LAST VISITED: 2010 | NEXT VISIT: 2016
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and its largest city and has something for everyone. Alongside high-rise buildings, (ridiculous) traffic, intense heat, rowdy nightlife, lady-boys and Ping Pong Shows (Google it..), Bangkok also offers beautiful temples and palaces, canals, river trips and local markets. There are lots of different areas you can choose to stay in Bangkok, with Khao San Road probably the most renowned. To name a few – Siam Square has lots of boutique shops and malls and expensive hotels, Sukhumvit is popular with upper class locals and also contains many higher-end restaurants and hotels and Rattanakosin is known as ‘Old Bangkok’ and is close to The Grand Palace and Wat Pho (two of Bangkok’s best sight-seeing areas). Then of course, you have the famous Khao San Road!
Khao San Road is in the Northern part of Rattanakosin and is the backpacker mecca of Bangkok. Most travellers will opt to stay along , or nearby to, this road where a night in a hostel could cost you as little as £3/ $4.25. The road itself isn’t very long but is crammed full of bars, restaurants, massage parlours (the good and bad kind), shops, ATMs, money-changing booths, launderettes, and tailors – you name it, Khao San Road has it! It’s also lined with travel agencies, which is helpful for those needing to book an overnight train or coach North to Chang Mai or South towards the islands. Day trips and excursions (e.g. to see the elephants) can also be arranged here.
Fun Fact: ‘Khao San’ translates to ‘milled rice’ due to the historical role of this street in the rice trade.
Food in Bangkok was amazing – definitely stick to local restaurants and street food stalls. Alongside the recognisable red and green Thai curries and Pad Thai, there is a whole range of other options. I particularly liked the bowls of clear soup and fried noodle dishes that were widely available.
Unfortunately, when I was there (April, 2009) Bangkok was experiencing a period of political unrest. It gradually got worse on the run up to my arrival, to the point that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to fly in to Bangkok. I still ended up flying in as the airport remained open, however it did have a big impact on my trip. The next tour I was due to take part in (Indochina Adventure; G Adventure’s most popular tour) was due to have 15 people joining. However, due to the media portrayal in the UK (which was a lot worse that the situation itself), more than half the group cancelled, leaving 6 of us on the trip. Due to the nature of the tour, some people left in Cambodia, and others in Vietnam. So, by the time we reached Laos towards the end of the trip, there was just three of us – not ideal! The two people I was left with were lovely, but in their 40’s and not keen on taking part in any activities aside from reading – again, not ideal! I guess this is one of the troubles with group touring – you never know what you’re going to get! Tour route shown below:
Due to the unrest that occurred during my stay, the police had issued a curfew for 11pm. This meant anyone outside of their hostel/ hotel past 11pm would be swiftly arrested! Of course, this impacted on our ability to have a good night and relax – especially since the hotel was advising us not to even go to Khao San Road due to two people getting shot there the night before!! Walking back to the hotel at 10.45 was a surreal experience, the roads were completely empty, all shops and restaurants quiet for the night and not a car in sight. It really did feel like I was in the middle of some kind of zombie take-over in a post-apocalyptic world.
WHAT TO DO IN BANGKOK
The Grand Palace
Probably Bangkok’s most famous landmark, The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and used to house the Thai King. It is a striking and decadent complex and also contains Wat Phra Kaew (the temple of the Emerald Buddha) which is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. It enshrines the Emerald Buddha, a highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. Photo from here.
Temple of the reclining Buddha and known as the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage. Pic from here.
River Kwai (or Khwae Noi)
I never got the chance to go here on my last visit, so will also head here in 2016! Pic from here.
Markets: Chinatown / Chatuchak /Floating
I’m a sucker for a good market! We visited a couple of local markets during our short stay, including the China town market but never made it to the floating markets (which look awesome!) or the Chatuchak market. I have experienced floating markets in Vietnam but not Bangkok.. yet!
Lumpini Park and its giant monitor lizards!
As an Ecologist and animal lover, I would love to see the monitor lizards (dinosaurs) that roam Lumpini Park! It also looks beautiful and chilled out and I’m told it’s an excellent place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Pics here and here.
Dusit Palace Park
Another place I would like to see on my next visit! Pic from here.