As Kelly had already visited Bangkok last year, i took the duty of writing this post as a Bangkok virgin. We arrived in Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi Airport) from Sri Lanka early morning, and took a shuttle bus close to Koh Soan Road, which was the cheaper option, at only 60 baht each. However we did have to wait 30 minutes for it to fill up, and fill up completely, to the point people were sitting on the floor.
Where to stay – Sloth Hostel
Mainly because of the theme, we stayed at this hostel which was only a few roads from the famous Khao San Road, and pretty close to some of Bangkok’s main sights.
At £17 a night for a private room for 2, the place was great value, based on its location. The staff were very friendly and accommodating. The shower/toilet facilities were shared and the common area was small. But we didn’t intend to spend too much time in our room. The Bangkok schedule was busy.
It’s very peculiar how the street changes from clothes stalls to food stalls in the evening. Also on a few mornings whilst we were waiting for day trips we were witnesses to the gutting of fish and other sea creatures. So I guess the theme changes on certain days.
Wash Hub, Cheapest Launderette in Bangkok
On arrival in Bangkok one of our (or shall I say mine) was to find a cheap launderette to throw about 15kg’s of mine and Kelly’s washing into. As we had arrived early in our hostel, we emptied our bags in reception area and filled one of our large bags. I then took the 5 minute walk to Wash Hub launderette and paid 390 baht for a 15kg (dark) and 9kg (white) which was the cheapest we found. The guy was really helpful and we collected our large bag of nice smelling, washed and dried washing a few hours later. Chor complete.
Things to do in Bangkok
Khao San Road
We visited Khao San on our first night and firstly enjoyed pad thai and spring rolls at a street vendor. Getting in the spirit, we then brought sweetcorn from a stall. The place was heaving – full of bars, massage parlours, live music and food stalls everywhere!
We sat down with our large Chang beers and were constantly disturbed by locals trying to sell pagoda hats, annoying frog things that make stupid cricket noises (you’ll hear these a lot!) and of course the famous charcoaled scorpions!
And charcoal is exactly what it tasted like, as I paid 40 baht (60 baht cheaper than most stalls) to try the delicacy.
Kel even had a nibble. Let’s just say the Changs are great at washing things down and scorpion won’t be on the menu again.
We then both had a foot massage, whilst watching the action of Khao San unfold. It was my first foot massage. And although I felt a little uncomfortable at times, especially when the guy was giving me eye contact – it was still an enjoyable experience and a steal at only 150 baht (£3.75) each for 30 minutes. You won’t find those prices in the UK and Kel loved it of course!
We also visited Khao San Road to watch Man United play Man City, which was a 11pm game (thai time). Unfortunately we lost (I say we, as Kelly supports them too) and unfortunately I had a solo day trip to Kanchanburi the next day starting at 7am. However this didn’t stop us having a boogie and a few drinks on the famous strip until the police car single handedly closed all the bars from playing loud music as it slowly made its way down the road at 2pm.
An enjoyable night in such a vibrant area.
The Grand City Palace
I was experiencing this place alone, as Kel had seen it last year. I arrived for the 8.30am opening, as this is main sight in Bangkok. And the early morning was worth it, I was 10th in line, but the line became extremely long.
I rushed to purchase my ticket and went past all the amazed tourists taking initial photos of the first few attractions. I therefore managed to get some ‘people free’ photos of the complex and witnessed the inside of Wat Phra Kaew containing the Emerald Buddha with only 1 person worshipping. By 9am the place was soo busy, with tour groups, school trips and tourists all in awe of the place. I can only imagine it gets even busier than this throughout the day.
The city palace itself is absolutely stunning. Housing glistening gem covered walls and pillars, to large colourful statue guards at the entrance, a tribute model of Angkor Wat, large pagodas and a giant mural around the outskirts of the complex. The place oozed luxury and royalty.
Other than the palace you can check out the surrounding areas which includes the hall guarded by royal guards, museum of the Emerald Buddha Temple and a royal textiles museum, all included in the ticket. I spent a good 2 and half hours roaming around these beautiful grounds.
On my way to Wat Pho I went in search for an over river view of Wat Arun, just like I had seen in the holiday brochures. But it actually seemed quite difficult to find a good photo spot.
I made my way through a smelly fish market and found a fantastic spot in Eagle’s Nest Restaurant where the waitresses kindly let me take photos. Luckily the restaurant wasn’t busy at this time. A little overcast, but I got my photos. I have to say, it didn’t seem as spectacular as the brochures, but I spent a good 5 minutes admiring the longtail boats and ferrys cross the river in front of Wat Arun.
The next day we took the ferry from Tha Chang pier to see Wat Arun late in the day, however we got caught at the start of some heavy rain as we were boarding the ferry, and almost turned back. The boat was full and arriving on the other side of the river everyone was running for shelter, the rain was torrential.
