Thailand’s vibrant capital has been called everything from Asia’s response to Manhattan to the adult Disneyland. In addition to being home to over 8 million people, Bangkok is rightfully among the world’s most visited cities. But for us, the encounter with the cosmopolitan ant bull was by no means love at first sight. Today we love the city and keep coming back. Here’s our 13 best travel tips on how to make the most of your visit to Bangkok.
Fthe first time we visited Bangkok, we found the city’s chaotic crowds horrible and suffocating. At the same time, there was also something fascinating about the overwhelming sensory bombardment – so we kept coming back.
Today we have learned that the ultimate best travel tip to Bangkok must be that the beauty of the city exists when you look beyond the chaos. Attack the city with sublime serenity and lots of discovery – and then you will discover unique places, have unforgettable experiences and taste wonderful food like no other place in the world.
Here we have gathered the 13 best travel tips that we ourselves would have liked to have had the first time we visited Bangkok.
2. EAT WITH THE LOCALS
Bangkok’s many street kitchens turn the city into a large simmering witch’s cauldron of spicy scents. Everywhere on sidewalks, street corners and in narrow alleys you can buy everything from deep-fried insects to more classic noodle dishes. Either made on a smoking hot wok pan strapped to a Christiania-like bicycle that stands in the middle of the street, or in a small room decorated with cheap plastic chairs, wax-covered tables and fluorescent tubes in the ceiling.
Our best tip: If you want to taste the real Thai cuisine, then you must taste it here. Because in the hotels and tourist-friendly restaurants, you get the food served ‘farang-style’ – it is the Thais ‘expression of food that is adapted to Westerners’ delicate taste buds. Gone are the juice, power and chili. In short, the taste of Thai.
So drop the fear of the strange, the slightly filthy – and to get a bad stomach. If you just ask yourself or check out where the locals prefer to go to eat, you will find really good places to eat. The food here will be both cheaper and taste best. Bon appetite!
3. THE WORLD’S LARGEST WEEKEND MARKET
As far as possible, try to visit Bangkok over a weekend. Here opens the huge “Chatuchak Market”, also called “Jatujak”. The market has over 8,000 stalls, divided into 27 categories and visited by 200,000 Thais and tourists. It’s so big that you can drive around by bus between the main areas, and you can buy everything from traditional handicrafts, clothes by upcoming designers and classic copy goods to spices, puppies and potted plants – in short.
Our best tip: Arrive early, take your time for breaks and bring cash. It’s impossible to see it all, so make use of Nancy Chandler’s amazing map to give you an overview and a plan for the day.
4. BANGKOK’S MOST HOLY
Leaving Bangkok without seeing the Royal Palace and its associated temple Wat Phra Kaew is like leaving Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Dots.
But why visit the city’s biggest tourist magnet when there are over 400 temples? Because you can not help but be touched by the scale of impressive architecture, the richness of detail, and the special atmosphere of mystery and awe that permeates the place, so you (almost) forget the crowd of people.
Our best tip: Get up unashamedly early before the other tourists get their shoes on and the sun turns the place into a baking oven. Remember to wear long trousers and sleeves or alternatively cover yourself with a cloth, which is required by all visitors.
5. ON TWO WHEELS THROUGH BANGKOK
At first glance, it sounds like suicide to experience Bangkok from a bicycle saddle. But a two-wheel drive through the city of millions reveals a side of the vibrant capital of the Thais that we personally did not think existed at all.
Discover small, quiet and cozy streets where the birds sing, the flowers smell and the laundry hangs to dry in an air that is not so thick with smog that it can be cut into slices. Roll through lush green parks, past beautiful ancient temples and stop at schoolyards to greet curious schoolchildren.
Our best tip : Just do it! We know that cycling around Bangkok immediately sounds completely brainless. But if you want to experience the real, authentic Bangkok – then you have to go cycling. You can read more about our bike ride here .
6. DRINKS WITH A VIEW
After a long day engrossed in the shaky life of the streets, it’s time to relax and see it all a little from above. Namely from one of the spectacular bars that you will find on top of the city’s sky-high skyscrapers.
Our best tip : Arrive just around dusk and watch the transformation as darkness falls and the city is transformed into a magical inferno of neon, car lights and electric lights. Travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler has compiled a list of Bangkok’s six best sky bars .
