Recently we made our first trip to Asia and explored Thailand for 2 weeks! In order to show you all Thailand has to offer, we have decided to break down our 2 week trip by city. We want your future Thailand travels to be smooth, so we’re going to be as detailed as possible so you can have a successful trip! Here are the cities that will be featured: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Krabi. After giving you a tour of the excitement each city has to offer, we will do a final post with our suggestions on the trip layout; how many days to stay in each location, an overview of the country and tips and tricks to better understand the culture and get around Thailand with ease. Let’s do this!
*A special note- Traveling to Bangkok is at a unique time right now, as their beloved King recently passed away. You will notice monuments all over the city mourning him, as well as many people dressed in all black. To us, this was fascinating and heart wrenching to see how much love a place can have for their King. His passing has slowed tourism a bit yet we do not believe this should be an issue for you going. In fact, we believe it is a good time to be a witness.
Bangkok has a population of more than 8 million people, which makes it one of the largest and most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia. The energy of this city is contagious. People are hardworking, friendly and noticeably happy. Although, most do not speak English you can tell they still want to help and accommodate if you desire. Unlike some large European cities, we did not notice aggressive guys, rude comments towards us as ‘Americans’, or even side glances. It made us feel pretty safe the whole time. There is a wide range of markets, temples,long boat rides on the river, high class dining, street dining, and other crazy things to see on the streets of Bangkok.
Bangkok is packed with hotels, hostels, and Airbnb’s to stay at all budgets. The American dollar goes a long way right now. We definitely felt like we were getting everything at a discount.
If you are on a budget, we would recommend the Khao San area. It is known as the backpacking universe of Bangkok. You will find many highly rated hostels, mid-range hotels and a young crowd that likes to party! This is also the neighborhood that houses many of Bangkok’s must-see spots (the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, etc ) that we will tell you more about below. If you are trying to keep costs very low then you can stay in this area for approximately $20 a night per bed, or for a bit more mid-range, $40-50. As a reminder, for hostels you are usually paying by bed and hotels you are paying by room.
Other areas we would suggest staying in are the Silon area. Silon has good shopping, the large green Lumphini Park, and it is close to two of our favorite rooftop bars! If you would like to stay in a more expensive 5-star hotel in a scenic area then choose Bangkok Riverside.
We stayed in two different hotels.
Eastin Grand Hotel Sathron: 4 star hotel, approximately $75-$100 a night per room. We were very happy with this hotel. Incredible infinity pool, great continental breakfast serving anything you could ever dream of, work-out facility, connected to the skytrain, and in the business district close to the Silon area.
VIE Hotel: 5 star hotel, approximately $100-125 a night per room near Siam and Silon area. This was another great hotel. The best work out facility we had all trip (Bangkok was the only city that we stayed in hotels). It was walking distance to a lot of great food options, bars and a tons of shopping. This hotel also had a good rooftop pool and good continental breakfast. We liked the modern, spacious rooms and great bathrooms! If we went back to Bangkok, we’d stay here.
Our Favorite Day Activities:
The Grand Palace: This is the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. It is approximately 220,000 square meters and the palace complex is surrounded by four walls. We were blown away by the beautifully done architecture with the amazing color designed on all of the buildings. The complex also has many open lawns and gardens. This is partially open to the public as a museum, yet also remains a working palace with several royal offices inside. We cannot imagine working here, as is was very crowded with tourists trying to snap pictures and selfies. We loved seeing this area and it was a great photo spot. We recommend getting there early so you don’t get photo bombed.
Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha: This is a Buddhist temple complex. We recommend going to see this, very pretty and good architecture. We also found it much less crowded and touristy than the Grand Palace. Suggest going right after the Grand Palace, as it is just a few blocks away. Enjoy lunch at Ess Deck after exploring The Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha. It is the perfect spot to relax on the water. We sat outside and enjoyed champagne, pad thai, chicken skewers, and sea bass. Jump on a boat for a ride around, or a ride to your next spot!
