10 of the best things to do in Bangkok

Posted by Samantha Corbett on 19 March 2012

Bangkok is a city of smells, flashing images, concrete and colour, of tuk tuks, traffic and tastes, of spice and salesmen, markets, monks and massaman, of alleyways and temples, treasure and faith. I initially felt quite intimidated, the city moves at a frantic speed, and when you first arrive, it’s hard to keep pace with Bangkok’s hurried heart-beat.

On the way to the hotel I look out my window and see tuk tuks speeding past, living by their own rules, I see motorbikes carrying families of five people, balanced like acrobats as they whiz confidently by, and then we hit the famous traffic jams, and I have time to observe the city. Tall concrete buildings reach up to a grey sky, decorated by brightly coloured signs advertising various shopping malls and products. Small markets and street vendors spring up everywhere, selling anything from branded clothes to delicious looking pancakes and dried fish. It seems everyone has something to sell, no one sits idle, and the city bustles with barters and bargains. I see monks going about their daily prayers, and altars to Buddha, beautifully decorated by marigolds and orchids.

We arrive at our hotel and our tour guide, Mr Sinai, greets us, and asks us what it is we wish to see while we are here. Two hours later and we are still debating, but eventually we narrow it down, and satisfied we agree to meet Sinai the next morning, for our first adventure. The rest of the day involves shopping in the streets surrounding the hotel, and we soon become shrewd bargainers and feel well satisfied with our remarkably cheap purchases. Dinner, that night takes us far away from our hotel- we take the sky train and get horribly lost, and eventually have to take a tuk tuk to the restaurant. It was worth the effort though! Baan Khanitha is beautifully decorated, with extremely friendly staff, and an extensive menu. The food is delicious, and we munched away happily discussing all the excitement in store for us the next day.

We spent a week in Bangkok, which I think is a good amount of time to get a proper feel for the city and to see its highlights. It wasn’t long before I began to feel very at home, the Thai people are extremely ethical, gentle and accommodating, and I felt relaxed and safe and enjoyed my stay immensely.

My Bangkok top 10

Shopping: There’s something for everyone, whether you prefer high- end brands, or bustling markets, ‘you will never disappoint’ as I was told many times. Most of the markets deal in cheap counterfeit clothing, jewelry, watches, and bags, as well as a delicious variety of street food and exotic fruits and veg. It is a good place to shop for electronic goods, but always beware of counterfeit items. Never accept the first price, the sooner you learn to bargain the better- it’s fun and an integral part of Bangkok life.

 Curries, curries and more curries: Thai food is succulent, full of subtle flavours and spice. I recommend the massaman curry, which is a mild, delicate curry, with a rich peanut sauce, potatoes and meat; the green curry, which has a subtle spicy flavour of lemongrass; the panang curry, which has a slightly more spicy, nutty taste, and the red curry, which is for the brave as I found it the spiciest of all the curries I tried. Another firm favourite is cashew nut chicken, as well as chicken satays with peanut sauce, spring rolls and sweet and sour chicken or beef. For dessert try the mango and sticky rice, or coconut ice- cream- divine!

Explore the night life: Bangkok has been described as a city that never sleeps, and the ‘red light’ district certainly comes alive at night. There is a night market, which I wouldn’t highly recommend, finding it overpriced and disappointing, however there is a rich variety of bars to choose from, with all sorts of interesting entertainment on offer. Bangkok is famous for its sex shows, and although I didn’t go to one, apparently some amazing feats are achieved, for example ping- pong and darts. Be careful, we were warned that in some of the bars tourists are forced to pay exorbitant entrance fees, and if they refuse are handled very roughly.

 Go to a ladyboy show: In Thailand there is what some refer to as a ‘third gender’- boys who look like and dress as women. Calypso is a very entertaining show where these lovely ‘ladies’ dance, sing and strut their stuff, in what makes for a truly unique Thai experience.

 All that doesn’t glitter is gold? The Gold Buddha (Wat Traimit): weighing over 5 tons, pure gold and priceless in its importance to Buddhist faith, this artifact is spectacular and has a rather interesting story. When it was found it was covered in plaster, so its finders were completely oblivious to its true worth, seeing its value only in its age. It was transported to another temple, and many years later someone chipped the plaster casing revealing the shiny substance beneath it, and when they removed all the plaster it was discovered to be made of pure gold.

 The Grand Palace and temples: the temples and palace are extremely ornate, covered in gems, gold leaf and beautiful patterns: they are an astonishing feat, and well worth the visit. The Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is also housed here- check what he is wearing as every season the King changes his clothes accordingly.

The Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho): astonishingly big, decorated in gold and housed in a beautiful temple with walls covered in hand- drawn illustrations of stories from the Buddhist faith, the Reclining Buddha is not to be missed!

The Floating Market: it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be but still worth the visit. People have their goods displayed on boats and you hire a paddle-boat and drift down the canals looking at and bartering endlessly for all sorts of things, from clothes, hats and fabric to meat and vegetables etc. It’s an endless hub of activity and you will feel harassed by vendors- learn the thai word for no and say it politely but firmly until the sellers get the message.

Thai dancing: our hotel, the Indra Regent, had a show one night, accompanied by a buffet meal. The dancing depicts stories from the Buddhist faith, the costumes are elaborate and beautiful, and the dancing is graceful, made up of small delicate movements.

 Take a chance, take a tuk tuk: It’s a hair raising, adrenaline pumping, eye-shutting experience. The tuk tuk drivers have their own rules for the road, whizzing into impossible gaps in the traffic, driving much too fast, sneaking down the back alleys, running red lights- there’s never a dull moment when you’re on one of these things! Grip the sides tightly and enjoy the ride is my advice. Be careful they don’t rip you off – make sure you bargain a price before you get in the vehicle.

Other things you might want to see: the Tiger Temple (flooded while we were there), Jim Thompson’s house- specialists in silk, take a long boat ride, visit the coconut farm and pop into some of the jewelry specialist dealers.

 

This list is by no means complete- please add your suggestions!

 






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