7. SHOP AMOK
Bangkok is a shopping paradise with its huge shopping malls, many markets and neighborhoods like China Town. With Nancy Chandler’s map of the city, you can get an overview of what you can buy in the various places.
Our best tip : Shop through at Siam Square. It is an area where there are lots of small shops and eateries in the streets. But if it does not satisfy your Dankort, you can easily continue the adventure in the surrounding shopping malls. They are quite conveniently located next to each other and are connected by a so-called Skywalk, which is a sidewalk that hangs across the multi-lane roads, so you do not have to fight your way through the massive traffic. Here you will find i.a. Mah Boon Krong Center (MBK), Central World and the popular Siam Paragon, where the rich Thais hang out and you can enjoy a movie in 4D.
8. RELOAD WITH MASSAGE
As a tourist, you easily trot for many hours, and the heat does not exactly make the experience more fun – for your feet. They are swollen, heavy and tired.
Our best tip: Set aside an hour for a real-life Thai massage of the feet – or perhaps the whole body. It’s cheap and the ultimate best way to reload your tourist batteries. Ask at your hotel which masseur they can recommend. Alternatively head to the Khao San Road backpacker district, which is the perfect place for ‘people watching’. Sit back in one of the large, soft armchairs and enjoy the sight of street life while massaging new energy into your feet.
9. THAI BOXING
The sound of powerful, quick blows to bare skin is accompanied by outraged shouts from the audience and complaining tones from an oboe-like instrument. Inside the boxing ring, a rain of hard-hitting knees, elbows and fists tumbles down over the boxers while sweat and blood fly through the air. Thai boxing is not for the faint of heart, but a great sensory experience.
Our best tip: Check out when there is fight night at Lumphini Stadium, which is Bangkok’s largest and most popular. Buy tickets close to the ring – it makes the experience more… intense.
10. SAIL ON THE CANALS
It can feel completely impossible to see Bangkok for… Bangkok. The city is so big that it can hardly accommodate itself. Therefore, it is an experience to get away from the streets and see it all a bit in the distance.
Our best tip: Hop aboard one of the many boats sailing in the canals. There are several different types of boats and services – the river express, taxi boats, longtails and ferries. Some only stop at the larger quays, others only cross the river, and then there are boats that you can hire to sail right where you want. Here you can find info about the most popular piers from which you can sail .
11. FIND YOUR WAY AROUND THE STREETS OF BANGKOK
Finding your way around Bangkok’s labyrinthine and densely populated streets can be a challenge that can put even the most experienced travelers at bay. The traffic is heavy and slippery as if the roads were a calcified vein.
In addition, the Thais are what can be called city map illiterates and for Westerners misunderstood polite. Thais would rather help you than admit that they do not actually know where you are going – and soon you are heading in the completely wrong direction. Nor does it make the situation better that the streets of Bangkok have two very different names – one in English and one in Thai. And Thais rarely know it in English.
Our best tip: Find a good city map where you can get an overview of even the smaller streets. At first glance, the map may look a bit confusing, as Bangkok has a special street system. But luckily that’s pretty logical. Take for example the city’s longest street, Sukhumvit Road, which in Thai is called Thanon Sukhumwit. Along the road run the side streets Sukhumvit Soi 1, Soi 2, Soi 3, etc. On one side the side streets run with even numbers, on the other odd numbers. The side streets are also called Sub-Sois.
12. TRANSPORT FROM A TO B
The traffic rules the streets of Bangkok undefeated. And as a tourist, you can get around with various motorized vehicles – both two-, three- and four-wheelers. As a first-time visitor, you will probably either voluntarily hop in one of the three-wheeled motorcycles, also called tuk-tuk’s – because they have to be tried! Or you will be lured by a driver’s bang offer, which involves a few involuntary stops at a number of shops with miscellaneous junk.
Our best tip: Save a tuk-tuk ride until you get out of town. First, you are free to be cheated. Second, your lungs will thank you. Bangkok is polluted and scorching hot. It’s a bad combo when you’re suddenly stuck in a traffic jam on a five-lane highway. Instead, take one of the city’s 70,000 taxis with air conditioning and taximeters. Never ask about the price, but agree on a price in advance or ask to have the taximeter turned on.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of Bangkok’s well-functioning metro systems. There are two different ones – Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT).
13. THE ART OF GETTING LOST
Finally: The most amazing thing about Bangkok is that it is inexhaustible, constantly changing and huge, huge! There is always something new to experience and discover. A new place to eat, sleep, shop, hang out…