For our trip to Cambodia, we had to transit through Bangkok, Hence we decided to include Bangkok in our travel itinerary and spend a few days exploring this bustling metropolis. While planning for this trip, I read and heard numerous contrasting stories about this city – people either really liked it or really hated it. It seemed like there were only extremes and no in-between views for anyone. So I was quite keen to experience this city for myself and draw my own conclusions.
Anyways, my take after the visit – I did not like Bangkok and for some reason this city just didn’t agree with me, or grow on me or give me any reason to change my views. We did have a nice time shopping, saw some good things, did some fun stuff, basically everything was good but it was because of the company that I had and not the city, which was a huge disappointment.
Bangkok taught me that any place (no matter how dull or bad) can be fun if you meet the right people and a visit to a good place can turn really bad of you meet all the wrong people. I guess that’s what went wrong for us in Bangkok.
For our visit, we had decided to stay closer to the city centre and hence booked a hotel at Sukhimvit. We loved the location of the hotel as it was a quick 2 minute walk to all kinds of public transport, had a 7-11 store opposite to the hotel and some good shopping areas around.
For our first day in Bangkok, we decided to head the farthest and explore the Phra Nakhon and Rattanakosin district. We took various modes of transportation (I have written a detailed section on how to reach various places at the end of this post) and started the day with a fun boat ride on the Chao Praya river to reach the Phra Nakhon and Rattanakosin district. All along the river side we saw numerous high-end hotels, the local China town, other smaller temples etc. All in all its quite a fun ride and really amazing as this is an important form of transportation like a bus / train to commute for a lot of local people.
We first went to visit The Grand Palace and that’s where things just began to fall apart. There is short walk from the Pier to the Grand Palace and all the way we were accosted by touts telling us that the Grand Palace is closed and trying to put us in tuk-tuks. This got us real irritated. Additionally, as we were going to a temple, we had worn long trousers covering our knees and long tops covering our arms / elbows. But apparently this is not the correct dress code and women need to wear long skirts. They do have an office at the entrance that provides these garments free of cost for a small deposit, but when we went there they had a long queue and after standing in the queue they wanted the deposit in exact change, which we didn’t have. So we came out and started contemplating on what to do but there was a really irritating woman standing there who just wouldn’t let us stand in one corner and decide. She kept allowing some locals who were also in the wrong attire to stand there but kept shouting at us to either go into the office or leave. And she just wasnt ready to listen or let us stand there for 2 minutes and to top it all – was extremely rude. So we decided that we’ll leave and not visit the Grand Palace at all. We then left through the gates, clicked a few pics from outside and decided to walk towards Wat Pho.
Wat Pho is again a short walk from The Grand Palace and we kept dodging touts all along the way. In fact, even fruit sellers told us that Wat Pho is closed. But we finally reached Wat Pho (which was open) and spent a good half a day here. I have written an entire blog post on Wat Pho at http://wp.me/p29z7S-jF
Around lunch time, we decided to leave this area (as we had had enough of these touts by then) and head towards Khao San Road. Additionally, we decided to not take any tuk-tuk ride (and risk landing up in some place else) but walk all the way. When we started walking from Wat Pho, on one side of the road, there were numerous local shops with some really interesting local stuff – like wooden massage instruments and oils, chinese medicines, local food stuff, Buddhist religious stuff etc etc. Do take a few minutes and checkout these shops. You can pick up some real cute authentic local gifts and that too at big time bargains.
After a short walk, we saw the familiar tuk-tuk hung on the wall announcing that we had arrived at the famous back packer destination – Khao San Road. Now Khao San is a whole world in itself. It’s a long street that keeps branching into various bylanes and there are more streets further from this main street. All these streets have a few things in common – loads of restaurants and pubs to chill, lot of street shopping and some good stores, masseurs on the road and loads of foreigners. For a second you feel that you are in a complete cosmo town where there is a mix of all nationalities and not a city in SE Asia. But here too we met quite a few bad local people who were very touchy feely and this just didn’t agree with us.
We then spent an entire afternoon walking and exploring the various streets, discovering quaint stores, shops, cute gift items, loads of T-shirts (some where you could even get these personalised), bags, flip-flops etc etc. You name it and you can get it here. And when you get tired you can just plonk your self on any of the street side masseur and get a foot massage at dirt cheap rates. And if you feel hungry then you can sit in one of the numerous restaurants / coffee shops /pubs and rest away. It goes without saying that we spent a lot of time here and had a blast.We wanted to visit Wat Saket known as the Golden Mount (that offers an amazing view at sunset with a 360 degree panoramic view of Bangkok) and from there walk all the way to the Pakklong Flower Market. But we were too tired by then and the humidity had really gotten to us. So we decided to call it a day.
On the way back we quickly saw the Wat Arun temple which seemed gorgeous from outside but we didn’t have the time to go in and see it from inside. Still I completely recommend it to everyone who has the time to explore it.
Tips for travel within Bangkok –
How to reach Grand Palace / Wat Pho – Take a BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. Walk out of the station and you will see the Chao Phraya Boat station – Central Pier (Sathorn). From here take a ferry to Chang Pier and then walk straight onto Na Phra Lan Road to Wat Pho. If you are staying at Khao San road, then you can walk up to the Phra Athit (N13) Pier and take a ferry from there to Chang pier.
Wat Pho to Khao San Road – It’s a 20 – 30 minute pleasant walk and you look at the local map for directions.
How to reach the city centre from Khao San Road – Walk upto the Phra Arthit pier from Khao san Road and take the ferry to Sathorn pier. From here walk to the Saphan Takshin BTS Skytrain station and take a train for your destination.
Tips for the trip –
- Check on the dress code required for Grand Palace in advance and dress accordingly to avoid any issues at the gates.
- Check out local shops near Wat Pho on the main road. They have some really interesting local stuff and you can pick up some real cute authentic local gifts and that too at big time bargains
- Beware of touts and do not believe them when they say things are closed or try to put in a tuk-tuk. This is a scam.
- Take care of all your belongings in this place.