College Tourist Student Guide to Bangkok, Thailand
What to do while touring the world’s most visited city of 2013.
What comes to mind when BANGKOK is brought up? Luxury or affordability? Skyscrapers or forgotten buildings in disrepair? The city is an eclectic mix of all of the above without a central “downtown” area. Bangkok charms its visitors with unexpected pleasantries as well as a day to day hustle & bustle. Bangkok’s history is traced back to its waterway, the Chao Phraya River, with ships passing through the port and originally under rule of Ayutthaya. The mid-19th century brought with it Western modernization into the area expanding its urban sprawl. Later, American military used the city as a place for some rest & relaxation spurring its tourism industry. The city has had spurts of rapid growth followed by instability and crisis. However, today the city is one of the most sought after travel destinations and the center of Thailand. Full of history, this city is a must-see when in the Southeast Asian area with great shopping, history, temples, waterways, and food!
Wat Pho- A Buddhist temple in Bangkok where one of the largest reclining Buddhas resides and is located adjacent to the Royal Palace. The grounds of the temple also houses one of the earliest Thai massage schools. [There is a minimal entrance fee.]
The Grand Palace- This is the official residence of the Thai royals. [Although, the current king doesn’t live there.] The palace itself consists of a multitude of buildings as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The palace is FULL of history and culture and it is imperative that you get a tour of the grounds with an official tour guide to learn as much as possible. [It is a little on the pricey side to visit with a guide, but definitely worth it!]
Floating Market– Visiting a floating market while in Bangkok is a must, and one of the most authentic Thai experiences. Years ago, water commerce was one of the only means of business. Today that is not the case, but since there are many waterways in Bangkok, and throughout Thailand, these floating markets are still booming. [Bang Khu Wiang is the name of a popular floating market.]
Wat Arun– This Buddhist Temple, also called the Temple of the Rising Sun, is a beautiful sight to see while riding on a ferry on the river. This specific temple is one of Thailand’s most widely known landmarks and has had many additions and remodels since the seventeenth century. [There is a minimal entrance fee.]
Jim Thompson House- Jim Thompson was an American architect and worked for the CIA. After WW2, Thompson found his way to Bangkok, fell in love with the city, and to make a long story short he rebuilt the silk industry. His home is full of Southeast Asian art on display for visitors and is one of the most visited museums in Bangkok.
Off the beaten path:
Phra Athit– An eclectic street located in the older Banglamphu neighborhood. This street is lined with quaint shops, restaurants, boutiques, and places to get your Thai massage fix. [Definitely a change of pace from the touristy Khao San Road!]
Fun for Free:
Chatuchak Weekend Market– As one of the largest weekend markets, Chatuchak is popular for locals and foreigners alike. The market covers 35 acres and has around 15,000 vendor stalls providing a wide variety of foods, religious artifacts, collectibles, and animals! A fun place to peruse and people watch even if you aren’t in the mood to shop.
Muay Thai– Believe it or not there are free Muay Thai boxing fights located at the MBK Center. Interested in seeing what Thai boxing is all about and don’t want to invest in tickets? This is the perfect opportunity!
(Khao San Road)– Although it slightly pains me to put it on here, it is the most touristy part of Bangkok and is incredibly famous. There are many restaurants, shops, tattoo parlors, and anything else imaginable on this road. It is something to see for sure, although it shouldn’t be where travelers spend the majority of their time in Bangkok.
Central Chidlom Food Loft- Very different from what is thought of as a typical “food court.” An upscale food court experience where different booths represent food from different countries and cultures. After having food selected and quirky prepared, patrons walk over to the comfortable and upscale seating area that looks out over Bangkok. The food court is located on the seventh floor of the Central Chidlom Mall.
Or Tor Kor Open Market– This is known as being one of the upscale open air markets in Bangkok offering fresh seafood, meets, Thai snacks, and Thai meals. The market is easy to find as it is just off of a metro stop, and the experience of trying Thai street food is a must!
Fried Insects– Crickets are probably the most harmless one to try if travelers are weary of this adventurous snack. The possibilities are endless with larvae, worms, grasshoppers, and scorpions. Fried insect vendors can be found everywhere, and are guaranteed to be in hot touristy spots like Khao San Road.
Flower Market– One in particular, Pak Klong Talad, is the largest fresh flower market in all of Bangkok. Purchasing large bundles of flowers at crazy cheap prices is the name of the game here. The market is open 24 hours a day but is bustling and alive after dark.
Rooftop Bars– It’s something that has to be done. Go to a rooftop bar in Bangkok, partake in some fancy beverages, and see the city lit up at night. There is an overwhelming number of options for this “must-do,” and the following are a few options to get started on researching the best option for those traveling: Above Eleven [Contemporary decor, Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine, & reservations are a must], Octave [Offers 360 degree views of Bangkok with the option of sofa seating].
BTS Skytrain– Incredibly affordable, easy to navigate, and clean. The skytrain makes exploring Bangkok easy, but at rush hour it can get extremely cramped in the train cars.
Tuk Tuk– Southeast Asia is full of tuk tuks zipping down the street and zig-zagging through traffic. It is a must to travel via tuk tuk at least once during your stay. Before boarding a tuk tuk, ask the driver how much it would cost to get to your destination so you are on the same page.
When you get a taxi, ask your cab driver to “run the meter.” The meters in Bangkok do not increase in drastic increments like they do in the USA. You will end up having a less expensive ride. Furthermore, cabs are incredibly cheap to begin with!