Up close Wat Arun was pretty impressive and it was empty from tourists, down to the rain. However access to the higher levels was limited because of the slippery steps.
The temple was interesting but fairly small. The pagodas were heavily decorated with colour and what seemed like crookery. I took plenty of photos, but half of the time I was trying to protect my camera lens from the rain.
I was hoping for a better view of City Palace and Wat Pho from here, but was disappointed.
We then wanted to see Wat Arun lit up at night and had researched some restaurants beforehand, unfortunately they all seemed fairly expensive (you pay for the view) and Wat Arun wasn’t that greatly lit up. Still, we went to the 4th floor of Aruna Residency, took a few night shots and left, after frowning at the menu – we’re on a travellers budget alright!
I arrived here after checking out Wat Arun and waited under cover for half an hour writing this post, waiting for the rain to pass. I wanted sunny photos.
With the rain at its minimal I risked it and paid the 100 baht entry fee. And at 100 baht it was a steal in comparison to other attractions – the price even includes a free bottle of water, and I’m all for freebies!
When inside, you will find yourself getting lost under the large decorative pagodas and wondering through archways passing hundreds of buddha statues that line the walls.
It’s a lively place with lots of stalls selling foods and crafts. Plus there are stages with performances throughout the day. It had a real community feel to it.
The main attraction is the large gold reclining buddha – and it’s a beauty! It beats all other reclining buddhas we have seen, and this is down to it’s size and the fact you can walk all away around it. The patterned feet are awesome!
It was fairly difficult capturing the buddha by photo – one there were so many crowds (selfie, selfie, selfie) and two, the buddha is homed in a tight but luxuriously decorated room, with not a lot of space for fitting it in the shot.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
We booked up a market day trip from one of the tour operators near Khao San Road. There are loads of them competing and offering promotions. At 300 baht, this just so happened to be the cheapest one we could find.
From Khao San to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market it took around an hour by minibus and we were the first group there – luckily!
On arrival, we paid 150 baht each and jumped on a paddle boat that took us around the market for 30 minutes. The waters were pretty empty at this time and we watched the market boats go about their daily business.
Many of the boats were selling fresh fruits, bbq’d food and coconut ice cream! The coconut ice cream made it onto Kellys list to buy, and although an odd combination – rice, ice, cream, coconut, jelly – it actually worked and tasted delicious!
Our paddle boat every so often pulled over to water side shops selling clothes, souvenirs and more. They waited, hoping we would buy something, but with nothing priced and the constant sound of ‘you buy’, just by looking at an item – it was very clear this was just one big tourist trap.
And we kinda got caught into this trap… 20 minutes into out paddleboat journey no one had made a purchase and a couple were setting up their ‘business’. Which was to have a photo taken with 2 slow lorises. Me and Kelly spotted them, made loads of ‘awww’ noises and were obviously guided towards the platform by our paddleboat guide.
We jumped off and had loads of photos taken with these beautiful cuddly animals, only to later find out that they are badly treated for the handling of tourists, which annoyed us, but you live and learn!
Even though I asked a price at the beginning and got an answer of ‘don’t worry’, the guy demanded 500 baht (£12.50) for our photos. I said ‘no way’ and handed over 200 (£5) which I thought was fair.
We later witnessed more slow lorises and snakes everywhere along the market, and tourists were paying the 500 baht fee, which was sad to see.
I’m glad we witnessed this floating market as we had never seen one, however it is very clear that it is made for tourists as everything is overpriced. It seems it may have lost it’s authenticity a bit.
As part of our package we took an engine boat past Damnoen Saduak Floating Market to a minibus which took us to the train market.
The market is as you would imagine – two lines of market stalls either side of the track. The stalls were selling mainly food/drink and lots of fish!
You can walk along the track up to the station, but the space is very narrow and it was so busy.
We made our way to the station and as we were walking back the track had emptied and people were looking in our direction, holding out their phones.
We then realised this was because a train was coming from behind us. We were getting shouted at to come off the tracks and tuck ourselves away in the crowds.
And that we did! We stood like sardines waiting for the train to pass us at about 2mph. It was certainly an experience, as we were huddled amongst tourists trying to get selfies as the train brushed past.
When the train passed, all the market stall owners pulled their products closer to the track and set up their canopies ready for business again. It was a regular process they dealt with precision.
We took a 509 bus from Ratchadamnoen Avenue Bus Stop (near Khao San Road) costing 19 baht each. The journey took around 45 minutes, and the traffic can really hold you up in Bangkok.
We arrived in from of JJ Mall to a street lined with antiques. We entered the market complex across the road at around 4pm to find hundreds of shops, all mapped out in there categories.
For a market, it seemed too structured to me. Everything had a fixed price and there were no bartering signs everywhere.
That be said, it is a big market with lots on offer and plenty of lively bars and food stalls. Our favourite purchase was 3 bottles of hand made perfumes for 50baht (£1.25). I have to say, that Fanta-C is holding up well and I’ve become more desirable!
