Thailand. A country of wonder, beauty, excitement, and the unknown. A place of learning, exploring, and discovering not just a new culture, but yourself. It is a country of new adventure, and stories, and a place where memories will last forever. It is a place that everyone should visit, and I promise you, you’ll fall in love with it too, if you just give it a chance.
My journey began out of LAX, because lets be honest, tickets are much cheaper starting on a coastal city than good old Denver.
Traveler tip #1, is to always find the best flight deals, so you have more money for adventures when you arrive to wherever it is you are going. Sometimes, (Nay, I will say majority of the time) unless you find a killer deal, it’s cheaper for those of us who do not live on a coast, to purchase a ticket separately to a coastal city, then a round-trip international flight out of there. Most likely you wont be lucky enough to purchase a nonstop ticket anyway out of your home city, so why not control your layover, and make the price way more reasonable! Stopovers in general make your flights more affordable, and add in a fun adventure if you take advantage of them! It’s a cheap way to see a new city or two!
Travel Tip #2 if you have the luxury to do so, travel during off seasons. Summer is high season all the time, if you can travel during off parts of fall or winter (in the country your going to), everything will be much cheaper, and you’ll deal with less crowds, and truly get to see a place instead of a sea of people. For this particular trip, we were traveling during Thailand’s off season (Late Sept- Early Oct), their winter, aka Monsoon season, but let me tell you, we experienced a total of two Monsoons during our time there, the two of which lasted a total of 15 minutes each, so it was not bad at all. Plus, going during the rainy season made our visit cooler, in the low 90’s, as opposed to 100+ degree weather during the summer. I’d say that’s a win to me!
We began our journey on AirChina. An overall awesome airline. Great flight crews, decent food, roomy seats, and they accommodate when delays happen, because, coming from someone who works in the industry, delays ALWAYS happen, everywhere, on every airline, all the time.
Our layover this time was in Beijing. Our first flight was delayed due to fog in China, so we missed our second flight to Thailand by an hour. Instead of stressing about sleeping in an airport, or finding a hotel, and re-booking our flight, we got a free temporary visa to exit the airport, and they put us up in a hotel in Beijing for the night. It turned the whole experience into an adventure, and we met some awesome people along the way. AirChina, took care of everything, and made the process easy, and free. We may have had one less day in Thailand, but we got to see a new country, well just a hint of it, and created a super amazing, and unexpected adventure along the way.
When we finally made it to Bangkok, we met up with my best friend who had just recently moved there to teach English. As a recent local, she had a ton of fun filled adventures planned for us, and that’s when the journey began. Throughout my month stay, friends, my boyfriend (husband now, but that’ll be a much later post), and tourists came and went. I traveled in groups, or solo, but throughout it all I grew and learned so much. Here is Thailand, well Bangkok, in a nutshell. The places to see, the things to avoid, and a new adventure waiting for everyone who is willing to read, and then get off the couch and explore!
It all began in Bangkok….
12 Fun & Unique Things to See & Do in Bangkok:
Bangkok is the ultimate city of new and old. Sprawling city high rises, mixed in with ancient temples and ruins. It is modern, it is historic, it is traditional, and it is a city of any desire. There is traffic all the time, no matter where you’re going, but there is adventure around every corner you turn. We rented out a high-rise loft (only about $20 a night on Airbnb) for the entire time of our trip so we could have a home base to come back to, and leave excess stuff at it as we traveled from city to city. Overall we spent about a week in Bangkok, a bit long for my taste if I were to do it over again, but every moment we found something new and exciting to do. I love big cities, but this one is huge, so plan accordingly to make enough time for it all! Here are my top 12 things to do in Bangkok!
1. Go to a Sofitel SO Rooftop Pool Party:
This may go without saying, but it’s freaking hot in Thailand, all the time. All the damn time! Let me remind you, we were there during their winter time, and everyday we were still drenched in glistening, glowing, beautiful sweat. That may not sound pleasant, but jumping into a nice cold pool sure does, and even better, one in the middle of the city with a spectacular view! Plus, this is an epic way to meet other people, have some fun, and maybe learn about a few hidden gems to visit in the city from people who have already done them! The pool party at Bangkok Sofitel, happens every Saturday, so if you miss it one week, just come back the next. Forgot your bathing suit? Don’t worry, they sell them in a vending machine. Lockers to put your stuff in, drinks, and tons of fun for all! Definitely an epic experience you wont forget…or you could…
Easy on the liquor guys…this is only my first recommendation!
