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Traveling to Bangkok

Sah wah dee khaa… I’ve traveled to Bangkok more times than I can remember. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit for a plethora of reasons. Since the flight to Bangkok only takes about an hour and a half  from where I live, it has been my number one weekend getaway choice.

There are tons of things to do and see in Bangkok like the captivating and intricate temples, the large markets, tasty and exotic street foods, and a whole lot more.

Here’s why I love Bangkok and why it’s a great South-East Asian destination to visit.

Thai Food is Yummylicious

In my opinion, Thai food is the best. The food is rich in flavors, fragrances and spices. If you try some Tom Yum, (I’m sure you have heard or perhaps tasted Tom Yum before) the experience will be absolutely different here.

Fruit Boats in Bangkok

Your mouth will burst with different flavors – sweet, spicy and sour all at one! And it’s so good and authentic. You can sample plenty of local foods at any street in Bangkok. The street vendors sell a variety of scrumptious snacks and noodles no matter what time of the day it is. You can get food practically anywhere and anytime as the markets are always a beehive of activity.

The Friendly Locals

True to its name as the Land of Smiles, the Thais are always generous and welcoming, polite and very helpful. If you have trouble communicating with the locals in English, passerby’s will sometimes stop and translate it for you. And of course, they’ll appreciate it if you could say a few Thai words so make sure to learn a few before you go. Moreover, most shop owners treat their customers with warm smiles and happy faces.

Bangkok is an Affordable City to Live in

Thailand is affordable to visit, and for an expat, it’s a cheap country to live in. You can get a proper meal from street vendors as cheap as $1. And it’s not hard to get a pleasant and comfortable place to stay at a reasonable price. You can rent a cozy studio apartment in downtown Bangkok at $350 per month. If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, you can get by on a $30-$40 budget a day pretty comfortably – which includes meals, transportation and visiting attractions.

Perfect Beach near Bangkok

You can escape the busy city and plan day trips to beaches outside of Bangkok. Thailand has many beautiful tropical beaches with sunny and warm weather, mostly throughout the year.

Hua Hin Pattaya and Pranburi are two amous beaches that are located within a 2 to 5 hour drive from Bangkok.

Pranburi Beach near Bangkok
Image by Arkkrapol Anantachote

Bangkok has Something for Everyone!

Whether you’re traveling with family, as a couple or as a solo traveler, Bangkok has everything that you’re looking for. Personally, I visit Thailand for the food and the shopping scene. If you’re a culture and history buff, there are plenty of temples, historical landmarks and museums to visit. And if you need a break from the hot climate, you can always cool down at the various high-end malls.

Best Places to Stay in Bangkok

Since it’s so popular, Bangkok is teeming with accommodations at varying budgets. If you’re traveling to Bangkok for the first time, choosing where to stay can be quite exciting. Each district in Bangkok has its advantages and disadvantages. Where you end up staying should depend on what your itinerary is going to look like.

Wat Arun in Bangkok
Wat Arun in Bangkok

The city has a splendid, easy to use, cheap transportation system, so getting around is easy. Bangkok has a subway MRT, buses, Skytrain, tuk-tuk (the auto-rickshaw) and the river ferries. Taxis and ride-hailing services like Grab cars are also plentiful in Bangkok.

1. The Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit is located in the central part of Bangkok and is one of the most trendy neighborhoods in the city. It’s a convenient district to stay as it’s great for shopping, has superb dining options and easy access to public transportations. The nearby MRT and Skytrain connect to most areas in Bangkok. Some of the popular malls in the area are Central Chidlom, Emporium, Terminal 21 and Central Embassy.

Central Embassy Mall in Bangkok
Central Embassy Mall

For party-goers and clubbers, Sukhumvit is the ideal area to stay. It has tons of clubs and bars for you to chill, relax, and meet people.

Sukhumvit may not be the top area to stay as it lacks the typical tourist attractions; but if shopping and nightlife are all you want to do in Bangkok, then it’s definitely for you!

