From towering skyscrapers to old, beautiful temples, Bangkok is a fascinating wave of contradictions! Shop in some of Asia’s largest shopping centres or at one of the many outdoor markets, step outside a five-star hotel into the street where taxis, tuk tuks and scooters make up for a chaotic traffic scene, have dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants or enjoy a grilled chicken on a street side barbecue.
In March 2012, I had my first Bangkok experience (a stop over for three days on my way back from Europe to Sydney) and I wasn’t disappointed.
Where to stay…
There are so many good hotels to choose from in Bangkok. Our Pick? Siam Kempinski Hotel in central Bangkok. Located in the heart of the city’s premier shopping and entertainment district, Siam Kempinski Hotel is Bangkok’s newest five-star hotel: all rooms have balconies and are large and well fitted, the minibar is complementary (soft drinks and beers), the fitness centre and its facilities are amazing and the personnel very responsive. The best part is the beautiful landscaped gardens with multiple swimming pools, which make the perfect get away after a hectic day in Bangkok. One of the best hotels I have ever stayed at! The hotel also features the restaurant Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, owned by Danish chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, whose Kiin Kiin restaurant in Copenhagen was awarded one Michelin Star – here you can enjoy authentic Thai food with a modern flair!
Next time we go to Bangkok, we want to try one of the riverside hotels, e.g. Shangri-La or the Peninsula.
Where to eat…
Food is very much a part of your Bangkok experience! Enjoy local Thai food on almost every street corner or gourmet food as you walk through Bangkok’s local neighborhoods.
If you don’t feel like risking a stomach ache, go to one of the hotels e.g. fronting the Chao Phraya River and watch tourists and locals float by in long boats, while enjoying a meal. We ended our sightseeing at the Shangri-La for a delicious buffet lunch.
Go to Lebua State Tower for dinner and drinks. A good alternative to Sirocco on 63rd floor is the open-air Asian restaurant Breeze on the 52nd floor, overlooking a panoramic view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. The food is great but a bit pricy. Have drinks at Skybar on the 63rd floor – one of the world’s highest open-air bars. Simply amazing – even though it was a bit crowded (obviously a famous tourist spot and I can understand why).
(Picture source: http://www.lebua.com/en/the-dome-dining/)
We were also recommended Mango Tree, a Thai restaurant located in the heart of the Silom Road area, with a big mango tree standing in the front yard. The menu offers a wide variety of selections – really good local food and very affordable! Enjoy the evening live classical Thai music and dancing performances.
What to see…
Lesson number one when you plan sightseeing in Bangkok: You won’t stick to your plan!! After long discussions with the taxi driver on whether to take a private or public cruise on Chao Phraya River (we wanted to go on the public boat), we ended up in a small alley with the option of a private boat or a private boat… The taxi driver probably got a good referral bonus as we ended in a private long boat, enjoying one hour of sightseeing!
- The boats in Bangkok are an efficient way to escape the chaotic traffic. Hire a private long boat and cruise down Chao Phraya River (the price is up for bargain, but should be approx. 1,000 Bath for one hour), where you will pass by several beautiful temples, floating markets, million dollar hotels and interesting sights.
- Visit the Royal Palace (entrance 400 Bath pp). Never believe the locals when they tell you that the palace is only open for group tours or that you can’t rent pants/shirts at the palace (you can borrow clothing for free for only a small deposit).
- The Royal Palace is packed with tourists, so we didn’t spent much time there. We drove off to a smaller and less crowded temple, called Wat Pho (entrance 100 Bath pp) – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha – known for its huge lying Buddha (15 m high and 43 m long). You don’t need to rent clothes, so again – don’t believe the locals when they try to sell you stuff outside of the temple.
- Visit the night market in Patpong (runs every night in the area around Silom Road and Pat Pong). If you value high quality clothing, watches, sunglasses etc. this is not your spot! Everything is fake, but wandering the streets in the area is definitely fun. Patpong is known as the entertainment district in Bangkok and internationally known as a red light district at the heart of Thailand’s sex industry. If you want to see girls popping out darts, ping pong balls, etc you have come to the right place. If not, sitting in a bar in Patpong 2 and watching the crowd is really entertaining!
- When in Bangkok don’t leave without enjoying a little bit of luxury – it’s so cheap (massage approx. 450 Baht for 60 minutes and manicure/pedicure for approx. 600 Baht)!
Shop at the local markets or in some of Asia’s biggest shopping centres. Check out the new Siam Paragon shopping centre with more than 250 international and local luxury brands with designer names like Prada, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Zara etc.
Getting around in Bangkok is very cheap but also very time consuming. Taxis are available everywhere and prices are low (remember to bargain! From the airport to the city centre you should not pay more than 400 Bath (fixed price) – they often start at 1,000 Bath). Tuk tuks are fine for short distances, but their small size makes them uncomfortable for anything longer than about 30 minutes. Also, even though the tuk tuks are really fun, they are probably not the safest means of transport (and in 35 degrees you might prefer the air conditioned taxis). Bangkok’s Skytrain is also an efficient, comfortable and cheap way to get around the city.
For more information about Bangkok, check out www.bangkok101.com
Visit Wat Pho - the Temple of the Reclining Buddha!
Have dinner at Sirocco and drinks at Skybar and enjoy an amazing panoramic view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River
Hire a tuk tuk! Not the safest way of transport, but so much fun!