The main gate to Thailand is its capital – Bangkok – the city where diversity blends. In Thai, Bankok is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร) or simpler Krung Thep. The city is situated in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand and has a population of over 8 million.
Bangkok is the first Asian city that I visited, but it wasn’t so shocking for me. In fact, I was surprised how easy this city is for people like me, who are in southeast Asia for the first time.
First of all Thai people are extremely nice and helpful, with their help you can easily find your way around. During our stay in Bankok, we traveled by taxi, tuk-tuk, metro, sky-train, boat and public bus. The last one was especially enjoying because it is actually very exclusive for tourists – on a local public bus chances are that you will not meet random tourists but people who want to experience more. Why? Buses, don’t seem to have schedules and written list of bus stops neither in them nor at the bus stops, so only locals know how to use them. Super unique experience for only 7 Bahts!
Bangkok was the first and last city that we visited during our stay in Thailand. In total, we spent 4 nights in Bangkok. Here I describe our first two days.
2nd day, Saturday:
We landed in Bangkok around 10 o’clock. Because of big time shift we planned to spend the first day for acclimatization. When we reached the hotel (Airport rail link to Phaya Thai, ticket: 45 BHT p.p. and then taxi to hotel), we had a quick shower, left backpacks and then took a tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuks are amazing, really different and definitely something to witness on your own. For our main mean of transport, we chose taxis because they are cheaper and air conditioned (but take them with the meter, and if drivers don’t want to turn on the meter politely say goodbye and just wait for another taxi).
From hotel with the tuk-tuk we took, we traveled to a metro station – a very modern and clean one, similar to those in Warsaw. By metro (ticket: 19 BHT), we reached the station next to Lumphini Park, one of the biggest parks in the city. It was created in the 1920s by Rama VI as a museum. Now it’s a trendy, beautiful green island of Bangkok, very popular among joggers or yoga and fitness lovers.
While in the park, at a certain moment everyone stopped what they were doing and stood up: it was Thai national anthem being played, which is played in public places twice in a day (at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m) and stops everybody for a moment.
We visited the park to attend a Couchsurfing meeting. It was a lovely picnicking event where we could talk to locals and expats of Bangkok.
After Park, we headed to a local restaurant for our first authentic Thai dinner (102 BHT p. p.) . The first rule of travelers, you eat where locals eat! So do we 🙂 Then we visited one of the sky bars, just to have a delicious Singha (160BHT) with a couple of people from the picnic.
3rd day, Sunday:
Sightseeing time! I have to confess that I didn’t prepare a strict plan of what to see in Bangkok, so our plan was quite a spontaneous. Fo the first thing to see we chose, the closest (walking distance) and recommended Wat Saket and Golden Mount (ticket: 20BHT), which was built by Rama I and is one of the oldest temples and until the 1960s was one of the highest points in Bangkok.
After Wat Saket, we headed to Jim Thompson’s House (ticket: 150 BHT), one of the best preserved Thai houses in Bangkok. Jim Thompson was an architect by profession (he used his knowledge and talent to design and construct the house). He came to Thailand in 1945 as Bangkok head of the Office of Strategic Service (OSS, a forerunner of the CIA). In 1948, he established Thai Silk Company Ltd, which made silk industry in Thailand thriving again. When he was 61-year-old Jim Thompson vanished in Malaysia.
I totally fall in love with the house, it is small and very cozy, designed with taste. I wish that one day I could live or at least stay in a house like that. Taking photos inside the house is forbidden.
From Jim Thompson’s House, we went to Grand Palace. We had to hurry up because Grand Palace, unlike other tourist must-see places, is closed at 15.30. Grand Palace is the enormous beautiful complex of buildings with Wat Phra Kaeo. Construction of this site started in 1782 to mark the founding of the new capital and give a residence place for the king. Surrounded by the walls, the complex was a self-sufficient city within a city. Remember, Grand Palace is open every day. If someone tells otherwise it can be a scam.
Grand Palace is the home of Emerald Buddha, which we didn’t see… you don’t see everything if you are in a hurry. Pity, because I’m not sure if we visit the palace ever again, first of all, entrance is costly (500 THB p.p.) and second of all, the complex is packed with tourists :(.
Next to Grand Palace Bangkok’s oldest and largest temple Wat Pho (ticket: 100 BHT) is situated. A very beautiful and far less crowded temple. Inside of the complex, there is the 46-meters-long Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is a traditional medicine center, where since the 1960s the most respected massage school is run. Therefore, I had to experience real Thai massage from masters of this art (we paid 800 BHT for 2 x 0,5 h of body massage and 0,5 foot massage)! Because of time limitation I had only half an hour of foot and a half of whole body massage.
Last stop was Chinatown. Since 12th-century, Chinese immigrants started arriving in Thailand, but during late 18th and early 19th centuries, following years of war in Thailand because encouraging Chinese immigration in order to help rebuild the economy in mid 19th century half of Bangkok’s population was pure or mixed Chinese blood. Chinatown is a lively (unlikely Wat Pho’s neighborhood after 18.00) part of the city. When we saw street food stalls I immediately regretted eating in a restaurant next to the river (Wat Pho area). For fabulous river/sea view while dinner in a big city, choose Istanbul! (The cost of foot massage there is 200 BHT for 1 h.- the cheapest I’ve seen in Thailand)