Bangkok is a beautiful city. Bangkok is also a busy city. But that’s what I love. Come on, I’m Expat and the CITY after all — I love the hustle and bustle! In August 2015, I took at trip to Thailand with my two gal pals, one of whom I hadn’t seen since I left for Korea. It was so nice to see her again! Similar to my Philippines experience, I first landed in the capital city, before heading off to one of Thailand’s famous islands – Koh Phangan – for the rest of my trip.
There’s a lot to do in Bangkok so you could probably spend more than two days (three nights) in the city. But for us, two days were perfect. It was fast paced yet we were able to take our time to see all the iconic landmarks and different areas of the city.
We flew from Busan, South Korea and landed in Bangkok around midnight. (Note: Jeju Air is not the best airline to fly 5 hours with… the seats were uncomfortable and no food on flight. But that’s what you get for booking with a budget airline). It was fairly easy to get a cab right in front of the airport. We tried to get into just any cab but they told us no. At first I thought “how rude!” but actually, the taxis have a certain system where you grab a numbered ticket from a machine and then you must go to that specific taxi that the ticket issued. On this ticket it has the information of the taxi driver, license plate number, and contact information of the Ministry of Transportation. I like how orderly they are with this type of system. I would keep hold of this ticket because you never know if you will need it later on.
When we arrived at our hotel – Citadines Sukhumvit 23 Bangkok – at around 1am, we were super hungry. So we decided to walk to find some grub. To our surprise, every place for delivery was closed (and it was only an hour past midnight). Normally I would never do this if I was alone, because there were parts of the street that were completely dark.
Then all of a sudden, I saw lights ahead. I’m not sure how… but we had stumbled into the famous SOI COWBOY! Yes, the same place where The Hangover 2 was filmed. We found a few food stalls, ate some street meat as we tried not to stare at the lady boys, and headed back to the hotel. My friend from Canada was arriving in the A.M. and we knew we would have a busy day ahead.
The next morning, my friend had arrived bright and early. After big hugs, some catch up and breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we were ready to hit the streets of Bangkok!
Our hotel had its own tuk-tuk – the most popular way to get around the city – so our lovely concierge took us to a place where we could exchange money and hop on the Skytrain. Let me tell you, the Bangkok transit system is one of the easiest (and cheapest) I have ever taken! The metro is awesome – mostly because it’s above ground, so you can enjoy all the sights of the city. They have underground metros, too, which we used to connect to another line.
So what can you do for 2 full days in Bangkok?
Grand Palace and Wat Pho Temple
Grand Palace and Wat Pho Temple are two very popular landmarks in Bangkok. Grand Palace, home to the Kings of Siam since the 1700s, was crazy busy, even on a Monday! This is definitely the type of place that will be crawling with tourists every day of the week; so be prepared for crowds.
We thought we had done our research about the strict dress code for the temple. I bought a maxi dress and a pashmina scarf to wrap around my bare shoulders at the weekend market. However, when we arrived at the gates, to our surprise they denied us entry into the Palace. My one friend who had a loose t-shirt over her dress was allowed. But apparently, you cannot wrap a scarf around your shoulders. So my other friend and I ended up having to go to the gift shop and buy a t-shirt to put over top. The selection was limited – as you can see by the horrible pink and green clash of colours in my ensemble.
After that minor setback, we ended up hiring a tour guide (affiliated with the Palace) to show us around. I would recommend getting a tour guide if you can! We paid 300THB per person (about $10). Our tour guide – named Sunny – was amazing and so friendly. He provided great detail about each of the buildings and statues we saw – and would tell us the best point to take photos! He also took lots of photos of the three of us, so that was great, too!
I was very impressed with the place, although it was SO HOT! I was entranced by the beautiful buildings, the intricate designs, and the all gold EVERYTHING! Not to mention the stunning Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
We said our goodbyes to our tour guide and walked to Wat Pho Temple. Both places are quite close to each other so walking is definitely do-able. Wat Pho isn’t as strict with the dress code so I tore that t-shirt off and was ready to explore! Wat Pho is where you will find the famous Reclining Buddha. I was in awe when I saw how big this thing was! You can’t get too close as there are large pillars in the way – but you can certainly snap some great photos from certain angles! I found Wat Pho to be less crowded than Grand Palace. Plus they were giving away free bottles of water… exactly what we needed on this hot summer’s day!
TIP: If a local tries to tell you that the temples are closed, don’t listen to him or her! They will try to scam you and charge you a boatload for being your tour guide. We had a couple tourists approach us to ask if this was true. Thank goodness we stopped the scam before it could happen to them!
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)
If you love modern art and culture, this place is worth checking out. Admission to the BACC is free, which is always a plus in my books! I loved the design of the building – they had a cool spiral staircase to each floor that can make your head spin when looking down! We didn’t stay too long here, as we were eager to move on to the next place on our list: Jim Thompson House.
Jim Thompson House Museum
Jim Thompson is an American architect who built a home in Thailand after falling in love with the country. He became quite popular in Thailand with this art and textile designs. But one night while traveling in Malaysia, Jim disappeared without a trace and still remains a mystery to this day. It was really cool to visit his house and see all the lovely designs and structures he had built. You can wander around the gardens and also take a tour inside the home, which is included in the admission price.
Chao Phraya River
Skytrain. Metro. Tuk-Tuk. Now, the only other mode of transportation left to take was the ‘river taxi’ on the Chao Phraya River. After the Jim Thompson Museum, we hopped on the Skytrain to take us to the Chao Phraya Tourist pier. From there, we purchased a single trip ticket (40 THB) and rode along the river to take us to the Weekend Market. It was a great way to get another perspective of Bangkok.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must see when visiting Bangkok! You can find basically anything at this world-renowned market: clothes & shoes, household items, souvenirs, textiles, food & spices, artwork… you name it! You can spend hours getting lost within the corridors of the market, so pick up a free map! There are also tons of food and drink stalls to check out when you need a break from walking – which I guarantee you will!
Thailand’s rooftop bar selection is abundant so you won’t have a problem finding a place to unwind and sip on your favourite cocktail. We decided to check out Octave Rooftop Bar at the Mariott Hotel, which was closest to where we were staying. No, this isn’t the same rooftop from The Hangover (has anyone been there? Comment below!)
I liked the ambiance of this bar, the service was great, and we got a decent table. The drinks were (obviously) pricier than what we are used to… but sometimes you just have to treat yo’ self! And the VIEW! Oh my goodness, the view of the city skyline was breathtaking. Bangkok, you beauty, you really impressed me!
Khao San Road
Last but certainly not least… hit up the famous Khao San Road, aka backpacker land. I loved this area – people coming and going, walking through the streets with luggage in tow or a drink in their hand. You can find all walks of life here, just wanting to have a good time. There will be no problem meeting new people! I need to give a shout out to Tom from A World of Flophouses – who really captures the essence of the streets of Bangkok at night. Check out his photo essay HERE.
Well there you have it! I know there is so much more to do in Bangkok… such as visiting the Floating Markets. Until next time, Bangkok. I will be back!
Have you been to Bangkok before? What did you do while you were there? Leave a comment below. And if you liked this post, pin it on Pinterest!