants that keep watch over the temple grounds. To get into the temple area you need to pay 50 Baht. Get the riverboat services to access this temple at Wat Arun Pier.
Khao San Road: is known as the Bangkok backpacker central area, yet it has no historical sights to see. Even so, its location in the Old City (Rattanakosin) makes it an ideal base from which to explore Bangkok’s classic attractions. That's not to say there's nothing to look at or admire here, though. There is a large day and night market which stretches the entire street, plenty of restaurants, bars and massages shops, all destined for the tourists. Khao San Road is the perfect place to buy some cheaper souvenirs, watch the distinctive bohemian atmosphere of Phra Arthit Road, organise tours and relax whilst getting a traditional Thai massage. Regular Khao San backpackers know this bustling strip for its easy access to the Chao Phraya River Express boats, too, as well a comfortable walk to the Royal Grand Palace and Wat Pho Buddha. To get to Khao San Road you can take a tuk-tuk from the centre or take bus 2 (Siam) or 20 (Siam or Sala Daeng).
Chatuchak Market: If you like shopping you need to check this place out, but even if you don't, just walk around it to experience one of the biggest and most popular markets in Bangkok. With over 8000 stalls covering 27 acres of space this is also, one of the largest markets in the world. Open every Saturday and Sunday it attracts nearly 200,000 visitors a day, you will find everything you could ever imagine for sale here and mostly at local prices rather than tourist prices. It also a good idea to walk around the Chatuchak Park for a breath after the market and enjoy some open space.
Taking a boat along Chao Phraya River: The river is the lifeblood of Bangkok, even today 50,000 people still go to work on one of the many ferries that go up and down. Taking a boat trip down the river is fascinating as you will see high rise condominiums and fancy hotels in one part whilst you will see wooden shacks and children playing in the water in other parts. Feel free to get on and off at any of the stops the ferries make to further explore the city. Fares are cheap and services run every 10-15 minutes during every day. Please see more about the transport above to know more the boat services.
Street Food: With Thai people choosing to eat almost every meal out instead of cooking at home the popularity of street food is overwhelming! Every busy road will have street food vendors selling their products to the locals and tourists alike, the prices are low because this is where the Thais choose to eat their meals as well. You will get stalls selling all sorts of foods from Som Tam (papaya salad) to Squid, all cooked in front of you ready for consumption straight away.
Attention! Be aware of some street food that is already cooked and just re-fired or heated up. If your stomach is weak at new tastes and foods, perhaps not a good idea to buy from the street to avoid food poisoning. Also be aware of drinks made with tap water and avoid too much ice for the same reason!
The Bangkok National Museum: is home to the largest collection of artifacts and Thai art in all of Thailand. The museum was first opened by King Rama V to show off all the gifts that his father had given to him. There are many interesting things to see in the museum such as Chinese weapons, precious stones, puppets, clothing and textiles and Khon masks. If you go to the museum on a Thursday you can be given a tour in English.
Jim Thompson House: Thai silk is famous the world, as you walk around the house you will not only learn the history of The Thai Silk Company but also the fascinating history of Jim Thompson himself. The house itself is more of a complex with six traditional teak structures forming the complete dwelling.
Wat Saket: or Temple of the Golden Mount, sits atop an artificial hill, from which the large city of Bangkok looks almost tranquil. Inside the ordination hall of Wat Saket you will find a number of Buddhist paintings and sculptures. This temple is most famous for the Golden Mount that rises high above the rest of the temple grounds. You can climb the Golden Mount, but be aware that it is a rather long way up in Bangkok’s inevitable heat. There is also a chapel and library open to visitors on these historic grounds. Admission is now 50 Baht, paid before you begin to climb. But can be avoided if you walk up the exit path!
TIP: Take a Canal boat ride in Bangkok, next to Novotel Hotel at Ratchadamri street, you will find a small pier (Central Pier) where for a modest 10-20฿ you can take a hop on local long-boat to many of Bangkok's tourist attractions and discover the canals which surround the city. (called Khlong).
