I’m going to jump on the social media bandwagon here and proclaim Thursdays as a the #TBT Travel Post of the Week. I have been documenting my travels privately for quite some time and have plenty to share with my fellow travelers. Not only will this give me a chance to share the good, the bad, and the ugly, but who doesn’t love revisiting their favorite trips?
Back in June, I set out on a three week adventure to Thailand with my best friend, partner and fellow explorer, Andrew. It was a bucket list trip for me and I’m still digesting all the adventures that were had. As Thailand is so incredibly diverse in what it has to offer travelers, I am going to be splitting up my posts by region.
For today’s post, I’m starting with our first stop, Bangkok.
GENERAL TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO THAILAND:
- The number one most amazing thing you should know as a Western traveler is that Thailand is incredibly affordable! The exchange rate works overwhelmingly in our favor. That being said, you do have to look out for scams and people taking advantage of travelers. The Thai people as a whole are some the most welcoming and friendly people who you will meet, but as with all countries, you still have to keep your wits about you.
- Travel LIGHT. I am the worst offender of this piece of advice, but I cannot stress it enough. Not only are you going to want to grab your stuff and go, but Thailand is HOT. I’m talking so unbelievably humid, you’ll feel like a prune at the end of the day. Lugging around a heavy backpack or suitcase will only make you miserable. There is no need to pack many clothes due to the climate so stick to the basics that can be worn in several ways.
- Drink Water. The weather is so abrasively hot, especially in June when we were traveling, that you must constantly be drinking water in order to maintain a healthy level of fluids. Only drink bottled water in Thailand so you can leave your water bottles at home unless they are large enough to hold larger volumes. Trust me, you do not want to be visiting a Thai hospital while on your trip.
- Bring a pair of light pants like these or a sarong for temples. Many temples throughout Thailand require that everyone covers their shoulders and knees in order to be admitted. I found it helpful to throw this pair in my bag each day, which could be slipped over shorts or underneath my dress.
- Don’t bring your hiking boots. It’s just too hot. Bring a pair of sneakers instead for jungle trekking. They won’t be as heavy in your bag and do the job just fine.
- Before you leave, ask your doctor for a CIPRO prescription. It’s a common antibiotic used to treat stomach bugs. A large number of travelers experience the good ol’ traveler’s diarrhea. It’s almost a right of passage. It is, however, extremely uncomfortable and can knock you completely on your back. I thought I escaped, but was hit with a nasty case on my second to last day of the trip. The CIPRO made it so that I could travel back to the states without having an incredibly embarrassing and uncomfortable trip.
HOUSING & TRANSPORTATION
We only allotted two days for Bangkok and the surrounding area. As it was our first stop, we knew that jet lag was not allowed to be an option. We slept as much as we could on the plane and forced ourselves into bed when we arrived at our hotel at around 11:30pm.
We decided to stay at the Lamphu Tree House as it was centrally located and fit nicely into our budget (Breakfast is included in the stay!) PRO TIP: The hotel consists of two guesthouses. Stay in the main house as it is off the main road and in the same building as breakfast, reception, and the small pool. You’ll avoid the noise and have easy access to all the hotel’s amenities.
As I explained earlier, the Thai people are by far some of the most helpful and generous people I have ever experienced. That being said, the New Yorker in remained skeptical towards any stranger who approached us. Once the third man stopped us on the street as we were examining our map, I decided to hear what he had to say and thank goodness I did. This kind stranger circled all the monuments and places worth seeing on our map, told us what we could skip given our time constraints and gave us, perhaps, the most important piece of information we received the entire trip. Always take government tuk tuks.
PRO TIP: Government Tuk Tuk’s have regulated prices. Always look for the Tuk Tuk with the Thai flag.
Tuk tuks are the easiest way to get around Bangkok but they can also easily lead you into scams. Many tuk tuk drivers have deals with local gem shops or tailors and most likely than not, they will include one of these places in your daily itinerary. Fares should always be negotiated before you get into the cab.
The kind gentlemen hailed us a government tuk tuk, told the driver our route, and waved us off as he continued on his way to work. We were completely dumbfounded. For 80 Baht (approx. $2.22), we received a 6 hour tour of Bangkok. At each destination, our driver would sit and wait for us to be done and then bring us to our next stop. It enabled us to knock off everything on our list for Bangkok.
SITES TO SEE
Bangkok is filled with unbelievably gorgeous temples known as Wats. The intricacy of the architecture and the colors are sure to knock your socks off. Here are some highlights of Wats not to be missed!
Wat Phra Kaew & The Grand Palace Grounds – This took my breath away. We stood at the entrance in complete and utter awe. Never in my life had I seen such vibrant colors. This is truly a *MUST SEE* and make sure to bring your camera. The temple itself houses one of the world’s most revered Buddhas, “The Emerald Buddha.”
PRO TIP: This is where those pants will be helpful. There is a very long line to rent a sarong or pants in order to enter this complex. You’ll shave a good 20-30 minutes off your day if you come prepared!
Wat Benja – Also known as “The Marble Temple,” this temple was built in 1900 by King Rama V. It gets its’ nickname from the Italian marble that covers the exteriors of the main temple in the complex. Fun Fact: You can also find this temple on the back of the 5 Baht piece.
Wat Intharanwihan – Also known as the “Standing Buddha” stands at 32 meters high (105 ft.). This Buddha is covered in 24 carat gold and took over 60 years to complete. It is the tallest Buddha in the world!
Wat Pho – Home to the famous “Reclining Buddha.” It is the largest Reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. The grounds surrounding this temple are worth a wander to say the least.
Wat Saket – or “The Golden Mount” has sweeping views of Bangkok atop its grounds. The temple itself is not as striking as others you’ll see but the unique grounds offer great photo opportunities and is a great way to get orientated to the city.
The Golden Mount.
THINGS YOU CAN MISS
At the end of our day, we were completely exhausted but decided to do a boat tour anyway, as we could leisurely lay back and watch the sites go by. It was the priciest thing we did all day and to be honest, not entirely worth it. Yes, we went at sunset, sure the breeze was nice, but the waterways in Thailand are not super clean and these boats bring you into the nooks and crannies of the city. While it was really interesting to see a different side to Bangkok, we could have easily gone without it in our one day in the city and spent the money elsewhere.
If you would like to explore Thailand by water, I would highly recommend taking a boat up and out of the city. My father had some of his best experiences wandering north on the water, but sadly, we just didn’t have the time on this trip.
All of the guidebooks will tell you over and over again, Thailand is the land of street food. The best meals we had in Thailand usually came from a stand on the side of a road. Our first lunch in Bangkok set the bar high for the rest of our trip. Two bowls of noodle soup: one chicken, one duck. Seemingly simple, explosive in taste. The total cost for lunch: Less than $5.00 INCLUDING drinks.
This particular stand was located outside of the entrance to The Golden Mount but there are plenty of stalls that will offer similar soups. The fun of Thailand is that you essentially get to taste home cooking from as many households as your stomach is able to handle! The food stalls are often a family affair and are a center of the Thai culture.
Should you want to sit down for a meal away from the side of the road, stop by Thip Samai which offers arguably the best Shrimp Pad Thai in existence.
With only one day to cover so much ground, there are things that were missed. If you have the time definitely check out the Jim Thompson House and one of the many night markets located around the city.
My last piece of advice is to keep your eyes open. There are so many small details that can be missed when getting pushed through these sights by the sea of tourists. Make sure you spend the time to savor every detail. Who knows when you’ll be back…
Check in next Thursday for the next installment of our adventure when I reflect on Chiagn Mai…!