2. Check out Wat Pho:
There are hundreds of temples to choose from, all with a different story, meaning, and history. I honestly don’t think you could go wrong seeing any one of the temples in Bangkok, but you could spend a whole year doing so, so keep that in mind. There are a lot!
Also, it is good to keep in mind that temples, being sacred sites, have a very strict dress codes. Women, make sure to always cover your knees and shoulders, no tank tops, shorts, no short skirts, or short dresses. Men, no tank tops. Also, no bare feet, so if you wear sandals, make sure you have socks with them. I know, it’s hot, did I mention that before? The last thing you want to do is wear more clothing, so make sure you wear breathable, light attire, and you’ll be fine. I promise the temples are worth the extra clothing.
My favorite temple of the bunch was Wat Pho. This is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple features a 46 meter long (about 150 feet), gold plated Buddha. It is a magical site to see! This temple is also the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, and has more Buddha images behind its walls than any other temple in Thailand, over a 1000 to be exact.
A tree, actually a Bodhi tree, which is a direct descendant of the Bodhi tree in India where the Buddha sat underneath and reached enlightenment, is outside the temple that houses the Reclining Buddha.
On top of all of that, this is also the place where the original Thai massage was created, and this temple still houses a school to teach the original practice. All that located in one place, definitely worth checking out!
3. Visit the Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha Temple:
Just across the street from Wat Pho, this place, back in the day, was comparable to Britain’s Buckingham Palace. It was the residence of the Thai King, the Royal Court, and the like. A place of prestige and beauty. Although the Royal family no longer resides at the Grand Palace, the place is still used for royal ceremonies and large events. The one most notable and recent event, was the funeral of the beloved Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away during the later part of our visit. His remains lie in a building within the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is also home to Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, known to be the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. It houses the Emerald Buddha, a tiny Buddha carved from a single block of jade. It’s beautiful, and unique, and worth checking out, if not for it’s beauty, for the history, and talent behind the creation of that Buddha.
4. Take a Riverboat Taxi:
As I mentioned before, Bangkok is a very busy city. There is traffic at all times of day and night. Luckily there is a public train system that runs to most places you’ll want to visit, but sometimes you want a unique way to get from place to place. Enter, the Riverboat Taxi! This option can certainly be touristy or a local thing, depending on where and how you buy your ticket, but regardless, it’s a fun alternative to see the city. It’s also a great and easy way to see multiple temples in one day. There are taxi cruises dedicated to just temple sites, and maps to list what stop to get off at to see each sight. The Riverboat Taxi’s sail over the Chao Phraya River, the large river that flows through Bangkok. This river you can pretty much see from any high point in Bangkok. It’s also a great way to cool off, taking in the nice river breeze!
5. Shop at the JJ Market aka Chatuchak Weekend Market:
This is by far one of the coolest places I’ve been to. It is said to be the World’s biggest market, and I believe it. It’s so large you can easily get lost in it (I did multiple times), and it’s impossible to thoroughly cover it all in a day, or even a weekend. It has every thing you could ever think to purchase there. From clothes, to food, to live animals, to plants, and things you never even thought you wanted but you buy anyway because it’s cheap. This is a shoppers paradise, and even if you don’t like to shop, I promise you, you’ll find something to peak your interest and keep you occupied for hours on end. Remember to bargain! Every price you see is negotiable and they expect you too. Come with lots of cash, and be ready to get a lot, for little money!
6. Wander the Train Night Market:
Yep, another market, but this one is awesome because there is live music, a much smaller setting, and more of a local vibe. Again, everything is extremely cheap and you can find just about anything you want. This market is unqiue from the previous one because it’s at night when the sun is not beating down on you, so it’s a little bit cooler, and easier to enjoy, and it’s much harder to get lost here. Still large, but not unbearable. Check out the fun and unqiue drinks and food, or just sit back and relax to the live music. You’ll want to come back time, and time again.
7. Drink out of a fresh Coconut:
This is quite easy to accomplish given you can purchase coconuts just about anywhere, and they’re dirt cheap. It’s a great and delicious way to stay hydrated, and it’s a fun experience to drink out of a real coconut! Bonus: Try coconut ice cream! It’s pretty amazing, and I promise once, will not be enough. You’ll keep coming back for more! You can find them at both markets I listed above, and outside most of the temples, or just anywhere as you wander down the streets of Bangkok. Make sure you ask them to cut it for you and grab a straw. They’re super thick and hard to open without the right skills or tool, so don’t plan on doing it yourself unless you really want to. Then just sit back, and enjoy!
