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 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 had 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 a short notice and without being ripped off. This reaffirms why Thailand is so popular – there is value for money!
ARRIVAL TO BANGKOK
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 seemed like a genuine taxi kiosk. Then, a different woman asked 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 the 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 an area 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 TO SEE IN 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!
I started my tour of Bangkok by first visiting China Town, in the late afternoon and in the evening of my first day. China Town is along Yaowarat and Chareon Krung roads and it encompasses the whole area in between. It’s lively, colourful and full of very stimulating sounds and smells. But, the problem was that both roads were very busy with heavy traffic. The noise and the pollution were unbearable. It was impossible to sit and eat in any of restaurants on these two roads although other people didn’t mind. However, you can find a restaurant in one of the quieter side streets where there is almost no traffic. Keep in mind that because of the heat you want to be outside.
WAT PHO AND THE GRAND PALACE
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 – the last stop on the line. From there, I walked for approximately one 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 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’ve considered taking a taxi or a tuk-tuk from the metro station. But, the traffic was very heavy. I am sure that I arrived faster walking.
Wat Pho is one of the largest temples in Bangkok. It’s famous because of the giant Reclining Buddha. The sculpture is 46m long and it’s covered in gold leaf. This temple is very big and you need at least two hours to see everything properly. There were a lot of people in the temple of the Reclining Buddha, perhaps too many to enjoy. But, there were fewer people in other parts of temple which were consequently much more pleasant to visit.
THE GRAND PALACE AND WAT PHRA KAEW
Surely, the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are 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 historical site that you should see in Bangkok. But, there were so many tourists when I was there, it was nearly impossible to move around. I didn’t enjoy the visit, I rushed through and I couldn’t wait to escape.
The entrance was expensive – 500 baht. If you are lucky, perhaps it might be less busy when you visit, but be prepared for the similar experience. Bangkok is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The main consequence of such popularity is too many tourists everywhere.
You will need to be totally covered to enter the palace complex, which means no t-shirts, no shorts, no bare feet. It is possible to rent appropriate attire in shops opposite the main entrance. If you are not properly dressed, you will not enter the palace complex.
The New Rot Fai Market is in the Ratchada area of Bangkok. To get there, you can take a metro to Cultural Centre station. The market is exactly behind a big shopping centre. I went there in the evening, after my visit to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. The market was open until late and there were many food stalls that were offering various Thai delicacies. I enjoyed my walk along the narrow lanes of the market. Also, I had a nice dinner and a drink before returning to the hotel. But, getting to this market was easy because it is close to the metro station. However, if you remain in the market after 11pm, you will have to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk back to your hotel.
I spent the morning of my last day in Bangkok by the swimming pool, on a 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’s well connected, which means that it is very easy to get there. Apart from the Skytrain, you can also get there by metro. 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. You will also find many places where you can have something to eat. It was very busy although, despite its size, it was perfectly manageable.
If you have never been to Bangkok, I think that you can certainly stay in this bustling city for several days. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to see many things that I had originally planned 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 quickly and you can cover a lot in one day. That’s not possible in Bangkok.
Would I go back? I don’t know, right now I am not so sure, I will have to decide at the time when I go back to Thailand.