Bangkok – where to begin!!! I have to be really honest, it just wasn’t my favorite. I still had a great time and have a lot to share with you, but friends tell me that you either love or hate Bangkok and I’d have to say I probably fall into the latter category if I had to choose. The rest of the trip was amazing but Bangkok was just not for me.
I really thought about why I disliked it (Bangkok may be my least favorite place I’ve traveled to (for vacation – this is not counting terrible work trips in my early twenties!) and I think the biggest thing is how challenging it was (and this was just my personal experience) to get around. I personally really like it when I can walk all over a city and all the stuff I wanted to see was pretty spread out. There isn’t uber, and most cab drivers can’t read google maps (I got told no and had to get out of the cab SO many time!) so the best I could do was carry around cards from my hotel with the address + their little map. Anytime I went out, I would have to come back to the hotel, call a new taxi, and so on and so forth. I couldn’t, for example, go to the Grand Palace and then take a cab to the restaurant for lunch or spa after. The hotel was the constant middleman, and that got exhausting, especially with Bangkok traffic!
It’s also pretty dirty. I have a very sensitive sense of smell and smelled some of the worst smells of my life there (this is coming from someone who has lived in NYC for 12 years – the summer stench is real!) One minute you’re walking down the street and the next you feel like you’re going to pass out from the smell. On a better note, the Thai people are so, so nice. Like so nice that at first (ever the jaded New Yorker) I thought they were being fake at first. But no. Just genuinely, hands down the nicest, sweetest people. So when you’re at restaurants etc. make a point to chat with your bartender/server/etc. Everyone I met was really wonderful which made the trip a lot less lonely.
I probably should have done Chiang Mai instead. If I were going to go back I would skip Bangkok and do Chiang Mai instead but I’m still glad I experienced Bangkok and got to know what it’s about. I feel like I learned a lot about myself too, as I’ve never really traveled somewhere and had this reaction to it. I think I learned this trip that the larger cities of Asia are probably not for me. I’m still glad I did Bangkok but don’t really have any desire to go back. You can not like a place but still be glad you went, you know?
Above is a little video I made with highlights from my 2 nights in Bangkok. It isn’t the most professional video I’ve ever made (I was TIRED, and I look it!) but it’s definitely still fun to look back at and watch. Two things. 1) If you are reading this post in the blog view, you’ll have to click into the actual post for the video to fit in the column, and 2) Subscribe to my Youtube Channel! Pretty please? 😉
What to know before you visit Bangkok:
- It’s hard to get around. But I addressed that above. Traffic can be incredibly intense and taxis will regularly tell you no, and it’s important to get a card from your hotel with the little map + the name written out. When I left the Chatuchak market I literally had 3 cabs tell me no because they didn’t want to deal with the traffic. I understood once I made the trip – it took an hour to drive 1.5 miles!
The Bangkok Airport
The airport was (from my experience), a complete and utter shit show. Coming in was easy – I breezed through immigration, quickly found my bag, and was on my way. Getting out was an entirely different story. It was a mess. When you leave, give yourself 3+ hours to get out and get your flight.
The lines at check-in were over an hour and then it was another hour at immigration and then security… I got there three hours before my takeoff and laughed to myself at how early I was… only to nearly miss my flight. I had to go through the Bangkok airport 4 times during the trip (landing, en route to Cambodia, stopping in between to get to Koh Samui, and again on the way home) and every time besides my arrival was a HOT MESS.
Give yourself a long time here and just plan for it to be messy… maybe you’ll end up surprised, but it’s better to be prepared. I have no idea why it’s such a mess – probably because of dumb tourists like myself who don’t know what they are doing and the fact that no one seems to care about order or lines – people just steamroll their way through, cut lines, and do whatever they want to do. I’ve never seen anything like it!!!
Where to stay in Bangkok
I stayed at Le Meridien. It was nice. It wasn’t anything special or fancy, but when we booked the trip we knew we’d basically just be sleeping in our room so we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Getting to Asia is expensive and for an 11 night trip we couldn’t afford to stay at ultra fancy places the whole time. (We opted to splurge more in Koh Samui as we knew we’d have several days where we’d just stay at the hotels and lay in the sun.) This was $140 a night and clean, safe, + in a great location. I have also heard really good things about Sofitel and Oriental Residence hotels.
