We didn’t have a long list of things to do in Bangkok. My brother and I arrived in Bangkok, the first city in our SE Asia trip, with only one thing in mind:
Eat Thai food
We quickly realised it wasn’t an ambitious enough list. Not by a long shot.
The thing is, I sort of underestimated Bangkok: To be honest, I was expecting Bangkok to be your typical Asian capital city: hot and dusty, legendary traffic jams, uninspiring and dusty concrete buildings…
But Bangkok surprised us. (Even though the hot part and the traffic jam parts are also true).
The thing about having an unambitious to-do list is that all the other extra stuff we ended up enjoying about Bangkok was just extra bonus points.
The Grand Palace was a wow-zer in its over the top way – Bonus point!
The giant reclining Buddha was well… big and horizontal. Very cool, indeed. Bonus point!
The fact that Buddha has a come-hither look that makes this the sexiest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen? Double bonus point!
Many of Bangkok’s points of interest are located within walking distance from Chao Phraya river. You can jump on a public boat and get on and off at any pier that looks interesting all for 15 Baht (50 cents) a trip – Bonus point!
We took a trip on a long boat tour through the residential part of Bangkok canals. The idea is that you get to see the life of those who live by the river. It would’ve been interesting, but we must’ve picked a bad time because we didn’t see any ‘life’ so to speak. The only people we saw on this trip were people in the laughable ‘floating market’ – 3 boats selling overpriced bananas. This was just ok and does not merit a bonus point.
And then there’s the famous Bangkok’s nightlife. I took my brother out to a bar on Nana district. We saw men the age of our fathers acting like frat boys: going crazy on the dance floor with beer in one hand and a young Asian girl my brother’s age on the other. Rocking it, grinding it, and in general having a grand old time. I found it all very fascinating. My brother found it shocking. I almost can never shock my brother so – Bonus point!
And of course we ate a bunch of Thai food. The wonderful Thai people makes it so easy. Empty sidewalk is considered a disgrace and when not taken by souvenir stalls, it’s filled with stands selling fresh fruit, fish cake, grilled fish, grilled meat and other types of deliciousness that makes my mouth water just writing about it – GIANT Bonus point!
My brother and I have adapted a grazing style of eating while we were there. We never sat down to eat, we just kind of… nibbled. A little bit here and there.
So many things about Bangkok came as a pleasant surprise.
The only thing that was NOT a pleasant surprise? The heat and the humidity. My brother and I are probably the only non heat-resistant Asians out there. In Bangkok’s relentless humidity, my face turns into an oil slick OPEC would be interested in. My brother sweats so much he often looks like he’s just fallen into one of the canals.
People say you’ll get used to it. We’re still waiting for it to happen. (Our guide at the Grand Palace said that Bangkok has 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest).
Despite the heat, I have to say I kind of like Bangkok. It’s a fun city and I never thought I’d say that about any capital city in Asia. As we’re traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam (where we’re currently at) – we keep saying to each other: “Oh, can’t wait to get back to Bangkok!”
1 hr long boat trip: 300 Baht a person
Bangkok Grand Palace admission fee: 400 Baht
Bangkok Reclining Buddha admission fee: 100 Baht
A tip on which area to stay in Bangkok: We stayed in Sukhumvit district and loved it! Staying close to a BTS station makes a huge difference.
Bangkok is definitely a cool city (but the heat does suck). I even discovered some new stuff on my second trip there. However, I enjoyed Chiang Mai more.
Great perspective. We're trying to decide on a trip to either Vietnam or Burma, but now, I'm wondering if Thailand needs to be in the conversation!
I just love this post! I'm planning to go to BKK this December and your insightful post is one which guides me.m
Your photo inside the Grand Palace also gave me the opportunity to take on many angles for my photography.
Thanks for this! See u both on the road wherever it may be.
"hot, hotter, hottest" : too true! We melted in Bangkok as well. I don't believe anyone is heat resistant enough for that city.
Thanks for the positive Bangkok tips! I'm heading there solo at the start of July and was a bit hesitant that there'd be things to do apart from the 'traditional' Khao San Rd experience – good to see there's a wealth of fun to be had without getting trashed with other Westerners!
I LOVE Bangkok – I just think it is the friendliest big city I've ever visited. And I'm a city girl, so unfriendliness usually doesn't bother me! But you are right about the climate — YOUCH. The only thing to do is carry baby powder EVERYWHERE.
Thanks for the insight and heads up! I'm very much looking forward to getting to SE Asia next week (yay Bali!!) and working our way towards Thailand. I've heard so many good things about it now that I just hope it lives up to my expectations.
Wow, what a nice blog! Glad that i landed here..
I have to agree with you, Bangkok is a nice city, and is pretty modern for SE Asia cities. I remember when I was small I visited Bangkok back then in the 80's and remember exactly how it was (Jakarta was way better).. but look how it is now! 🙂
Man, I have to make it to Bangkok soon, for the food and nightlife alone!
Great that you had a good time here. It's a city that unfolds in many layers.(Well, I guess you can say that about any city, but it's especially true for BKK).
Yes, there's heat and traffic jams and bad air and shocking nightlife. And yes, there are touristy places that you really want to avoid like the pest.
But Bangkok has so much more to offer, it's some kind of combustive mix of everything – modern life and ancient traditions go hand in hand, great food available everywhere (both Thai and other cuisines) and so on.
And btw. beautiful photography 🙂
Chances are…you're gonna love Cambodia as well!!! I took pretty much the same route last summer (Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City), and it turned out really really great!!!
I feel you about the heat! It's not as hot up here in Chiang Mai, but it's still too dang hot in my opinion. I think the acclimation comes once you've stayed through the REALLY hot season – after that everything else will feel blissfully cool.
I was surprised with Bangkok as well. I was expecting the chaos and pollution to make me want to get away from it as soon as possible, but I absolutely loved Bangkok and go back there whenever I can.
I'm excited to see Bangkok, I've heard such mixed reviews. It's nice to hear it surprised you. Love it when things exceed our expectations!
Sounds like you had a good time despite the heat. A tip I learned when in the heat of the Japanese summer is to keep a small hand towel around my neck both to keep the sun off and to absorb the sweat before it reached my shirt (like your brother, I also get that "just in the canal" look when in hot places.)
On our first visit through Bangkok in 2004 we liked the city, but each visit back has made us grown to love it. We consider Bangkok our home in Asia. It's hard to beat its incredible food, but I also love the energy of the place. And, that you can be in an overly touristed area and just walk 1-2 blocks to get back to where Thai life is carrying on as usual. Now I'm getting "homesick" 🙂