Itinerary and travel tips for Bangkok
The city known to us as Bangkok, or how the Thai people refer to as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or popularly called Krung Thep (English – city of Angels), is a vibrant, bustling city, a city which never sleeps. Amidst the usual hustle bustle of city of this city, I found the beauty in its heritage. And of course the shopping opportunities for the shopaholics is another reason for visiting Bangkok.
Some interesting facts about the city
The major river within Bangkok “Chao Praya River” flows on the western Bank of Bangkok and flows with it the history of the city. I won’t dwell into the centuries old history, but let us say this strategic location of Bangkok was chosen by the visionary kings of Charki dynasty because of the safety city got because surrounded by water and the fertility and abundant fish the river had to offer. That is the reason you would see many of the charming temples of Bangkok located along this river.
Earlier the Bangkok city had many canals called “khlongs” which earned it a name “Venice of the east”, however most of these canals don’t exist now. And if you are interested to know how Bangkok got its name is because Bangkok was earlier a village (translated to bang in Thai) spread on both sides of this Chao Praya river, and this village had abundance of olives groves (called makok in Thai). And that is how this name was derived and is known all over the world. Now the modern Bangkok has become one of the most important commercial, entertainment, transport and administrative hub of Thailand.
The time we visited Bangkok, the city was in mourning period as the beloved king His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), the ninth King of the Chakri Dynasty who ascended to the throne on June 9, 1946 and was the world’s longest-reigning monarch, had passed away a week back. So we could see the people wearing black colors and the buildings hanging the black and white drapes. With all due respect to the departed soul, I would begin to guide you to the itinerary to follow on your trip to Bangkok.
Things to know before you start
1. As I mentioned earlier also in my Krabi post, if you need a Visa on arrival for Bangkok, please keep your passport size photo, Thai Bhats handy. With effect from Sep 2016, the Visa on Arrival fee has been increased from 1000 Bhat to 2000 Bhat per person, which in my opinion is quite expensive.
2. Bangkok has two airports, the Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Muang Airport (DMK). Both of the airports are almost equidistant from city centre. Our hotel was in Ratchaprarop area, so we took a metered taxi from Airport. Depending upon the traffic conditions the fares may vary, but I expect the fare should not be more than 300 Bhat for this destination. Our parents came from different airport than us, and the driver did not agree to go on a metered ride and made them pay 1000 Bhat for the same distance. So please insist the driver to go on a metered fare.
3. If you have come to Bangkok and want to explore the heritage of city, as well as do some shopping, this itinerary would suit best. The best way is to get a good map of the city, and select the places you want to visit. And accordingly you can plan your day. If you look at Bangkok’s map, there are numerous temples. And when time is short, you have no choice but selectively visiting the places based on your personal opinion, tastes and reviews.
4. Never ever trust any stranger in Bangkok trying to offer you a free advice, amazingly cheap price for some activity/vehicle/excursion. The city is full of people who try to play scams on the innocent tourists. We got a first hand experience of a man trying to play the scam on us, which we later came to know is quite common. And Sadly, many people fall prey and end up losing money.’
- If someone tries to tell you that today is some special scheme day that the gasoline is provided free from government and charge you low price for tuk tuk, or I have a friend who can take you on the river journey on a boat at lower price, or today is some special day where you don’t have to pay taxes for buying gems, please REFRAIN from taking that advice. These people will involve you in a series of dramatic events, where either you will end up visiting a gem store, or their tuk tuk will get malfunctioned and drop you in middle of nowhere or the river boat will stop in middle of river and you will pay additional thousands of Bhats just to make you way safely up on the land.
- If any local, driver uses the keywords like “Lucky Buddha, Big Buddha” and does the courtesy of even drawing these places on the map, please don’t listen to them. These are the hot spots where they have accomplices who will try to trick you into visiting places for buying gems, or tailored suits. They will claim these things are very cheap in Bangkok and you will be able to make huge amount of money in your country back while reselling. While infact, they are worthless.
- If your driver takes a toilet break, and all of a sudden a random stranger appears out of nowhere to give you a free advice, although seeming very welcoming and friendly, please again don’t listen. They will recommend you certain places to visit, for their own personal profit in some way.
- Never fall for the popular scam “Grand palace is closed, The XYZ temple is closed”. Please do not alter your plans to visit these places believing random people telling you this.
Day – 1 : Shopping Spree
We travelled along with our family. So we did not use public transportation. We travelled via metered taxi / haggled for a fixed taxi fare to travel around the city. But the city is well connected by metro aka BTS skytrain, and is a good option because traffic in Bangkok is really crazy. You are stuck in jams almost all the time.
