Our Bangkok Travel Guide
There’s so much to say about Bangkok, Thailand, it’s hard to know where to start.
But I’ll do my best to introduce you to this amazing city.
They call it the Land of Smiles and it certainly is refreshing to see people being polite, courteous and caring.
We’ve always loved travelling in Buddhist cultures as there is a peacefulness about being around Buddhism.
Although Sue and I had been twice before, it was Annabel’s first time.
We’d arrived from Beijing, China, which you can read about here .
Bangkok is like any large city, hustling, bustling and modern.
But unlike other cities, you can find family alters, golden temples and Buddhist monks.
Street Scene In Bangkok
Just before arriving in Bangkok, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand for over 70 years ( the longest reigning monarch in Thai history ) had died.
We were expecting things to be a little different in Thailand to normal as there is a year’s mourning process and most Thai people would be dressed all in black.
Our wardrobe was distinctly lacking in black clothes so we were a bit worried about the situation.
We soon found that most but not all Thai people were dressed in all black or all white so we did our best by dressing in the darkest colours we had and getting some black ribbon bows to wear on our sleeves to show respect.
We booked into a hostel for our short stay in Bangkok.
The Pan Pan Hostel in the Bang Rak area was nice and central and close to the Skytrain transport system.
Arriving at Pan Pan, we were greeted by the lady on the reception and shown to our family room.
Even though it’s a hostel it has some private rooms with bathrooms.
Unlike most places to stay, we had to take our shoes off at the bottom of the stairs before entering the main part of the hostel.
We really liked this idea.
Our room was spotlessly clean with lovely fresh linen.
What a treat.
This was only a short five-day visit and we had lots to pack in.
We sped down the Chao Phraya River, the main artery of Bangkok onboard our ferry.
Boats of all different shapes and sizes use the river to transport goods as well as people.
Our ferry slows and veers to the right-hand bank to briefly stop at the Tha Tian Pier to let off passengers.
We step across the gap as the captain holds the boat steady.
We make our way through the maze of stalls that make up Tha Tian Market and there in front of us is the huge temple complex of Wat Pho.
Wat Pho or as it’s sometimes known, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha
The temple is one of Bangkok’s oldest and is associated with King Rama 1 who rebuilt the complex on the site of an earlier temple.
Wat Pho also houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand and includes the famous 46 meters long Reclining Buddha.
As we wandered around the complex, the one thing that stood out are the gorgeous colours, the gold, the reds and the greens.
Thai temples are always so beautiful and ornate.
The huge image of the reclining Buddha represents Buddha entering Nirvana and is actually built with a brick core that was then shaped with plaster and then gilded.
The feet are 3 meters high and inlaid with mother of pearl.
It’s an amazing sight to see if you ever get the chance.
The Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho
Opposite Wat Pho and on the Western side of the Chao Phraya River lies Wat Arun.
A short ferry boat ride from Tha Tian pier brings you to the jetty at Wat Arun.
During our visit, there were major restorations works going on, so there was a lot of scaffolding etc.
The main feature of the Wat is the Prang, a Khmer style tower covered in ornate porcelain and surrounded by four smaller Prang.
The tower is somewhere between 66 and 86 meters high.
Unfortunately, the Prang was covered in scaffolding and was being repaired and retiled during our time there but it usually looks stunning especially from the river.
The Wat has a distinct Hindu flavour and derives its name from the Hindu God Aruna.
In one of the many temple prayer rooms, we were invited to be blessed by a Buddhist Monk which felt very special indeed.
Porcelain Images On The Prang Of Wat Arun
Being Blessed At Wat Arun
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
There are quite a few floating markets within and around Bangkok but we visited Khlong Lat Mayom.
It’s less visited than some of the floating markets in Bangkok but it’s easy to get to and not too far away from the centre of the city.
You won’t see hundreds of boats here but it feels more authentic than some of the tourist floating markets around Bangkok.
There are some boats with their occupants selling fruit and vegetables as well as plants and food.
The main part of the market is huge with stalls selling all sorts of wonders.
There is a large part of the market dedicated to food ( as you’ll find in most Thai markets ).
The range is staggering and delicious.
The market is only open on weekends and public holidays between 9 am and 4 pm.
Khlong Lat Mayon Floating Market
The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Grand Palace up until now.
It is after all the biggest tourist attraction in Bangkok.
Well, as I mentioned earlier on, the King of Thailand had died 6 days before our visit and the whole country was in mourning.
He’d been King for over 70 years and was very popular with Thai’s so there was much outpouring of sadness for the loss.
The Grand Palace was closed down to visitors as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
But we did get a very different experience of the Grand Palace.
It was the focal point during this time as the Kings body had been taken there before the funeral.
Thousands of people congregated at the Palace to show respect and we decided to join them one day.
Crowds lined the streets outside the palace walls and it was almost impossible to make our way along the perimeter of the palace.
We expected the mood to be sombre but instead, it was friendly and respectful with shop owners giving out gifts to everyone.
Volunteer stations gave out free food and drink to everyone.
At first we felt a bit out of place but actually, people were very welcoming and encouraged us to take the food and share the time with them.
We felt part of the occasion even though we were foreigners.
A large cavalcade of dignitaries drove along the road and entered the palace with military escorts.
Thousands of bunches of flowers had been placed all around the palace walls.
