TRAVEL TALES: Bangkok
Ok, so Bangkok is busy. Like, capital B-U-S-Y. I’ll be honest, I had a lot of mixed feelings about the city when planning this trip. Much of the feedback I’d gotten from friends or friends of friends hadn't been really positive. The top 3 comments I kept hearing were:
It’s too hectic
There are better places to see
Just fly in and get out
THANKFULLY, when it comes to travelling I’ve always taken people’s opinions with a large grain of salt.
So I started my research and the more I read about Bangkok, the more excited I got. I started getting excited about a city that is a blend of the past and the present. A city where ancient temples and glitzy sky bars are but a short cab ride apart. A city equally passionate about their mega outdoor markets and their mega indoor malls. A city that offers endless means of transportation: taxi ✔︎ túk-túk ✔︎ bus ✔︎ skytrain ✔︎ metro ✔︎ boat ✔︎ — and there are others! Like c’mon, what was I missing? I couldn’t understand where all the hate was coming from.
Anyways, I ended up planning for 3 full days plus an evening in Bangkok. Was that enough? No. But I kind of expected that. There is a lot to do and see in Bangkok, so the key was prioritizing the things on my “This is a must, not wish” list. Armed with that list, my trusty travel book and my DIY trip itinerary saved on my phone in PDF format (because every document looks super official as a PDF) and a hardcopy tucked away in a portfolio (because I’m old school), I made the most of those 3 days.
I want to avoid spending the majority of our time together rattling off facts that you can find in pretty much any article or travel book. Or making a guide on how to get from point A to point B in the countries I've visited, because to be honest there are several great resources out there already. Plus, I’m terrible with directions. My intention is to share my stories. The good and the bad. The planned and the unplanned. But, I will sprinkle some knowledge every now and then and give you the scoop on things that I've learned or that elevated my experience abroad.
That being said, my first piece of unsolicited advice would be: there is no one-size-fits-all in travel.
When I think of my time in Bangkok, 3 things come to mind: temples, shopping and the nightlife.
When I think of my time in Bangkok, 3 things come to mind: temples, shopping and the nightlife.
1. Temples. It’s a well known fact that there’s no shortage of temples in Thailand. Well, I’m here to attest to that fact and add that there is also no shortage of striking, jaw-dropping temples in Bangkok either. It wasn’t easy but with the help of Google images (yup, Google for the win!), I narrowed it down to a handful that really caught my attention. And I was not disappointed.
The plan was to cover 4 temples in one day, which was overly ambitious for a handful of reasons. Firstly, I underestimated how comfortable sleeping in a bed would be after a 26-hour journey in the sky and airport terminals. Secondly, I was adamant on taking a boat there with the Chao Phraya Express service and was definitely charged the “tourist tax”. The boat ride was hurried and wasn't the experience I was hoping for. Thirdly, it was drizzling when I left in the morning and I spent longer than necessary debating on whether or not to take my rain jacket. In the end, that drizzle turned into a downpour and I was very happy to have my rain jacket on deck.
And to top it all off, your girl was battling the tail-end of a cold.
Not today Satan!🤚🏾
It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re surrounded by so much beauty and history.
FIRST STOP: Wat Pho - For the Buddha images
Like I said, it was raining but thankfully a big portion of what I wanted to see at Wat Pho were in sheltered areas. It wasn’t very glamorous though. I did have to sprint from one building to the next to avoid getting soaked. Cardio, anyone? Despite the rain, I did get to wander around enough to see the different Buddha images, including the very large reclining Buddha which I’m not gonna lie ⏤ kinda took my breath away. Its massive. No other way to describe it and definitely worth seeing.
SECOND STOP: Wat Saket (Golden Mount) - For the climb
More cardio … 344 steps worth of cardio to be precise. The climb actually wasn't that bad and I would be lying if I said the view at the top wasn’t worth the burning thighs and shortness of breath. Plus, there are little scenic spots strategically placed along the way up where you can recuperate while ringing these big bells and hitting massive gongs, so that helped. Once at the top, I was rewarded with a 360 view of Bangkok and spent some time there before heading to the very top where the golden mount can be found.
TIP: Pack comfortable shoes that you're ok with getting wet. Just because when I went, there was water streaming down the steps from what turned out to be hoses that were opened and just left on the steps ... apparently on purpose. Maybe for ambiance? Not sure if this is a regular thing, but it's always nice to be prepared.
LAST STOP: Wat Arun - For the architecture
This was the temple I was looking forward to visiting the most (just google “Wat Arun” and you will understand why) and I finally saw it on my very last day in Thailand!
I cabbed it to Wat Arun and could immediately feel its serene energy the moment I stepped out and spotted the tower. I have so many feelings for this place. First of all, its stunning. The attention to detail with the porcelain and coloured glass in intricate designs on the tower itself is astonishing. There are tiny bells lightly chiming in the background that actually force you to SLOW - IT - DOWN and take it all in. Wat Arun was a true delight. It just looked and felt different from all the other temples I had seen on the trip and the weather decided to cooperate that day!! Proof that things ALWAYS work out as they should and for the best.
