Happpppy Thursday! I’m excited to share my second post on Thailand–this one’s about Bangkok. I debated how to break up content and decided to just do four posts: last week’s outfit, today’s post, a Bangkok follow up next week, and a short guide to Phuket.
(The most beautiful delicate desserts called luk chub. Each one is handmade with steamed mung bean paste, shaped, dipped in gelatin, and painted with food coloring. They were in our room the first night!)
Basically our trip to Thailand consisted of a trip to Phuket sandwiched into our days in Bangkok. We arrived in Bangkok early Monday morning and left for Phuket early Wednesday morning. Phuket was Wednesday-Saturday, and we were back in Bangkok Saturday afternoon-late Monday night.
Get ready for a MAJOR photo overload…and this is just our first two days in Bangkok. I’ll be back next week with the other two! There are some general tips for visiting the country at the end of this post, but definitely reach out to me with any questions!
There are tons of malls in Bangkok, and most seem to have really extravagant food courts. This mall, The Emporium, was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. One of the offerings was “Gourmet Market” that was essentially a high-end grocery store. It had a little bit of everything, and it all looked so good! We went here soon after checking into our hotel to pick up a light lunch.
Check out all of this fresh pressed juice. And this was only a quarter of it!
After a quick bite, we headed to Jim Thompson’s House for a tour and some history. He was an American who lived in Thailand and revolutionized the silk trade but mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967. You can’t take photos in the house, but both the home and grounds were beautiful and quintessentially Thai–the perfect start to our vaca!
After a trip to another nearby mall (Siam Paragon) for a snack (their food courts, I’m telling you! And the air conditioning…), we had an early dinner at the hotel restaurant and got a good night’s sleep before a 5:30am wakeup call.
Tuesday started with a buffet at the hotel. These breakfasts seem to be the norm at all the major hotels, and they’re awesome. The spread usually includes an omelette bar, noodle bar, a variety of fresh juices, tons of pastries (with an impressive assortment of jams), dim sum, a meat + cheese spread, sushi and more. Depending on the hotel the price can vary…one of ours was about $10 with the conversion, and another was around $25.
I’ll mention it at the end of this post, but one of the best things my mom did in planning this trip was hire a private tour guide + driver to take us on an excursion outside the city. They picked us up from our hotel at 7am that first Tuesday (luckily breakfast opened at 6) and we drove over an hour outside the city to Maeklong, a town known for its “railway market.”
The main attraction in this town is a commuter train that departs the Maeklong station a few times a day and goes directly through the market. Like, directly through. It moves slowly, but it’s still kind of scary–it’s a normal, full-sized passenger train! There weren’t a ton of tourists since this is pretty far outside Bangkok, but I’d highly recommend visiting if you have the chance.
Literally going right over the fresh food!!
And just like that, back to business. The tarps come back up and the market resumes!
I talk about street food at the end of this post, but one of the things we did try was fresh baby pineapple (pictured below). It’s sweeter than regular pineapple and was incredible…seriously, the fruit in Thailand is as good as you’d imagine it to be. I drank a different variety of fruit juice at our hotel every single day, and you’re often greeted with a glass of something fresh upon checking in–such a treat!
After leaving Maeklong, we headed toward the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and stopped at a little plantation that made and sold products with coconut sugar. They let me churn it, which is how they melt it get the liquid consistency. It was such a workout, especially in the heat! They also have a homestay-like option where you can rent out space in their home for an extended amount of time. The detailed wood carving below is the stairway into the living quarters.
Our next stop was an hour long boat ride through canals, ending at the Damaung Floating Market. This was one of my favorite parts of our entire trip. We had this private canoe and passed the most beautiful houses, most of which are passed down through generations. Many of the residents work in the area and have businesses at the nearby floating market.
There were also a few other tourists here…more than we saw at the railway market and the fisherman’s village we stopped at afterwards.
This is part of what the market looked like…you can stop to shop (or eat) without getting off your boat. There’s also a part on land that we briefly stopped at after.
You could buy beers and have them on your boat ride…SO cool! If I wasn’t so worried about the next time I’d see a bathroom, I’d have indulged!
After the floating market, we drove about 40 minutes to a fisherman’s village. We had lunch at a local restaurant and then got on another motorized canoe-like boat to explore the area. The homes were a mix of run down and updated…like most houses on the water, they get passed down through generations.
Ok, now for the sort of crazy part. The monkey feeding part of this excursion was probably what I was most excited about for our trip to Bangkok. I stupidly thought they’d be behind an enclosure of some sort, but they weren’t. They were just on land waiting for us! Apparently they know the boat drivers and that tourists come by with food for them. Oh and they also swim, which is equal parts cool and terrifying.
Here we are approaching them….
