Taking a trip to Thailand? Why not spend a least a couple of days getting to know Bangkok? Ok, Bangkok is a huge city with over 8.5 million people, but it can be made smaller if you narrow down your vision of what you want to experience. We suggest some of the old and ancient, along with some of the new, modern and cosmopolitan. There is an old town area along the Chao Phraya River full of ancient temples and tourists and crazy nightlife. There are also different districts that are modern and a little away from the crowd downtown. The secret is to choose an area that is close to the very convenient BTS Sky Train that will have you zipping into whatever neighborhood you choose in minutes.
3 Places to Go
Bangkok is known for shopping, deal making and generally getting retail goods at wholesale prices. There are floating markets, weekend markets, huge malls laced with everything from small stalls and floors and floors of goods to extremely high end malls with exclusive jewelry, silks, electronics and every thing you will ever want. Wow! Bartering, haggling, hunting for good deals can be exhausting even for a shopper extraordinaire, (yes it takes one to know one), but worthy of at least some of you traveler’s energy and effort. Here are a few of the shopper’s paradise options:
Chatuchak Weekend Market
This is one of the largest outdoor weekend markets in the world boasting over 15,000 shops. Get your brave barter self on and dig into those hundreds and hundreds of narrow aisles and claustrophobic stalls. Look up for stall numbers and categories of merchandise. We were looking for women’s clothing, specifically pants and found the better quality shops a bit less likely to haggle much. But we did find varied styles and patterns that worked well for us at a reasonable price, about $3.30. A brightly colored toddler outfit with elephants all over it, size 4T was around $4.50. Dried fruit and fish are for sale along with the Thai version of popsicles for just a few cents. This market is actually a large park so it is possible to sit down under a tree and catch your breath. Buy water! It’s cheap and so necessary!
Platinum Fashion Mall
This mall is like an indoor, smaller scale version of the weekend market. It has the traditional stalls and some bartering, in a more open and pleasant setting. For those that get overwhelmed with the outdoor markets, this indoor alternative may be more to your liking. There are two buildings with five floors each.
Each floor is modeled after a different world renown city – San Francisco, Paris, London and so on. No haggling, but attractive shops and a variety of interesting food. We ate there lots. See below. This section of town is a great option as the mall is connected to the BTS Sky Train.
Siam Paragon Mall
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Jim Thompson House
When you’re shopped out, take a break and visit the famed Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American architect that came to Thailand during the second world war. He was part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner to the CIA. While coming to Thailand for jungle training, he fell in love with the country and decided to return when the war was over. He started a Thai silk business and built himself a sprawling multi-level home on a river directly across from his silk factory. You can take a 25 minute tour and wander around the home soaking in the beauty of the architecture and the jungle-like setting.
Finding out about Jim Thompson’s extraordinary life and accomplishments is truly inspiring. There is also quite a legend/mystery about him vanishing and never being found while on vacation with friends. Yes, you can shop here as well. The silk shirts and scarves are exceptional. Open 9:00-6:00. Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok Tel: (662) 216-7368
Chao Phraya River – Temple Visit
Bangkok is known for its many ancient temples. Head to Chao Phraya Express Boat Tours on the Chao Phraya River. You can get an all day boat pass that will pick you up and drop you off at any number of sightseeing destinations. There are docks on both sides of the river. Plan your strategy carefully as Thailand can be very hot and humid. Our recommendation is the ancient Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha. People line up to see and take pictures of this amazing gold reclining Buddha statue.This statue is 150′ long and quite something. There is a general dress code: no shoes, shoulders covered, long pants. This is similar in most temples. Also, if you decide to tour the famed Grand Palace, this temple is very close. 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand+66 2 226 0335
Church of Santa Cruz
One of many Catholic churches in Bangkok, it is one of the oldest built in 1770. It’s simple, yet beautiful architecture and stained glass is a contrast to the many temples and golden Buddha statues.
