After my first visit to Bangkok a couple of months ago I wasn’t impressed. In fact I was stressed out, overwhelmed, had a serious bout of food poisoning and couldn’t wait to escape to the relative peace of Northern Thailand.
However, I don’t mind giving second chances and recently I’ve found myself in and out of the city loads. We actually passed through four times in just a few weeks and these visits totally transformed my opinion of the place – I LOVE it now! Seriously, I think I could live there. What a turn of events? Here are my top tips for visiting Bangkok, to make sure you aren’t scared off like me…
Where to stay in Bangkok
Like most Bangkok backpackers, you’ll probably head straight for the mass of hostels and bars on Khaosan Road. There’s nothing wrong with this – it is sooo much fun. I spent the craziest and best New Year’s Eve of my life there and have countless (somewhat hazy) memories of stumbling down its infamous strip. There’s also a gorgeous road that runs parallel called Soi Rambuttri that has a totally different vibe, with laid-back bars, outdoor dining and live music – a total contrast to Khaosan. This area also benefits from being within walking distance of some of Bangkok’s main attractions, like the Grand Palace and Wat Arun.
Our favourite bar on Soi Rambuttri!
Khaosan Road is amazing, and unlike anywhere else in the world, but I wouldn’t recommend spending all your time there. The public transportation links there are rubbish, which means most people stay in this part of the city once they’re there. We stayed in Sukhumvit our second time around and this suited us much better – it’s really well covered by the Skytrain and Metro lines meaning easy access to the whole city, plus it felt more like we were seeing the real Bangkok. There’s a more diverse range of nightlife, from swanky rooftop clubs to the ladyboy bars of Soi Cowboy.
What to do in Bangkok
Take a river cruise
The coolest way to see the city – if you only have one day in Bangkok, do this. It costs about £3 for an open ticket to go up and down the Chao Phraya River all day, getting off and on at as many stops as you like. You also get given a guidebook explaining what landmarks are at every stop and how to get to them. We got to explore Chinatown, Little India, the flower market, the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho temples, but there’s so much more to see depending what you’re interested in. Plus the cruise itself is so much fun, I think it’s worth £3 just to whizz around the river all day.
“Get in loser, we’re going shopping!”
Start making space in your backpack now. There are market stalls on practically every street in Bangkok selling t-shirts, dresses and bags for an absolute bargain. However THE BEST place for shopping is the vintage-lovers gem JJ Green Vintage Night Market, definitely the best market I’ve ever seen! They have an unbelievable selection of vintage clothes, trainers and accessories, but also vintage homewares like retro telephones and typewriters, random kitsch items like old Barbies and neon bar signs, and classic vinyl and videos amongst THOUSANDS of other things. They also have lots of classic cars, campervans and motorbikes on display. It’s just so cool. There’s also live music and lots of little quirky bars around its perimeter.
Me at JJ Green – below, the vintage finds of my dreams!!
Bangkok is amazing for vintage shopping, you just have to know where to look – if you’re around Khaosan Road, check out The Trapeze Swingers vintage shop too. Loads of old music merchandise and fab clothes in here as well, but JJ Green is definitely better for your budget!
Hide away in a park
There’s no denying that Bangkok is pure madness, so if you’re there a while then take refuge in one of the many peaceful green spaces that are all around the city. It’s so nice to escape the fumes of the traffic and the beeping horns of the tuk tuks, and the parks are so beautiful despite being boxed in by skyscrapers. If you get there early enough you can even join the locals for some yoga or tai chi for an extra zen boost!
Where to eat in Bangkok
I’m just gonna say it – Bangkok is the best foodie city on earth. Eat and eat everything! From street meats to five star dining it truly has it all – here are some of my favourites.
- Khaosan road street food: chicken kebabs, mango sticky rice and of course, PAD THAI. You’ll encounter deliciousness every few steps you take up this crazy street, but I firmly believe that the pad Thai stall outside McDonalds with the red plastic tables is the best in Thailand.
- Chinatown: for all things East Asian, look no further. I had dressed crab on the street my first ever night in Bangkok and it was to die for.
- Thai Garden, Soi Rambuttri: we’ve eaten here so many times when we wanted home comforts. Great pizzas and the biggest, best salads ever, as well as yummy cocktails and great happy hours.
- Broccoli Revolution, Sukhumvit: an ultra stylish vegan restaurant that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch. Honestly, Bangkok is sooo good for vegan and veggie food that I’m considering doing a post solely about that, but this place is my favourite.
So there you have my expert tips for exploring Bangkok, which despite a bad first impression is now one of my favourite places, so give it a chance. It is mental, but I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world quite like it!