Bangkok is wonderfully exotic, yet bustling and developed, which makes for an interesting mix. I’ve known that some people travel to Bangkok to use it more as a jumping off point to explore the jungles in the north, or the beaches in the south, but Bangkok was definitely one of my favorite places in South East Asia, and deserves at least a couple days of your time. Here are my five favorite things to do in Bangkok:
1. Visit the Royal Palace / Emerald Buddha Pagoda. The Royal Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are rolled into one site in Bangkok, and your ticket buys access to both sites, located right next to one another. The ticket is one of the more expensive admissions I’ve bought in South East Asia, but it is definitely worth it. The place gets pretty packed with tourists, which is annoying but unavoidable. Also if you are not covered appropriately, then they will make you wear little sarongs in order to cover up.
The little Buddha is actually carved out of a 66cm tall block of Jade. The grounds and the architecture of this place is incredible! The pagoda looks as if it is lined with jewels, and glimmers in the sun – absolutely extravagant. The temple is a great place to explore – with one gallery covered in murals depicting one of the ancient Hindu epics, Ramayana (although, I didn’t really follow). The palace is a mix of Thai and European architecture, which was awesome, definitely one of a kind. Additionally, Anna and I met some monks who were just hanging out in the weaponry exhibition (can you say, ironic?)
Side note: monks in Bangkok are the coolest. They all drink iced coffee, wear wayfarers and have iPhones. Hipster much?
2. Visit Wat Pho and Wat Arun
Wat Pho and Wat Arun are probably the two most famous Wats in Bangkok.
First of all, Wat Pho is famous for its huge reclining Buddha (43 meters long!), covered in gold and mother of pearl. and if that’s not interesting enough, the grounds are sprinkled with lots of small intricately decorated mini stupas.
Wat Arun, or “Temple of Dawn” is one of the more iconic temples of Bangkok. The great thing about this Wat is that you can climb on it! All the way to the top if you want.
3. Sky Bar
This place is located at the top of a fancy hotel, Lebua, and one of the highest bars in the world. The bar was featured in The Hangover Pt 2, and they won’t let you forget that with their special made “Hangovertini,” custom made for the cast (it was disgusting actually). The bar was fancy, but kind of underwhelming, I did, however, love the view. We could see the whole city sprawled out around us. Definitely worth it for the view.
The food is omg amazing, as you would probably guess. There is a common rumor that Pad Thai was actually created in San Francisco, but others say it is more likely that it came from China, since stir fried noodles has been common there for centuries. Either way Pad Thai is not authentically Thai. Pad Thai came to Thailand in the 1930/40s and was popularized by authorities in an attempt to westernize the country (along with changing the name from Siam to Thailand). It may not be originally Thai, but the Pad Thai here is definitely the best I have had.
5. Browse the Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak “weekend” market is the largest market in Thailand. By the time we got to Bangkok, after traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia, we were feeling like, “I can’t take another one of these markets selling the same tourist pants and bags.” We were told, however, that the market was was worth checking out, so we went and were very happy. This place was huge! Unbelievable. And it sells so much more than your stupid typical baggy pants that you could buy anywhere in SEA. Cool crafts, great food, and if you still need baggy pants yo can get them here too. Just keep in mind, this place is so big you will easily get lost. If you see something you like, do tell yourself “I’ll come back later after thinking about it,” because you certainly will not find your way back.
Two things you shouldn’t do:
Interact with street elephants: These Elephants are being exploited, and there is a good chance they are being abused. If you really want to spend time with Elephants in a responsible manner go here.
Visit the Floating Market: We visited Damnoen Sudak and it was terrible. It literally feels so fake, and everything was just a show put on for tourists. It had a couple of cool moments, but overall it just didn’t feel like we expected it to. Also there are so many other tourists there that you will literally float in place for so long because it is so congested.