There is a wonderful mom and pop food shack between the church and the river. They serve sandwiches, fries, smoothies and ice cream in a backyard setting close to the river. Soi Kuti Jiin Ferry: river-crossing ferry from Tha Pak Talat (Atsadang), Cross Ferry River Pier on the west side of the river
3 Places to Eat
Terminal 21 Mall
Bangkok offers an untold number of cosmopolitan cuisines, each more exciting than the last. We found that after an entire day of sightseeing and shopping, we often took the BTS Sky Train back to our stop near Terminal 21 Mall, headed inside and up to the 4th or 5th floor to a variety of restaurants and refreshing air conditioning. Restaurants feature Thai curry, pad Thai, Chinese, Indian and Mexican food to name a few. The lower level has a gourmet grocery store where it is possible to buy a little of whatever looks good. This level has lots of dessert places and a Dairy Queen that serves green tea blizzards. Really, this is not your typical USA mall grub. This is a great and relatively in expensive place to try all different types of cuisines. Open 10:00-10:00, Sukhumvit Road (between Soi 19 and 21) BTS Asok stop.
Mae Yui River Cafe and Bar
A fun, clean place with traditional Thai food though not as spicy as some. Healthy eating is possible here with grilled chicken kabobs and salad along with a fabulous indoor or outdoor view of the Chao Phraya River. Its a great stop with the Mo & Moshi ice cream shop next door. Yodpiman Riverwalk (2nd Fl, #D2-203-203/1), Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Mo & Moshi
This ice cream cafe’ serves gelato and yogurt delights. The trendy decor, waffle bowls, sugar cones, cookies and smoothies make this a great place to take a break from sightseeing. They serve a host of unique scrumptious desserts and coffees. Not only is this place relaxing and calm, but it is very close to the The Pak Khlong Talat Market (flower market) found on Chak Phet Road. Yodpiman Riverwalk 2nd floor, Banmor Road, Wangburapapirom District, Phra Nakhon Bangkok 10200
Street Food is an option that can hit the spot at just the right time. After picking up the all important water, check out the various stalls selling several varieties of noodles, curry on rice, squid, fish balls, red barbeque pork, duck, chicken, even the odd stall selling fried crickets (taste like potato chips) and other insects. Typically Americans are little scared about eating street food, but it can be a very cheap and delicious way to get a fast lunch or dinner.
1 Place to Stay
In choosing a place to stay in Bangkok, its all about its proximity to the BST Sky Train. Public transportation is fast, clean and inexpensive. If you stay in a hotel within a five minute walk of the Sky Train, you will be all set. We considered the convenience of the hotel rather than luxury, especially since we planned to spend our days sightseeing and shopping, no need to spend a ton on a hotel. The Sheraton Four Points is medium to low priced and it is minutes from Terminal 21 and the BST Sky Train. Perfect. There are several hotels in this area, any would work. The only negative about this hotel is that the bar is right next to the swimming pool which was a little awkward. The rooms were pleasant and the beds comfortable.
The Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 30 minute drive from the outskirts of Bangkok. The Starwood Hotel Group has a fabulous golf resort a few minutes from the airport if you want a luxurious day or two in a spa-like atmosphere. Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok Golf Resort & Spa, 789 Moo 14, Bangna-Trad Road, Km 10.5, Bangpleeyai, Bangplee, Samut Prakan, 10540, Thailand Telefon: (66)(2) 118 7777
Bonus: Day Trip Idea
Bridge Over the River Kwai
If you were a fan of this classic movie or just a curious WWII buff, you would enjoy this day trip to the real Bridge Over the River Kwai just north of Bangkok. During WWII the Japanese had American POW’s build a supply railway from Thailand to Burma. The prisoners worked under horrible conditions and many died during the construction. The movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai focused on one bridge over the Kwae Yai River north of Kanchanaburi. Trains still carry passengers on what has become known as the Death Railway. You can take the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi from the Thonburi or also known as the Bangkok Noi Station on the west side of the river in Bangkok twice a day then to the River Kwai Station. You’ll cross the bridge and travel along side the Kwae River over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok. This ride is well worth it if you are into WWII history.