Take the boats which begin the trip passing under the bridge just next to the pier and get off at the last stop. (Designated by stop W4). From here you can walk to the Golden Mount Temple or walk for another 10-15 min to reach Khao San Road and the Grand Palace.
Bangkok Chinatown: Packed full of street stalls and restaurants the choice of places to eat will be endless, nowhere else in Bangkok will you get to try as many different kinds of Chinese food as you can here, especially at such good prices. If it is gold you are on the lookout for it is said that this is also the best place in Bangkok to look for it. TIP: Also pay a visit to Wat Traimit Temple, nearby.
A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without some shopping, and for those who are determined to find the best deals head for the street markets, both day and night. However the centre for shopping is located at Siam, where you will find all the mega shopping centres all interconnected by high raised pedestrian paths which have access to the Skytrain as well. (Siam Skytrain Station)
The main shopping centres are MBK, Central World, Siam Centre, Gaysorn, Siam Paragon located around Siam. Many more can be found close to Chit Lom and Sala Daeng Skytrain stations.
Souvenirs can be located mostly on the street markets and in Khao San Road area. At night head to Patpong, (Sala Daeng Station), it's night market is thriving with stands which stretch the entire street, finding all kind of products, hand-craft, souvenirs and clothes.
Other popular sites for streets markets not in the city centre are Chatuchak Market or also known as JJ market, popular for being the biggest weekend market, (Chit Lom BTS Station), Rod Fai Night Market and Bangrak Bazaar ( Saphan Taksin BTS station).
After a long day walking in the hot sun or having done a tour a good recommendation is too enjoy a Thai massage. They are offered all around the city but the cheapest are offered at Khao San Road and Ratchaprarop Road for the traditional Thai Massage. (One hour for 200฿).
If you are more keen in getting a relaxing massage then you can get them in Khao San Road for the Oil Massage. (One hour for 350฿).There are many types of massage: full body massage, foot massage, oil massage but the typical "Thai massage" is based on the pressure which is transmitted to your body by the masseur and concentrates mainly on your limbs. For one hour massage you get a full body massage from toes to head. You can speak to the masseur depending how strong you like the massage to be.
TIP: An interesting curiosity is that when you approach the masseur out of the shop you will choose who will do the actual massage to you, being a man or a woman. At the end of the massage it's common for the massage centre to give you a hot tea and you can decide whether to give your masseur an extra tip. Prices start for a typical Thai Massage from 150฿ for one hour.
The nightseeing doesn't stop in the markets, because in Bangkok you can find anything you want, The city is renowned for its open atmosphere, acceptance and laid back attitude for all kinds of sexual orientations. Restaurants, night bars,clubs and dance shows are in abundance in the city's nightlife quarter, Silom.
You can find plenty of venues offering as well adult entertainment, both gay and straight. These clubs are open from the evening to late at night and a pre-entry fee is sometimes required. Shows can range from singing and dancing to complete nudity and sexual intercourse.
Bangkok is a city of limitless entertainment, you can find many possibilities in what to see or do by locals on the street encouraging you to join a venue or show.
Attention!: There are many venues offering adult entertainment which are not licensed. Make sure you go to genuine venues, with adequate safety measures and regulated. Some venues which might be suspicious might be situated in local homes or garages away from the popular bar areas, with inadequate exits in case of fire, and what's more alarming, offering to the public illegal substances and trafficking with under age girls or boys for adult work. If you are offered any of these services it's recommended you report it to the local police.
After an initial visit to Bangkok why not escape the hassle and bussle of the city by organising a tour out of the city. Most hotels offer free pick up service and information about tours. Alternatively you can get information in downtown Bangkok for tours. Prices start from €25 per person and the tours last from early morning to 6pm. Lunch buffet, transportation in air conditioned mini vans and entry to sites are always included but be sure to check any extras that can be charged as you are en-route.
