When we arrived in Bangkok I really didn’t know what to expect. It had only been two months since their great king died and having never been to an Asian country, let alone at a time of mourning, who knew what was going to greet me.
I guess from the moment I stepped on the Thai Airways plane that morning I was pretty much already there! Having never been on an Airbus 380 before, that was an experience in itself. Then when you throw in the incredibly kind and helpful Thai cabin crew on top, Thailand was already shaping up to be pretty great.
I always thought of Bangkok being similar to the more desert places I’ve been such as Marrakesh. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect apart from a lot of temples!
Surprisingly enough, it’s actually very westernised. But in the east, if that makes sense!
With any new city, it’s always best to ask around before you go to find out which is the best way to and from the airport. In Bangkok, that way is the train.
The transport links in Bangkok are amazing! When you arrive at the airport the first place you need to direct yourself to is the city link airport train. There, you are greeted with ticket machines (all in English), you purchase your ticket to the city (which is about £2 for 2 people) and in about 20 minutes you’re in the center of the main town.
When I say main town, I mean the ‘new town’(there’s no temples here). Influenced a lot by the far eastern cities there’s giant billboards everywhere you look, skyscrapers, skytrains and hundreds of people crossing the road at one time. It’s busy.
Bangkok seems to be a pretty marmite city for this very reason. Some people love it, some people hate it. Yes the streets are dirty, yes it’s very hot and yes there’s lots of traffic, but aren’t they the main characteristics of all great cities?
Whist in Bangkok we stayed a few train stops down from the central shopping hub Siam at the Aloft Bangkok hotel on Sukhumvit 11. During the day it looks like just another typical dusty Thai city road. There were street food vendors balancing stalls along the broken pavement, masses of electrical wires running along the wall (my dad being an electrician nearly had a heart attack when I sent him the photos), yellow taxi’s, moped taxis and even tuk-tuk taxis all whizzing along the road. However in the evening, the area came alive with bars, restaurants and shops.
On our first night we decided to see what what we’d let ourselves in for and found a rooftop bar/restaurant called Above Eleven (it’s literally above Sukhumvit 11!). After walking around and getting lost for a short while, we finally found it tucked away behind the Fraser Suites hotel. The view from the top is pretty spectacular. It definitely takes your breath away if it’s your first night in the city. But beware, compared to the rest of the city it’s pretty pricey.
When it comes to shopping, Bangkok has it all. In Siam there are three main shopping malls: Siam Paragon, Siam Centre and Siam Discovery. Within these shopping malls are hundreds of designers shops from Prada to Fendi to Louis Vuitton. You name it, it’s probably there! This naturally makes them very popular with the Chinese tourists, but it’s definitely worth a visit just for a look/dream.
Fashion in Bangkok is a pretty big deal. With the influences of Tokyo and Seoul nearby, combined with the Thai culture of taking pride in themselves, nearly every women in the city is dressed to impress. Even in the time of mourning when they’re all wearing black. Because the big designers names aren’t in everyone’s price range, in the Siam Centre and MBK malls there are also lots of little boutique shops and stalls all selling funky women clothing. It’s amazing to see how they incorporate traditional Thai style their their new influences.
If you head across town to the old part of the city near the river, that is where you’ll find the temples. As the trains don’t run into the old city the best way to get to the temples is via the river taxi. For about 20 Thai baht each (about 50p), you can catch the river taxi to all the main temples. Whilst we were there we visited Wat Arun, Wat Pho and The Grand Palace.
When we arrived at The Grand Palace it was insane. There were people everywhere and lots of policing. Still in mourning from the death of the King, thousands of Thai people lined the streets queuing to pay their respects. Dressed in their finest black clothes, designer handbags and fancy shoes they waited for hours. Some had even traveled from across the country to visit.
Tourists obviously had a completely different entrance and experience. Out of all the temples in Bangkok, The Grand Palace is the strictest when it comes to appropriate clothing. Covered legs and shoulders were important for each gender. In a lot of cases, they would even turn down women who draped scarves over their shoulders. At the main entrance there’s a hut where you can borrow any item of clothing you need to enter the temple.
If you’re strapped for time in Bangkok, make sure The Grand Palace is your main priority. It’s the most expensive out of all the temples but it’s worth it. It’s truly stunning! But just beware, it’s swarmed with Chinese tourists.
The smaller temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho (where the giant reclining Buddha lives) are a lot less crowded, but are just as spectacular. So if you have time to see them they’re also worth it.
After spending a long day walking around the old streets of Bangkok exploring the temples we decided to wander down to a hidden restaurant area along the river for some dinner. Sitting on the water opposite Wat Arun, these secret restaurants are a hotspot for watching the sun go down over the temple. We went to a restaurant called The Deck by Arun Residence and with such an amazing view and food, you’d be amazed how cheap it is!
There is so much to do and see in Bangkok, a few days can completely fly by. I look forward to going back to explore more of the old town and the rest of the temples!
What are your favourite things to do and see in Bangkok?