I planned Bangkok for the end of my two-week stay in Thailand in December 2017. It made sense as I anyway had to be there, to take my flight back to London. I was very excited because I was going to visit the famous Thai capital. I heard conflicting stories about Bangkok. Some people described it as a magnificent city, while the others recommended that I skip it altogether. As I was in Thailand the most natural thing for me was to visit it, at least for several days. I believe that most capital cities deserve to be seen, at least once.
I took the Air Asia flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. Because of last minute changes in my travel schedule, that I described in my previous posts, I booked this flight only a week earlier. I paid slightly more than what I paid months before, at the time when I was organising this trip. In Europe, when you buy a flight this close to travel you usually pay an extortionately expensive price. It was great that I could rearrange my travel schedule at such short notice and without being ripped off. This reaffirms why Thailand is so popular – there is value for money!
My flight arrived to Dong Mueang International Airport which is the second Bangkok airport. This airport is primarily the main hub for low cost airline companies. From there, I took a taxi to the hotel. The cost, including the motorway toll, was around 350 baht.
A word of warning if you arrive to this airport – I collected my luggage and exited to the arrivals area. A woman approached me shouting “taxi, taxi”. She escorted me to what looked like a genuine taxi kiosk. A different woman asked me the name of my hotel and quoted a price of 950 baht. Having spent nearly two weeks in Thailand I was starting to have a good idea of how much things cost and that price seemed excessively high. I simply walked away and went to the regular taxi station.
I suspect that a lot of people fall in this trap. While I believe that it wasn’t a scam, there is simply no reason to pay so much money for a totally unnecessary luxury transfer from the airport. So, make sure that you get a regular taxi from this airport. There is no rail service and I wouldn’t consider buses.
I stayed in the Clover Asoke hotel near Sukhumvit metro station. It was my first time in Bangkok and I chose this hotel because it was in the area of the city with a lot of hotels. It was also 5 minutes walk from the metro station. In my opinion, the proximity of public transport is crucial when you decide where to stay in Bangkok.
What do I think about Bangkok? The city is a very hard work. I was in Bangkok for two and a half days and managed to see only a fraction of what I intended to see. The rapid public transport system covers only a small part of the city. The alternative is to use taxis or tuk-tuks. But, with the traffic in Bangkok that’s not really an option unless you fancy sitting stuck in horrendous traffic jams for ages. The traffic in Bangkok is relentless!
– China Town – I started my tour of Bangkok by visiting China Town first, in the late afternoon and the evening of my first day. China Town is along Yaowarat and Chareon Krung roads and it encompasses the whole area in between. It is lively, colourful and full of very stimulating sounds and smells. The problem was that both these roads were very busy with traffic. The noise and the pollution were almost unbearable. It was impossible to sit and eat in any of the restaurants on these two roads although other people didn’t mind. However, you can find a restaurant in any of the quieter side streets where there is almost no traffic. Keep in mind that because of the heat you want to be outside.
The following day, I went to see Wat Pho and The Grand Palace – these two historical sites are next to each other. The problem was getting there. I took the blue metro line to Hua Lamphong stop – which was also the last stop on the line. From there, I walked for approximately 1 hour along Chareon Krung road until I arrived to Wat Pho. Had it not been for the heavy traffic it would have been a lovely experience. There were so many interesting shops and markets along the way selling things that you can’t even imagine.
I arrived to Wat Pho totally exhausted. I could consider taking a taxi or a tuk-tuk from the metro station. But, the traffic was so heavy that I am sure that I arrived faster walking.
– Wat Pho – is one of the largest temples in Bangkok. It is famous because of the giant Reclining Buddha. The sculpture is 46m long and covered in gold leaf. The temple is very big and you need at least 2 hours to see everything properly. There were a lot of people in the temple of the Reclining Buddha, perhaps far too many to enjoy. There were fewer people in other parts of temple which were much more pleasant to visit.
– The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew– are surely Bangkok’s most famous and most outstanding landmarks. The Grand Palace was built in 1782. The Thai King and the Royal Court used it as their home and it also served as the administrative seat of the government for 150 years.
Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is also within the palace complex. The palace complex is still used for various ceremonial events. This really is the most important site that you should see in Bangkok. But, there were so many tourists when I was there that it was nearly impossible to move around. I did not enjoy that visit at all! I rushed through and could not wait to escape eventually.
The entrance was expensive – 500 baht. Perhaps, it may be less busy when you visit but be prepared for a similar experience. Bangkok is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. One consequence of such popularity is too many tourists everywhere.
You will need to be totally covered to get into the palace complex, no t-shirts, no shorts, no bare feet. It is possible to rent an appropriate attire in shops opposite the main entrance. If you are not properly dressed you will not get in.
– The New Rot Fai Market – is in the Ratchada area of Bangkok. To get there, take a metro to Cultural Centre station. The market is right behind a big shopping centre. I went to this market in the evening, after my visit to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. It was open until late and there were many places that were offering various Thai delicacies. I enjoyed walking along the narrow lanes between numerous colourful stalls. I also had a nice dinner and a drink before returning to the hotel. Getting to this market is easy because it is close to the metro station. However, if you stay after 11pm, you will have to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to get back to your hotel.
– The Chatuchak Market – I spent the morning of my last day in Bangkok by the swimming pool, on the roof of my hotel. That particular day was very hot. In the afternoon, I took the skytrain to the Chatuchak Market. Apparently it is the largest weekend market in Asia. It is well connected and it is very easy to get there. Apart from the skytrain, you can get there by metro or alternatively numerous busses go there too. Indeed the market is very big and very interesting. I suggest that you visit it during your stay in Bangkok. There are many places where to eat. The market was very busy and despite its size it was perfectly manageable.
If you have never been to Bangkok I think that you can choose to spend several days in that bustling city. Although I did not manage to see many things that I wanted to see. I wasted a lot of time moving from one part of the city to another.
Shanghai and Beijing are much bigger cities, but because of their superb infrastructure you can move around very fast and you can cover a lot in one day. That is not possible in Bangkok.
Would I go back? I don’t know, I am not so sure right now, I will decide at the time when I go back to Thailand.