Thailand’s capital is a common jumping off point for travelers. The problem is that many times that’s all people see Bangkok as – a jumping off point. When I was in Thailand the first time, I didn’t really dig deep. Luckily, Matt and I rectified that by spending a few weeks in Thailand’s incredibly diverse capital which gave us the opportunity to really explore and give you guys For the Love of Wanderlust’s top 10 in Bangkok.
EAT ALL THE FOOD
Thailand is world-famous for its cuisine. They have some amazing creations that combine intense flavors that invigorate all parts of your palate. Luckily for travelers, street food is king here. No need to pay $50 for a Thai dish in a fancy restaurant because you have access to it all simply walking down the street for just a few bucks for a feast. Not sure where to start? You can even take a street food tour. We did the tuk tuk food adventure with Expique and loved it. I am less than adventurous when it comes to eating meat, so it was great having someone order for you because it really gets you outside your normal bubble of foods. Plus, having a local guide means they know what foods are must-eats and you get to experience local gems that you may have otherwise missed out on.
VISIT AS MANY OF THE BUDDHIST TEMPLES AS POSSIBLE
Buddhism is a huge part of Thai culture and Bangkok has some of the most beautiful temples. Some temples are very popular and touristy for various reasons (Wat Pho would be my Bangkok must-see temple). However, if you get up early and get there right when they open their doors you’ll be amazed to find you’re often alone or only there with a few other visitors. In addition to the big ones, find some smaller temples too. In these you’re very likely to meet local practitioners and monks who are often up for a quick conversation and it really enhances your experiences and understanding of Buddhism.
EXPLORE THE CITY PARKS
Bangkok has some of the most beautiful city parks I’ve ever seen. They’re exquisitely landscaped and filled with tropical flowers. Some have fountains and workout equipment, some have lakes and swan boats, but each one is different. My favorite was Saranrom Park by Wat Pho. There were little cultural huts, a huge fountain that glistened, lotus-adorned ponds with bridges over them and even a little orchid nursery. Matt’s favorite park was Lumphini Park because it had more open spaces and water. I was so glad that Matt discovered this park because it started a trend of scoping the different parks. The parks were the only places in Bangkok that we saw monitor lizards, so just be aware of them because Matt almost stepped on a really big one, and just let them be. Don’t try to pick them up or catch them.
GET A THAI MASSAGE
I had never had the pleasure of experiencing a Thai massage before our recent trip there. Let me tell you, I’m hooked! It’s so different from any other massage experience I had ever had, but one of the best. You get dressed up in a little cotton outfit that they provide and then it’s an hour of what feels like a combo of co-yoga, stretching, massage and maybe a smidge of torture. Haha. It was such an interesting experience. My masseur informed me that I was a masochist because I liked a rough massage and that she was fighting me to give me a massage. This totally cracked me up, especially when she went downstairs and informed my husband of this! Haha
TAKE A COOKING CLASS
I didn’t do this the first time I went to Bangkok, but I felt like I had such a better understanding of the foods I ate in Thailand after making different dishes myself. We partnered with The Market Experience for our cooking class and it’s one of my favorite moments from the 3.5 months we spent abroad. Plus, we got to bring the recipes home and now we can make these for ourselves and loved ones – that’s a “souvenir” that you’ll get to keep for life.
SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN
Even though Buddhism is the major religion in Thailand, Bangkok is an incredibly diverse city and visit this temple is a great opportunity to get a taste of Hinduism, especially if it’s a religion you’ve never encountered before. This temple is very welcoming, everyone I spoke to was extremely willing to talk and answer questions and it’s absolutely stunning. Plus, just outside of it are awesome Indian + Nepali???? restaurants and vendors selling some of the most beautiful offerings I’ve ever seen.
SHOP IN THE LOCAL MARKETS
There are so many markets in Bangkok. They have weekend markets, train markets, night markets, floating markets and more! It was so hard for me to stroll through a market without walking away with something. My favorites were Lhong 1919, The Flower Market and the daily market on Soi Silom 20. Lhong 1919 is basically brand new. It doesn’t have the cheap trinkets you find many other places. Instead, they were exquisitely handmade arts and crafts. Plus there are restaurants and food vendors in the courtyard and by the river. The Flower Market is open 24/7. It’s filled with stunning, exotic flowers along with a sections of different foods. The daily market we found because we stayed at PanPan Hostel nearby. This was a perfect spot to get fresh fruits and delicious street food.
JUST TAKE A NICE, LONG WALK
Bangkok is beautiful and each neighborhood/area is unique. It’s an interesting of old and new and traditional and ultra-modern. In one 1-hour walk you can see skyscrapers, decrepit buildings, ornate temples and alleys lined with food vendors. Keep an eye out for amazing works of street art, monks strolling down sidewalks in their bright orange robes and so much more. Most days Matt and I walked hours and hours through the city (good for the budget and the body) and we both feel like it enhanced our experience in Bangkok.
CHECK OUT THE MASSIVE MALLS
There are some of the most unique malls I’ve ever seen in Bangkok. They’re all massive and full of stores and restaurants from all over the world. (I’m not ashamed to say that I had Auntie Anne’s twice at Central World.) Terminal 21 has the wicked cool theme of a different city on each floor. Central World has some seriously epic Christmas decor up and each mall had a grocery store in it as well. So you can stock up on unique snacks while you’re there as well.
You never know what you’ll be in town for. Bangkok is a massive city and is full of such rich traditions that you would hate to miss out on a unique experience. We almost missed out on Loi Krathong because we didn’t do our research.
THINGS ON MANY OTHER TOP LISTS:
THE GRAND PALACE – On our first round in Bangkok the King’s funeral was going on, and there were massive crowds of Thai mourners visiting the temple, so we decided to skip it to ,et them have some extra space. It was on our list for the day I ended up having emery you surgery instead, so next time we want to give this a go.
FLOATING MARKETS – I wanted to visit the floating markets, but the more I asked locals about them, the more I heard that they aren’t a local thing anymore. It became more of a beautiful photo-op for tourists and that the goods sold there are of lesser quality or marked way up. I’d love to find a more authentic one someday though.
HOSTELS/HOTELS WE RECOMMEND FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
PANPAN HOSTEL – This hostel has both dorm + private rooms. It’s just off of Pan Road close to Sri Maha Mariamman. It’s quiet and they have free coffee, tea and toast at any time of day. This is my favorite place to stay in Bangkok.
OLDTOWN HOSTEL – This hostel is wonderful as well. The beds are just a bit less comfortable than those at PanPan. Their free Sunday breakfast is great and it’s walking distance from the Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
AIM HOUSE BANGKOK – This hotel is a ways away from all the action (across the river) but it’s an easy SkyTrain back to town. It’s reasonably priced, very comfortable and is in a part of town that not many people explore. The awesome Lhong 1919 Market I mentioned above is a short walk from here.
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