Traveling to Bangkok, Thailand is not just hype; all the ravings are justified, all the tears shed for not wanting to leave (as in the case of a certain friend), all other good things that people had been telling me all this time about Bangkok are true. A trip so delightful, I must tell you all about it in this travel guide.
There are four major activities I deem a requisite to fully enjoying your time in Bangkok; eating, shopping, temple-hopping, and partying. But before we delve into the specifics, let’s discuss first the logistics.
Fly to Bangkok
As early as the mid-last year I was already planning my yearend trip. I kept my eyes peeled on cheap flights to Japan promo to join my friend, Cai who had booked a good flight deal to Tokyo. Going to Japan is no longer as expensive as it used to be. There are travel sites such as Traveloka and airlines that offer airfare promos all the time, you just have to wait for the right opportunity to book. But somewhere along the way, our plan changed, the most significant of which is the target country. Next thing I knew, I was checking Jetstar flight deals for Bangkok, Thailand. Though less expensive, Thailand is in no way a downgrade from Japan.
If you’re Filipino like me, you can skip worrying about visa as we are visa-free. There are many flights to choose from Manila to Bangkok and if you chance upon a promo, you could go there for less than 100 US dollars (Php 5,000) round-trip. In my case, I spent almost Php 7,000 in total for a two-way flight. Travel time takes 4 hours; Bangkok is two hours ahead of Manila.
Sleep in Bangkok
The next point of business is to find a place to sleep. Most tourists recommend staying around the Sukhumvit area as it has a great number of hostels. My friends and I (there’s 4 of us on this trip, by the way) stayed at Bangkok’s financial district, Silom. I had a hard time choosing a place because there were so many pretty hostels to choose from. Eventually, I locked our 5-day stay at Warm Window Silom at Pan Road for only Php 2,600 pesos.
Our last few days in Bangkok on the other hand (after returning from Laos), were spent at Siam Journey Guesthouse in Siam. I’ll be publishing separate reviews of these hostels in the coming days so I can give you more information.
Shop in Bangkok
I know someone who used to go back to Bangkok just to shop. I have a colleague who wanted to go back to Bangkok just to shop. I guess I’m highly suggestible that I purposely packed fewer clothes and paid for baggage allowance for when I return home. I was set on doing shopping way before I decided to visit any of the temples in Bangkok.
On the day of our arrival, as soon as we were done checking in at Warm Window, Cai and I went on a shopping mission.
Our first stop is Chatuchak, a popular weekend market on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road. The place covers an area of 27 acres, making it one of the largest weekend markets in the world. It has over 15,000 stalls, selling all sorts of items you could think of — garments, footwear, accessories, local souvenirs, handicrafts, food, etc. The place looks like a better version of Divisoria — more organized, less crowded (Divisoria remains unbeatable in the most crowded category), and much cleaner, and by cleaner I mean the grounds are not perpetually wet and muddy as in Divisoria, (yes, another Divi comparison).
Out of all the places we went to, this is where I shopped the most. I also find the clothes here less expensive as compared with the other shopping centers we visited. You could buy a shirt as cheap as 150 baht (Php 250). With my 2,000 baht (Php 3,000), I went home with 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of sandals, and 6 tops.
Another popular market can be found at Rod Fai, which is my friend’s personal favorite. However, it quickly turned into a disappointment when we saw a multitude of tourists when we arrived. Just look at the photo below for reference.
The vendors were still setting up their stalls when we got there so I wasn’t able to buy anything. We were already famished from all the walking that we did in Chatuchak and thought it best to have dinner first before leaving. We ate some spicy noodles in one of the food tents.
Central World Bazaar
It’s a different type of shopping experience at the Christmas bazaar in front of the Central World mall. This is where we saw some interesting vintage items such as home furniture and display, old vinyl records, even thrift clothes. I bought my most favorite piece of clothing from this trip, a pair of pale pink pants (see my photo at the Grand Palace and Wat Arun).
I noticed that shopping items in this bazaar are much more expensive than the ones that are being sold at both Chatuchak and Rod Fai.
Visit temples and palaces in Bangkok
The country is called officially the Kingdom of Thailand; it is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Thailand’s culture is rich and diverse, and the Thai people are diligent and consistent in their preservation efforts up to this day.
Religion plays an important role in their cultural identity; thus, you will see a lot of Buddhist and Hindu temples all over the country and many of them are so beautiful they are also considered tourist attractions. Here are some that are worth visiting.
The Grand Palace
The official residence of the Kings of Siam, The Grand Palace complex is one of the most-visited places in Bangkok. It was built in 1782, covering a total land area of 218,000 square meters. The entry fee to this palace is 500 baht for the tourists; Thais may enter free of charge.
