Bangkok- wild, crazy, unpredictable Bangkok. The familiar song really says it all- one night in Bangkok is all it takes to realize that you’re not in Kansas anymore... No, Bangkok is something significantly different than anything else- a modern city that clings to tradition, an untamed urban jungle that somehow seems to maintain a sense of order, an assault on the senses that can at times be a bit overwhelming... Get ready- if you’ve never been to a SE Asian city before, Bangkok will take a bit of getting used to. No worries though- after all, experiencing new cultures and exploring different parts of the world- that’s what you’re there for, right? Embrace it...
The pulsing Thai capital doubles as THE portal into the Southeast Asian Backpacker’s Circuit. Being the major airline hub in the region, most international flights stop over in Bangkok before continuing on, and finding a cheap airfare into the city isn’t a problem.
Once you’ve arrived, there is a train system that runs between the airport and the city. Check out www.bangkokairporttrain.com for details on getting into the city on the train. Taxis and public buses are also an option, but the train may be the cheapest and most efficient method of getting into the city from the airport.
Things to do in Bangkok
- Hang out on Khao San Road- THE Backpacker Ghetto of all Backpacker Ghettos, KSR is something that has to be experienced to be understood. It is amazing, really, and a quick introduction to what living the Backpacker’s Life in SE Asia is all about.
- SHOP- Bangkok has MASSIVE malls, heaps of electronics and clothing stores, and more than enough ways for you to empty your bank account before your trip even gets started.
- Visit the Royal Residence- The Grand Palace has been the residence of Thailand’s kings since the late 1700s, and is a great place to see some of the finest examples of Thai architecture and artistry. It is also a great place to get a grasp on the intricacies of Thai history and culture. Well worth a day’s visit.
- See the world’s largest reclining Buddha (unofficial)- Wat Pho is another great spot to visit to get a glimpse into Thailand’s Buddhist roots, as well as to see some impressive Buddhist shrines and architecture.
- Have a picnic in the park- If (Read: WHEN) you tire of the city’s non-stop noise, take a break from it all in Lumphini Park. Grassy areas, jogging tracks, and a perfect spot for an afternoon snooze with a good book.
- Hit up the Weekend Market- THE place to do your Budget Shopping. Pick up anything you may have forgotten at home, grab that last souvenir before heading to the airport, haggle for a few designer knock-offs to take home to friends and family- the Weekend Market has anything and everything. Bring your bargaining skills- these vendors are PROS.
- Visit Kanchanaburi- an hour or two outside of Bangkok is the amazing town of Kanchanaburi. Made famous by the 1957 movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, Kanchanaburi is a great escape from the madness of Bangkok. Quite nights spent floating on the river, day trips to amazing waterfalls and swimming holes, and an interesting ‘museum’ located at the actual bridge- definitely worth a day or two.
- Negotiate with any and all tuk-tuk drivers, and make sure they take you where you want to go- all rates are negotiable, and the drivers will often try to take you somewhere other than where you want to go due to commissions paid by certain shops, hostels, hotels, etc. Always pay attention.
- Negotiate for your room rate- most hostels and guest houses in the Khao San Road district will have posted room rates, but these aren’t solid. Shop around and negotiate, always remembering that if you’re traveling in a group, you will have more bargaining power.
- Try not to spend it all the first night- Khao San Road is DESIGNED to get as much out of the budget traveler as possible, despite it being the ‘Backpacker District’. You will find that food, drinks, and most everything else is actually cheaper once you get a few blocks away from KSR.
- Keep your head on a swivel- Bangkok can be a pretty seedy place, especially at night, and there’s always the possibility of something crazy happening. With all the drinking and partying that goes on, it’s a good idea to exercise a bit of self-restraint, if only to be sure you don’t wake up with a face tattoo.
- The Floating Markets are pretty touristy, and you won;t find many good deals on anything. Still, it is worth a visit if you want to get a few pictures or sample some quality local food.
- EAT STREET FOOD- despite what your mind (and stomach) might tell you, the street food in Bangkok is delicious and cheap. Skip the McDonald’s and try the veggie Pad Thai.
- Kanchanaburi is a great spot to hire motorbikes and explore the Thai countryside on your own for a day or two.