24 August 2016

Bangkok: My Experience | Guide & Tips

Thailand was my first proper foreign country I travelled to, and it was a life-changing experience. I had only been to Australia twice before- and although I enjoyed travelling there to a new country and visiting new cities and places, it wasn't much of a difference as it is so similar to my own country New Zealand (except a lot warmer!).

Bangkok was my first taste of a world so completely different from my own.
It was this trip that truly solidified my wanderlust and passion for travelling and learning about different places and cultures.
My partner Gareth and I travelled to Thailand for three weeks around three contrasting areas of the country. The entire trip was an incredible experience and I have been wishing to return ever since I left.

In this post I will run through a brief overview of our trip including the main highlights and activities we got up to, followed by some travel tips for first timers to Bangkok/Thailand.
Coming soon will be two similar posts on the other places we visited- Chiang Mai (in Northern Thailand) and Koh Samui (an island).


A bustling and vibrant city, full of coloured taxis, tuktuks and motorbikes going in all directions. It was very hot and sticky (we went in early February) and you had to shower twice a day (because your feet get pretty dirty as well walking around the streets).
But it was a real experience, as I mentioned it was such an eye-opener.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at CityPoint Hotel in Klongtoey and we both really liked it. It was clean, modern and in a great location- very close to shops and near a Skytrain stop.
The service was also great and the front desk staff were very helpful with suggestions on nearby restaurants. I would definitely recommend this hotel to others. It cost about $80 (NZD) a night.
Obviously you can stay in a lot cheaper places in Bangkok but we were also on holiday and had worked hard to save for our trip- so we did want to stay in fairly comfortable places.

What we did:

Wat Pho. We visited the oldest temple in Bangkok (also known as 'Temple of the reclining Buddha'). The architecture of the buildings and sculptures were incredible.

Chatuchak weekend market. We spent a few hours at the largest market in Thailand. There were so many stalls and everything was a very good price. I got my first taste of bartering (but I pretty much just let Gareth take the reigns!).
I also tried my very first Mango Sticky Rice there which became my favourite new lunch meal in Thailand!

Grand PalaceWe took a boat along the Chao Phraya River and stopped off near the Grand Palace. It was one of the most incredible places I had ever seen!
Everywhere you looked was so magnificent and beautiful, and we had a very enjoyable afternoon walking around the palace grounds.
(I also remember it was a sweltering hot 45 degrees Celcius and wearing a thick sarong wrapped around my legs made it even hotter!).

Thai massage. We treated ourselves to a traditional Thai massage. Let's just say I'm still scarred by that experience HA!

'Ladyboy' Show. We ventured out one night and saw a ladyboy show- because when in Thailand. We weren't allowed to take photos but that's okay- I don't think it's something I'll ever forget! It was... colourful and entertaining!

Shopping. Quite a bit of shopping was done as we took advantage of the great prices! We explored many big markets and several of Bangkok's giant malls. Even proper labelled shops such as Converse were half the price than back at home (I stocked up on my shoes and clothes!). It was also nice to be inside in the air conditioning for a while.

Sky Bar. We went to the world's highest open rooftop bar. (63 floors high!).
The view was pretty cool but as it was slightly smoggy and my camera wasn't the best back then none of my pictures turned out very good.
It's free to catch the lift up but the drinks are very expensive for Bangkok- our cocktails were $25 NZD each (so I only had one!) but it was worth it for the view.

Khao San Road. One evening we visited the notorious 'K Road'. Not for the faint-hearted. No we didn't go see a 'ping-pong show'! We just had a couple of beers sitting outside a bar and people-watched. Saw some... uh, very interesting 'going-ons'...

Explored. Mostly we just explored. We walked a lot, rode tuktuks, enjoyed the food and the awesome cheap prices of beer! Gareth even got a three-piece suit tailored and made up for him because the price and quality of that is very good in Bangkok.

Ways to get around:

Skytrain, or the 'BTS'- Bangkok Mass Transit System is a fast and reliable way to get around. The maps are in English as well and it's easy to navigate.
It only costs 20 baht per trip for an unlimited distance or you can get other group tickets if you are staying for a while.

Taxis are everywhere and a convenient way to get around. Have your destination written down as many drivers don't speak English well. Also make sure to run by the metre and say no to price negotiations- you will be ripped off.
The fare should start at 35 baht and it stays there for the first 2 kilometres. Typical trips around a few km's are usually 50 Baht.

TukTuks are an experience to be had while in Thailand, however I would recommend it for shorter trips only and try not to go during rush-hour traffic- the fumes from the other cars on top of the smog is pretty bad. (You can see why many locals drive around on their motorbikes with masks covering their mouths).
Unlike taxis, the driver will give you a price depending on where you want to go, the time of day- and what mood they're in! They usually have a 'special ' price for foreigners, but you can try barter them down to something reasonable if they want too much, otherwise just walk away and find someone else. A very short trip should cost 30 baht.

River boats are a great way to get around. You can view many temples and great architecture from the river and hop off to many attractions as you please.
There are several kinds of boats offering different services- express boats that only stop at the main piers, ferries that only cross the river (3 baht), river boats that go up and down the river stopping everywhere (10 baht), as well as plenty of tourist boats and river cruises.

