No, it’s not Paris, it’s not London. Not even New York. In 2019, the world’s most touristy city was once again Bangkok. More than 22 million people were welcomed to the Thai capital that year. A fact which, to me, never ceases to amaze. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Bangkok was the first Asian capital I have passed through more than once. There will be something about Bangkok when you visit it.
The last time we spoke we were on Koh Samet, this troubled island of Thailand where we ended a new journey through this country. Indeed, there this trip ended, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to update this post on the “Thai” capital. Because, just as I did in 2014, we spent a few days in Bangkok on this new adventure.
Table of Contents
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand
I confess, macro-cities and I don’t usually get along. And, with 8 million inhabitants, Bangkok is not exactly a village. Now, after the two dates I’ve had with her, you could say we have a good relationship. It’s good that the heat there can be unbearable, that the traffic is crazy, that the sky is always the colour of pollution and that the soundtrack is pure noise. Well, even with those, I’ve always found it pleasant.
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Perhaps it is because of the laughing gas, their scorpion stands or the pseudo-casualistic friendliness of the Thai tourist hunters. Or maybe it’s just the nice memory my first trip to Asia left me. But whatever it is, Bangkok and I understand each other. Even though I’ve been there twice, I still have a lot to learn, although with my experience I might be able to shed some light on it if you plan to spend a few days there.
How to get to Bangkok (or get out of there)
In fact, it is almost absurd to devote space to explaining how to get to the Thai capital. As you can see, a city of this size can be reached in many ways. If you plan to do this by air, please note that the city has two airports, although most international flights arrive at Suvarnabhumi (BKK). But if you’re traveling internally or from border countries, check out Don Mueang Airport (DMK) as well. Even though it’s smaller, it also has good options and can be cheaper.
If you like train travel, know that from the Hua Lamphong train station is possible to visit a few destinations, some as well known as Chiang Mai or Shurattani. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that from one day to the next it is almost impossible to find a seat, so it’s better to make your reservations online, and not on short notice.
See transports in Thailand
Another option to enter or leave the city, the most economical, is the bus. The Mo Chit (also known as Chatuchak) station is the main one, and from there you can reach (almost) any destination. Now, if you are moving between the tourist spots of the country, then you can surely find options that leave from the centrally located Khao San Road. There are many agencies that float buses for tourists from there.
If you’re on a bigger budget, or traveling with two or three people, then you might want to get hold of Grab (a Uber-type application that works well in Asia), because the prices are not exaggerated and you share it even less. Or, why not, rent your own vehicle.
View car rental in Thailand
To finish this transport block, tell you that moving around inside the city is also relatively easy. Although it is extensive, most tourist sites can be visited on foot. If you prefer to save your strength or exposure to the sun, know that there are metro, skytrain, buses, taxis and tuk-tuk at your disposal, and all of them have an affordable price.
Where to sleep in Bangkok
Now that you are clear about how to get there and move around the city, before continuing with the story let me give you a few recommendations for accommodation, to make your experience in Bangkok as satisfying as possible. In general, if a tourist issue has brought you to Bangkok, try to stay in the central area. You can take the aforementioned Khao San Road as a reference, especially if you are looking for cheap accommodation, although the river bank or Sukhumvit district can also meet your needs.
As in almost any major city, Airbnb has a lot to offer you. If you are interested in sleeping in local houses, here is a discount code.
25 euro gift on Airbnb
In terms of hostels, the D’ Hostel is one of the best rated and located in the city. For 10 euros a night you get it.
See Baan Mai Sak Hostel
If you prefer something more intimate to go with your partner but assumable, the Let’s Zzz hotel can be a great option. 35 will cost you the double room.
See hotel Lets Zzz
If you want to spend your stay in style, then don’t hesitate to spend the more than 100 euros a night that the Eastin Grand Hotel costs. More than 5000 good reviews guarantee it!
See Eastin Grand Hotel
What to see in Bangkok
Now that the logistical doubts have been cleared up, it is time to leave the suitcase in our hotel and go out and kick around the streets of the Thai capital. Because if so many people visit her every year, she’s hiding something, right?
The Grand Palace of Bangkok
Of course, if there is one thing that Bangkok does NOT hide, it is its Grand Palace, the most touristy place in the world’s most touristy city. And although almost everyone who passes by ends up seeing it, not everyone does it the way we did: in the best local company.
I introduce you. This is Pat and her friends. You’re going to allow me the license to only write Pat’s name because it was impossible for us to learn more. Too many Asian names for such a Western memory. Pat, twenty-something, pure goodness, is a Thai engineering student who we contacted online and offered to show us around the city. The remaining 7 members (apart from us) are some of his fellow career members. We were just waiting for Pat, but all eight of them showed up. Great. I imagine Pat coming out of class saying “Hey, I’m going to show the city to four Spaniards, who’s in?”
Going back to the Grand Palace, tell you that this is a complex of buildings built in the late eighteenth century that served as a royal residence for many years. In addition to the aforementioned palace, inside there are several temples and buildings with a salt shaker. All in all, a fairly caratable enclosure…
…which you can’t get into by showing “meats”. Actually, you can’t do that in any religious compound in Thailand, so try to always have something on hand to cover your legs and shoulders. We rented some at the entrance which, of course, did not suit us particularly well and gave us even more heat than seems possible. Having overcome the obstacle of clothing, the next one was to drop the 500 Bath that costs the entrance (about 12 euros per person). But, well, it was still a great opportunity to see a building like that.
Wat Phra Kaev
As I was saying, there are several things to see inside the Grand Palace grounds. The Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha stands out, so called because it contains an emerald Buddha inside that, now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing.
