I can best describe my experience in Bangkok as a chaotic mess.
Days before even entering South East Asia for the first time, my stomach was upside down. I had lost my appetite and wasn’t sleeping well.
I was nervous.
Nervous for the second chapter of my trip.
After New Zealand and Australia, I remember thinking “South East Asia: why?”
We arrived in Bangkok January 9th 2019.
The plane from Australia arrived at 8am.
Once I arrived at the immigration counter, there were hundreds of people waiting in line to enter the country. I’m kinda claustrophobic so that’s when I started getting heat flashes and got weak in the knees.
I asked my ex to hold me as I really felt like fainting.
After a few minutes, I sat down on the floor for 10 minutes while he was waiting in line for us.
Got my senses back and we passed customs. The agent barely spoke to us and just stamped our entry card and gestured us to step forward.
We went downstairs to look for our bags and I was relieved when I saw them.
When we went to ask information desk how much a taxi would cost to our room only to find out we were better off taking the bus for 100 bahts so $3 US (50 bahts each) instead of 400 bahts. (Yes even in Thailand I saved money.)
The bus driver gestured to us to get off and once we did, we did not know which way to go.
No one in the streets understood English. They couldn’t understand us.
They were however impressed with my ex’s Thai. (Travel Tip: learn a few phrases in the local language to travel with ease.)
A few minutes on a street corner and we had many Tuk Tuk (auto-rickshaw) drivers asking us where we were going and letting us know they could help us.
I got nervous and started getting impatient.
I just wanted to get to my room. I was uncomfortable.
We eventually found our dorm with a little help from the “Offline” version of Google Maps.
Bangkok is probably the most visited city in the world.
It is multicultural, traditional, modern, charming, relaxing and, yet, so chaotic.
It is a combination of so many perspectives and contrasts depending on how you fill your time.
In Bangkok, more than 90% of the population practices Buddhism. Yes there’s traffic, but you won’t necessarily hear it. People generally don’t honk horns, shout or stress out.
Thailand is, after all, known to be "The Land of Smiles.”
With so many options for things to do I’ve put together a simple guide of everything I think you should see on your visit to the most misunderstood city that is Bangkok.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK:
Avoid sleeping anywhere near Khao San Road
Unless you’re able to sleep in a club then go ahead. I got a private room on Khao San Road and could not sleep as the nightlife on this street is unimaginably loud. The music can be heard from inside your room, but if you like sleeping to Sean Paul and Drake then be my guest. I needed ear plugs in order to catch a few Z’s.
I’d recommend looking up dorms or rooms North of Khao San Road, or just off Phra Arthit, Phra Sumen and Samsen roads. Travellers I met say these streets were quieter and dorm prices were still reasonably low. Also I took a room with shared bathroom and was pleasantly surprised by how clean the bathrooms were, so don’t be scared to try that too. It’ll help you save money $$$!
Delicious breakfast exists in Bangkok.
The most popular breakfast dish is soup. Soup with rice, vegetables and broth. Okay I’ll admit, I’m a westerner so I really wanted bread for breakfast. It wasn’t hard to find Konnichipan bakery just off of Khao San road. It’s always packed with other tourists like me looking for a little substance before heading out for the day. The coffee is good, they make delicious pastries, croissants, breads and pizzas. Honestly, I doubt you can go here just once. Try it. QUICK TIP: Buy extra bread and keep it in your day bag. You never know when you'll start getting hungry! Thank me later.
Try a scorpion.
Yepppp. I did it. Tourists love taking pictures of fried insects and scorpions sold at Khao San Road night market. This isn’t typical food for Thai locals, but it's hella fun to see tourists' reaction when they’re crunching on an insect. You can try these from street vendors all night long. Watch my reaction:
Visit Khao San Road
Wait, what? Well... after trying the scorpion you’ll want to get all your shopping done. From elephant pants, to fake handbags, to bathing suits, iPhone cases and everything else you can think of is sold on this road every night. The prices are also cheaper on this road than anywhere else in Thailand. So buy all your souvenirs here! Just don't sleep around here!
Massages are also pretty cheap on Khao San Road considering it is a tourist area and I’d recommend stuffing your face on Pad Thai from street vendors for less than $2 US. SO YUM AND CHEAP!
Temples. Temples Temples.
There are thousands of temples in Bangkok. I think this is what makes this city so unique. There are of course the “common” temples tourists visit. Out of all the ones everyone visits, I went to the Golden Buddha, Golden Mountain and my absolute favorite Wat Arun. Careful, I had to take a boat to get to Wat Arun. I recommend going to visit that one at the end of the day for sunset. It’s spectacular.
Temples are everywhere so on your way to a famous one you’ll end up seeing other smaller ones along the way. I recommend seeing those ones too. To give you an idea, I walked approximately 10 kilometers a day and was able to visit 10 temples in one day. On my way to the Buddha temple, I visited Bangkok’s China Town, Yaowarat. As expected, you can get a lot of shopping done here and find some yummy dim sum.
QUICK TIP: There is a dress code when visiting temples. Women must wear long loose pants or a long skirt, T-shirts are allowed, but bring a pashmina style scarf with you in case you'll need to cover your shoulders more and wear comfortable shoes that you'll need to remove every time you enter a temple.
The best time to visit most temples is early in the morning. It’s cooler and less crowded. If you're lucky you’ll get to see Monks living in the temple complexes attending prayer duties.
ONE LAST THING:
The bustling streets of Bangkok are overwhelmingly busy and a lot to take in.
It takes ages to get anywhere, especially if you’re like me and you want to walk everywhere to find some cool spots. You’ll also get lost, many times.
You cannot cross the road without thinking that you might actually die.
Even when you think you’ve planned something, you haven’t.
But, while speaking to locals, I learned this phrase:
Mai pen rai
It means : It’s okay, everything’s okay, don’t worry in Thai.
Even if you screw up, go the wrong way, you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, tired... don't worry there's always a way out.
Thai people will say don't mind the negative and accept that everything is fine.
Things are SLOW here and 4 days wasn’t enough to get used to this rhythm, but it was all worth it.
What about you, have you ever been to Bangkok? What was your favorite part?
Let me know in the comments below!