After some heartfelt goodbyes, and a good riddance to some things, finally the day had come! The day we hopped on a one way flight to travel South East Asia for the next several months. First stop, Bangkok!
We flew with Emirates, and honestly it was the best flight I’ve ever taken! I expected the flight to drag on due to us being so excited and the fact that neither of us had flown for that long before, but it was genuinely enjoyable with the in-flight entertainment systems we were able to make use of.
Originally we had planned to try and go carry on only with our 40L backpacks, but once we got to the airport and had them weighed it turned out that they were too heavy and we had to check them. This was really annoying after all the organising we had done to ensure we had no liquids over 100mls and had ensured to pack as lightly as possible to save space, plus I had never done a connecting flight before so I was paranoid about our bags being lost during our transfer. After a while I was actually kind of relieved that our bags were checked so I wasn’t having to lug my backpack around the airport. My nerves were also calmed after checking with about three different members of staff that our bags would reach Bangkok and we didn’t have to do anything to ensure this during our stopover in Dubai. Phew.
Getting To Your Accommodation
After our long flight and some not so peaceful attempts at sleeping (thank you, screaming child behind us), we arrived in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and much to my delight, our bags hadn’t been lost or broken into and it was time to make our way to our hotel.
You can take public transport into the city centre from the airport if you want to, but we were super tired so decided to take a taxi. As per my excessive reading of other travel blogs, I arrived with the knowledge that if you’re taking a taxi to your accommodation, or to anywhere, then you tell the driver to turn the meter on. If they don’t, thank them and leave the taxi and go and find another one. This is because they will try and rip you off by giving you a much higher price than you would pay with the meter. When we jumped in our taxi at the airport, the driver tried to tell us that if she put the meter on it would be at a higher rate than if she quoted us a price. “Tell them that you want the meter anyway,” resounded in my head, so we went with the meter. Once we arrived at our hotel in Chinatown it ended up coming to around 300THB which is around £6.80 at the current exchange rate, which is pretty reasonable for a 40 minute journey. The whole taxi/meter thing was confirmed as true for definite for us when the next day we went looking for a taxi to take us to Victory Monument and the taxi driver standing outside our hotel told us it would be 300THB for the journey and he said he would not put his meter on. After this, we went back into our hotel and asked the receptionist where we could get a metered taxi from. He kindly went outside and hailed us one, and for the 15 minute journey it ended up costing us 80THB. 80. Which is around £1.80, compared to the £6.80 we would be paying if we’d gone with the first guy.
Things To Do
We decided to begin our stay in Thailand by staying in Bangkok for five nights so that we could try to immerse ourselves in the city life and see some sights. We booked a hotel with a rooftop pool for our time in Bangkok as a little treat to ourselves before the proper backpacking starts, so it was nice to chill by the pool during the hot afternoons on some days if we had been walking a lot. I think this was a good amount of time to stay in Bangkok for – we were able to see most of the things we wanted to and by the time we had to check out of our hotel we were definitely ready to leave and move on to the next place. (Hello, Krabi!) So, here are some things we did that I would recommend doing if you’re stuck for how to spend your time in Bangkok.
Take a Longtail Boat Ride Around the Chao Phraya River
This was one of my favourite things we did in Bangkok. I’m pretty sure we got scammed into it, though. We were approached by a Thai woman who claimed to be a “teacher” who told us the MBK centre (which we had planned to go to) was closed until later on and we should go and see the temples instead, and that the best way to see them all is by longtail boat. When I said we were going to go to the temples “tomorrow” (which would have been on a Friday) she said they would be closed as it was a Thai holiday. This is one of, if not the most famous scam in Thailand. I’ve been aware of it for months before even coming to Thailand. I have no idea how we fell for it, but before we knew it she was putting us into a Tuk Tuk – who took us to the pier for a pretty decent price to be fair – and we were sitting with a beer waiting to hop on a longtail boat for 1000THB (£22) each. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience. We were on the boat for about an hour and a half and the scenery we went past was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
It seemed like every few minutes a temple or a beautiful gold-laced building would be in view amidst the palm trees and the wooden, often derelict, Thai riverside houses on stilts. This was really incredible to see and it was eye-opening how close these extravagant buildings were to the houses of those who clearly live in poverty. Thai children would excitedly wave from the shore every time a boat went past and we even saw some wildlife, too – monitor lizards are so freaking cool. We ventured down the canals and up through the Chao Phraya river and the “teacher” was right – Wat Arun and Wat Pho amongst a couple others of the most famous temples were all in view and they were stunning.