My friend (this time it’s Christine) and I “attempted” to visit it, attempted being the operative word as we changed our mind when we saw just how many people were waiting in the ticket line. The photos below were taken on the front yard of the complex.
Note that you cannot enter the palace wearing shorts, miniskirts, or sleeveless tops. Christine was stopped at the entrance because she was wearing a sleeveless top. She had no choice but to buy a shirt just to get in. To think we only went as far as the front yard. So make sure that you are properly covered when you visit the palace.
Opening hours: Daily 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Entrance fee: 500 baht
Not wanting to completely waste our day, we transferred to Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply, Wat Arun. It is a Buddhist temple located at Bangkok Yai district. While the Grand Palace entrance fee will cost you an arm and a leg, you only need to pay 50 baht (about 83 pesos) to access Wat Arun.
And I tell you that small fee is so worth it because Wat Arun temples are beautiful beyond words. It has a central Khmer-style tower encrusted with colorful porcelain. It is surrounded by equally gorgeous four smaller prangs (tower). Also, it is not as busy as The Grand Palace.
Opening hours: Daily 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Entrance fee: 50 baht
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Also known as Maha Uma Devi Temple, is an Indian Hindu temple in Si Lom Road, Bangrak District. It is a stunning colorful architecture. It was built by an immigrant named, Vaithi Padayatchi in 1879. It’s only just a few minutes walk from Warm Window Hostel where were staying.
Eat in Thailand
If neither shopping nor temple-hopping excites you, this portion surely will. Thailand’s cuisine is world-renowned for a reason that skipping a food trip will be a sin. If you’re in any kind of diet, you will have to pause it while you are visiting Thailand, it’s how delectable their food is. Here are some of the places where you can find delicious food in Bangkok.
Cheaper and Better
I didn’t make up that name. Cheaper and Better is located along Si Lom, Suriya Wong. Just as the name implies, the food here is cheaper and better than some of the more expensive restos in Bangkok. You will eat al fresco, in what looks like a public market.
Food is cooked and served fast and they were yummy. I truly enjoyed the steamed chicken that I ordered.
Sukhumvit area used to be a haven for street food until the government tear down their stalls and forbid them from selling on the street again. Many vendors moved location, rented a space, or built their restaurants in front of their houses. One of these restaurants is Im Chan, which we found at Soi Sukhumvit 37.
In Thailand, you don’t have to go to posh restaurants to enjoy lip-smacking dishes. Im Chan looked like a regular turo-turo/eatery in the Philippines, yet the food betrays the resto’s not-so-pleasing interiors. The rice with shrimp and the pad thai were both bursting with flavor, I wanted to cry.
Mae Varee Fruit Shop
There is only one place I’d recommend you go to if you want to eat the popular Thai dessert, mango sticky rice. Mae Varee Fruit Shop can also be found at Sukhumvit and it sits just beside Im Chan. You can tell by the looks and the taste that they only use high-quality ingredients for their mango sticky rice. It comes with three flavors of sticky rice and coconut milk. You can also buy other products from this shop that you can take home as pasalubong to your family and friends.
Pad Thai Shophouse
It is always a good idea to eat where the locals go. Some Thai friends of Cai claimed that Pad Thai Shophouse is where we can have the best pad thai in Bangkok. We listened and they sure weren’t lying. The pad thai is ridiculously good that I just had to return the next day to eat it again. Aside from pad thai, they also offer oyster cake and thai milk tea.
If you have more budget, then go to the Ari area and dine at the Michelin star restaurant called Lay Lao. They specialize in seafood and northeastern street food. My most recommended dish here would be the tom yum. Their spicy and creamy take on this popular Thai dish is simply unforgettable.
This article is not enough to talk about all the amazing food that we’ve had in Bangkok, so I’ll make a separate post solely dedicated to that. Stay tuned.
Party at Khao San
I have a confession, I didn’t party. Cai and I just went there so I could experience it. Khao San is a long stretch of road lined with bars and restaurants on each side. Apparently, we were too early that people were still in the process of getting drunk when we arrived.
The area is quite touristy and aside from bars, there were street food, massage spas, and clothing stalls on the street. They say that if you want to go home wasted, this is the place to be. Unfortunately, I didn’t go home wasted, maybe on my next visit I will be.
I thought I might not like Bangkok because geographically, it looks quite similar to my country. After traveling many times, I thought I was done being impressed by things, but Bangkok broke my preconceived notions. Its tourism slogan, Amazing Thailand is highly justifiable. I have just been to Bangkok yet I only have nothing but good words for it, what more if I visited other parts of the country. This is why I am not yet done telling you all about it; this is just the beginning of my Bangkok series.