I always hesitated to visit Thailand as I felt everyone is going to Thailand. I made multiple plans to visit this country in last four years and subsequently cancelled those thinking this place would have barely sustained its culture due to the overflowing influx of tourists. But then, I don't feel guilty to confess that all those assumptions proved wrong as soon as I touched down this land of smiles. I shortlisted Bangkok, Krabi and Phuket for my ten day trip which I felt was too short. This place has so much to offer that you must visit Thailand for longer or otherwise more than once.
In this blog am sharing how I spent three nights in Bangkok trying to make most of it while I made few mistakes of choosing places I might not want to go again or I could have experienced something better on top of them. Well, but that's not too much of regret as we always learn from our mistakes and traveling is one of the best way to learn as we all know.
How to reach
Bangkok's, Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) is one the busiest airports in the world as it connects with all major cities of the world.
The local Currency of Thailand is Thai Baht
Thailand provides visa on arrival to 21 countries (as of 2017) provided the travelers have all required documents traveling with the purpose of tourism only. The fee for visa on arrival is 2000 Baht per person which may vary anytime so recheck before you plan.
Visa on arrival might sound easiest of the things while you travel however please brace yourself to stand in long slow moving queues and especially when you have many flights landing at the same time as yours. Am not too sure if this is a normal practice but while I was waiting in queue I managed to get my visa stamp in few minutes by paying 200 THB extra to the authorities for a quick visa by standing in a fast moving shorter queue. For more information on documents required and other visa queries, visit http://www.thaiembassy.com
The local language of Thailand is Thai however as a traveler you won't face challenges in communicating with people as most of them understand and speak English fairly.
Where to Stay
If you are looking for luxurious options then staying river side is the answer. The Chao Phraya River is surrounded by many luxurious five star hotels like Shangri-La, Hilton, Lebua and Sheraton. The other benefit of staying at this location is the proximity with the major tourist attractions which are also located on the banks of Chao Phraya River.
If you are planning to stay centrally then staying at Sukhumvit district is the best option. Sukhumvit also houses 05 star establishments like Westin, Sheraton, Sofitel and Movenpick. It also offers accommodation that suits all kinds of budgets.
Few Recommendations to ease your travel
Use Sky trains to travel within city
Although Bangkok is well equipped with all modes of transportation to travel from one part of the city to other but Sky train is the best option. The Sky train connectivity in Thailand is widespread, comfortable and economical comparatively to other means of transportation available here. The system consists of 35 stations along two lines: the Sukhumvit Line running northwards and eastwards, terminating at Mo Chit and Samrong respectively, and the Silom Line which serves Silom and Sathon Roads, the central business district of Bangkok, terminating at National Stadium and Bang Wa.
Be careful while you choose to hire a Tuk-tuk
I personally used Tuk Tuk twice during my trip and both the time I had bitter experiences. Well this could be my personal observation but still I would recommend that you must fix the fare before boarding any tuk tuk. Make sure you let them know where exactly you need to be dropped. Also most of the tuk tuk and taxi drivers would try and take you to places, shops and areas where they earn commissions hence be aware of these kinds of tricks.
Don't Pre book your sightseeing
Thailand has tour information kiosks in every corner of every city and each one selling the same excursion at a different price. If you get lucky you might find the cheapest option and if you are too lazy to roam around and compare the prices before you finally book you might get cheated also. So enquire at least five different places before you freeze the prices you pay for your excursion.
What you must experience?
Wat Pho also popularly known as Temple ( Wat) of reclining Buddha is one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. You'll need to take your shoes off to enter and if you would like a little good luck, you may purchase a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall which you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls which line the length of the walls. Dropping the small pennies in bowls makes a nice ringing sound and even if your wishes don't come true, the money goes towards helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.
While you are visiting the temples at Thailand ensure to wear appropriate clothing; this means no exposed shoulders or skin above the knee.
Recommend sites include four chapels that contain 394 gilded Buddha images of golden statues from different parts of Thailand sitting in the lotus position long lines.
Entry Fee: 100 THB per person
Timings: 0800hrs to 1700hrs
Located on the west bank of Chao Phraya River, this temple is also known as Temple of Dawn named after the Indian Hindu god of dawn called Aruna. The main attraction of the temple is the conical shaped tower also known as Prahng made in Khmer style of architecture. The tower's construction was started during the first half of the 19th century by Rama II and later completed by Rama III. Not apparent from a distance are the ornate floral mosaics made from broken, multihued Chinese porcelain, a common temple ornamentation in the early Ratanakosin period, when Chinese ships calling at the port of Bangkok discarded tonnes of old porcelain as ballast.