Also not bad is the Phra Mondop, also known as “the beautiful golden building where we took many pictures”…
Chakri Maha Prasat
… or the Chakri Maha Prasat, a cute Italian Renaissance-style building.
But since I don’t want to rush you either, I just want to tell you that the Grand Palace is one of those places you have to see in Bangkok, yes or no. When we left the enclosure the rain was waiting for us, so our group of guides took us to take shelter in the “Casa Manolo” of the Thai restaurants. Come on, a Thai Thai, no frills. We would have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t eaten two hours earlier. Although we told our hosts, they asked for many dishes and did not settle until we tasted something from everyone. It’s a fun experience to see how they look at you while you try something and wait for your reaction. There were good dishes and other… let’s just say that we drew on our promising career as actors.
Khao San Road
Shortly after you have read about what to see in Bangkok, I am sure you will know about the existence of the Khao San Road (the Great Road around here).
A place where you’ll end up almost unwillingly and where you’re sure to find a good atmosphere…
…a lot of “stimuli” and good insect stuff, but on the grill.
That’s right, buddy, they sell “edible” insects in Bangkok. The locals don’t really eat them, but since we tourists find them very funny, they are almost given to us in our mouths. The menu is irresistible: worms, scorpions, grasshoppers… when faced with such a menu, a cricket even sounds good. Yes, we tried it, and I confess that it doesn’t taste bad, but you can’t get used to having a cricket’s leg between your teeth. Anything goes to sleep with a full belly.
Cricket intolerant? 5% discount on your travel insurance
Wat Pho Temple
The next morning, wanting to sink his teeth into something different. I open parentheses to tell you that it is not easy to find supermarkets to use in Thailand. However, every three stores there is a Seven Eleven, a franchise of stores that sell a very little of many things. So it’s almost more expensive to eat four cookies in this country than to buy a sack of grilled… rice. Close parentheses. After breakfast, we set off for the Wat Pho temple, another of the things to see in Bangkok. Not as spectacular as the Grand Palace but cheaper and with enough points of interest.
Among them, the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. And you say, and what record is that? You see, just as the main representation of Christ in Christianity is the cross, Buddha in Buddhism can appear in many positions: lying down, reclining, half-reclining, one hand up, the half turn, Kuduro Dance… And almost all the important temples we have visited hang the medal of having the biggest Buddha in a certain position. Those who have it small are content to say they have the biggest in the neighborhood. That said, this one was impressive.
But it wasn’t the only thing to visit, since the temple was full of little temples…
…and other things to see.
The Chao Phraya River and the canals of Bangkok
Between Buddhas and photos we spent the morning and, after eating something, we approached one of the many docks around the river in Bangkok. You’ll always find something to do there, or at least to eat.
The Chao Phraya River, the largest in Thailand, is of fundamental importance to the city and offers many leisure possibilities. In fact, just as there are tourist buses, in Bangkok you can also take a tourist boat that stops at some of its highlights. Although if you just want to cross from one bank to another, for less than a euro you can.
However, beyond the river, the Thai city is also crossed by canals and to go through them is one of the best plans you will be able to make in Bangkok. It’s funny because on my first trip there they were hardly exploited for tourism and we didn’t pay two euros to sail them. On this last trip there were almost 10 of them, and they had queues. Problems of mass tourism.
It takes about an hour to tour the canals, accessing “the back door” of some of the neighborhoods that surround the center of this huge city. Ideal to know the hidden face of Bangkok…
… and to learn more about their culture…
… and about the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn
Coincidentally or not, my two stays in Bangkok ended up in the same place: the Wat Arun. I guess this is my favorite temple in those parts.
The temple of El Amanecer was begun to be built in the mid-18th century and today consists of a main tower of over 70 metres and 4 smaller towers, all of which are decorated with porcelain and the remains of shells.
Towers whose tops can be reached by increasingly steep (and dangerous) stairs. A touch of colour on the banks of the Chao Phraya.
That was the end of our stay in Bangkok, so it was time to get a tuk-tuk and head to the station. As you can imagine, in this city, as in many others, any tourist is money with legs. Wherever you pass shopkeepers, drivers, guides, ice-cream makers, masseurs… they are out to get you, trying to convince you to access their product. Mostly right, but insistent. Most of the time you pass, but if you show a slight interest, it can lead to quite funny situations. Now that you’ve accepted, they’re super nice and helpful people to you. But where were we going this time?
Pattaya – The Mecca of the Thai “party
For our destiny would be Pattaya. What is Pattaya? Many things, but, sadly, one of the largest “brothels” in Asia. This city, about two hours from Bangkok, contains streets and alleys full of “discos”, “massage houses”, “bars”, “hostels”… where without doing much and paying little you can end up sleeping accompanied.
The Pattaya promenade is a parade of prostitutes that will easily last half an hour on foot. The city combines a youthful, tranquil-looking atmosphere, which is content with a bit of partying… with the perversion of those who seek there what they cannot legally find elsewhere. A fun place for healthy minds, a dark place for troubled minds. I have to admit that we took a walk around the area attracted by the journalistic curiosity. From there to the apparently more normal hotel we found…
… although with a double bottom, like everything in that part of the world. When dawn breaks, the neon lights and heels disappear and a different city emerges. A place I don’t think I’ll be coming back to.
Of course, I can’t say the same about Bangkok. Despite its chaos, its heat and the excess of everything… it always ends up leaving me with a good aftertaste. It’s just that, despite everything, I do enjoy the excesses from time to time. When is the third time coming?
More useful information in our travel guide to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore