I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting Bangkok to be like, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. (If that makes any sense at all.) I guess I was expecting it to be more… Asian. Turns out that it’s a highly Westernized, cosmopolitan city that often feels a lot like somewhere in Europe or North America. At the same time though, everywhere you look there are beautiful, intricate Buddhist temples and other architectural wonders that could only be found in Asia. In short, I found Bangkok to be a nice balance between East and West.
My first full day in Bangkok was a Sunday, so I decided to visit the Chatuchak weekend market. Apparently it’s the largest weekend market in the world, and I kept reading over and over that it’s an absolute must-visit when in Bangkok.
The market certainly is large, with vendors selling nearly everything you could ever want. It would be impossible to walk down every aisle in a day. I’m not sure that I would want to though, to be honest, since after a while all of the stalls start to look the same. I wouldn’t classify Chatuchak market as an absolute must-see, but if you happen to be in Bangkok on a weekend you might as well check it out.
What I would classify as a must-see is Bangkok’s most popular tourist attraction, the Grand Palace. It’s the city’s #1 most visited sight for a reason. I know nothing about architecture, but I can say without a doubt that the buildings that make up the temple complex here are exquisite. You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around and gazing in awe at the amazing craftsmanship on display. The price of admission is surprisingly steep (500 baht in January 2018, which is $20CAD), but I think it’s worth it. After all, you won’t have to pay that much for anything else in Bangkok!
Right beside the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, another one of Bangkok’s most famous temples. You might as well visit both temples on the same day, since they’re so close to each other. Like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a thing of incredible beauty.
Wat Arun, a third famous temple, is located directly across the river from Wat Pho. You can travel between the two via a very short and very cheap ferry ride. Keep in mind, however, that temple-hopping can be quite exhausting in Bangkok’s unrelenting heat. After seeing the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, I was too hot, sweaty, and tired to face the task of touring yet another temple, so I decided to save Wat Arun for the next day. I’m glad I saw all three temples though, because they’re all different and all stunning. Here’s Wat Arun for you:
If you feel like you need some green space after all that temple-hopping, take a stroll through Lumphini Park. It’s got a picturesque lake, a fancy clock tower, lots of cute stray cats, and even a population of monitor lizards!
Another worthwhile activity is taking a stroll through the city’s Chinatown. If markets are your thing, make sure you check out Sampeng Lane market. It’s a refreshingly untouristy attraction in a touristy city.
Chinatown is also home to Wat Traiwit, which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue. It’s worth paying the 40 baht fee to pop inside and take a look. This thing weighs 5.5 tons!
As for nightlife, I’m sure you’ve heard about Khao San Road. Well, I can affirm that it’s just as crazy as you could hope, every night of the year. I had a couple of really great nights here, dancing in the street with people from my hostel. Don’t even think about missing a night out on Khao San Road if you visit Bangkok. I didn’t take any pictures of the street at night because I was too busy enjoying myself, but just know that it is LIT. Here’s what it looks like during the day:
Before I left for my trip, somebody told me that six days was too long to spend in Bangkok. I completely disagree with this; I felt like six days was a decent amount of time to spend there, but one more day would have been perfect. I had meant to take at least two day trips outside the city, but found that there was so much to do in Bangkok that I only had time for one. I chose to go to Erawan National Park, and I highly recommend anyone who visits Bangkok to do the same. The park’s claim to fame is its hiking trail that winds past seven tiers of waterfalls, each of them unique and absolutely gorgeous. If getting pretty Instagram photos is important to you, you should definitely visit Erawan National Park.
Getting to the park from Bangkok is easy, but just be aware that it makes for a loooooooong day trip. I left my hostel at 6:30AM and didn’t get back to the bus station in Bangkok until after 8:00PM. And I only spent three hours in the park. In order to get there, take a taxi to Bangkok’s southern bus station, Sai Tai Mai. From there, take a bus or a minivan to Kanchanaburi. (I took a minivan and it took just over two hours to get to Kanchanaburi. On the way back to Bangkok at the end of the day, I took a bus and the journey lasted 3.5 hours. Both the minivan and the bus cost me 100 baht each way.) When you arrive at the bus station in Kanchanaburi, take another bus straight to Erawan park (1.5 hours, 50 baht). Don’t worry about needing to figure out which bus to take, either in Bangkok or Kanchanaburi — the second you step out of your taxi or bus, you will be approached by people asking you where you are going, and they will point to the bus you need to take. Just buy a ticket from the ticket stand right in front of the bus and get on. Easy peasy.
There you have it. Bangkok is a great city that I liked a lot more than I thought I would. Tourism is huge there, so you can expect to find all the Western comforts that you’re used to at home. The city is crawling with backpackers from Europe, Australia, and North America, so you’ll meet plenty of people to have fun with.
Next stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand!