A First Timers Guide to Bangkok

So you are planning a trip to Bangkok, Thailand and trying to figure out what to do, where to stay and everything else.  This post will give you a good starting point and a guide for Bangkok. Be sure to check out my other posts on Thailand if you want to know more about this amazing country.

What to pack?

Less is more because you will want to buy everything! Make sure you leave some room.  Seriously, even if you hate to shop you will want to grab something.  Bring lots of baggy clothes to keep you cool.  I would really recommend a light long sleeve UV shirt for temples as you will need to cover up (Eddie Bauer or MEC make some nice ones).  Buy a pair of “temple pants” when you get to Bangkok to cover your knee’s.

 

Where to stay?

If you are planning to do some sightseeing definitely stay in the Khao San Rd area.  I want to stress the word AREA here.  If you value sleep at all do not stay directly on Khao San Rd or on the adjoining streets.  This place is crazy loud at night with all of the bars trying to outdo their neighbors. The surrounding area is by far the best location with easy access to most of the top attractions of the city.  You can expect to pay $45 CDN or under or a nice hotel likely including breakfast.  For those on a strict budget, you can get a hostel for around $15CDN.

 

Where to eat?

The street of course! Street food in Thailand is abundant and great.  You can find all sorts of delicious skewered meats, pad thai, kabab, mango sticky rice, fresh fruit smoothies etc all for generally around 50bath (That is ~$2CDN).  Most of the street food is fine to eat as a tourist but a good rule of thumb is to eat at the places you see locals eating at.  Of course, use your judgment and if something looks like it has been sitting for hours maybe don’t eat it?

If you are feeling like you would like some A/C and to sit down to eat, most restaurants in the Khao San area are 100-200 baht per Thai dish ($4-$8 CDN).  You will find all kinds of Thai and International style foods, the western foods are usually more than 200 baht each so stick to the Thai food in Thailand!  If you are looking for something other than Thai food check out Shoshana’s for some really good falafels.

What to do?

At some point during sight seeing you are going to be tired and sore- in need of a massage.  Definitely, stop at one of the MANY massage places in Bangkok for a foot/leg or neck/shoulder massage.  The Thai massage style isn’t exactly what you are likely used to.  They will stretch and crack you like you have never experienced before.  Stick to the bigger massage places as they are generally less rough.   Sometimes Thai massages can get a little painful if the person is not trained.  Our favourite is Urban Massage, one street over from Khao San Rd.

What to see?

The top three things to see in Bangkok are the Grand Palace, the reclining buddha (Wat Pho) and the temple of dawn (Wat Arun), luckily they are all very close together and Khao San Road.  Because of the extreme heat (most days are over 30 degrees) you might not want to do these all in one day (It would be a LONG day).  Be sure to dress appropriately for these sights, meaning your shoulders and knees are covered at all times.  Men are required to wear pants to the Grand Palace.

Where to shop?

If you come from Europe or America you will quickly notice how cheap some stuff is and likely want to go shopping.  The best place to buy touristy stuff is actually around Khoa San Road and on the side streets.  Don’t forget to barter with the vendors.  You can usually get stuff for about 50-30% off the asking price if you smile.

If you are looking for knock off branded clothes or really anything at all then MBK Mall is not to be missed.  This massive 7-floor mall offers pretty much anything you could possibly want or need generally at much lower prices than what you will find at home, with some exceptions of course.  Don’t forget you can likely barter the prices, unless they are a huge chain.

What to skip?

Anything elephant riding.  The keepers are so incredibly cruel to the elephants to get them to allow humans to ride them, they actually “break” them as babies by torturing them.  Please do not support this in any way by taking an elephant ride.  Instead to go a reserve where they allow the elephants to roam free and be regular elephants.

The biggest disappointment for me was the floating market tour.  It is incredibly far away from Bangkok (1.5 hours with no traffic each way), expensive and is 100% just for tourists.  There is no culture, no locals, nothing authentic about the market except for the locals trying to sell tourist crap to tourists. You can definitely get a few cool pictures but it isn’t worth it in my opinion.

Did I miss anything?  Are you planning a trip to Bangkok?  Have you been? Let us know in the comments below!

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