The Bangkok Bustle is real. Noise. Traffic. Heat. Sweat. Street food! All of it. Glorious.
Thailand is brilliant for any type of traveller – solo, couple, family, first time. You name it, Thailand will satisfy your style. Bangkok is definitely safe for solo travellers, there’s many of us here! I saw a lot of families too, with toddlers to teens. There’s so much to see, do and experience that is SO different from what’s back home if you’re from somewhere like NZ etc. It’s the best thing about it.
I spent 10 nights exploring Bangkok recently on my way home to NZ from Dublin/London, as a kind of debrief between lives. I went in September as I had to leave London then, so it was still close to the very hot summer. It ranged from 27 – 34 degrees celcius, combined with the humidity, being outside for too long got very sweaty very quickly. If (I mean when!) I go again, I would go at a cooler time, like November or December. But then again, that’s also high season so things will probably cost a bit more. So that’s something to weigh up.
Here’s my Bangkok City Guide!
Things to do
The Grand Palace and Temples – This beautiful Palace and Temples are on every Bangkok attraction list for a reason. They are stunning. You can see monks praying, read the beautiful Thai history on the walls, and sparkling ‘jewels’ on temple walls – it’s a visual feast. Entry was 500 baht which if you spend a couple of hours here putting the time in to get the good photos, it’s worth it.
Khao San Road/Soi Rambuttri – The hub of backpacker Thailand. A bit overwhelming for me I must admit. Tourist tourists everywhere, as far as the eye can see. Still worth a look for sure. See the stalls of insects, the 30 baht pad thai, buy some beautiful hippy pants like every other female tourist (Oh I totally got some don’t worry!) have a Chang and people watch for a bit. Then try get a taxi that will put the meter on for you to get back to your accommodation.
Jim Thompson House – I loved this absolutely beautiful house. It was put together by the American expat/spy Jim Thompson back in the 1960s. A traditional Thai style house reminiscent of (rich I’m sure) old, exotic Thailand. With a mini jungle garden on one side and a canal on the other, you forget Bangkok is right there. Take a 30 minute guided tour of the stunning house (that I would love to stay in if it had aircon!) for 150 baht.
Rooftop bar – When they’re all 60 storeys plus, any rooftop bar will do really. But whether you want the highest (Baiyoke), the coolest (Lebua, from The Hangover 2), or somewhere less packed (Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree), to enjoy the views, Bangkok has a rooftop bar for you. I picked Moon bar as I’d read it’s less busy and cheaper than Lebua. I went with my Thai friend Annie who had been showing me around her hometown of Bangkok. Cocktails start from 550 baht; since I was on a budget I just had a Singha for 310 baht.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – Being on a budget I wasn’t buying anything but food, drinks and hippy pants in Bangkok but I went to Bangkok’s biggest market anyway. And yip it’s HUGE! And it sells everything – food, clothes, toys, jewellery, PETS! Oh I did come away with one thing though, SUNBURN! So glad I listened to the advice to get there by 10 and leave by 12. It was unbearable by then. It was so, so hot. Wear sunscreen AT ALL TIMES kids!
Where to Eat
Chinatown – I could’ve included this in the ‘Things to do’ list as well, there’s so many colours, sounds and sensations to take in that you can spend a couple of hours just walking up and down taking it all in. Now being a (mostly – refer to my When shit goes wrong post for clarification) vegetarian I’m afraid I was a little scared of what I was seeing at the stalls so I wasn’t comfortable attempting the cuisine unfortunately. BUT! I did try one Chinatown delicacy. A steamed bun filled with chocolate or custard or jam. I got chocolate because I hadn’t seen the custard until after I had ordered, and it was still good but I may just have to go back and try the custard one! You can’t miss it because there’s the biggest crowd on the street waiting for them. It’s crazy.
Silom Road – My first introduction to Bangkok’s street food after being guided here by my Thai friend Annie. Spring rolls for 10baht each, roti for 30baht, coconut for 35, so cheap and all of it so tasty.
Khao San area – The street of deep-fried insects and 30baht pad thai, but if you want authentic Thai food head to Peeps on Phra Athit. Annie took me here as it’s actually run by her 2 friends who were trained in New York. Best pad thai in Bangkok they said – well it was pretty damn good! And their MANGO BEER was delicious! If you’re there try it, you won’t regret it.
