For the third time in my life, I found myself in the metropolitan hub that is Bangkok. While for most holiday makers, this great sprawling city is a stepping stone from which they fly to the beach resorts and the islands I would urge anyone to spend more than a few days in this incredible place and hopefully I can provide some insight into making the most of your time there.
The first piece of advice is something that I would advise any traveller visiting anywhere and it is pretty simple: eat locally.
I think the best way to experience a culture is through its food, not only are you sharing in tradition and culture when you eat local food you are also probably getting the best quality food at the best price and it is being made for you by a person who can probably make it better than any restaurant at home could.
Here is a photo of one of my meals, it may look a little different but it is actually Pad Thai, a basic noodle stir fry with egg, prawns and peanuts and it is completely delicious.The lady who cooked this one for me, through some magical cooking know-how, actually made the noodles inside a paper-thin omelette which you can then cut open to reveal the meal. I had this dish for lunch at The Anantara Riverside Hotel and I would recommend it, the pool is great, the food is obviously delicious and the prices are fairly reasonable for a hotel.
If you want to go to visit a temple- go early in the morning.
This really applies to all attractions in the city and it is to avoid two things that can ruin a trip; the heat and other tourists. It may sound horrible but I can’t abide those enormous travel groups that shuffle around together like some great sneaker-and-pulled-up-sock wearing millipede who takes a million hours to go anywhere all while brandishing a thousand pointed selfie-sticks while trying to get the perfect angle. I hate them and would do anything really to avoid them and I’m sure I’m not the only one. While we can never be totally free of these tour groups by going early in the morning you lessen your chances of bumping into them. My step-mum, two sisters and I did this when we went to visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) and we managed at least a golden hour where we were really the only ones there allowing us to really appreciate the temples beauty rather than jostle for space.
Bangkok has some of the best shopping malls in the world.
If you looking for something to do around mid-day and you’re tired of tourist markets selling the same old thing head to my personal favourite the Siam Centre. This is where actual Thai people do their shopping, the mall itself is like an art installation there’s always something going on, always a promotion of the latest trend or latest gadget. Even if you’re not looking to shop the mall is definitely worth a visit and if you decide you don’t like it- good news- almost all the malls are connected in some way by a skywalk so you can just pop over to the next one and continue shopping there!
If you can help it, don’t travel on the roads.
Bangkok is the only city I have been in with gridlock traffic jams at 11 at night and has notoriously slow traffic, it is not uncommon to be sitting in traffic for hours on end and barely move to the end of the street. Luckily Bangkok is also extensively a river city and travel by boat is definitely the better way to go. Most of the big hotels on the river have their own little boats that go between the hotel and a ferry terminal but its very cheap and easy to just get one of the ferries or to rent a longboat to take you around the Klongs for an hour or two to see more of the city.
If you do have to go by road, I would recommend a Tuktuk, they are faster and cheaper than most taxis as they can cut in and out of traffic. However please take note to always confirm with the driver that he knows exactly where you want to go and confirm the price before you get in! Additionally, while they are extremely convenient you must remember that a Tuktuk is just a motorbike with a tin-can shell around it, you put your life in the driver’s hands so if you are travelling with young children or feel nervous about it just go with your gut instinct- they are not very safe.
And finally, if you can cook- you’re renting an apartment, an Air B&B, or even staying with a friend, go to a food market rather than a supermarket.
Ok disclaimer here, you’re going to want to wear closed shoes, the floor is pretty disgusting and be prepared for a lot of the fish to still be alive. However, once you get past that, the food markets are fascinating and actually pretty beautiful in their own way. It’s a good way to see a side of life that were all used to (buying food) but from a different perspective and chatting to the people who run the stalls is very interesting too. I would not recommend however trying a “Thousand Year Egg”– if anyone offers you a pink egg just say no, you’ll thank me later
Bangkok is one of the most colourful, vibrant and interesting cities in the world and its definitely worth your time to go and visit and I would highly recommend setting aside a few days to do some exploring in this fantastic city.