An expert's guide to Bangkok

By , 14th July 2016

Let’s face it, Bangkok pretty much has it all. If you’re looking for rich culture, fantastic food, impressive architecture, and a fabulous nightlife, that is. And to be honest, what more could you want from a city?!

Travel blogger and backpacking expert, Heels In My Backpack, has put together an expert guide to Bangkok, so you can make the most of this vivacious hub in the heart of Thailand.

SEE | DO | EAT | DRINK | SLEEP

SEE

Khao San Road & Soi Rambuttri

[caption id="attachment_12840" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]guide to bangkok Photo by Robert Brands | CC BY-ND 2.0[/caption]

The backpacking mecca of Khao San Road is not to be missed on a trip to Bangkok. The street itself is quite short, but the people of Bangkok have managed to pack a load of guest houses, street bars, clubs, market stalls, and more into such a small space. It’s quite a touristic area so don’t expect a great deal of authentic Thai culture, but it’s an excellent place to come to soak up the atmosphere. Be sure to grab a bucket of Sangsom (whiskey) while you’re at it!

Soi Rambuttri is the next street over from Khao San Road and it’s a favourite for backpackers thanks to its mix of cool bars. However, there’s more of a chilled vibe here. Think second-hand book shops, cafes and soft fairy lights, as opposed to the loud neon signs of Khao San Road. It’s a lovely place to explore while you’re in the area.

Visit the Wats

Guide to Bangkok

Bangkok is famous for being the city of temples, or ‘Wats’ as they are called in Thai. Yet with thousands of them scattered across the city, how are you meant to know which ones to explore? Well a perfect solution is to take a river tour along the Chao Phraya River, which includes two of the more impressive temples – Wat Arun and Wat Po.

Wat Arun is an elegant temple of beautifully intricate details and colourful tiles, making it really lovely to see in full glory – before you’ve climbed it that is! And climbing it is quite a feat as the steps are extremely steep and narrow. But once you’ve reached the top, you’re greeted with spectacular views of the city. Then it’s just a matter of getting back down again…

[caption id="attachment_12842" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]guide to bangkok Photo by Maxim B | CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption]

Wat Po is also known as the ‘Temple with the Reclining Buddha’, need we say more? The giant golden Buddha is very impressive, but the temple also boasts several other notable features including pavilions, gardens, and an impressive row of golden Buddhas you’ve likely seen in your friends’ Instagram photo collection. And understandably, everything is just so photogenic! 

Visit the Grand Palace

[caption id="attachment_12843" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Chris Brown | CC BY 2.0[/caption]

The Grand Palace is normally at the top of most Bangkok bucket-lists, and for good reason. This spectacular attraction is actually the home of the Thai King, the Royal court, and the administrative seat of government. But there’s also so much more including beautiful architecture, the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the dazzling gold intricate details everywhere. Bring your camera so you can take a couple of snaps home with you! However, be sure to dress modestly for your visit – no shoulders, knees or feet should be on show.

DO

Floating Markets

[caption id="attachment_12849" align="aligncenter" width="1204"]guide to bangkok Photo by Dennis Jarvis | CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption]

The Floating Markets in Bangkok are a fabulous place to breathe Thai culture. It’s also a lot of fun just to jump into a long-tail boat and really experience the markets in all their glory; they’re so colourful and bustling! In terms of shopping, there’s not much here that you won’t find in other street markets of Bangkok to be honest, but it’s more about the experience. Damnoen Saduak is usually the most popular but as it is a little way out of town you may have to book a day tour. Just be prepared for an early start!

Go for a Thai massage

[caption id="attachment_12850" align="aligncenter" width="1199"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Tara Angkor Hotel |CC BY 2.0[/caption]

Going for a massage may seem rather extravagant, but in Bangkok you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how affordable it is. Whether you indulge in an hour-long full-body massage or simply freshen up with a quick foot massage out on the street, you’ll be paying a fraction of the price you would at home. Be prepared to be pulled, twisted,and contorted in ways you didn’t think your body would go, as well as hearing a lot of weird clicks! It’s definitely an aerobic kind of massage but you come away feeling fantastic!

Try a Thai cooking course

[caption id="attachment_12851" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]guide to bangkok Photo by Connie Ma |CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption]

After you’ve tasted the delights of authentic Thai food, you’ll surely want to learn how to recreate these fragrant dishes at home. So what better time to learn than while you’re in Bangkok? Thai cooking courses are readily on offer in the city and usually involve a trip to a local market to source fresh ingredients. This is followed by a masterclass with a chef who shows you how to make three or four dishes step-by-step. And the best part is that you get to eat your own foodie creations afterwards!

Hit the shops at MBK

[caption id="attachment_12852" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Transformer 18 |CC BY 2.0[/caption]

Although the best shopping in Bangkok tends to be bartering in markets and stalls along the major tourist streets, MBK is a top shopping destination for most visitors. In this multi-storey shopping centre, you’ll find everything on offer from clothes, to technology and food. But that’s if you don’t get lost… It’s a bit of a labyrinth so be sure to pick up a map on your way in!

MBK is accessible by Skytrain or you can grab a tuk-tuk. However settle the price with the tuk-tuk driver before you get in. MBK is a major tourist destination so they tend to inflate the price quite a bit for this particular destination.