Getting back to Khao San on bus proved a little more difficult and we ended up jumping on a number 3 and paying even less as it wasn’t air conditioned. Today was definitely the day of markets!
Day Trips from Bangkok
Ayuthaya Day Trip from Bangkok
Another early morning and unfortunately Kel’s stomach was playing up on the minibus, somehow she made the two hour minibus journey to our first stop…
1. Wat Yai Chaimongkoi
This was the first complex we visited and on arrival we skipped the tour guide speech to find Kel the nearest toilet.
The complex housed a concrete reclining buddha with a cloth covering it’s body. Although easier to take a photo of, it wasn’t as special as that in Wat Pho.
Also in the complex was lots of seated buddha statues, ruins and large pagodas. Inside the main pagoda was a giant well, where Kel made a wish – probably for her stomach to improve.
Then a highlight was watching a thai child feed the giant turtles a banana off a stick.
2. Wat Maha That
Following suit, this place consisted of ancient ruins and broken buddha statues.
It also contained the famous buddha head which is encapsulated inside the roots of an old tree. It is quite a picture and worth seeing, but the area was full of tourists fighting for the perfect photo. Amongst the tourists are worshippers on their knees in front of the monument praying. I don’t feel as if they were being totally respected.
3. Prata Chai
Another reclining buddha, which again not as special as that in Wat Pho, however it is slightly bigger. Again, much easier to take a photo too.
4. Wat Phu Khoo Thong
This large white pagoda was stunning to see, however it was so hot by this point and being dragged around by the tour was starting to take its toll.
5. Wat Phra Si Sampet
This was one of the main complexes of the tour, and housed 3 giant pagodas containing the remains of 3 kings. Also lots of ruins, making ample photo opportunities.
I left Kel for 15 minutes in search to take photos of elephant rides happening near by. We then entered the large thai styled temple where a large seated gold buddha lived.
Overall a great, but busy day trip seeing one of the most historic cities of Thailand. And at 500 baht (from a tour shop near Khao San) including lunch, it was extremely reasonable. Fortunately Kelly’s tummy cheered up and we didn’t encounter any problems.
Kanchanburi Day Trip from Bangkok
Again, I was on my own with this one as Kelly had already visited. Bangkok was definitely more of a solo traveller experience for me – minus the private double room.
1. Jeath Museum
Entry was 50 baht extra and a worthy price considering how much there was to see. The place was dedicated to World War II and contained everything from transport vehicles, weapons, money, outfits, coffins, jewellery and so much more.
The museum offers a nice view of the River Kwai Bridge.
2. River Kwai Bridge
The bridge is in a stunning setting, but to be honest it looks like any old steal bridge to me. I guess knowing the history behind it, makes it a little more special.
I walked along the track and back, past the many tourists posing for selfies.
3. Death Railway
Paying 100 baht extra, we boarded a train to take us over the River Kwai and further – a lot further!
The train journey was like any other, just with prettier green scenery on both sides.
An hour into our journey we approached the famous Thamkrasae Bridge, where the track meanders around a sharp bend against a large cliff. Let’s just say there is very little track and it looks as if it could collapse at any moment.
Tourists being tourists were hanging out of the windows with selfie sticks and all sorts – including myself. Camera tightly strapped to my wrist I witnessed the spectacle which was entirely worth it.
I was a little concerned over safety, and our tour guide even showed us a photo of someone who had fallen out of the train and was badly injured a few days back. Why she had that photo, I don’t know! But I guess we live in that age, hey?
4. Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
It seemed as if our tour group all had different packages and some were riding elephants and participating in river rafting. I therefore got 90 minutes at this waterfall, which I really didn’t need!
The waterfall was cool and I had a little paddle, but I didn’t have swim shorts, or my companion to look after bags, so it wasn’t enjoyed to full extent.
Having time to kill, I decided to have a wonder and ended up walking for around 45 minutes in the blistering heat. I found myself in isolated jungle areas which were quite scary, and possibly dangerous? I didn’t see a single person – just banana trees, woo free bananas!
I then attempted to use a hole in the ground toilet, but it really wasn’t working for me!
By the waterfall is an old train carriage and it contains the end track to the death railway.
All in all, a great tour for the 500 baht price tag. However it was a little annoying that the groups kept splitting up and there were many changeovers of minibus.
Did Bangkok meet expectations?
In conclusion I really loved Bangkok. I expected there to be more of a skyline, but where we stayed was a little distance away from the built up area. We tended to stick around Khao San Road and the day trips/attractions ate up our time here very quickly.
The street food here is fantastic and very cheap, perfect for travelling on a budget. However with live music in restaurants you are enticed to pay slightly more for a meal and atmosphere.
It’s a superb hub for plenty of different day trips and getting around Asia by flight. You could easily spend 2 weeks here and still find stuff to do.
Looking forward to our visit to Chiang Mai!