Soi Rambuttri you’ll get pad thai for 40baht, fried rice 40baht, Chang 50. I was burning through my money a lot faster than I thought I would, because I was buying so much because it was so cheap!
Sukhumvit Road – Take your pick. Street food, upmarket restaurants, Indian, Vegan, Sukhumvit’s got it. For breakfast I like to get a big bag of fruit to go so I can keep wandering.
Vegan? Then ice cream and more at Veganerie in Chit Lom. Lunch/Dinner – May’s Veggie House. I’m sure even non vegans will like.
There’s all the western chains here too if you’re needing some good ol chips once in a while.
Anywhere and everywhere! It’s not just for tourists, this is how most Thai’s eat too. Even right outside my apartment which was not in the hustle bustle of the city centre or by any big tourist area, there were roti and other stands on the corner. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never starve in this city.
Where to stay
Ratchaprarop/Phaya Thai – Sodsai Gardens (Bookings.com) – I stayed here for 8 nights as it was the best I could find for my budget. It was pretty central, near an Airport train station and about a 15 minute walk to a BTS station. It was safe, there was a 7/11 and street food stalls on the corner for water, snacks etc. It’s not right in the hubbub of a tourist area, which after being in them all day, it was a nice respite actually. And hey there’s still two karaoke bars on the one street if you’re that way inclined!
Sukhumvit – Eleven Avenue (Airbnb) – I chose Soi 11 for my last 2 nights after reading Nomadic Matt’s blog on Bangkok. It’s his favourite area so I thought he knows what he’s talking about, I’ll give it a go! It’s so different to where I stayed the first time. It’s maybe more for older tourists and expats from what I’ve read. I found out after I’d arrived that it’s one of the biggest party streets in Bangkok! And with the music from the bars coming straight through my apartment’s walls I think it’s true. Ha! At least they were playing great music.
If you want the ultra-cheap, 9 quid a night hostels then head over to Khao San road, the biggest backpacker hub in Bangkok. I didn’t stay here so I can’t really say what it’s like. I wanted a private room and this area was too expensive for me really.
How to get around
Airport Rail Link – The train from Suvarnabhumi Airport is really easy to catch. Plus I was staying not far from one of the stations so I could walk from there to my hotel. Just follow the signs to the train. Point to where you’re going on a map to the ticket person (or try to say the name, pronounce it completely wrong like I did and get a little smile from the lady) and get your ticket for 50 baht. Bargain! A lot cheaper than 400 baht which is what I heard a taxi into town will cost.
BTS Skytrain is your friend. Single tickets range from 15 – 50 baht, cheap yes but you will be using it a lot so get the pass! I didn’t, foolishly thinking I would be walking most places (I did as much as I could) but I still used it a lot, so I easily went over what I would’ve paid
Taxis – I was nervous about using taxis at first. I’d read so many stories but drivers trying to get the most out of tourists. But once I got my first taxi with the help of my Thai friend Annie, I was golden. Here’s an example of what to expect – some drivers wanted to charge me a flat rate of 200-300 baht from Khao San Road to my apartment in Ratchaprarop, which was about a 20-25 minute drive, on meter it cost 70 baht! Even in rush hour where it took 45minutes it only cost 80 baht. So when one asked for 300 because of an apparent traffic jam, I knew to just walk away and get the next one. You will find an honest one, just keep trying.
Walking – You can explore on foot your local surrounds, just know it will be hot and you will get sweaty within 100 metres. From my apartment I could walk to Pratunam Market/CentralWorld/Siam area relatively easily. You gotta be onto it crossing the roads though and make pit stops in shops to cool down. Drink lots of water and have rests, or you will get tired and dehydrated very quickly. A throbbing dehydration headache is the worst when you’re trying to explore a new city!
Tuk-Tuks – You could try it once for the fun of it, but they are double or triple the price of a taxi, and get you right up in the Bangkok pollution.
Motorbike – I saw some girls on the back of motorbikes from my taxi. They were laughing and squealing taking videos of themselves having a great time. But with no helmets, so many vehicles, not many road rules and so much pollution, I’m not sure the very cheap price is worth the risk.
So there you have it! My ‘quick’ Bangkok city guide. I hope it helps you when you’re planning your trip. I always love to read people’s suggestions before I go, so I do’t miss a thing. I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been to Bangkok or are going?!