Welcome to Bangkok! This is a bustling city with all sorts of adventures and activities to get yourself into. It can be intimidating and chaotic but give it a little time and you may feel right at home.
On your way to and from our Rivers and Dzongs of Bhutan trips you will travel through Bangkok. It is nice to schedule a day or two on the front end of your trip to adjust to the time zone, explore the city, and begin to enjoy your vacation. It can also be nice to plan a day or two in Bangkok after your trip as well. It is a great hub if you are planing to continue your vacation somewhere else or you just want to relax before a long plane ride home.
Here are some tips, advice, and ideas on how to get around and what to do in Bangkok.
Transportation from the Airpot
Bangkok can be intimidating from the moment you step off the plane. How am I going to get to my hotel? Will I spend too much? Where do I find a taxi? Just outside the Bangkok airport is an official taxi stand with fair prices. Just follow the official taxi signs once you leave immigration and customs. You may be approached by taxi drivers in the airport - I suggest going to the official taxi stand.
You can also take the BTS Skytrain from the airport to downtown Bangkok. Follow the Skytrain signs to the first floor of the airport where you will find an automatic ticket machine. Grab a map of the city here it will be useful for the rest of our adventure. Tickets are about a dollar and this is a great option during high traffic times. You will probably have to get a taxi from the end of the Skytrain to get to your hotel.
Getting around Bangkok
One way to get about a portion of the city is the BTS Skytrain. It is cheap and fast, especially during heavy traffic. However it doesn't go to all sections of the city so it may require a ride via Tuk Tuk or taxi to get exactly where you want to go. The Skytrain can be a bit confusing but once you figure it out it's quick, inexpensive, and fun!
You can also take a Tuk Tuk but be prepared to barter a bit for a lower fare or a trip with zero stops. Some Tuk Tuk drivers have connections with shops around town and get a little kickback when people they bring spend money. Tuk Tuks are a good option if traffic is light or you are going a short distance.
Taxis are pretty much everywhere in Bangkok and fairly inexpensive. I would avoid taxis during rush hour when gridlock is common.
Sukhumvit Road is one of the major arteries in the busy part of town. It is filled with shops, tailors, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and much more. Off Sukhumvit Road are the famous side streets called Soi (pronounced soy). One side you will find all the even numbers Sois and on the other all of the odd numbers. This part of Bangkok is a great place to find mid price to high end hotels. We suggest the mid price Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 on Soi 11. From Sukhumvit Road it's farily easy to reach other parts of the city via taxi, Sky Train, Tuk Tuk, walking, or a combination of them all.
Khoa San Road
Khoa San Road has been a backpackers hub for decades. Home to a slew of outdoor bars, street vendors, and reasonably priced guest houses. The street closes to traffic at night, becoming a vibrant street filled with people, trinket vendors, and any type of food you can imagine. This is a great place to explore for a for a bit in the evening or a great place to stay if you are traveling on a budget. The BTS Skytrain gets close, so get a taxi or Tuk Tuk to get all of the way there.
You will notice many stalls serving up hot pad thai, make sure to get a plate! You will also see trays of bugs on a stick if you think you are ready to munch on a scorpion.
River Boat Taxi
On the West side of Bangkok there a lot to see but no Skytrain but the Chao Phraya River is a great way to travel about this part of town. There are a handful of different boat taxis from small long tail (long canoe looking boats with canopy and extra long propeller shaft) to large tourist boats that offer commentary about the historic sites. For a small fee (~5 dollars) you can get an all day pass on the tourist boat that goes up and down the river and stops at many of the major sites.
Amazing Wats (Temples)
Wat Arun, also called the Temple of Dawn, is named after the Hindu god of dawn, Aruna. The temple has been in existence since the 17th century with the iconic prang, or spire, being added in the early 19th century by King Rama II.
Wat Pho is the temple famously know as Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The entire complex is one of Bangkok's largest and oldest wats, existing before Bangkok was named the capital city by King Rama I. The famous Reclining Buddha was built in 1832 by King Rama III and represents the Buddha's entry in Nirvana. Wat Pho is worth a visit but can be crowded.
The Grand Palace is an icon not only of Bangkok but Thailand as a whole. When King Rama I was crowned in 1782, he moved the capital city to Bangkok, and began construction of the Grand Palace to exceed the grandeur of the former capital. The palace served as a home for the Royal Family until 1946. Now it is used for state occasions and ceremonies. Thailand's most sacred Buddha image, Emerald Buddha, lives at the Grand Palace in Wat Phra Kaew. People come to pray to the statue to earn spiritual merit for a better rebirth in the next life.
One of Zach's favorite activities is checking out a movie. There are a handful of options but Siam Paragon Mall is right off the green Sky Train line, and is home to our favorite theater, Paragon Cineplex.
- ~$10 gets you into a regular old movie
- ~$15 gets you into the IMax
- ~$20 gets you into the 4D screen (this is a 3D movie with the 4th D being seats that move along with the action of the movie and spurts of air whizzing by your face)
- ~$30 gets you into the fancy theater with deluxe comfort seats, a pre-movie message, mid movie ice cream
- ~$100 gets you into the Enigma Screen. We haven't tried this one out yet so if you do please let us know what it is all about
Bangkok is known for it's nightlife and bar/club scene. You will be able to find everything from a casual drink, to almost anything you can imagine. Do some research and go crazy.
There are food vendors up and down the streets of Bangkok. From small snacks, to full meals you can really get a taste of popular and local dishes. Street food can be intimidating but also be the best food you find. Don't eat food that looks like it has been sitting out. Long lines are a hint that it is good and chances are you will get something hot out of the fryer or off the grill.
There are many tailor shops for both men and women. Skilled tailors, with a huge variety of fabrics and styles, you can have just about anything custom made. Giving the tailors enough time to get your order done can be the tricky part. Get your order in before heading to Bhutan and it will be ready to pick up when you return.
Bangkok is a bustling city with so much going on at all times. Try not to get too overwhelmed by all the traffic and people walking about. Go out and explore the beautiful architecture, cruise around in a Tuk Tuk, and try some new and interesting street foods.
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