One day for shopping in Bangkok is really not enough. So if you are here for abundant shopping, you can spend as many days as you like and shop till you drop!
So we started our day by visiting the Pratunam market. This is a big multi-storey building, and you will find a wide array of clothing for everyone. And the prices are very reasonable. And if you are planning to buy more quantity, they will offer you a cheaper price. Generally if we agree to buy more than 3 pieces, they would offer a discounted wholesale price.
Opposite the Pratunam market is Platinum fashion mall.And in contrast to what comes in our mind when we hear the word mall, this mall in more like an air conditioned street market. Lot of varieties of clothing, bags, fashion accessories, makeup etc at affordable prices.
In addition you may also visit the MBK mall. On our way to MBK mall in a taxi, we saw numerous other malls also. The whole road was surrounded by shopping malls. It is hard to choose where to go and where not. And yet again, even in MBK mall the concept of shopping is same like Platinum fashion mall.
After this we visited the Asiatic The Riverfront, and to our surprise we found the most unique and beautiful clothes here. Apart from shopping, this location is beautifully located near the Chao Praya river and variety of entertainment options are available. The Calypso Ladyboy show also happens here. And the food options are unlimited just like a giant food court offering different cuisines.
If you are visiting Bangkok on a weekend, then you should definitely visit the grand Chatuchak market sprawled across 35 acres and all your shopping needs will be answered.
Day – 2 : Exploring the city heritage
I cannot recommend any definitive guide for visiting the temples in Bangkok as there are temples aka Wats all around the city. However there are certain few which everyone recommends and are more popular. So I would suggest to get a city map, and mark the temples you would want to visit, and plan your route accordingly. To know about the historical significance of each of these temples, I would recommend buying a book before visiting (Many book options available online). It will make your visit even more worthwhile.
Some of the temples I would recommend to visit are
1. Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn : It is located along the western bank of Chao Praya river and gives an amazing view during sunset as the temple lights up. To reach this temple by public transport, take a boat from Central Pier (on the exit of Saphan Taksin BTS station) and get down at Pier 8. Here take another shuttle boat costing 3 Bhat which takes you across the river and that is where the temple stands majestically.
2. Wat Pho or Temple of Reclining Buddha : This temple is located next to Grand Palace and is one of the most visited temple. The entry fee is 100 Bhats. You can also opt to get a relaxing Thai massage here.
3. Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of Emerald Buddha : It is located inside the Royal Grand Palace, so you need to pay 400 Bhats and can visit both the royal palace and the temple. The closing time is 15:30.
4. Wat Saket or Golden Mountain : In order to reach the top, you need to take around 300 small steps, surrounded by beautiful sculptures on the sides. The entrance fee is 20 Bhats.
5. Wat Benchamabophit or Marble Temple : Adorned with white Italian marble all over in the ordination hall, entrance as well as the large courtyard. I felt immense peace and definitely recommend. The entrance fee is 20 Bhats.
6. Wat Suthat and Wat Trimt : We did not get time to visit these temples but are of the recommended temples to visit in Bangkok.
After finishing with the temple tour, and exhausted, we strolled down to “Khao San Road” , famous for inexpensive bars, eateries, shopping, massage parlors. Some also refer to this road as the backpacking street. While my parents relaxed in a foot massage, I took an opportunity to devour the traditional Phad Thai noodle from street vendors. If you are feeling low on protein, you can also find vendors selling scorpions, many kinds insects and worms 😉
Day – 3 : Around Bangkok
You can opt to spend one day around Bangkok and have several options. For me two of the most attractive options are
- Khao Yai National Park : If you are interested in wildlife, and want to feel closer to nature away from hustle of the city, you can plan a one day trip to this national park, taking around 2.5 hours to reach by a private taxi.
- Pattaya : Or if a beach visit is your fix, then head to Pattaya, taking only 1.5-2 hours to reach by a private taxi. Spend one night in Pattaya and you will have ample time to explore. We visited Pattaya and I would recommend you not to miss the following
- Tiffany’s cabaret Show : An one hour long theme based dance show, depicting the major cultures around Asia.
- Sanctuary of Truth : A splendid wooden temple being built on the ocean front, an architecture of its kind
I hope you will find some important tips before planning your trip to Bangkok. On a closing remark, while in Bangkok or Pattaya, you will find an Indian restaurant at every corner. In fact there are more Indian restaurants than Thai ones 😉 We really enjoyed our vacation and loved every aspect of what Thailand had to offer.