The King’s funeral took place a few days after we left Bangkok.
We have been inside the Grand Palace before and it’s wonderful to visit and see the ornate buildings and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The Grand Palace
Not strictly Bangkok at all but I wanted to include Kanchanaburi that lies about 75 miles West of Bangkok.
You may have heard of the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Death Railway but not really known the story.
Its World War 2 and the Japanese want to build a railway through the jungles of Thailand so they use prisoners of war and immigrants to carve out huge swaths of jungle, mountains and build bridges across mighty rivers to lay railway tracks to supply Northern Thailand.
The events of those times are pretty horrific but visiting the area of Kanchanaburi was fascinating, beautiful and eye-opening.
It’s something we’ll certainly never forget.
The Death Railway Train To Nam Tok
Getting Around Bangkok
There are so many modes of transport to choose from, to get around the city.
The BTS Skytrain
The Skytrain is an elevated mass transport system that runs along two lines in the city.
It runs along the Sukhumvit Line ( North to South ) and the Silom Line ( East to West ).
You can buy individual tickets for single journeys at the station ticket machines or use a Rabbit stored value card.
It’s a really efficient service and connects most of the central areas.
The MRT is the elevated and underground train system ( rather like a metro system ) that also has two lines, the Blue Line and the Purple Line.
These two lines give further coverage around the central area of the city as well as out to the West of the city.
The ARL or Airport Rail Link is an elevated train line that takes passengers directly from Bangkok’s international airport to the centre of the city.
The Bus Rapid Transit System has a line toward the South of the city that isn’t served by the other transport lines.
Thailand and especially Bangkok are famous for their brightly coloured three-wheeled Tuk Tuks.
They’re fun to ride, even though you may feel like you’re going to die doing so.
They weave their way through traffic and speed around corners so hang on.
There are a couple of problems being a tourist and wanting a Tuk Tuk ride somewhere.
Firstly you’ll almost undoubtedly be overcharged and secondly, the driver may insist on you taking a tour with him.
The tour thing is a scam and maybe you’ll be taken to a couple of sights but then taken to a shop where the driver will be paid a commission by the shop owner.
The shop may be miles from where you want to be and once you’re out of the shop you may have to get another Tuk Tuk and the process starts all over again.
Tuk Tuks are not usually any less expensive than taking a taxi even though you would think it would be the budget option.
But don’t let that put you off having a go on one as they are fun and not all the drivers are out to scam you.
Taxi drivers are well known in Bangkok for overcharging tourists too.
If you get one then insist they use the meter so you can see how much it is.
Also, make sure they know where they’re taking you.
We once had an experience where the driver didn’t really understand where we wanted to go but made out he did just to get our fare, then drove in completely the wrong direction and had no clue where we wanted to go, so we had to get out and take another taxi.
Going for a boat ride along the Chao Phraya is a lot of fun.
There are lots of different classes of boat to choose from.
We visited Wat Arun and Wat Pho by taking the ferry but there are tourist class ferry’s that are more expensive so be sure to get the local Orange Flag ferry for a more authentic experience.
It all seems a bit chaotic but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
It may have more stops along the river but it’s worth it
You can hire a Long Tail Boat for a personalised trip but make sure you negotiate a good price before you board.
Cross River ferries are small simple boats that cross the river at set piers.
Your ferry may drop you off at a pier but you may be on the wrong side of the river to where you want to be so you can catch one of the Cross River boats to get to the other side.
Overland trains for journeys out of the city leave from Bangkok’s main railway station Hua Lamphong station in the centre of the city.
You can board trains here for journey’s to the North of Thailand or international trains South to Malaysia, West to Myanmar or East to the Cambodia border.
There is another little known railway station called Thon Buri on the Western side of the Chao Phraya River.
You can catch trains on the Death Railway to Kanchanaburi from here.
Some of the main sights are within walking distance of one another.
Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are close as is Wat Arun although you have to get across the river by Cross Riverboat.
Boat On The Chao Phraya River
Bangkok and indeed all of Thailand is a foodies paradise.
We would recommend just trying anything you fancy the look of.
In Bangkok, we loved going to Cheaper Better Streetfood near our hostel on Soi Si Lom 20 in the Silom district.
It’s a very simple set up with plastic chairs on the street.
The owner is a real character and if you go there a few times you’ll definitely have your picture taken with him.
Thai staples are of course rice or noodles as well as vegetables, pork, chicken and seafood.
We love Pad Thai.
It comes in different forms but will be a noodle dish with meat or seafood and veg mixed in.
It’s not spicy and is usually a street food.
Again there may be variations with added meat, chicken or seafood.
Simple fried rice but with added egg, garlic, onions, meat, chicken or seafood.
All types of curry are available, Green curry, red curry and most are pretty spicy.
Mango Sticky Rice
Our favourite go-to sweet food.
Rice covered in condensed milk, with half a mango. So delicious.
Cheaper Better Street Food
Delicious Pad Thai
Where to Stay
There are too many options to list.
From high-end hotels to budget hostels, it’s all available.
Pick what area you would like to stay in and have look at what accommodation is available. We would say, stay central if possible.
We stayed in the Silom area at the Pan Pan Hostel.
Actually, we’ve stayed there on two occasions now and loved both stays and would probably stay there again when we return to Bangkok.