Visit the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Wat Pho is honestly one of the most beautiful buildings/complexes that I’ve ever seen. It’s here that you can go and see the famous reclining golden Buddha, which is plated with gold and is 46 metres long and 15 metres high. Until you see it in person, it’s difficult to imagine how big it actually is! Wat Pho is apparently the oldest temple in Bangkok, and the complex is huge – you’ll need at least an hour or two to be able to explore all of it.
To enter Wat Pho as a foreigner, you’ll pay 100THB (£2.20) which is pretty reasonable for all of the beauty and culture you’re about to experience. Also, you’ll need to ensure you dress appropriately for exploring the complex (this is the same with every Buddhist temple) so that means no shorts or short skirts/dresses, and you need to ensure that your shoulders are covered, too. You’ll also need to remove your shoes before you enter any of the temples.
Give Your Senses a Shock by Visiting Chinatown’s Food Scene at Night
Shaun and I stayed in Chinatown during our time in Bangkok, and it’s true what they say – it really is an attack on the senses. This is, of course, a good thing to experience but if it’s your first time in Bangkok you’re not going to know what to do or where to look! You’ll be overwhelmed by the sights of the bright lights, the bustling traffic and the countless food stalls all around the roadsides, the smells of the spices and hot food cooking right before your eyes and the sounds of everything around you all coming together all at once. Chinatown was a pretty good location to stay in as it was only around a thirty minute walk to attractions such as the temples by the Chao Phraya river or to Khao San Road, and only around a ten minute walk to the nearest MRT (underground train) station. I would highly recommend wandering over and spending an evening there.
Get Your Haggle on at Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak weekend market, or JJ market, is the world’s largest weekend market and definitely worth a visit if you’re in Bangkok over a weekend. The market is open from 9am – 6pm and is frequented by thousands every week – locals and tourists alike. It’s divided into 27 different sections and has over 8000 stalls and you can find pretty much anything there from street food and home decor to about a million pairs of hippy pants and tie dye clothes, to chow chow puppies, clothes for your pets and massage parlours. I would recommend going to Chatuchak market in the morning before the sun comes out in full as the heat does get pretty unbearable if you’re going to be walking around the stalls for a good few hours.
You can get yourself some funky new clothes as well for cheap if you’re willing to try and bargain with the shopkeepers – although bear in mind that they need to pay their bills too so don’t be too stingy with your haggling! After walking around for a long time, you’re going to want a foot massage; you can find a few massage parlours within the “inside” section of the market and they offer thirty minute foot massages for 150THB – just over £3. You can find maps of the market once you’re there which will divide up all the sections into numbers for you so you can attempt find your way around a bit easier, but I won’t lie – you will get confused and lost at some point, but that’s the fun of being there.
Drink Buckets (Literally) at Khao San Road
Okay so this isn’t as “cultured” as the rest, but Khao San Road is definitely somewhere you need to experience while you’re in Bangkok if you’re into nightlife. You can get great pad thai for 30THB (around 70p!) and there are some pretty good “happy hour” deals that take place pretty much all night. You can also try the infamous deep fried bugs or see a ping pong show… if you’re into that sort of thing.
Chill Out at Lumphini Park
We hadn’t actually heard of Lumphini Park until we got to Bangkok, but it’s a great spot to go to chill out or take a walk. Lumphini Park is… well, a park, you guessed it. But it’s huge, incredibly lovely and is a great place to escape the chaos of Bangkok right inside the city itself. There is a man made lake in the centre of the park, where you can rent pedal boats, so of course we had to do it! There are playgrounds, outdoor “gyms” and seems to be a popular choice for people to come to jog or cycle. I loved our visit to Lumphini Park – it’s a great way to spend a sunny day or a relaxing evening.
There are many other things to do in Bangkok too, like going to the flower markets, visiting the floating markets on the Chao Phraya river, exploring the phenomenally massive shopping malls, or going to Soi Cowboy or Patpong if that sort of thing floats your boat. This is just how we spent our time in Bangkok, and I’m pretty sure if you look hard enough amongst the chaos, there will be something for everyone here.
Next stop, Krabi!