Thursday, July 26, 2018

Bangkok Thailand Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

After spending a relaxing few days on the beaches of Phuket and swimming in our private pool at the beautiful Wyndham Sea Pearl Resort, I felt somewhat revitalized and ready to take on Thailand’s bustling capital city.

Bangkok has been featured in many films but the media often depicts the city as grungy, noisy and overcrowded. If you believe everything you see on TV you may get the impression that Bangkok is teeming with prostitution, run down street markets and soliciting “ladyboys” but the city is so much more than its seedy underworld. I did notice some questionable public behavior but no more than I see in Toronto and there is so much beauty to discover!

After a terrible cab ride with a driver who had no idea where he was going, I arrived at the spacious Rembrandt Hotel conveniently located near public transit. If you’re looking for an awesome budget-friendly destination, Bangkok is the place to be! There are skyscrapers as far as the eye can see and an abundance of great hotels in all price ranges. It is obvious why this destination is so enticing to travelers. You can live large with very little money and indulge in delicious meals for less than a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.

The best thing about the Rembrandt (aside from the magnificent rooftop view and amazing restaurants) is the complimentary cell phone in each room. We got free international calls and Wi-Fi which was very helpful when navigating and translating. It was also programmed with tourist info, maps, guides and recommendations for attractions and dining. If you stay here make sure to check out the Mexican restaurant (one of the best I’ve been to) and the trendy Indian restaurant serving authentic dishes.

Bangkok is one of the busiest cities I have ever visited. At all hours of the day there is a constant stream of traffic with bikes, tut tuks and pedestrians weaving in and out. Your best bet for getting around quickly is the MTR or Sky Train. 

The day pass takes you almost anywhere in the city and if you need to cross the river simply hop on a ferry that costs just 50 Bhat per trip or $1.97 CAD.

Late April was extremely hot in Bangkok...I’m talking sweltering heat and heavy humidity that lingers in the air and zaps your energy. To keep cool I recommend scarfing down lots of ice cream like the handcrafted gelato at Stick House. The recipe contains no preservatives, artificial aroma or gluten and there are many fresh flavors to choose from including: mixed fruit, mango sticky rice, purple sweet potato, matcha and passion fruit brownie. I had strawberry cheesecake dipped in chocolate and crushed pistachios.

Travelers Tip: Remember to bring lots of sunscreen, a hat and maybe even an umbrella for UV protection. You will need to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes. 

The Grand Palace was first on my list but the heat was getting to me and I couldn’t walk much further. Thankfully we found a great tuk tuk driver just outside the gates who offered to take us anywhere we wanted for just 100 Bhats ($4.00 CAD). Compared to tuks tuks in Portugal that charged more than 80 Euros, this was an incredible deal and he waited patiently while we toured.

A bit of advice - tuk tuk rides look much cooler when you aren’t a passenger because being at street level means inhaling vast amounts of car exhaust and other unpleasant aromas. Nasty smells and pollution aside, is was fast and fun!

We attempted to visit the Standing Buddha at Wat Indrawiharn not knowing it was under construction and obstructed by scaffolding and tarps. The people at the gate did not mention this when we pulled up in our tuk tuk and they charged us the entrance fee knowing that we would not have a clear view (very dishonest for a place of worship). There isn't much to do in the area but I did snap a photo of Buddha (one of many).

Our driver also took us to a secluded little Buddhist Temple rarely visited by travelers. Unfortunately I cannot recall the name but we spoke to a friendly local who gave us a few recommendations for our itinerary. I found it quite amusing that many Thai people thought I was Thai but with a mix of South and East Asian ancestry (among many other things), I guess they saw something familiar in my gene pool.

I’ve toured many breathtaking buildings worldwide including Versailles in France and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City but Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is spectacular in a glamorous way. Every inch of the facade is adorned with intricate jewels that look like they were carefully placed by hand. The pillars, roofs, statues and monuments are covered in colorful mosaics, marble and painted tiles.

The Grand Palace is located close to the temple and is the official residence of the King of Siam. If you’re lucky you might even see the guards marching through the palace grounds and performing drills.

 Grand Palace

Just outside of the palace there are small shops and everyone highly recommends the fresh coconut ice cream which is served in the shell with jelly and roasted peanuts.

I have deep respect for the teachings of Buddhism and I find the statues and paintings of Buddha elegant, exotic and peaceful. Many tourists flock to Wat Pho to see the large Reclining Buddha that engulfs the entire temple. There is a small entrance fee which includes a free bottle of water.

Travellers Tip: When entering places of worship you are required to dress appropriately (no sleeveless tops, mini skirts or shorts) and you may be asked to remove your shoes out of respect.

Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise with incredible deals everywhere you look. Even if you hate the mall it is hard to resist being sucked in and going home with a suitcase full of stuff you didn’t intend to buy. I have never seen so many large shopping malls in one city. Every train stop we exited and every corner we turned led us to more shops.

One of my favorites was Siam Paragon – a trendy upscale mall in the heart of Bangkok. 

There is also a fabulous food court inside so make sure to stop by After You Dessert Cafe for Kakigori (Japanese Shaved Ice). This mound of icy goodness feels like fluffy snow and melts in your mouth like ice cream. I got the strawberry cheesecake with sweet fruit topping and in the base there was actual cheesecake!

BMK Mall is the place to score affordable souvenirs, luggage, clothing, bags, shoes and pretty much everything you can imagine. There are several floors of merchandise and I was told that the higher you go, the better the deals.

Travelers Tip: Many stalls sell knock-off designer purses but these items are usually illegal to purchase and transport so be careful what you buy.

While shopping at BMK you might as well try the food. The options are much better than Terminal 21 (a popular lunch spot for locals). My husband and I ordered the green curry fried rice and chicken Pad Thai with veggies.

Vertigo Moon Bar
We only had 3 days to tour and explore but the highlight of our trip was having cocktails 61 floors above the city at Vertigo Moon Bar in the Banyan Tree Hotel – the highest rooftop bar in Bangkok. My ears popped around the 43rd floor but the view is well worth the pricey drinks and the skyline stretches endlessly into the horizon. We went up just before sunset which was a romantic way to end a wonderful day.

If you get tired of Thai food (not sure if that’s even possible) Little Italy Restaurant at 2 Sukhumvit is open all night and serves decent pizza and pasta.

Wat Arun
Wat Arun, located on the Chao Phraya River is one of Thailand’s most important religious sites. The pearly temple is encrusted with porcelain that glistens in the sun. I spent time climbing the steep steps and taking photos (it was an excellent workout).

There is a lot more to see and do in Bangkok but I made the most of my short stay and fell in love with the upbeat, energetic vibe of the city. Will I visit again...possibly, but next time I’m in that part of the world I would love to explore Japan!

If you missed my guides on Shanghai, Singapore and Phuket you can find links under my travel tab and please stay tuned for the last stop on my Asia tour – Hong Kong!

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