Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a magical city.
Too noisy, too polluted, too much of this or too much of it, Bangkok is often shunned by tourists. Yet this city has so much to offer. It is a city to tame, because in the middle of the intimidating “too much”, it is full of incredible things.
The proof is that all those who have taken the time to discover this city, tourists or expats, love it.
My life in Bangkok
On my first trip to Thailand, I saw Bangkok as an urban jungle. I did not expect so much modernity, buildings, malls and cars. I was surprised to discover a more modern city than the European capitals. Little by little, I realized that this city had a crazy energy. It was decided, I will return there.
Since then, I have been there three times, each time for a period of three months. I worked there, which allowed me to live there at the pace of locals. I took the time to get lost, to choose random streets, to visit the temples, experience the nightlife and devour the markets.
I discovered an incredible city. Yes, there are many cars and traffic jams. Then again, what does traffic in your city look like during rush hour? The density of traffic in Bangkok means that this city does not sleep. It is constantly moving. Everything is possible.
Temples and monuments
In Bangkok there are many temples to visit. I’ve visited most of them. Overall, they are not exceptional. If you skip them, it’s not a big deal. Attention, most temples close their doors around 4pm. If you want to see some, here are the ones I recommend.
- Golden Mountain: easy to access and the view is great.
- Wat Tephtidaram Worawihan and Loha Prasart: Just in front of the Golden Mountain, those temples are quite impressive. I like to have a walk there.
- Wat Arun: my favorite, the oldest, least touristy.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the backpacker’s district. This is not at all representative of Bangkok because it has nothing to do with the rest of the city. There are no Thais even living there.
The cool things about Khao San Road:
- Every night, there is a small market organized in the streets. It’s perfect to buy your last souvenirs.
- The neighborhood is relatively close to some temples and monuments.
- It’s full of bars and clubs of all kinds, and even clubs with Thai music. So if you want to sway your hips, you will always find a pub in Khao San Road.
- Finally, if this is the first trip of your life and the Thais frighten you, then rest assured, you will stay amongst white people on Khao San Road.
The non very cool things about Khao San Road:
- There are only white people who think they are the kings of the world.
- It’s far from the airport, so it will cost you a lot more money by taxi, without traffic jams. And it’s far from the coolest area of the city.
- It’s very noisy. There is a good chance that your room overlooks a night club, so do not expect to sleep early.
- The food is bad and more expensive than elsewhere. Fortunately, there are pharmacies.
If you really want to try the experience, I recommend sleeping at Ram Buttri Village. It is good value, even if the staff is infamous.
Sukhumvit is the name of a big avenue that runs through Bangkok’s economic district. It is on this road that you will experience the energy of the city. Modernity and tradition are juxtaposed. Beware, its effervescence can quickly exhaust.
Start your walk from the MBK. There you can fix the screen of your phone, of find a funny protection for it. Then walk to Siam Paragon through the little streets. It’s full of cool and funny shops. Once at the Siam, enjoy the food court or the 4D cinema. Anyway, there is always an event organised at the main entrance.
Little trick for girls: In the malls, the toilets are always clean!
Once the night falls, the street stalls are transformed to give way to another world, that of girls and men of joy, alcohol and sex. It should not be taken too seriously. The first time, I was very young, and to see as many whores per square meter shocked me. Then I realized that it was part of the decor, most girls have no choice, and ladyboys are receptive to good jokes. The main issue is all of those european guys who needs to empty there balls.
You can take things to the next level and watch a ladyboy show in Nana. It’s quite funny. Nevertheless, pay attention to your beer. It is not unusual to receive your bottle already opened, as they like to spike your drinks with amphetamines to turn you into a happier consumer.
Silom is another economic artery in Bangkok near Lumpini Park. Well, I personally prefer the dynamism of Sukhumvit. But this area is worth seeing as well. Despiste the Lumpini Park which is nice, I found the are of Silom darker than Sukhumvit,
If you dream of seeing a ping-pong show, you will find one here. Do not expect anything sexy. Women who do this have been pregnant several times.
Shopping in Bangkok
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise. Every time, I arrive with 2kg of luggage, and I leave with 25kg. You can buy everything for next to nothing.
- Malls: Some malls like Siam Paragon have only luxury boutiques of world famous brands. Others, such as Platinium in Sukhumvit, or Union Mall in Lad Prao, have only local brands and are much cheaper.
- Chatuchak Market is the most incredible market. It’s huge, you can find everything. It’s open every Saturday and Sunday. It is located at the terminus of the metro station MRT. It’s really worth experiencing.
- Train Market or Rot Fai Talat: Originally, this vintage market had settled in an abandoned station. Since then the traders have been dislodged, and the market has opened its doors elsewhere. There are 2 in the city, open every evening for Thursdays to Sundays. It’s the coolest market I’ve seen. Many people, and few tourists. The easiest one to access to is located one minute away from the exit of the station Thailand Cultural Center (MRT). Walk to the main Shopping Mall. The market is just behind.
- The Big C: It’s the Thai supermarket. You can find these everywhere. Every night, a small market opens up at the entrance. Nothing costs more than 100 baht.
Clubbing in Bangkok
In Bangkok, the evenings are quite incredible, and you are spoiled for choice.
To get off to a slow start, there are many restaurants or pubs where bands perform in the early evening or just a solo singer with his guitar.
Have a cocktail on a rooftop with a breathtaking view of the city. Several hotels offer these kinds of spots. This is one of the rare occasions when you will be asked to be dressed appropriately, and by that I mean men simply need to wear shoes (instead of flip flops) and long pants.
Finally, you can do one club after another. Most of the time, you can find a few in the same area. The most famous is « RCA ». There clubs are literally close to each other. You also can go to Thonglor Soi 10. There, I recommand the club Demo. These clubs are mainly attended by Thais so it’s much nicer than those where there are only white people and whores. Know that the more whites there are in a club, the more whores there will be. For lovers of electro music, head for the Glow.
If you want to experiment something untraditionnal, go to Maggie Choo’s. You can go there for a concert or for clubbing. You will not regret it.
In general, clubs close around 2-3am. Fortunately, there are some after party. As a bonus, there is a Mc Donald’s are open 24 hours a day, so go there straight to eat and avoid a hangover.
Where to sleep in Bangkok
I advise to book a luxury condo on Airbnb. These condos usually include a swimming pool, a gym, etc. From 30 euros per night, you can find great offers. You will meet even fewer tourists than in a hotel, and enjoy the same level of comfort. This can be an opportunity to meet locals.
Take a flat next to Thonglor or Ari subway. These are less dense neighborhoods than the center of Sukhumvit, accessible by subway, and very popular with young hipsters. It’s perfect for a local experience.
About hotels, I’ve heard good things about the Novotel on Sukhumvit.
Staying in the area of Sukhumvit is more interesting than Khao San Road because you will come across less tourists, and you have the advantage of having access to the subway.
There is no lack of nice hotels for a reasonable price. I have heard many good things about the Novotel.
Don’t follow the french Lonely Planet that recommand the Nana City Inn. Cause I did. And it’s a hotel for prostitution.
– The tuk-tuk: it’s a tourist scam. They are expensive, and they never drive you where you want.
– The metro: MRT or Skytrain, it’s clean, modern, fast, and cold.
– The taxi: it is the most common means of transport. The “Meter” is mandatory. If the driver refuses to turn on the meter, take another taxi. You won’t have to wait long to find one. When taking a taxi at the airport, they impose a charge of 50 baht.
– Motorcycle taxis: It is a practical way to cover small distances without experiencing traffic jams. They charge 5 baht per kilometer.
– The bus: It’s very local and ridiculously cheap. The problem is that buses are only used on major avenues, and it’s hard to find a bus plan.
– The boat: It is a means of common transport. It is used for Chao Praya from one bank to another, or on its tributaries, like a metro. It is inexpensive and typical.
Bangkok, I miss you
The best advice I can give for your stay in Bangkok is to let yourself go with the flow of the city as if you lived there. Do not try to do a lot of things in one day because the hyper dynamism of this city will exhaust you faster than you imagine. Especially since you are likely to already be tired after 12 hours of flight. So try to enjoy the city without getting tired. If you let yourself be carried away by the energy of this city, you will realize that it is magical.
If you want to experiment a real tradition life in Bangkok, I will give you the name of my favorite area in the world. There is no sightseeing to visit, but life is sweet, peaceful and beautiful.