My friend stayed at The Oriental Residence a couple years ago but we’d already booked Le Meridien. For the price, OR looks nicer. The Peninsula looks very nice as well. If you are going to really splurge and money isn’t an object, stay at the Mandarin Oriental. It’s right on the water and absolutely beautiful. I had a really nice lunch there. But I don’t know if you really want to do that. If you go to Bangkok and just stay in your hotel you’re doing it wrong (even though that’s what I wanted to do for a lot of it, hahahaha!)
What to do in Bangkok
The Grand Palace and Wat Phro. These were AMAZING and an absolute MUST see. I was completely awestruck. For 500 baht, you get a pass to both and it’s just insane. Every surface is gilded or covered in mosaic tiles. I do wish I got an English speaking tour guide (this can be booked through your hotel concierge and I’m told is not very expensive) because half the time I didn’t know what I was looking at. I had to get a little online crash course when I got home.
Chatuchak Day Market was so cool. It’s only open on the weekends and have never seen a market this large – it went on for miles and miles! I was a little overwhelmed and didn’t bring enough cash with me so I didn’t buy anything (save for a chicken satay and some delicious coconut ice cream) but it was really cool to just walk around and experience it. I have heard the paella at Vive8 is unreal but I couldn’t find it!
MASSAGES. Get all of the massages! And if you really want to indulge, spring for the “Four Hands” massage which just means two therapists. I had a 90 minute four hand massage and it was pretty incredible. It was also only $30. Some good spas to try are Health Land, Bhawa, and BodyTune. Make a reservation.
Where to Eat in Bangkok
Eat Me is really, really delicious and a super cool spot. The staff was super friendly and I had a really great meal. It’s rated one of Bangkok’s top 50 restaurants!
The Mandarin Oriental is a must for a fancy lunch/brunch. It’s right on the water and absolutely beautiful. I came here for lunch (I had the yummiest white asparagus with sea bass and a pina colada) and thought it was so beautiful and relaxing. If you are feeling ultra fancy, definitely stay here.. .it’s incredible – just very pricy!
Street Food! Ugh it was a bit of a disaster trying to get it BUT the recommendations I got sounded so good. Raan Jay Fai is the only street food stall that has a Michelin star in Bangkok. I went and was quoted a 90 minute wait for one person so I left. The crab omelette is supposedly insane. Next door is Thipsamai Pad Thai which is also supposed to be very good. (It was closed, so my street food venture was a miss!)
Unicorn Café is crazy. I am glad I went because it’s just so funny – like walking into a Lisa Frank illustration. There are plush unicorns everywhere and you can even rent a unicorn suit for 100 baht (about $3) while you sip your rainbow milkshake. It was crazy. I bought unicorn pens as souvenirs for my friends.
You can get details on my yellow dress here. It’s on sale!
Sirocco is where they shot The Hangover. Just beware. When you walk in you are going to be blown away by the view and they’ll offer you champagne. How much can that be, you’ll think. The answer is A LOT. I ordered a Kir Royal and then another one (did not think anything of it) only to find out that EACH drink cost 2300 baht which is $77. I hadn’t looked at the menu and prices as everything in Thailand had been SO affordable and almost cried when I got my bill. I’ve heard that this is how they get you… the cocktails at the bar area are much less expensive. You still pay for the view (like $30/cocktail) but not $77.
Vesper is a very cool spot. I met a friend of a friend here and I loved the cocktails. They’re all really delicious (like at a fancy NYC bar) and each cocktail is inspired by a famous painting which of course I loved.
What I Wish I Did
Went to Chiang Mai instead? I kid. Sorry, I really don’t mean to sh*t all over Bangkok but it just wasn’t for me. There is only one thing I really wish I did and that is to go to the Jim Thompson House, which sounds so beautiful and really interesting. It’s a museum about an American who moved to Thailand and changed the silk industry. You get to explore his house, learn about silk, and the mystery behind his disappearance. The gift shop is supposed to be amazing too. The boat rides also look very cool- if I were less overwhelmed I would have done that.