8. Eat on the 81st floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel:
This was seriously one of the highlights of my trip. I may be biased, because this is where I ended up celebrating my birthday, but regardless, it was such a fun an unqiue experience, I highly recommend it to anyone. For Thailand standards, the meal is really expensive. When you’re used to spending just a few US dollars for a meal, spending $50 usd on one meal is extreme, but in actual comparison, for a multiple course meal with unlimited amazing food, at what was the highest building in Bangkok at the time, now the second tallest, the money is worth the experience. This experience is a bit unique too because you can actually opt to eat outside 81 floors up. Unfortunately we had planned on doing that, but we were rained out, and had to eat inside. It was still an amazing experience! With your dinner, you also get a free ticket to the observatory just a floor or so up, which allows you a complete 360 view of Bangkok. Ridiculously amazing, highly recommend it, and it’ll definitely be a night you won’t forget! Come hungry, and thirsty, leave happy!
9. Get a Drink at the Sky Bar:
Get your own Wolfpack together and head to one of the filming locations for Hangover 2! If you’re a fan of the movie, you know most of it was filmed in Bangkok, and you can find filming locations all over the place, but this is definitely one of the coolest. Much like the dinner I talked about above, this experience for Thai standards is a little pricey. Drinks are about double what you’ll pay anywhere else, but the view alone makes it worth it. Get there early to get a seat on the couch by the edge, and take in all of Bangkok at sunset with your pack, a drink in hand, and the fun fact of knowing you’re sitting in the filming locations of a pretty epic movie! Live a life on the wild side for a night by beginning your hangover here, and then continue the party at my #10 pick!
10. Red Light District: Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza & Pat Pong:
If you’re looking for some unique fun, check out one, or all of the Red Light Districts in Bangkok. I recommend the ones with shows, and not just dancing. They’re still ridiculously sexy, but way more entertaining than just girls swaying back and forth. There is a bar for everyone’s taste too! Check out a ping-pong show, a crazy light show, dirty dancing, lady boys, or create your own. The world is you oyster in the Red Light Districts! Have fun, and live a night free of any worries, or regrets! Lose yourself, and be in the moment!
Maybe do some research on what a Ping Pong show is before you get involved in one too. Or not. Live in the moment, right?
11. Watch a Muay Thai fight at Rajadamnern Stadium:
I highly recommend catching a real Muay Thai fight while in Bangkok. They are everywhere, but Rajadamnern Stadium is very well known in Bangkok, and a place where a lot of the locals go. You can opt to buy tickets up close or further back. Most of the tourists sit right up front, so we opted to stay towards the back and be soaked into the passion, excitement, and enthusiasm that is in the local crowds at Muay Thai fights.
The event we went to, was a pretty standard one, and featured several different weight classes and people much smaller and younger then me, but boy, are they skilled. The passion these people show in the ring is amazing, and the traditions witnessed throughout the whole program are outstanding. It is definitely a place to check out for those who want a true fighting, and Thai cultural experience. Pay attention to the crowd too, it’s beautiful how intense, and exciting it is for everyone there. Be in the moment too. Yell, scream, bet, and cheer for your favorites!
12. Take a tour of the Siriraj Medical Museum:
Last, but certainly not least, this museum is definitely not for the faint of heart. It features real life crime scene and death photos, instruments used in medical procedures throughout the years, graphic photos of different medical conditions and diseases, real fetuses, deformities, and the actual mummified body of Thailand’s most famous serial killer.
It is located in the oldest hospital and medical school in Thailand, and is the hospital where the former King of Thailand was treated before he died in Oct 2016. Lots of history, and interesting facts for the curious mind. Check it out if you’re looking for something outside the norm of touristy Bangkok.
Keep in mind, there is so, so much to see and do in Bangkok, and this is a very, very small list of activities to do and see, but trust me, do at least some, if not all of them, and you’ll create a very memorable Bangkok experience!
Remember my loves, travel is all about stepping outside of that comfort zone and experiencing something you’ve never done before. Allow a new place to change you, make you grow, mold you, and take something away from every experience! Say yes more, and do what scares you. I promise, you’ll thank me later for trying that on.
Check out my next post for awesome day trips out of Bangkok!
Until next time my wanderers!