I love landing in a new city at night. So you get a mysterious idea of the place through the window of the cab, get some sleep and get the surprise the day after -then it feels like Christmas morning!
Early morning in Bangkok, I'm still sleepy but can't wait to explore the city. I dive into a whole different world, where businessmen queue to get their breakfast in street food stalls, minibuses honk whenever they cross a pedestrian and people deposit offerings on the mini-temples in front of their buildings. I love those first few hours in a new location. My eyes sparkle, amazed by everything that is going on around me.
From golden shimmering palaces and temples to fancy bars, giant markets and shopping that never ends, I spent a thrilling week exploring Thailand's capital. I gathered 10 things you should do in Bangkok -10 things that make Bangkok be that bustling, fantastic, unique metropolis.
01|Explore the Prestigious Temples
Golden, glittering, cherished, palaces and temples are everywhere in Bangkok. They all have their own history and their own charm. Wat Arun, also called Temple of the Dawn, is stunning at sunset and at night (even though it's currently on renovation) and offers stunning views over Bangkok from its 80 meters heights central tower. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo (photo) are true architectural masterpieces (go early to avoid the crowds!). And Wat Pho is lovely especially at night, when it's empty. The 46 meters long and 15 meters high gold plated Reclining Buddha is enormous -a real challenge for photographers, it doesn't even fit in the frame!
02|Treat Yourself in Thailand's Most Famous Massage School
Not only a beautiful temple to wander around, Wat Pho is also home to one of the most famous massage schools in Thailand. In Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School, you can take either short or professional courses to become a master masseur -or just take a break and get a good relaxing massage.
03|Enjoy Bangkok Signature Foods
Food literally goes on forever in Bangkok. While walking down the sidewalk, you'll be blasted with irresistible aromas that will force you to eat delicious Thai dishes. Actually, this is the first wonderful reason why I'd love to go back. From the street food that offers amazing sticky rice with mango, Hui's amazing sôm dâm (spicy green papaya salad), fresh spring rolls and fancy kale juice on the riverfront to the best tom yum soup ever in Saffron, you'd be surprise by what Bangkok's cuisine has to offer.
04|Wander In And Around Chao Phraya River
The boats on Chao Phraya River offer a lovely and serene way to watch this throbbing metropolis and discover the old-fashioned life along its minor tributaries and canals. I spent the most peaceful afternoon strolling on the riverfront around Tha Chang ferry pier, discovering cute coffee shops, arty boutiques, librairies and concept stores. It felt like a whole different Bangkok there -a super trendy version!
05|Enter Into A Traditional Thai House With A Mysterious History
Jim Thompson's house is a gorgeous traditional Thai house filled with the finest collection of Buddhist sculptures, historic textile and other Thai collectibles. This is a great mix of history, mystery and luxury. The house is situated along the canal and holds a gorgeous luxurious garden -it's absolutely beautiful, and perfect to escape from the hubbub of the city.
06|Pick Your Market And Go Shopping That Never Ends
In a city obsessed with commerce, you can find anything you want in the markets. Silk, flip-flops, flowers, kitten -anything, you name it. If Chatuchak Weekend Market is renowned as 'the' market to explore as a traveler, this is not my first choice. My tuk tuk driver brought me into Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market and I had the best surprise there... No tourists, friendly locals, delightful fragrances, superb photo opportunities... It's open 24H, and located on Chakphet Road -highly recommended to visit it on the evening/at night.
07|Hop On An Awesome, Epic Tuk Tuk Ride
I'm not really a 'tour' kind of traveler, I'm usually happy just walking and exploring places by myself. That's until I discovered Expique Tuk Tuk Tours, ran by Si and its team of terrific drivers. That night, I experienced Bangkok like I would never have do by myself: meeting locals, discovering street food (while actually knowing what I eat for once!), entering into temples by night, tasting the best pad thai in the city, getting on a tuk tuk race and of course, making new friends. It was the funniest experience I had in Bangkok + it was DELICIOUS!
08|Take Some Heights And Enjoy The View From A Rooftop
The only way to appreciate Bangkok's beauty at its fullest is from the top of a building, with a cocktail in your hand. To be sure not to miss it, I've chosen the best of the bests: The Moon Bar. Seriously. That panoramic view!!! (and that cocktail!) You just can't come to Bangkok and not see that.
09|Meet The Locals In Lumphini Park
Lumphini Park is 'the' green oasis in Bangkok -the place to go when you can't take the traffic noise anymore. It offers city dwellers a perfect connection to nature, with tranquility, fresh air and shade. I LOVED my morning strolls in the park -I met that cute old guy who talked to his cat, these guys showing off at the outdoor gym, the brave ones running, the old ladies playing cards... It's well worth a visit if you like people watching.
10|Discover Bangkok's Colossal Malls
Believe or not, malls are part of the culture in Bangkok. At that point, they are more urban parks than malls -with inexhaustible range of small stalls and shops, cinemas, aquariums, huge food courts. If you don't go to shop, it is worth a visit to see their insane immensity and, for some, the beautiful interior design (Siam Center has been selected as one of the world's five best-designed retail centres).
Where to stay:
This Boutique Hotel is a haven of serenity a hundred meters from the bustling streets of the city. With a street food market nearby -with delicious sticky rice/mango!-, a pool surrounded by palm trees and sculptures that is more than welcome after a day non-stop walking and, last but not least: a huuuge comfy bed.
Bangkok is noisy, the traffic is terrible, sidewalks are messy and it all can make you stay exhausting. But if you know where and when to go to avoid the crowds and the craziness, be careful, you could actually love the city... This metropolis is fantastic -especially as a solo traveler destination- and has a lot to offer. It was my first time and I know I will be back (mainly for the food I have to admit... Damn Tom Yum Soup in Saffron!!!).
If you've been in Bangkok too, either you loved it or hated it (I doubt it!), please share what would be your favorite experiences in the comments!