Fresh from a week seeing the best of Bangkok, here are our top must sees if you’re planning a visit-
Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun
These are the three main temples at the top of every Bangkok vistors must see list. You can see them all comfortably in one day as they are all conveniently within walking distance of each other. The Grand Palace and Wat Pho are right next to each other but you’ll need to catch the boat across the Chao Prao River to visit Wat Arun. The boat leaves from Pier 8 and costs 7BHT one way. The boat trip only takes about 1-2 mins and arrives right out the front of Wat Arun.
The Grand Palace is the largest of the three and the most expensive to visit at 500 BHT per person, it’s big though so you will spend considerable time here viewing the King’s residence. Unfortunately we were unable to visit the Grand Palace with the King recently passing away, thousands of Thai residents were queuing up everyday to pay their respects with only ten thousand visitors permitted each day. We plan to fly out of Bangkok in a few months time so hope to be able to visit the Grand Palace then.
We did manage to fit in Wat Pho and Wat Arun though which were surprisingly quiet in
comparison. The stand out for us was definitely Wat Pho. One of the oldest and largest temple complexs in Bangkok, it boasts the 46m reclining Buddah and the impressive 42m high Chedis which were built to honour the Chakri Kings. Get there early to avoid the crowds and cover up, no short shorts or bare shoulders allowed.
Wat Arun also known as The Temple of the Dawn whilst spectactular and worth a visit was unfortunately under renovation and ¾ covered in scaffolding when we visited. Regardless it is still an impressive site and whilst you can’t get up to the top you can still climb up to the first tier. Wat Arun is best viewed at sunset for those iconic Bangkok pictures.
Depending on where you are staying to get to the temples you can catch a tuk tuk, taxi, boat or walk. We stayed near Khoa San Rd and walked to the temples, which was was only about a 20 min walk.
Chao Prao River
The Chao Prao River is the main artery for transport and travel by boat through Bangkok. The river itself is not pretty but it is definitely worth experiencing a ride up and down the river to see some sights. There are many stops along the river and you can either spend 40BHT per stop or 150BHT for unlimited stops. If you only want to experience a ride along the river then you could get a ticket to the end of the river and hop off and back on to come back. We chose to go with unlimited stops and make a day of it by visiting may sights along the river.
Khao San Rd
Khao San Rd is touted as the backpackers mecca of Bangkok and it is! Everything a traveller could want can be found along Khao San Rd, cheap massages, fish spas, bars, street food and street vendors selling everything from custom made suits to friendship bracelets with inappropriate slogans on them. Khao San is noisy though so if you want to stay in the area I recommend staying on Soi Rambutri which is one street over, still close and lively but much quieter if you’re not 18 and clubbing every night.
Hire a Tuk Tuk driver to see the sites
Tuk Tuks are a Bangkok institution. Make sure you jump in a yellow tuk tuk as the reds ones have a reputation for taking tourists to off the track shops who give them kick backs for delivering naïve tourists! The best thing about tuk tuks is that they are cheap but you need to barter and be prepared to walk away if you think they’re ripping you off. We offered a tuk tuk driver 40BHT to spend a couple of hours driving us around to see the Lucky Buddha, Marble Temple, Golden Mountain and Giant Buddha.
We started at the Lucky Buddha, named such as you go there to pray for good luck, whilst a nice temple after seeing so many other temples this one was nothing special. From here we went to Wat Intharawihan, home to the Giant Buddha which is the tallest buddha in Bangkok standing at 32 m high. Whilst the height of this one is pretty cool, it’s not the nicest buddha statue, he looks a bit flat.
From there we went onto Wat Benchamabophit also known as the Marble Temple. This one is definitely a standout and worth a visit, the grounds and the temple itself were stunning. Once you’re done with the temple see if you can spot the epic catfish in the canals!
After we had finished at the Marble Temple we walked outside to find that our tuk tuk driver had ditched is. Luckily we had not paid any money upfront. We could have easily flagged down another driver but instead we walked to the Golden Mountain and Giant Swing then back to our guesthouse. Golden Mountain is a temple which takes some climbing up 400 stairs but is worth the views when you reach the top. The Giant Swing is nothing spectacular but since it was on our way back we walked past for a quick photo opportunity.
Since Bangkok is such a hot and humid place walking around takes it out of you, it’s also not the nicest smelling city which makes Lumphini Park the perfect place to go for some fresh air and tranquillity. We visited this park twice in our stay and I am currently writing this post while Estelle takes some time out in the shade to read a book. The park has a running and bike track and a public gym if you are looking to fit in a quick fitness session. The park also has a few lakes and you can hire a Swan Boat for a paddle which cost 40BHT for 30 mins. Keep an eye out for the enormous monitor lizards. They look threatening but will not harm you although Estelle thought every one of them wanted to eat her.
We decided to break up our week by staying half the time in Chinatown. I felt like Chinatown Bangkok was not quite as exciting or vibrant as Chinatown’s in other Asian cities I’ve seen, in saying that though it’s still worth a visit. It’s got your typical street food vendors selling a mix of thai and Chinese cuisines and the crazy Sompreng Market that you could easily get lost in for hours. From Chinatown it’s not too far into downtown Bangkok where you can visit some of the biggest and most epic shopping centres I’ve ever seen as well as a number of museums. One
particular favourite was the Jim Thompson House, Jim Thompson was an American who came to live in Thailand and was instrumental in revitalising world demand for Thai silk, he built a house in the traditional Thai style and filled it with thai artifacts and artworks, his story is made all the more fascinating by the fact that he disappeared in the Malaysian jungle whilst on holidays thus leaving his house and collection to the Thai government who have turned it into a museum. It’s pretty cool to see what a traditional Thai house looks like and some of the artefacts on display are hundreds of years old, worth a visit if you have time.
Eat all the street food! Bangkok is filled with an abundance of street food vendors selling just about everything from traditional tom yam soups to fried scorpions and crickets for the more adventurous (we’re not that adventurous!) Not only is the street food some of the best Thai food I’ve ever tasted it’s also ridiculously cheap, we were able to get a full meal for around 50 BHT each making dinner time very affordable. Don’t be put off by the dodgy looking décor and plastic chairs we learnt pretty quickly that the ‘nicer’ looking places definitely did not equal the tastiest food!
*side note Estelle has a pretty severe peanut allergy she needs to carry an epipen around for, we worried this would be a problem throughout Asia but she got staff at our first guest house to write it on a piece of paper in Thai and has just shown it to the staff everywhere we’ve eaten, I get the feeling allergies are becoming more well known in Asia as a lot of places we have eaten at have tried to reiterate that they really do understand the problem and we’ve had no issues so far with one street vendor even making us Pad Thai no peanuts- legend!
Got a Bangkok favourite we haven’t covered? Let us know in the comments-