Things to do in Sukhumvit

Soi Cowboy – This red-light district is situated near Asok BTS Skytrain Station. It was named after a cowboy hat-wearing African-American who opened the first bar in Bangkok in the 1970s. The street is strewn with bright neon lights and is usually packed with tourists.

The Museum of Science & Planetarium – This is the best spot if you want to learn about natural history, science and technology, deep space and the environment.

Benjasiri Park – If you are a sculpture enthusiast, head to Benjasiri Park and enjoy some of Thailand’s most magnificent sculptures scattered throughout the park.

2. Siam Area

Siam is another shopping district in Bangkok. You can easily hop from one mall to another and shop till you drop at Siam Paragon, Chitlom, MBK, Central World and Siam Discovery. You’ll find everything that you need, or perhaps something you don’t but went and purchased it anyway! Yes, that’s what is likely to happen when you stay in the Siam area. If you hate shopping (who hates shopping?), you can go to the cinema or chill out at the hipster cafe or pubs.

Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok
Siam Paragon Mall

This area can be quite busy and crowded with locals during the weekend. Even though it has numerous malls and restaurants, the chances of trying authentic Thai food is slim. The reason being many of the restaurants here are selling western food or fast food instead.

Things to do in Siam area

Shopping – You can shop at many air-conditioned malls in the area.

Cinemas – See the latest movies at the modern cinema – 3D, 4D or enjoy a classic Thai movie at the Scala Movie Theatre.

Madame Tussauds Bangkok – Snap a photo with your favorite celebrities at Bangkok’s version of Madame Tussauds which is located at Siam Discovery Mall.

Thai boxing – Enjoy a free Thai boxing show every last Wednesday of each month. The event is held outside of the MBK mall.

Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World – Visit one of the largest aquariums in South-East Asia, located at Siam Paragon shopping mall.

3. Bangkok Riverside

Bangkok Riverside offers a scenic and panoramic view. At night you can see colorful, glittery lights from the Royal Palace and the temples. If you plan on staying at a 5-star hotel, Bangkok’s Riverside is where you should be. There are unique boutique hotels along the Chao Phraya River that used to be old traditional houses of locals.

Chao Phraya River in Bangkok
Chao Phraya River

You can take ferries along the river to enjoy iconic landmarks of the city such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun temple. Then there’s The Grand Palace which is a former royal residence. It’s a perfect way to get a glimpse of the everyday life of the people in Bangkok.

This area only has one Skytrain station, which is Saphan Taksin station and does not have a Subway MRT. Central Pier is a 3-minute walk from Saphan Taksin Station, and this is where you can take the ferries or riverboat up the river. Many of the hotels here provide a free shuttle boat service to take guests from and to Central Pier.

Things to Do in Bangkok Riverside

Royal Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – The Grand Palace used to be a residence of the King of Thailand and is Bangkok’s most iconic landmark. It’s one of the most visited attractions in Bangkok. Inside the palace complex, there are many breathtaking buildings, and of them is the Wat Phra Kaew or also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Wat Pho- The temple of the reclining Buddha is a must-see in Bangkok. It’s only a 10-minute walk from The Grand Palace. You can enjoy relaxing traditional Thai massage at the complex as it used to be a massage institute.

Wat Arun – This temple has a different design from any other temple in Bangkok. Located near the Riverside, it’s also called Temple of the Dawn and is an important religious site.

Flower Market – The Pak Khlong Talat is a huge market selling all sorts of agriculture products like fresh fruits and flowers.

Asiatique The Riverfront – This famous night market and a mall consist of more than 1,500 boutiques, posh cafes, restaurants and food stalls.

The Royal Barges Museum – The museum exhibits 8 of the royal barges of Thailand. These boats are used for special ceremonies and state events. Each of the boats is painted in bright colors like gold, blue, red and you can see various mythical creatures engraved on the prow.

