Wednesday, 5 August 2015

top 5 things to do in bangkok

1. Grand Palace

Obvious or not, the Grand Palace, aka the most touristic place in Bangkok is a must place to visit. Whether you have or have not the time, you have to go. Skip other temple like visits if you wish but do not skip this one. It is impressive on Google search, but so it is in real life, if not million times more. The place is absolutely huge and I have to say that without a guide, it was hard to get around. I do not mind it however - as I find it very interesting to come and go, back and forth and see some sights more than once, trying to explore and understand further more. You will be impressed on how local guides can literally speak any language on this planet. 

How to get there: As mentioned in my previous post, wherever you are from get on the closest BTS Sky Train station to Saphan Taksin. The price of the single ticket will depend on where you board. You can opt for the day pass if not (costs on the previous articles). From there go to the very last pier on the left and queue for the orange flagged boat. The single ticket is 15THB (A$0.60). Get off at Pier 9 (Tha Chang) and follow the crowd/signs to the Grand Palace.  

Cost: 500THB (A$20) - fairly expensive for a country like Thailand but again,  it is worth it and it is very touristic. 

Tips: Do not show too much skin. You may be asked to leave or pay for a sarong. It is also culturally respectful to not show too much skin. Even though the weather is hot - be acceptable and understanding of other cultures. Do not forget one or two bottles of water. Make sure to get there early as it is open from 8:30am to 3:30pm only.

2. Wat Pho

Wat Pho (or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is another awesome place to visit. I would have probably suggested Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) if I had the chance to visit it, which I did not. Before you actually get to see the famous Buddha there are many 'small' temples, made of mosaic and gold lining, typical Thai style. You will walk around them, play hide and seek and eventually take photos. It is a magical little labyrinth before you actually get to see THE Buddha. Once you get to where the reclining Buddha is exposed, you will naturally be asked to remove your shoes. The golden Buddha is impressively 15m and 46m long. You can walk around the Buddha for as long as you wish. On the other side (following the sense of visit) of the Buddha you will notice a number of bowls - 108 to be exact. These are monk bowls and for 20THB (A$0.77) you can buy 108 coins to pour in the latter for luck. Simply amazing.  

How to get there: From the Grand Palace, you can either walk or take the orange flagged Chao Praya Express boat again. Get off at Tha Tien. You may need a map to walk from the pier but you should find your way after crossing the bridge opposite the pier, where the boat drops you off. 

Cost: 100THB (A$3.80)

Tips: Similar to any religious places in South East Asia, avoid showing too much skin. Bare with the heat and buy yourself a pair of light and fluffy pants. Long dresses will do too. Just remember to cover your shoulders with a cardigan or shawl. It is open from 8:30am to 6:30pm.

3. Chatuchak Weekend Market 

If you are in Bangkok on a Saturday or Sunday make sure to go to the Chatuchak (or JJ) market. To be simple, it is a giant bazaar where you can find anything. From home furniture to coconut ice cream. Everything is so cheap, you will feel bad for bargaining. I never really bargained but if you feel ripped off, do not hesitate. It will be hard at first to get your head around the whole market because it is just immense. You will think you are running in circle but it is just simply because everything looks alike. There is a map - but honestly it was like reading Chinese. What I did was simply walking around and go into alleys that inspired me. I found some nice 'vintage' type clothes, plenty of souvenirs and had countless coconut ice creams! They are the best and cost only 60THB (A$2) with toppings included.  

How to get there: Get off at Chatuchak Park MRT station (exit 1) or alternatively, Mo Chit BTS station (exit 1 & 3). 

Cost: There is no admission fee! Only on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 6pm. 

Tips: There are too many delicious places to choose from to eat at the market but I recommend a stop at Foon Talop (section 26). Do not miss the coconut ice cream and top it with peanuts, what a delish! Speaking of markets - make sure to check on what's going on in the city. I had the opportunity to experience a pop up night market, with varieties of stalls but especially delicious food stalls where I had grilled seafood (scallops and oysters) and calamari skewers for 20THB!! (See photos)  

PS: bring a suitcase if you need loads of things, it's so common at JJ!

4. LeBua Sky Bar

As I have already mentioned, if you need a little escape from street food and hostels, treat yourself at this top fancy place from The Hangover movie. The view is absolutely breathtaking. Make sure you arrive before the sunset. The staff is friendly and will not push you on buying drinks from the start. You will pay around A$20-30 per glass depending on the cocktail you will choose but again, you are paying for the view! Whilst you can get a glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne at A$20 at the Opera Bar, you may not even want to turn the Champagne menu page at LeBua! The food is not quite what I recommend the most, very expensive and you only get small portion. I got myself some spinach and feta samosa as I was starving. Sushis were definitely overrated!! Make sure you arrive early enough so you can get a spot on the couches and lie down whilst watching the sunset. It is, hands down, a magical and unreal  experience to be fairly honest. You hardly realise you are actually 'alive' and standing there, in front of a postcard. At the end before you leave, the staff will take you to the iconic so-called 'Sky Bar', only accessible to Restaurant guests. You will be allowed to take some photos within a defined perimeter and they will tell you off if you go beyond the 'point'...

How to get there: Same BTS station as to get the Chao Praya Express: Saphan Taksin. Walk about 15mn through buzzing streets and food stalls until you reach the hotel.

Tips: Dress appropriate! Imagine you are going to a Palace such as George V in Paris. It is fancy, you know it and the dress code is fairly strict. No sandals, no shorts, no jeans, etc. Use your common sense ;)

PS: Excuse the quality of the iPhone photo when the sky hits dusk.. but you get the idea.

5. Shopping

I am sure you have been told more than once that Bangkok is an amazing city for shopping. Well, it is true! Siam Paragon was my favourite, and I have to admit I spent a lot of time in there, hiding from the heat but also shopping. The Zara is absolutely mad and their foodcourt is heaven. Go to the foodcourt to grab a snack and wander in their giant supermarket, where I ended up buying some food to bring home. One of my favourite treat was at the Emporium foodcourt, where I tried for the first time a croissant taiyaki. Taiyaki has been my favourite Japanese treat every since I was a kid and they added a little french touch making it a croissant... Absolutely divine! 70THB being A$2.70 I simply suggest you try the three flavours, and they also have 6 or 12 packs to take away! Crispy Thai pancakes are also a must try and can be found at any foodcourt. They also have a chain of gyoza that you should try. Believe me, it is hard to think about keeping your body in shape when in Bangkok... But after all, it is alright after walking 20k, right? 

The top malls you should visit when in Bangkok:

  • Siam Paragon (the fancy one, make sure you head to their foodcourt and supermarket)
  • Emporium (another fancy one)
  • Central World Plaza (go there to get a massage and eat some delicious food)
  • Siam Square (for casual shopping)
  • MBK Center (very popular but I didn't really like it, they host a Tokyu Department Store, if interested)
  • Terminal 21 (an entire mall transformed into an airport! Each level is a different city/destination)
How to get there: Get off at Siam BTS station, where you can access ALL (or at least most of) Bangkok's shopping malls.

Tips: Allow half a day to visit/shop around the mall you want to, and try to decide in advance on which one you want to specifically go to. Do not freak out when you have to show your bag every time you enter a mall, you also do this when entering a MRT station for security purposes. I actually find it reassuring. Also, wander around before jumping on the first restaurant to make sure you make the right pick! Most malls open until late in Bangkok (10-11pm) so you can have a night shopping spree.

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