…and then they just sort of swarmed our boat. I was screaming and trying to take photos while throwing bananas, corn, and peanuts into the water.
Look at the little guy!! They don’t mess around. So many of them were carrying babies, too (like this one below)…it was so sweet/adorable.
After our little monkey adventure, we piled back into the [much needed air conditioned] car and headed back to Bangkok. It was rush hour and we were beat! After a quick shower, we found a Mexican restaurant (don’t judge, we’re from Texas and my aunt recommended it), grabbed dinner, and hit the hay. We had an early flight to Phuket the next morning!
Sooo that was our first day and a half in Bangkok! Here are my general tips about the city/some things about visiting the city–I’ll recap them in my second post next week, too!:
Where to stay:
We stayed in both the Sukhumvit neighborhood and the Riverside neighborhood. Our first hotel (the Hilton Sukhumvit) was about three blocks from a Skytrain (BTS) station and a high-end mall with an amazing food court. The downside is that the area surrounding our hotel wasn’t that walkable, but that seemed pretty normal for many of the neighborhoods.
The second hotel (Sheraton Orchid by the river) had a beautiful view but was a little further away. There are quite a few hotels on the water, and I think most of them have a free ferry that will take you to the port with one of the main Skytrain stations.
Siam is also a popular place to stay, as there’s a decent amount to do nearby, including the famous MBK mall (and the area has tons of hotels). I found this guide to be pretty helpful in breaking down the neighborhoods before our trip–in my opinion, it’s pretty accurate!
What to eat:
The biggest thing here is whether or not it’s okay to eat the street food. We were hearing mixed things, but ended up only sampling what our tour guide picked out for us since she advised against eating it in general but knew vendors who produced food in completely sanitary ways. If you do eat off the street, just be careful…I probably wouldn’t advise trying the fresh juices, no matter how appetizing they look. If anyone has more experience with this, I’d love to know!
How to get around:
We took the Skytrain a few times and took a few cabs. Walking around was a bit tough where we were, and two of our four days in Bangkok were spent on planned out excursions with a tour guide. One thing to note when taking cabs: the cabbies will likely try to refuse to start the meter when you get in. If they do that, just say you need to be let out of the car because you only want a metered ride. They may grumble, but they’ll start it. They’d prefer to settle on a price (instead of go by the meter), but this will always end up costing you more. It can be hard to hide that you’re a tourist ;)
How to see the sights:
I guess this goes hand in hand with “how to get around,” but I really think the best thing we did on this trip was have a private guide and driver for our main tourist activities. Bangkok is a huge city and as I’ve mentioned is really hot and humid. Many of the attractions (namely the King’s Palace and the two main temples, Wat Pho and Wat Arun) can get very crowded depending on the time of day, so not relying on public transportation or cabs made the experience way more enjoyable.
My mom found a great guide, Pauline, and driver, Mr. Pat, who took us around for both of our tour days. One was the first time we were in Bangkok (before flying to Phuket for a couple of days), and that’s when we went over an hour outside the city to a fisherman’s village, floating market, and more. Once we were back from Phuket, we did a second day in Bangkok, seeing the temples and King’s Palace.
In addition to it being really helpful not to have to worry about navigation and crowds, it was incredible to have an air conditioned car (and ice cold water + these amazing wet disposable washcloths they make there) to recover between stops. These tours are designed to pack a lot into one day, and having a car there just for us (versus a huge tourist bus) made a world of difference. We asked our guide how people would typically visit the areas outside the city (that we did on our first day), and she said other than public transportation–which, in her words, were “how the Lonely Planet people do it,”–it would be next to impossible.
- Utilize the SkyTrain! Ticket agents at the counter are really helpful so don’t feel like you have to use a kiosk.
- Make sure the cab driver starts the meter. Like I said before…cab drivers frequently try and get tourists to agree on a set price rather than start the meter. If they won’t start it, tell them you want to get out. They may grumble, but it’s important to do this unless you want to get ripped off.
- Don’t be afraid to bargain. This is especially true at markets…you can generally get something for at least half the listed price. If you aren’t sure whether you’re headed to a place where it’s appropriate to bargain, don’t be afraid to ask your hotel’s front desk or concierge.
- Tipping. It’s not huge there, but it feels weird not to leave a tip! There’s a 7% service charge applied to all restaurant bills, so we generally left anywhere from a small amount to a few dollars depending on the service and total.
Phew! Looooong post, but hopefully a helpful one for those of you who are planning a trip, thinking about a trip, or just curious about what it’s like to visit Bangkok! Definitely reach out if you have any questions–happy to help however I can! PS: This post is part II of our time in Bangkok.
Leaving you with these adorable nugs…
All photos by Monica Dutia