China Town: Wow! Very busy and cool streets to walk through with street-side food, market stalls and a lot of gold shops. It’s crazy to see what people are trying to sell. This area is walking distance from Golden Buddha.
Golden Buddha: A solid gold statue weighing 5.5 tons! This is located in the temple of Wat Traimit. Go before or after China Town. We only spent 30 min- 1 hr here.
Muay Thai Boxing Match: Head to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium to experience Muay Thai boxing. We were a little worried the fighting would be too extreme, yet it was pretty cool to see and cheer on. This sport is similar to kick boxing and the atmosphere is electric with people shouting and betting on fighters in the stands. The fighters are very proud to be there and surprisingly, it was very much a family sport, as the grandpas and little brothers were ringside screaming for their family members. You can tell these athletes train hard to prepare. The sport is a unique part of the culture. Spend a few extra dollars and get ringside seats. Beer, water, and snacks can be purchased from your seats. The main event takes place usually in the 2nd or 3rd fight out of 10-15 so be sure to arrive on time. Many Americans showed up towards the end and missed a lot of the good action.
Patpong Night Market: This is a popular nightlife area. A lot of bars, food stands, night clubs and ‘ping pong’ shows (you have been warned!! Locals will try to get you to go down alleys to these shows with females doing very strange things). We had mixed feelings about this area. Although it was good to see, it was also a bit sad. There were a lot of strip clubs that leave the door open so you can see inside when walking down the street. There were hundreds of girls hanging around the area who seemed pretty young.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Vertigo and Moon Bar: Rated one of the highest in Bangkok, so we had high expectations. We were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset and a dinner on the rooftop. It was pricier and a little stuffy compared to other spots in Bangkok, yet you get what you pay for… an amazing view over the city. We still recommend checking it out.
- So Sofitel– Loved this one. Perfect location with dramatic panoramic views over Lumpini Park and the urban skyline. Go for afternoon tea on the 9th floor or have dinner and drinks outside after 5 on the 29th floor at Park Society. Gorgeous, contemporary and elegant all mixed together served with chilled white wine. Spent our last few hours in Bangkok here before our red-eye flight and wow…. Hit our happy place!
- Sky Bar – the scenic setting for the film Hangover 2. Suspended on a precipice over the city 820 feet in the air. Gorgeous views of the city skyline, live jazz music, not the most friendly staff as they are used to American Tourists.
Additional things to do:
Damnoen Floating Market Tour: This is a boat tour that shows you the hustle and bustle of the market life in Thailand. Much of the produce and day to day items are purchased by boat. Located is a bit outside of Bangkok, yet very much worth the travel to experience the culture of shopping by boat! If you would prefer a more local, less touristy way to explore the floating market then we recommend showing up and giving a local a bit of cash to take you around for an hour or two.
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya: This is a world heritage site north of Bangkok. The ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya Hisroical Park, an archaologicial site that contains palances, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues. We decided against this, as it is 80 km north of Bangkok.
Get a massage: Massage parlors are located all over, hundreds and hundreds! Check out some reviews and pick one that matches your needs near you. Approximately 50-70% cheaper than massages in the United States. Just wait until you hear about my first massage experience in Chiang Mai….
Thai Cooking Class: Several options and a very well-liked activity to do.
Tips for Bangkok
- Make sure to pack maxi dresses or jeans. For the temples, no shorts of sleeveless tops are allowed. We made this mistake! Luckily had scarfs that worked to cover our arms.
- No shoes are allowed in temples. No planning ahead needed, unless you would like to wear shoes that are easy to get on and off.
- Uber! We were thrilled to find out Bangkok used Uber. The MRT/BTS train is also very easy to use. Additional options are taxis and tuk tuks (open air, colorful, usually three-wheeled small carriages driven by a moped). Be sure to haggle the cost, be confident and do not get scammed on transportation costs. They will try but if you hold strong then they will quickly back down.
Next up will be Chiang Mai. Thanks for adventuring, Bangkok!