Welcome to the ultimate Bangkok travel guide for the chilled out traveller. Bangkok can be hectic at times, however if its a few days of sight seeing and relaxation that you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.
Bangkok is a busy, vibrant city with plenty to see and do. With a choice of markets, temples and nightlife there is something for everybody.
Top Tips For Visiting Bangkok
I’ll say right now that if you’re going to take 4 pieces of advice with you from this blog that might save you from traumatic situations, take these:
1. Download Maps.me. It’s free. When you’ve downloaded the app you’ll be able to download specific maps so you can see them offline. This is a life saver when you’re lost or need to find your hostel or if you’re not sure when to hop off the bus, boat or taxi. This one little app will make your life a lot easier.
(This is not sponsored, just some good old advice from a long term traveller who’s been lost one too many times).
2. Use the Grab Taxi app. It’s a lot cheaper than regular taxis and you know what price you’ll be paying before you reach your destination. This will hugely lessen the chance of being scammed.
A lot of regular taxis will take you through all the expensive toll roads, take you the longest route possible and the make you pay a lot more than you bargained for. With Grab you are guaranteed a professional, friendly service, they will know exactly where you want to go and you will know exactly how much you will be paying. No unexpected surprises.
3. Don’t forget to pack your temple hopping outfit. No shoulders or knees can be on display so make sure you bring a nice loose, long outfit that will not only keep the sun and flies away, but will respect Buddhist culture. When you enter a temple, remove your shoes and sit with your legs crossed to avoid showing the soles of your feet to the shrine.
4. Compare transport prices on EasyBook as well as visiting the booking agencies. Sometimes you’ll get the best deal at a little tour shop, and sometimes it will be half the price on EasyBook. You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m obsessed with phone apps, I’m not sure if I would survive without them! We’ve literally been into a tour office and been quoted 5x the amount on the booking websites!
With that said, let’s get on with the ultimate Bangkok travel guide for the chilled out traveller.
Keep reading to find out which areas to stay, what to do and lots of little tips and advice along the way.
Where To Stay In Bangkok
During our time in Bangkok we stayed in two very different areas, this gave us the best of both worlds and helped us to truly experience Bangkok. The first was Sukhumvit and the second was Khaosan Road. In this blog post I will be talking about the best things to do and see in each of these main areas of Bangkok.
Staying in Sukhumvit (city centre)
At the beginning of our time in Bangkok we stayed in Sukhumvit. If you’ve spent time researching the areas of Bangkok you’ve probably heard the word Sukhumvit bouncing around, so here’s a little about it, what it means, what it’s like and what there is to do in the area.
Things To Do And See Around Sukhumvit
Just a short TukTuk ride away you’ll find MBK. Eight stories high, containing around 2,000 shops, this large shopping mall is where I recommend getting your SIM card and anything else you might need for your trip.
On the ground floor you’ll be able to get your camera serviced at the camera shop, find handmade gifts and buy beautiful colourful dresses.
You can also find delicious meals and snacks at the market outside. We had a lovely vegan Phad Thai here as they speak very good English in the city, ordering vegan food is not a problem. [Update: we’ve just been back to Bangkok and this market is now across the road of MBK].
If you’re in Sukhumvit on the weekend, take the BTS Sky Train to the Chatuchak Market (also known as JJ market).
This is the biggest market in Thailand and has over 15,000 stalls divided into 27 sections. You’ll need to bring plenty of water with you as it takes all day to look around (even then you won’t see it all). You’ll be able to find lots of delicious food and drinks here so come with an empty stomach.
The clothing stalls seem to go on forever so bring plenty of cash and a bag. Whilst at the market remember to wear a bumbag or a side bag containing your valuables as pick pockets can easily make a living off tourists with easy access backpacks.
Within walking distance from the BTS Skytrain’s Asok Station you’ll find Soi Cowboy. If you haven’t heard of Soi Cowboy, I congratulate you on your innocence.
Soi Cowboy is a 150m long street in Bangkok that is home to around 40 go go bars. The first bar opened in the early 1970’s but it wasn’t until 1977 that a second bar was opened by T.G ‘Cowboy” Edwards, a retired American airman. Due to his Cowboy hat the Soi (street) was named after him. The number of bars grew to 31 by the end of the century.
I know I said this was the ultimate Bangkok travel guide for the chilled out traveller, you can stroll down this road quietly if you dong fancy a drink. I personally don’t tend to drink too much alcohol for financial reasons and health reasons, so a walk down this street was enough for me.
Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine
Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine, Named after a pre-Buddhist southeast Asian tree spirit, more commonly known as the penis shrine. While we were here the main attraction was closed. As we wandered past, a man working at the near by hotel welcomed us into the gardens to take a look at the small shrine. He gave us incense to offer as a worship to the shrine, it was definitely an interesting experience and not at all what I was expecting.