Every tour is different and varies constantly depending on time of year, company and number of people, it's likely the same tour taken twice can change in the programme or itinerary. Below you can find a reference of the Tours taken by us:
- Kanchanaburi (River Kwai),located 150 miles from Bangkok, offers a fascinating mix of nature, history and adventure. The tours can include visiting a World War Museum in which the famous bridge over the Kwai river played an important role, a Thailand–Burma Railway Centre, walk around the bridge itself (Death Railway), Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, bamboo-boat river rides, lunch and the highlight of the visit is the the two-hour journey along the Thailand–Burma Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok, the views are lovely, but it’s the history that makes the ride so special, as this provides a context for the enormous loss of human life and the extraordinary feat of engineering behind the line’s construction.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, located approximately 105 km from Bangkok. The famous market is a local event which sees hundreds of visitors for it's unique concept of selling produce on little canal boats. Locals who live and work on these interconnected waterways, sell colourful handicrafts, souvenirs and fresh produce. You can watch the bustling activity of female vendors in wooden hats, seen from a platform overlooking the market. The tour can include a boat canal tour around the market, time for shopping, lunch, an animal sanctuary (Elephants, Crocodiles, Monkeys and other exotic animals), Elephant show, and a Thai Culture Show.
Mae Klong Railway Market: it has been around since 1905. It is found in the province of Samut Songkhram, located on the Gulf of Thailand. Fishing was (and still is) one of the main livelihoods of the people who lived here, and the market was another way in which to sell their goods. Officials decided to build a railway in order to better deliver these goods to provinces around Thailand, including the capital. The market has remained, even the tracks cut through it right in the middle! It's a unique experience to travel from Bangkok by train and see how you leave the city capital and start to encounter nature and the smaller communities.
The trip can be done by train ( very cheap and more local but longer) or by tour from Bangkok. Ether way to see the train arrive/depart at Mae Klong and how the vendors have to clear their stands, umbrellas and products for the train, is a unique experience, being the main photographic reason many come to visit.
How to get there? Maeklong Railway Market is about 80 kilometers outside of the city, from Victory Monument you can grab a minibus. These buses leave as soon as one is filled. If you want to experience the train itself, you need to be prepared, (its best recommended to take early morning train to ensure you make the entire trip) since you need to change trains and take a transit boat to connect the two. The total trip will take just over 2 hours one way. First take the BTS to Wongwian Yai station, where you will need to walk to Wongwian Yai train station and take the first train for one hour which goes directly to Maha Chai station. Here, you get off and walk out of the station to the Mahachair Pier, and take the transit boat for 3 Baht. (boats leave every 5-10 minutes). When you arrive, it's another 10 minutes walk to Ban Laem train station where you need to pay again for the continuation journey to Mae Klong by train. (connections between Maha Chai and Ban Laem stations are not guaranteed and if one train is late, the other won't wait, so plan enough time between them, ideally taking the 8.30am from Wongwian Yai station is the best timetable to be safe). Cost of taking the two train is only €1!
Staying in Bangkok is very reasonable for a budget conscious traveller! There are plenty of Hotels offering cheap rooms with good service, air conditioning, private bathrooms and located in well known areas. Prices can range from €15-23 a night per room. Sometimes getting a room not directly in the city centre but close to a Sky Train station is cheaper and will have the added benefit of being quieter at night too.
A recommended Hotel is Nantra Hotel Silom, a 3 star Hotel located next to Silom area, close to the main night market of Silom, the Skytrain (Sala Daeng), plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and entertainment venues. It offers good prices for single, double rooms including WIFI and Free Continental breakfast.
Bangkok is a city of infinite entertainment, relax, shop, dine and drink. Seeing the main tourist attractions is possible in a couple of days but definitely you will want to relax in this big buzzing city where the heat and humidity can get really intense if you come during the hot Season. However a good duration would be 4 to 5 nights including one or two organised tours.