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 might think this popular Thai city is teeming with prostitution, run-down street markets and soliciting “ladyboys” but it has so much more to offer. 

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 are 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 points. It is obvious why this destination is so enticing to travelers. You can live large and indulge in delicious meals for less than a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee (the exchange rate is amazing).

The best thing about the Rembrandt (aside from the magnificent rooftop patio and amazing restaurants) is the complimentary cell phone in each room with free international calls and WiFi. The phone is programmed with tourist info, maps, guides, attractions and dining so you can use it to navigate the city and translate. If you stay here, make sure to check out the Mexican restaurant (one of the best I’ve ever been to) and the trendy Indian restaurant serving authentic dishes.

Bangkok is one of the busiest cities in the world. At all hours of the day there is a constant stream of bikes, tuk tuks and pedestrians weaving in and out of traffic. 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 for 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 depletes your energy. To keep cool I recommend scarfing down lots of ice cream like the handcrafted gelato at Stick House. Their frozen treats contain no preservatives, artificial aroma or gluten and there are many delicious 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.

Travel 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 to prevent heat stroke. 

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 the 80 Euro tuks tuks in Portugal, this was an incredible deal.

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, pollution and unpleasant odors. That being said, it was fast, fun and efficient. 

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 be able to see anything. There isn't much to do in this 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 from Thailand, but with a mix of South and East Asian ancestry (among many other things), they must have recognized 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!

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 a few small shops. The locals recommended the fresh coconut ice cream 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 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.

Travel 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 turn. Even if you hate shopping, it is hard to resist going home with a suitcase full of stuff you didn’t intend to buy. I have never seen so many large shopping centers in one city. Every train stop and corner led to more stores.

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

There is 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 ordered the strawberry cheesecake with sweet fruit topping and actual cheesecake burried in the base.

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

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

After shopping at BMK stop by the food court. 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 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 this 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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