4. Silom

This is personally one of my favorite areas to stay in Bangkok. The area is considered Bangkok’s business district. At Silom, you’ll find the beautiful Lumpini Park, some of the best shopping experiences and a great choice of restaurants and cafes serving authentic Thai food. It’s easy to get around this area as there are several Skytrain and MRT stations available.

Lumpini Park in Bangkok Thailand
Lumpini Park near Silom

Things to Do in Silom

Lumpini Park – Go for a morning or evening walk and join the locals for a tai chi or aerobic session.

Patpong Night Market – This fun, busy open-air night market sells interesting souvenirs and trinkets and are usually flocked with tourists. Make sure to polish your bargaining skills to get a fair price when shopping!

Rooftop Bars – You can catch a remarkable view of Bangkok from some of the classy rooftop open-air bars. One of the popular ones is Lebua State Tower Skybar, where the movie Hangover 2 took place.

Charoen Krung Road – Explore the rustic part of Bangkok where you can find many traditional, classic and authentic Thai restaurants that have been around for generations.

5. Chinatown

It’s common for backpackers and budget travelers to pick Chinatown as the area to stay. Affordable boutique hotels and hostels can easily be found here. Just like any Chinatown in the world, the area is bursting with energy, noise and bright neon signs. The area is more lively at night when locals come to dine on top-notch street food. You can find everything here from roasted duck, fresh seafood, dim-sums, fritters and traditional desserts. Many of the restaurants here have been around for ages, serve only one type of dish, and truly mastered their craft. Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s oldest districts and was first occupied by Chinese merchants. Walking through the alleys and streets in Chinatown is like going back in time. Small shops are selling traditional Chinese herbs, tea, spices and noodles along the road.

Chinatown in Bangkok
Chinatown in Bangkok

Things to Do in Chinatown

Sampeng Market – This is one of Chinatown’s biggest markets. It can be a challenge to navigate the crowds in the narrow lanes of the market but just go with the flow and have fun. You can buy good Chinese tea, pottery and spices here.

Little India – Explore Little India which is located near Chinatown.

Buy Gold – If you want to buy gold for yourself or as a gift to someone special, Chinatown is where you should be.

Wat Traimit Temple & The Golden Buddha – The Golden Buddha stands at 5 meters tall and weighs 5.5 tons.

Tips for Traveling to Bangkok for First-Timers

1. Plan your Trip

November to February is the dry months and from March to June is the scorching hot season. If you want to witness the Songkran festival which occurs on the 13th of April ( Thai New Year), then plan your visit on that month. The rainy or monsoon season is from July to October.

2. Respect the Locals

When visiting the temples, make sure to wear appropriate attire and be respectful at all times. If you’re not sure whether you can take a photo or not, ask for permission first. When you talk with the locals, do not repeat sentences or questions as if they’re going to understand eventually. Getting someone to translate or learning some basic Thai language will go a long way in making communication smoother.

3. Beware of Scammers

Everywhere you go in the world, always prioritize your safety and stay alert of your surroundings, especially at popular attractions. There’ll be scammers who will try to cheat you. One common scam is at The Grand Palace – a local will approach you and say that the palace is closed for private events. Then they’ll suggest you take a ride on their tuk-tuk to other temples in Bangkok. They will charge you 50 to 60 baht for this. It’s easy to spot these scammers – they’ll speak quite good English, hold a map and an umbrella. Thank me later!

4. Avoid Dangerous Areas in Bangkok

Like the other most visited cities in the world, Bangkok is not excluded from crime. Though Patong is packed with bars and clubs, stay away from any illicit sex traders. They’ll persuade you and beg you to take them – the best idea is to ignore them at all cost!

The Bottom Line

Bangkok is a lively and unique city to visit. There is no end of exciting things to do and see. Plus, the weather is warm all year. Whether you’re visiting for the food, scenery or shopping, Bangkok is fun, full of culture, and worth a visit!