After my first visit to Bangkok a couple of months ago I was less than impressed (read my original Bangkok blog post here) but I don’t mind giving second chances, and because of it being the main transportation hub in South East Asia I’ve found myself in and out of the city loads. We actually passed through four times in just a few weeks! And though all this extra time in Bangkok wasn’t out of choice, it totally transformed my opinion of the place – I LOVE it now! As I’m now *practically* a local, here are my top tips for getting the most out of your visit to Bangkok…
Stray from Khaosan Road
The vast majority of backpackers entering Bangkok head straight for the plethora of hostels and bars on the infamous Khaosan Road, and although it is fun (we spent New Year’s Eve there and had a great time) I wouldn’t recommend spending all your time there. I think this was our biggest mistake the first time around. Whilst Khaosan is within walking distance of some of Bangkok’s main attractions (the Grand Palace, Wat Arun) there are no public transportation links for literally miles, meaning you’re stuck in this area unless you want to get a taxi – which I tend to avoid in Bangkok. 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, as opposed to the tourist-crazy Khaosan Road (though I still think everyone should go and enjoy it for a night or two).
Take a river cruise
By far my favourite thing to do in Bangkok, and the coolest way to see the city. 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, and 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.
Indulge in some shopping
Something I failed to take advantage of when I first went to Bangkok. There are market stalls on practically every street in Bangkok selling t-shirts, dresses, bags etc. but they do get a bit samey. THE BEST place for shopping is the hidden gem that is JJ Green Vintage Night Market, definitely the best market I’ve ever seen! They sell the most amazing vintage clothes, trainers, accessories etc, but also vintage homeware 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, kind of like the world’s best car boot sale x 1000, plus it has live music and lots of little quirky bars around its perimeter. Bangkok is amazing for vintage shopping, you just have to know where to look – if you are 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 on a 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 to really boost your zen level!
So there you have my pseudo-expert tips for getting the most out of 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!