Plan out the days you want to visit temples and/or bring a long scarf with you when heading out. There is a dress code to respect, although some places enforce it more than others and some traveller’s either don’t care or are completely oblivious. Personally, I did my very best to be dressed appropriately each time I visited a temple because (1) these are places of worship, and (2) I am only a guest.
2. The nightlife
If you want to party, I can tell you Bangkok is not lacking in options.
Full disclosure: I enjoyed a night on the town only one of my 3 nights in Bangkok, because as I’ve gotten older the value of sleep is no longer lost on me. Even when I travel. I’ve noticed a steady shift over the years towards this, which is why where I stay when travelling is extremely important to me. Anyways, on that particular night I somehow managed to party it up at 3 different venues, which was definitely unexpected. All I really wanted to do was sip on a cocktail a couple dozen stories above ground, snap some pics and go home. Well, home ended up morphing into me hopping from a club in the Silom area, to a rooftop bar in Suhkumvit and ending the night at some pub with an incredible live band. I found this place after I’d left the bar thinking I was calling it a night. Whatever your cup of tea, whether it be something laid-back and unassuming or full of glitz and glam, Bangkok keeps on serving.
Ps. Clearly cocktails were my main priority that night, because I ended up snapping only one grainy photo from the rooftop at Above Eleven. I’m notorious for this though. How much fun I have is almost always inversely proportional to the number of photos I take!
The options are truly endless in Bangkok. I did the MBK Centre on my first day and was definitely unprepared for the experience. It’s 8 frenzied floors of merchandise and you need to be up to the task to really enjoy it. I was able to last long enough to buy a self-stick for très cheap, so I was happy to have gone at the start of my trip.
Hmmm … I think I’ve mostly repressed the memories of my time at Patpong market. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I found it overwhelming. And overpriced. Definitely overrated. Overdone. Overstimulating. Overly aggressive. Overintense? LOL 😂 Too much? Looking back, I think it’s safe to say I did not enjoy this night market. Ok, I hated it. Sue me.
I had left this till the very end of the trip probably because my “spidey-senses” knew something was amiss. There is the convenient coupling of nightlife and shopping at the market which in theory would be great. Shop a little. Drink a little. Or a lot. I probably would have done neither had I not been desperate to complete my last minute shopping for souvenirs. I walked up and down the rows of vendors a few times to situate myself and took note of things that caught my eye. And the quoted prices. Then it came to my least favourite part, bargaining. I’m terrible at it, but you have absolutely no choice here. Unless you actually WANT to be ripped off. The thing is I love a great deal, but something about bargaining just doesn't click with me. I almost feel like I’m offending the person. Makes zero sense. Anyways, if you struggle like I do, here’s how you should approach spending your money at Patpong Market. If you see something you like, think about how much you’d be willing to pay for it. Ok, now toss that number and go a bit lower. Minus 5. Divide that number by 3. Round down. That my friend is the price you should pay for said item. Or, you can just blurt out a ludicrously low number and see if that works. As far as I know, there is no right way to bargain….just be sure to do it. Be firm and don't take the angry rebuttals personal. In the end Patpong served it’s purpose ⎼ quick & easy souvenirs: ✔︎, despite a few less than pleasant exchanges with some vendors. I came, I saw and I … survived Patpong market.
You can not deny that this is one pretty market. I took the free shuttle boat from the pier nearby the hotel and rolled up right under the huge ferris wheel. Asiatique is not your traditional Thai market; with more upscale restaurants and shops, but I would say its worth the visit. Originally, I had planned to spend a couple hours at the market, but arrived later than planned. Much later. My biggest regret is not getting a chance to actually get on the ferris wheel (which no doubt offers spectacular views of the market and entire neighbourhood), because it was closing by the time I arrived. Instead, I wandered around, filled my belly, had some sort of passionfruit spritzer, bought a cute clutch, attempted to buy a dress, bonded with a saleslady whose boyfriend lived in Toronto, Canada and hugged a giant statue of an elephant before walking home with a Chang in hand. There’s just something about vacation beer that I cannot resist.
Bangkok is vibrant, hectic and was the perfect launchpad for my trip in Thailand. It offered me the chance to dive into Thai culture head on and explore it at my own pace. I was getting around town on the skytrain and practicing my Thai with locals within hours of landing; something I doubt would have been possible elsewhere in the country. It's a hustle and bustle city and traffic is sooooooo real, so always account for that extra time if travelling by taxi/car or opt for a faster mode of transportation at peak hours. Túk-túk rides are fast and fun (most of the time), but also a major way tourists get suckered out of mucho bahts (ps. baht = Thai currency) ... so always be on your P’s and Q’s. If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you're heading to Thailand and want some tips OR if Thailand is on your list, but you need some convincing, I would love to help! Send me an email, DM or leave a comment. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!