A Short Guide to Bangkok
The day had finally come, the day we flew out to Bangkok from chilly Manchester and explore South East Asia for 6 months. 5 minutes after getting to the airport, upon checking in, our trip already had its first hiccup. Apparently, it was necessary to book a flight/bus/boat proving you were leaving Thailand before travelling there (to be honest, I think it depends on the check-in worker you get, some may request it, some may not). Of course, we didn’t know this.
We quickly scrambled to book the cheapest flight we could find. We ended up booking a flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur for $40 with Lion Air (later found out we couldn’t cancel this flight), so before the trip had even started we were $40 down, but that didn’t really matter as we were finally on our way to South East Asia for 6 months. Two flights and 15 hours later we reached Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, ready and eager to start our travels.
When you arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, it might be quite tempting to take the first taxi offered in the terminal after being exhausted from a 15-hour trip, but don’t! These will be significantly overpriced. Outside the arrival building on the first floor at the ‘Public Taxi’ desk is where you’ll find the cheapest taxis into Bangkok.
When staying in Bangkok there are a number of neighbourhoods to choose from. The two neighbourhoods we chose to stay in on our two visits to Bangkok were Silom and Siam Square. Both neighbourhoods have great transport links to the rest of the city through the MRT and BTS transport systems. Khao San Road can also be reached easily and cheap enough by flagging down a taxi (making sure they use their metre).
During our stay in Silom, we stayed at a guesthouse called Urban House. Located a 5-minute walk from the BTS and MRT station. The BTS and MRT made the location near perfect in terms of transport, linking us with most of Bangkok.
On arrival in Bangkok from the airport, we decided to get a taxi. If you’re getting a taxi from the airport it is advised to go to the taxis located outside the airport on the 1st floor. To Urban House in Silom from the airport, the taxi cost us around 400-450 Baht ($11.30-$12.75).
There is a Main Street in Silom, by day this is where most of Bangkok’s businessmen ply their trade, at night the street transforms into a night market and it’s almost unrecognisable from its daytime form. The food stalls at the market are mostly great, this is where we ate a few nights. There’s so much to choose from to suit everyone, from dumpling and noodle soups, fresh fruit and fruit juice, meat skewers all the way to the not so appealing South East Asian favourite of fried chicken feet (not something I’ve tried, and probably never will).
Often considered the centre of Bangkok city. There is a BTS station here offering great transport links to the rest of the city. Siam Square is easily accessible from the train station or airport and definitely not lacking in bars and restaurants, the area seems one of the obvious places to stay on a night or couple of nights stop over in Bangkok.
We only stayed in Siam Square for 1 night in between Siem Reap and Koh Tao. While here we stayed at a guesthouse called, Wendy House. The guesthouse was actually really nice, smallish double rooms, en suite with air-con and breakfast was included for 1,200 Baht ($34) per night. Considering the location and Bangkok prices, 1,200 Baht wasn’t actually such a bad price.
Round the corner from the guesthouse was MBK mall. The mall contains a mixture of regular chain shops you would find in most malls around the world and market style stalls you would usually only find in an Asian mall. The variety of restaurants here was also great, with Western and Asian food on offer. We found a place right on the bottom floor, which offered Thai street food for cheap prices, mains were around 50-100 baht ($1.40-2.80) each.
Things to do/see in Bangkok
Chatuchak Markets – we visited the Chatuchak Markets after a recommendation from the extremely helpful lady on reception and Urban House. This was a great introduction to authentic Asian markets. They sell most things you can think of to sell at a market, from food and drinks to home furniture and even pets. The market is easily accessed from the MRT. Take MRT to Kamphaeng Phet station and the market is located right outside the station.
Wat Po – otherwise known as the lying down Buddha. The temple contains a huge golden Buddha in the lying down position. Once again the temple is easily accessed through public transport. Take the MRT to Saphan Taskin, then take the river boat from Sathorn to Tha Tien, 8 stops away (be sure to take the orange flagged boat, which is cheapest). When buying a ticket for the boat, be sure to buy from the sellers when you are queuing, rather than the booths at the entrance (walk straight past them). Booths charge 40Baht ($1.10), sellers charge 15Baht ($0.40).
Grand Palace – located just opposite Wat Po, so can be done in the same trip. **be sure to cover shoulder and knees to get in**. The Grand Palace is the home of the Thai king, hence why they request your knees and shoulders to be covered upon entry. The palace was built in 1782, with the architecture being a salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of the Thai people. The palace has a rather large entry fee of 500 Baht ($14.10).
Wat Arun – also located close by to Wat Po. If you take the river boat crossing from Tha Tien station it can easily be reached. Wat Arun is a Buddhist temple believed to have been built before 1656. There is an entrance fee of 50 Baht ($1.40)
Khao San Road – I’m sure everyone who’s every thought of going to Bangkok has heard of Khao San Road. Easily the most famous road in Bangkok. As the main backpacker street, there is plenty of guesthouses where you can stay here. We opted to stay somewhere a bit more relaxed, but we made a few trips to Khao San Road. The hectic and lively street is lined with bars where you grab a large cold bottle of Chang Beer for around 80 Baht ($2.25). There’s also plenty of places to get some Pad Thai or spring rolls after a few beers. Of course, there are the places which sell the novelty bugs for curious travellers to tuck into.
Bangkok is a great introduction to Asia. On our first visit, to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy Bangkok too much. I thought it was too humid and too busy. However, on our second visit, I enjoyed it a lot more. The disappointment from the original visit to Bangkok may well have been to jet lag which lasted a few days and the constant drilling that could be heard from our guesthouse room, meaning we didn’t get too much sleep. In my opinion, there’s much more interesting and exciting places throughout South East Asia, but there’s a certain pull that Bangkok holds over me, causing my unknown desire to make a visit to the city in the nearby future.