EAT

Street Food

[caption id="attachment_12853" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Michael Allen Smith |CC BY-SA 2.0)[/caption]

If you’re looking for the best place to grab a bite in Bangkok, it’s quite simple – the streets! Bangkok is renowned for its amazing and totally cheap street food. Whether you’re wandering down Khao San Road, outside one of the city’s many temples, waiting at the train station, or en-route to the shops, you’ll always be engulfed in scents of delicious, mouth-watering food!

You absolutely have to try Pad Thai made by a street vendor – it will likely be the best Thai food you’ve ever eaten, will have taken the guy two minutes to make, and will only set you back about 50 baht (about $2). Can you ask for more from your meal?

[caption id="attachment_12854" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Johan Fantenberg | CC BY 2.0[/caption]

Everything from mango and sticky rice to satay with peanut sauce is on offer, but if you really want to be a daring adventurer, you can eat fried insects. That’s right – should you wish, fried crickets and scorpions are on the menu, as well as a whole selection of other creepy-crawly treats! Or you know, just stick to Pad Thai…

Dine at Madame Musur

[caption id="attachment_12855" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Guide to Bangkok Photo by Navin75 |CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption]

If you prefer your dinner in a sit down restaurant, Madame Musur is a great choice on Soi Rambuttri. Although just a stone’s throw from eating crickets on Khao San Road, it feels like a completely different world. The colourful lanterns and cozy cushions inside make it a relaxing spot to eat your meal and watch the world go by outside. Add in the day-beds and fairy lights and this place is pretty much Pinterest!

They serve northern Thai cuisine and the Thai Green Curry is completely delectable, and a must-try while in Thailand! Madame Musur is reasonably priced and it also offers a range of well-prepared cocktails if you just want to pop in for a drink (try the Musur Mojito!).

DRINK

[caption id="attachment_12856" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Brown-Sugar-Bar-FLICKR-Sergey Photo by Sergey | CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption]

Day of the Dead Bar

Right in the middle of Khao San Road, Day of the Dead Bar is hard to miss. Mainly because in contrast to the rest of the street’s bars, this place is pumping out rock music. Throw in tequila ‘Rock and Roll’ buckets, Mexican food, and bright pink décor, and it’s not exactly the kind of bar you picture yourself at in Thailand. But it’s a fun and lively bar that will undoubtedly give you a good night out. There’s even rock karaoke for those inner singers…

Brown Sugar

Alternatively, if you’re after live music in Bangkok, Brown Sugar on Phra Sumen Rd is fantastic. Focusing more on Jazz music, this place is as hipster as it gets in Bangkok with art exhibitions and poetry readings in the bar. If you’re less nocturnal, the bar also functions as a coffee house during the day. Pretty quirky! Don’t let that deter you though – this place isn’t pretentious, but it has a great atmosphere and welcomes really talented musicians.

SLEEP

Lub d – Silom

Guide to Bangkok

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When in Bangkok, most locals will tell you to go to iconic Patpong Lane at least once. Fortunately, Lub d Silom is only 11 minutes away on foot, so your visit to this vibrant patch of the city is all the easier! This hostel accommodation is the perfect way to meet fellow travelling companions all the while experiencing quality, reliable accommodation.

Guide to Bangkok

The air-conditioned rooms come in either mixed or female-only dorms, and they are cleaned twice daily so you can be certain to not meet any uninvited creepy crawlies during your stay! All rooms also provide free Wi-Fi, ensuite bathrooms and personal lockers to ensure belongings are safe. To let the mingling begin, Lub d also has several common areas including the uber-cool Yellow Café and Bar, which is reminiscent of a downtown New York coffee shop.

AriyasomVilla

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Bangkok is known for its maze of bustling streets, colourful markets, and pulsating energy. After a full day out in the city, the natural choice is to calmly unwind, no? At AriyasomVilla, you can do just that. Often referred to as a garden oasis in the centre of town, award-winning AriyasomVilla is an elegant boutique hotel set in a 1940s villa. First opened in 2008, the hotel boasts four different room types including the executive suite which comes with antique furnishings and a traditional four-poster bed adorned with Thai silk fabrics. All rooms also feature flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Guide to Bangkok

Guests can also take solace from the Bangkok heat by taking a dip in the outdoor pool, which is surrounded by a lush green garden. For even more relaxation, head to Som Sen Spa, and take a massage, with Thai or oil treatments available. The night markets of Bangkok are a fun food option, but if you want to have a break for one night, the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Na Aroon, serves tasty seafood and vegetarian grub.

Chatrium Residences Santhon

Guide to Bangkok

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Situated in the Yan Nawa District, Chatrium Residences Santhon is a multi-award winning, refined apartment hotel that promises comfort in the heart of Bangkok. Boasting 560 rooms, guests can appreciate different occupancy types ranging from studio to three-bedroom suites. For families, the Grand Deluxe two-bedroom suite is ideal, offering a master bedroom with a king-sized bed and a second twin room for the tots. All rooms feature a kitchen or kitchenette, flat-screen TVs, and heavenly luxury linen for a dreamy slumber.

Guide to Bangkok

After a full-day of market-stall shopping, freshen up in the lagoon-style pool and calmly bathe in the leafy garden surrounds. To rest tired joints, why not book an appointment for a massage in the hotel’s Green Leaf Spa, and unwind in a space of serenity? Your body will thank you the following day!

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