Bangkok is a bit like every other bustling, sprawling big city. Add intense humidity, overpopulation and the sheer amount of things on offer and people trying to offer those things to you and it is easy to get yourself in a bit of a flap when trying to decide just what to do in Bangkok.
Despite consuming various tidbits of Lonely Planet’s literature on the subject, reading various blog posts and listening to others’ recommendations, I didn’t really have a clear plan of how to spend my time in Bangkok. On reflection, I probably should have devised a bit of a plan considering my time was limited and the list of “essential things to do in Bangkok” is fairly extensive.
To the annoyance of Sam, my travelling partner, I can’t help but be a wanderer and prefer to step outside, set my sights on some vague landmark and meander around until I find it; or something else more interesting. That’s exactly how I spent 48 hours in Bangkok, with varying degrees of success.
When I say I didn’t have a plan, that’s a little bit misleading. While I didn’t sit and write down an itinerary or map anything out, I did read countless travel blogs on the city and had mentally noted a few places to see and a couple of things to do.
A Klong Cruise
The Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and has a network of canals, or klongs in Thai, which run from it, forming network of streets with rows of wooden houses built above the water on either side.
Taking a long-tail slow speed boat through the river passages was a really interesting way to see Bangkok from a different perspective and get some insight into how people live outside of the city centre.
As you pass by the homes on the klongs you will spot the odd fisherman fishing from the edge of his home, monks wandering towards their riverside temples, women in boat shops selling everything from water to wooden frogs and lots of waving children making their way home from school.
The tour itself lasts about an hour and a half and included a final stop at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Wat Arun was the first temple that I visited and one of my favourites due to its commanding location on the riverfront – definitely worth a visit.
Khaosan Road – Backpacker Haven?
After being advised by a Thai government official to leave Bangkok immediately and almost definitely avoid the Khaosan Road area, it would have been easy to skip what many consider to be a backpacking mecca. By the way, it’s important that you have a backpack that’s strong and inconspicuous to keep away pickpockets. I have a Deutek – Rangermade has a good selection of day backpacks, check it out.
But I thought to myself I could hardly come half way across the world and not visit the most famous backpacker hub in the east, if not the world. So later that evening after the river cruise, I headed back across the river from Wat Arun for 3 Baht (6p) and made my way towards Khaosan for some grub.
So what did I think of this backpacker haven? In a word, disappointing. It reminded me of a poor man’s “strip” to be found in most European package holiday destinations across Spain and Portugal.
As you would expect there were lots of stalls selling Chang t-shirts, guys wandering around encouraging tourists to eat scorpions on sticks and a sea of backpackers in baggy hippy pants with a perplexed look on their face (me included).
I don’t really know what more I expected but I just felt a little let down. I didn’t feel the electric atmosphere that perhaps I had imagined, the hustle and bustle of backpackers interacting and cajoling, chatting about their next stop and their aspirations for their trip. It was more like a reasonably busy night on Sauchiehall Street/insert local town street containing the most clubs and bars.
I strolled up and down Khaosan and round the corner to Rambuttri Village which I much preferred. Despite only being a few streets away, it had a more relaxed feeling and given that it was pedestrianised, had a more intimate and inviting atmosphere. The street is lined with bars, restaurants and street food vendors. We sat at the busiest place and devoured a few delicious Thai dishes and after a disappointing start had a very pleasant evening.
Toast at Siam Square
A new day required a new mode of transport – time to try out Bangkok’s BTS ‘Skytrain.’ Staying at Suk 11, we were only a few minutes away from the BTS station, Nana. Being a Scot and all, by the time I reached the station I was close to collapsing from heat exhaustion. Stepping into the chilly train carriage was wonderfully refreshing. The BTS is clean and very efficient and my preferred mode of transport in Bangkok.
With no idea of where I was heading, I remembered reading something about Siam Square, although I couldn’t remember what exactly. Anyway, I hopped off at Siam station, only three stops away from Nana.
I was to discover that Siam Square was where all the cool kids hung out and looking like your quintessential tourist, I certainly didn’t fit in amidst a crowd of youngsters who could only be described as “fierce”!
Siam Square is full of high end shopping malls which are all equally impressive. If you are unemployed and penny-pinching like me, I would advise skipping the shops and heading straight for Siam Paragon’s food court – it is UNBELIEVABLE! Compared to the UK’s equivalent, normally home to a Burger King, Pizza Hut and Nando’s, this place seemed like food court heaven.
Siam Paragon’s food court is so incredible that it even has its own “streets” dedicated to your favourite course such as “Sweet Avenue”, a personal favourite.
While I was passing through Sweet Avenue, I noticed a ticketed queue for a café called “After You”, with a frenzy of people taking selfies outside and some very excited looking customers inside. Too curious to keep on walking, I decided to take a ticket and see what the fuss was all about. After about a ten minute wait, my number was displayed on a screen and I was beckoned forward. After being seated I asked the waiter what most people order. He looked aghast and replied “toast!” Not to be embarrassed, I quickly replied, “I’ll have some toast please.”
What followed was the best toast ever!
Aerobicise in Lumphini Park
If you are feeling a little lethargic after all that toast, then why not head to Lumphini Park to watch the sunset, stroll around the park amidst a sea of joggers or join in with a crowd of aerobic dancers!
Lumphini Park provided a welcome break from the chaotic streets of Bangkok and as I strolled around the park during the early evening, watching the sun set, I couldn’t help but think to myself…”I want more toast!”
Back Home to Soi 11
After seeing a few of the sights during my 48 hours in Bangkok, I headed back to one of the most popular streets, Soi 11, for some more delicious street food before hitting the hay and heading to the islands the following day.
Every person that I have spoken to about their time spent in Bangkok has had a completely different experience, however I hope my two days in Bangkok has given you some ideas should you head there anytime soon! Whatever you do during your time there, I’m should it will be memorable in some way.Have you visited in Bangkok? How did you spend your time there?