Where we ate:

I can't remember the names of most places (as this was nearly 4 years ago), but one restaurant in particular I do remember was called Cabbages & Condoms- and it was recommended by our hotel. It was excellent and a very unique experience!
There were sculptures made out of condoms- but it was still a nice place! We sat in a lovely outdoor garden area filled with pretty fairy lights and the food was all fresh and delicious.
The best part was the incredibly cheap prices. We had a three-course meal each plus cocktails and I remember it only cost us around $20 NZD in total- I couldn't believe it!

Our entrees

We did a mixture of eating at places recommended by Trip Advisor as well as eating at local mall food courts, pop-up restaurants on the street and of course eating street food!
I absolutely loved the Thai food so that gets a whole category to itself!:

Thai food you must try!
You simply cannot go to Thailand without trying the following:

Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles)
Gaeng Daeng (Red curry)
Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green curry)
Tom Kah Kai (Chicken in coconut soup)
Mango sticky rice (sweet coconut rice with fresh mango)
Tom Yum Goong (Spicy shrimp soup)
Khao Pad (fried rice)

Travel Tips

As mentioned always agree on a price before getting in a TukTuk and make sure the Taxi is metred.
If the driver asks to take you to a 'special place' that not many tourists know about- say no thanks. Many drivers get paid a commission if they take you to certain places such as jewellery and suit-making stores.
Be aware of pickpockets and keep your belongings close to you.

Respect the culture
Don't touch a Thai person on the head, it is sacred to them. Don't kiss in public.
Try not to raise your voice and get angry- the Thai are very placid people. A smile will get you a long way.
Shoulders and knees must be covered to visit and enter the temples.

Enjoy the food and beer
It will be better than you expect. You haven't really tried Thai food until you get to Thailand! It is abundant, high quality and astoundingly cheap. But to avoid certain stomach upsets- eat where there are crowds and if you see locals eating there. A faster turnover means fresher food.
It's the original home of pop-up restaurants. Every night the footpaths of Bangkok's major thoroughfares become pop-up dining rooms as food vendors set up shop, complete with plastic tables and rickety stools. Do as the locals do and join the budget feast.
Enjoy the cheap local beer. Be aware that Singha is 6% and Chang a whopping 7%.

Enjoy the shopping
Shopping along with eating are two national pass-times! There are at least 25 new malls under construction in Bangkok alone. Get some relief from the heat and enjoy the air conditioning and reasonable prices.
From the markets you will find a lot of fakes and knock-offs, but there are plenty of well-priced authentic brands in the malls.
Make sure you barter in the markets- the first price you're quoted should come down by at least a third.

Always carry hand sanitizer and tissues with you everywhere. The majority of public toilets do not provide toilet paper or soap. Also public toilets are quite rare, so use them when you can at meal breaks- in restaurants and bars, and you can find them at the larger malls.

Drink only bottled water as well as brush your teeth with it. You can buy them for very cheap so stock up with as many litres as you can when you first arrive and have a smaller bottle to refill when you go out and about. Stay hydrated as it is a very hot and humid city year round.

To be honest the traffic is pretty terrible and dangerous. Thailand has a horrifying road safety record- with 80 lives lost every day. They pretty much don't abide by any road rules and first in first served! So be careful. Definitely do not cross a road without using a safety crossing or traffic lights.

Get Vaccinated
It is extremely advised to be vaccinated before going to Thailand. Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid are common boosters. You can get these done by your doctor.
Also it's a good idea to pack insect repellent with you to avoid pesky mosquito bites.

Final Thoughts:

I saw things that shocked me to my core. I saw things that even made me cry (I was pretty young back then!). But that didn't stop me from enjoying my trip.
If you are travelling there for the first time yourself and you've never been somewhere like it before- just realise that it is very much a poor country and there is a lot of poverty on the streets- many homeless people, beggars and uh... limbless people, babies on the ground only lying on newspapers... I could go on.
But even so I have never met a more genuinely smiley and happy people. I was blown away by their beautiful culture and kindness towards us tourists.
I never had any trouble or concerns with safety issues.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and Bangkok is forever etched in my memory as the discovery of my desire to travel to far and wide places of the earth, and I am so grateful to have been able to experience Thailand and all of its differences.

Bangkok is the gateway to the rest of Thailand and to be honest my next destination after that- Chiang Mai- I loved twice as much.
Stay tuned for my Chiang Mai and then Koh Samui post coming soon!

Thanks for reading, do leave me a comment if you are planning on going to Bangkok soon or if you have any other tips and recommendations to add!

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  1. I have yet to visit Thailand but Bangkok would definitely be my first stop! I'm a city girl. This is a great guide, thanks for sharing :)

  2. What an amazing experience! Your pictures are gorgeous! Bangkok is definitely on my bucket list.

  3. Would love to see Bangkok! Thanks for all the great tips!

  4. Gorgeous photos!

  5. Pad thais and Thai massages are my favorite! I'm glad you had a great time.

  6. I would just eat mango sticky rice ALL THE TIME!

  7. Bangkok would be an amazing place to visit, we hope to see it later this year when we do a bit of a tour around Asia.

  8. This is such a thorough guide to traveling Bangkok! Thanks for sharing!

    Sondra Barker
    Pretty Fit Foodie

  9. In the world of backpacking (or travelling in general!) Thailand is absolutely legendary! Thank you for sharing - It's on my list!

    Stephanie | theFantasia.com

  10. I absolutely love Thailand. Since moving to New Zealand we go back basically every year and it's so nice and like you said the shopping is great!!
    Kathy x

  11. Loved it! This will be super helpful for my upcoming Bangkok trip.


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