Wat Mahathat, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. This small but beautiful temple is an important centre for the study of Buddhism and meditation. Here you can attend a meditation class where English speaking monks teach you techniques and spiritual values. If you visit on a Sunday you can have your palm read at the amulet market. Unfortunately we didn’t time it quite right, but I would love to go back and see it on the weekend.
Wat Suthat, known for the towering red swing in the entrance, this is one of the oldest and most impressive temples in bangkok. We walked all the way here from Khaosan Road, but I would recommend getting transport if you have limited time. Travelling by foot will give you an interesting insight on the local areas and will give you an opportunity to experience every day Bangkok life.
Where We Stayed Whilst in Sukhumvit
Sukhumvit Road is the longest road in all of Thailand. In central Sukhumvit you’ll find luxury bars, hotels and shopping centres with air con. We were lucky enough to stay at Hotel Solitaire Sukhumvit 11 for our first two days in Bangkok. It was a beautiful hotel, the staff were welcoming and full of information on how to get around this part of the city. The pool and bar areas were stunning and it was exactly what we needed after our four month camping exploration in Australia.
What It’s Like Staying on Khaosan Road in Bangkok
Khaosan road is something that cannot be missed during your stay in Bangkok. As a country bumpkin myself I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this bustling area.. But I loved it.
The word Khaosan translates to “milled rice’. Back in times almost forgotten this road was a major rice market, that in the last 20 years, has turned into a world famous backpacker destination.
During the day there are many temples and markets to visit and in the evening you’ll be able to get a taste of that famous Khaosan Road night life.
Things To Do And See Around Khaosan Road
Explore Khaosan Road, the side streets and it’s neighbour Ram Buttri Street. You never know what you’ll find, literally. Try it at day time as well as at night to see how much one street can change in just a few hours.
The Temples of Bangkok
Only a short walk away from Khaosan Road you’ll find Phra Arthit 13 (marked on maps.me). This is where you can take the boat to all the temples in the area.
You have two choices here, the blue signs will lead you to the tourist boat priced at 50baht per trip. The orange signs will lead you to the express boat used mostly by locals, priced at 15baht per trip. We took the local orange express boat as it’s a brilliant and more real experience of Bangkok every day life.
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng or Temple Of The Dawn, is located on the West Bank of the Chao River. If you are taking the boat, hop off at Thonburi. This temple is unbelievably stunning and so detailed, massively different from any of the other temples you’ll see around Thailand.
The entry fee for most of the temples in this area is around 100baht per person so make sure you bring cash, it’s totally worth every penny.
Wat Pho, also known as The Temple Of The Reclining Buddha, is a beautiful Buddhist temple directly across the river from Wat Arun. You’ll easily be able to locate a boat to take you across the river for just 4baht. Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in the city and is home to the golden, 15m tall, 46m long, reclining Buddha.
This is much better viewed early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You’ll also be able to meet the cute temple cats that patrol the area.
China Town. I don’t know about you but I love the chaotic, hectic atmosphere of a china town. Bangkok’s China town is one of the largest in the world, founded in 1782 serving as a home to the Chinese immigrant population.
These markets are full of colour, noise and exotic smells. Now that you’re a pro with the express boat, you’ll be able to cruise down the river to Ratchawong and take a short walk to China town.
Pak Khlong Talat
Pak Khlong Talat or Bangkok flower market, a photographers dream. The flower markets of Bangkok are something to behold. They truely come alive at dawn when boats and trucks arrive with fresh flowers from near by provinces. You’re guaranteed to see some beautiful flowers you’ve never seen before.
As you’ve chosen to read the ultimate Bangkok travel guide for the chilled out traveller, I assume you’re chilled enough to go to sleep at 9pm so you can roam the market in the early hours of the morning. It’s worth it.
The Best Vegan Food on Khaosan Road
“Mango Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant and arts gallery“. Okay I couldn’t possibly write about the best of Bangkok without telling you about my favourite place to eat. Best food I’ve ever had in Thailand. The portions are huge and you can choose which kind of plant based milk you would like in your smoothie! I’m obsessed with coconut smoothies.
Where We Stayed on Khaosan Road
During our time in this area we stayed at the Greenhouse on Ram Buttri Road (next to Khaosan Road). The location was great but I wouldn’t recommend this particular hostel if you are looking for somewhere comfortable and chilled out. It was pretty unclean and had used, unwashed blankets on the beds.
[2020 Update: Check, double check and book in advance before you plan your trip to Khaosan Road. If it’s Halloween, Christmas, St Patrick’s day, or any other holiday, Hostels and hotels can get booked out really quickly. We found out the hard way so just wanted to warn you in advance].
So there you have it, four chilled out, slow paced days in Bangkok. Obviously I couldn’t dream of covering all that there is to do in this city. There are plenty more incredible temples and exciting things to see, it would take weeks to explore it in its entirety.
Thank You very much for reading the ultimate Bangkok travel guide for the chilled out traveller. I hope that it has helped you to plan your trip to Bangkok.
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Enjoy your journey!