Bangkok is a great place to start a trip around Thailand and South East Asia. Apart from being incredibly well connected to almost the entire world, it is a shiny city perfect to begin a wider travel experience. Its temples and palaces, amazing shopping, great variety of cafés and restaurants and a never ending nightlife can’t be matched by any other city in the region.
What is Bangkok Like
From an architectural point of view Bangkok is a strange and unique city. Unlike almost all important cities in the region it doesn’t have the European urban matrix that dominated through the nineteenth century. So we are talking about a city with no real city center. There is no main square, main commercial street, or orthogonal street grid typical of other regional metropolises. As a result a neighborhood referred to as central – Banglamphu, has no financial or commercial center, is not precisely walking friendly and doesn’t have Skytrain or metro (although they are building a metro line through here). Most hotels are located in geographically peripheral but better equipped Sukhumvit and Silom. The only area in the center where you can find some accommodation is around touristy Khao San road, where there are plenty of budget hotels and hostels, restaurants and souvenir shops.
What to See in Bangkok
Like everywhere around the globe the most prominent architecture includes sacral objects. In Bangkok, Buddhist pagodas and temples dominate the scene. Some of them stand out for their beauty and grace: Wat Pho, next to the Royal Palace and Wat Arun across the river are the most impressive ones, the former being the home of the 46 m long reclining Buddha, and the later being known for its impressive 82 m tall Khmer-style spire dominating the riverscape. But what really sets Bangkok apart is the glory and wealth of its famous Grand Palace. Inside the Palace, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – Wat Phra Khew is an architectural masterpiece crowded with richly decorated stupas and astonishing sculptures.
Check out this post if you have 4 days in Bangkok.
Choosing a place to stay is not an easy task. Options vary from a cheap noisy and bad quality hotel/hostel near the center in Khao Sok, to a fancy hotel around Sukhumvit, surrounded by huge shopping malls on one side, and open canals, bad smell and street vendors selling everything from food to sex toys, on the other. I would definitely recommend somewhere near the river, not far from the city center, like Silom, which offers a more or less local neighborhood, not too dirty, not far from the “center” and with good connections to the rest of the city.
Check out this post for the best places to stay in Bangkok.
Moving about Bangkok can be really time consuming. It is a fairly big city without a big net of public transportation. The best option is to use the metro or Skytrain, though both do not reach most of the tourist spots. The alternatives are taxis, which are cheap, and tuc -tucs which are bit more exotic, but slightly more costly. Both are a bit slow, because of constants traffic jams, but comfortable and cheap. You can take the Skytrain or metro and then a taxi or tuc-tuc. Walking around Bangkok is possible, but sidewalks are pretty much occupied during the day, so often you have to step on the street to walk somewhere. It is not one of the cleanest cities in the world, something you will immediately notice by walking down the street, so that’s an extra reason to suggest private transport. I wouldn’t recommend hiring a bicycle, too risky. On the other side I would definitely recommend taking a boat, where public transport ferries are frequent, yet incredibly cheap and relaxing.
Check out this post if you are heading to Chang Mai.
What makes Bangkok special is its cosmopolitan spirit. Neighboring cities like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore though much wealthier do not have such an open minded mentality, a necessary ingredient for a city to be a true metropolis. In Bangkok you can be whoever you want and you can do whatever you feel like. Thai people are simply not judgmental, and apart from that, local residents have probably seen it all.
Check out this post if you only have 24 hours in Bangkok.
Bangkok Travel Guide
- Stay in Silom, Bangrak close to the river. Happy Frog recommends Centre Point Hotel Silom
- The Grand Palace and Wat Pho;
- Wat Arun across the river;
- Dusit Palace Park;
- The Golden mountain (Wat Saket).
- Eat and shop at MBK shopping center.
- For Vegan Bangkok check this post.
- On foot, by tuc-tuc, taxi, skytrain, metro and boat.
- Go visit the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.
DO NOT MISS:
- Watch drunk backpackers in Khao Sok and fashionable young Thais in Siam Center;
- Have a massage in a side street;
- Take a boat ride around the city;
- Discover the walled neighborhood near Maha Chai road.
- Wang Lang Food Market.