One of the main gateways to S E Asia, Bangkok is an incredibly popular starting point for backpackers travelling through this part of the world.
In 2013 it was the third most visited city anywhere on the globe. With it’s rich history, beautiful landmarks, friendly locals and extensive public transport networks its easy to see why so many tourists flock to Bangkok before heading off to explore other parts of Thailand or neighbouring countries.
As with the Skytrain, the MRT runs from 6am – midnight and you can purchase tickets from electronic ticket machines found at all stations.
Buses Buses are another option to travel around Bangkok and are cheap although not always straightforward to use. Many are air conditioned which is very welcome after battling the heat and humidity of Bangkok. Buses are run by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority They are run by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, whose website has detailed information on bus routes. Fares for ordinary fan cooled buses start at 7฿ or 8฿. Air-con bus fares usually start at 10฿ and increase depending on how far your going.
Always on the meter!
Taxi drivers in Bangkok are supposed to use the meter to charge fares and as long as they do travelling by taxi can be a cost effective but hassle free way of getting around one of the largest cities in Asia. Bangkok has some of the best value cabs on earth with nearly all having air conditioning and working seatbelts. But some taxi drivers can see tourists coming and will only offer a high flat rate rather than turn on the meter. Simply say meter or nothing and if they don’t accept move on to the next one – there are more than enough cabs around! If you go on a flat fee it will almost always be considerably more than it would have been on the meter. In areas with a very high concentration of travellers like Koh San Road, you may find it difficult to get a taxi who will take you on the meter. Just walk 10 minutes away where there are less tourists and you should be able to find one on the meter almost immediately.
Not to miss
Below our some of our favourite ‘not to miss’ places in Bangkok. Also a must see is at least one of the stunning Buddhist temples in Bangkok, scroll down to our Sights, Attractions & Temples section to find out more.
The Grand Palace
Strict dress code applies
The Grand Palace with The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is one of Thailand’s most sacred sites and as such visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long trousers (pants) and a shirt with sleeves / t-shirt. Women must also be modestly dressed. So cover up legs and shoulders and avoid wearing anything see-through! If you do show up improperly dressed, you can still enter the Grand Palace but you will have to queue up at a booth near the entrance to borrow clothes to cover you up properly. If you turn up in acceptable dress it will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Wat Arun - The Temple of Dawn
Chatuchak Weekend Market
How to Get to Chatuchak
Catch the Sky train (BTS) to Mo Chit station, take exit no. 1 and follow the crowd until you see rows stalls selling clothes. Turn right while continuing to follow the crowd and you will see a small entrance that leads into the clothing section of the market. Another option is to take the subway (MRT) to Chatuchak Park station (exit no.1), then follow the crowd until you arrive at the small market entrance that. For the plant and flower section, get off at Kampheng Phet MRT station (exit no. 1). The weekend market is open on Saturdays and Sundays, 09:00 – 18:00, and Fridays 18:00 – 24:00. Plant sections are also open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 07:00 – 18:00.
Koh San Road
Sights, Attractions & Temples
One of the best ways to get a taster of this historically rich country is by exploring some of Bangkok’s breath taking temples, where you can take a step back in time and immerse yourself in the ambient and historical surroundings.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
One of the most popular and beautiful temples in Bangkok is the Temple of The Emerald Buddha on the grounds of the Grand Palace. A breath taking jade carving of the Emerald Buddha is one of the many spectacular features of this temple, however the temple is adorned with paintings and is characterised by stunning gold leaf. Indeed, at every twist and turn, this wonderful site of historical importance will leave you mesmerised.
If you love shopping you will be in consumer heaven at Siam Square – Bangkok’s super sized shopping district. Home to the Siam Center, Siam Discovery and the whopping 10 floor Siam Paragon malls. Even if you’re not a fan of shopping its still an interesting place to visit especially to see Thai fashion and youth culture on display. Although not technically part of Siam Square, just around the corner you will find the MBK Center – a must visit for bargain hunters this mall has everything from suitcases to jewellery, dried fruit to souvenirs and retro gaming equipment, all spread across 2500 stalls! It’s full of fakes but you can also find some really unique items, particularly t-shirts with a huge range of different prints.
Wat Pho also known as the Temple of The Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and about a 10 minute walk from the Grand Palace. This temple is famed for its incredible giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and beautifully decorated in exquisite mother-of-pearl. As the Buddha is a revered image, all visitors must wear appropriate clothing to enter which means no exposed shoulders of skin above the knee. If you are wearing clothing that isn’t suitable Wat Pho do provide gowns free of charge so you should still be able to enter. Although the giant Buddha is popular with tourists the rest of the Wat Pho temple complex is usually quieter than others in Bangkok. Wandering around the temple complex and it’s many decorative stupas tends to be more a relaxing experience than some of the cities other attractions.
Floating Market Damnoen Saduak
Damnoen Saduak is probably the most popular floating market in Thailand, great for photos, trying new food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life. Its worth going early to avoid the heat and to catch the market at its liveliest. The market is over an hours drive outside of Bangkok in Ratchaburi. If you want to make things easy then arrange a tour to take you. Otherwise buses leave the Southern bus terminal in Bangkok regularly from 06.0o am onwards.
Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha)
Located at the end of Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road, near Hualampong Railway Station, Wat Traimit houses the world’s largest solid gold statue. The 5.5 ton gold Buddha measures nearly five metres in height. In the past, artisans crafted Buddha’s in gold and then covered them in stucco and plaster to disguise them from invading armies. The Buddha at Wat Traimit was discovered entirely by accident when it was mistakenly dropped as it was being moved, revealing under a casing of plaster, a stunning solid gold Sukhothai style Buddha. Open every day from 09.00 – 17.00. Visiting the golden Buddha itself is free and a mere 10 Baht to visit the accompanying museum.
Koh San Road is the place to go if you’re looking for budget accommodation and to meet like minded travellers. Sukhumvit is home to a huge range of accommodation options to small fairly budget friendly B&B’s to extravagant 5* hotels. Bangkok is one of the cheapest places in the world to enjoy 5* luxury. By no means suited to a backpacker budget, but if you did want to splash out, the price of luxury hotels here are still far less than there counterparts would be in western countries. Use Air B n B or couch surfer if you are looking for unique or perhaps even free accommodation in Bangkok.
We can recommend Sawasdee House for central, basic but clean accommodation around the corner from Koh San Road (but not on it, so you can still get a good nights sleep!)