Frequent cross-river ferries run over to Wat Arun from Tien Pier in 04 THB
Entry Fee: 50 THB per person
Timings: 0830hrs to 1730hrs
The Chao Phraya River Cruise
The Cruise begins from the river city mall where all tour operators would drop you after picking you up from your hotel.
All the tourists booked with different cruise operators wait at one corner of this mall making the place much chaotic. Ensure that you listen to the ongoing announcements carefully so you don't end up missing boarding your cruise Follow the people who have the same color stickers as yours glued on their T-Shirts depicting you all have to board the same cruise
Once you board the cruise you can only be seated on the table which has been reserved for you. The table numbers are mentioned on your cruise ticket. As soon as you are seated the crew would announce dinner to be open resulting people jumping on each other to grab their food while spilling some on the floor. ( This was definitely a turn off for me and many others) If you are a vegetarian I would suggest you finish your dinner and then board as there are very few veg options in the buffet. The overall dinner experience on the cruise is definitely not worth for what you pay ( But again this is my personal feedback)
There are live bands at one end, who try their level best to entertain guests.Once you are done eating food and listening to the band you can step out at the terrace of the ship and enjoy seeing the city line gleaming with view of Grand Palace and Wat Arun at night.
Average Cruise Cost: 1900 THB
If you missed to experience the Gondolas in Venice or dream to experience them, well a visit to floating market can give you a trailer. Bangkok has plenty of floating markets but all of them are located at the outskirts of the city. I visited the Bang Nam Pheung floating market which is the closest option ( one hour drive) if you are staying in the central location of the city like I was. There are two options to reach this market either you take a local bus which would also be a cheaper option or you spend close to 1500 THB and hire a private taxi. This market is small in size and has very few boats making it less crowded than its counterparts.
Your hotel or tour operator might push you to reach here early in morning however try and begin your tour not before 10am because until then the market is not completely open and all you can sight are the surrounded houses at both sides of the canal.
You can try some local Thai delicacies while you enjoy your boat ride and also indulge in some shopping.
This place is on the to do list of many travelers simply because it's worth many visits and especially if you like to shop locally while also treating your palate with some Thai food and shakes. This market is only open on the weekends from morning 08am until evening and as the day grows it gets to start crowded. Chatuchak is a display by locals of food, fashion accessories, clothes, jewelry, home furnishings, art & paintings and copies of many expensive clothing brands.
Recommendations: Bargain it helps at Chatuchak
How to Reach: Board a Sky train and get down at Mo Chit station. Chatuchak is just five minute walk from Mo Chit.
Asiatique Night Market
A more sophisticated version of Chatuchak or any other local market, Asiatique market has small showrooms with moderately higher prices than the other local markets. The showrooms are beautifully decorated with lights which make this place come alive at night. You would find clothes, fashion accessories, souvenirs, art &crafts and finger licking Thai food here.
How to Reach: Board a Sky train and get down at Sapan Taksin station and then take a free boat to Asiatique night market located at a distance of 15 minutes.
MBK Center is a large shopping mall with over 300 stores spread across eight levels. This mall has small shops and kiosks much contrary to a typical mall with big branded showrooms. The mall offers huge variety of electronic gadgets, clothing, jewelry, fashion accessories and few eating joints. If you don't wish to visit a local market then visit a local mall here at MBK.
Standing just opposite to MBK and much contrary to what it offers against MBK, Siam Paragon has high end brands showrooms and everything that any high end mall would have anywhere in the world. This mall also encompass Madame Tussauds and Siam Ocean world, so in case you are traveling with kids you can drop them here while you shop freely.
Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World (Inside Siam Paragon Mall)
The largest aquarium in South East Asia exhibiting hundreds of sea species, Visit this place if you wish to kill some time instead of sitting in your hotel room or if you are a marine enthusiast. The aquarium is undoubtedly well designed and keeps the visitors engaged through activities like glass boat ride and Scuba diving. With kids it's a big hit. Per ticket would cost around 950 THB excluding activities fee.
How to Reach: Board a Sky train and get down at Siam station. MBK center and Siam Paragon is just five minute walk from Siam station.
Other recommended places to see if you have more time unlike me do visit, Lumphini Park, a central urban park featuring manicured lawns, playgrounds & an artificial lake with boat rentals. You may also visit Safari World,a zoo & entertainment park featuring safari rides, marine attractions, live feedings & stunt show.