A city of rich culture, fascinating history, delicious food, and a lively backpacking scene – Bangkok has it all! Here’s all that you can fit into a 5 day visit to the capital of Thailand.
Day 1 – Koh San Road & Pad Thai
Arriving in Bangkok, I couldn’t wait to experience the change in culture, climate and of course the food! After the easy overnight flight and a brief transfer in China (I knowwww it’s completely out the way but it was a cheap flight ok?!) we arrived mid-morning into Bangkok. We were immediately faced with the dilemma that we had no Thai Baht, and so our first point of call was an ATM! After confusing ourselves with the train system, pronunciation and language of where we were we finally made it to our accomodation – the Saphaipae hostel just off Silom Road in southern Bangkok. We arrived to our brilliantly air conditioned room having sweated half our bodyweight already, both slightly dreading the humid months to come but excited to get out and explore.
We caught a ferry boat that took us up the river deeper into the city. This was a great (and breezy!) first way to catch our bearings, as although we were close to the train station not everywhere else is! We hopped off at Phra Athrit where we were told to take a short walk to the infamous backpacker spot of Koh San Road. In our tired and heat induced confusion however we managed to get slightly lost, despite the map showing the easy route. Turns out we probably should have realised that Thanom means road, hence why none of the street names made sense… oops!
Once there, it wasn’t quite what we had expected, with many stalls and bars but not nearly as many people as we were anticipating. We stopped for a bottle of water anyway, and eventually realised it would liven up throughout the evening. As we were staying a little further out we weren’t too bothered at this point, so soon headed back. However, we only did so after something to eat. Now, we all know Thailand is renowned throughout the world for its excellent food, and especially in Bangkok where street food is more than abundant. I decided that I was going to try my first ever Pad Thai, a national dish made of noodles, vegetables, egg and can be mixed with chicken or prawns. I went for the veggie option, and my goodness it was delicious. Within two bites I was hooked, and quickly knew what my go-to order would be from now on! Yum. So once we went home feeling full and satisfied, we opted for one of the many taxis to take us back. Turns out we were somewhat ripped off, and paid a grand total of £3 for a 30 minute journey, the usual price should be £1. That just goes to show how cheap it can be!
Day 2 – Siam & Silom Market
After a well needed rest, we woke up ready for another day of Bangkok. As we were in a city, and a well developed but still very affordable one, we headed to the enormous shopping area of Siam to complete some errands. Once there it was like walking into an incredibly upmarket department store full of brands everyone knows such as Gucci and Prada, except this time there was an Asian twist on the window displays and no doubt a much lower price for the target demographic. Nevertheless, we wandered the huge palace of a mall in search of a few key shops (mostly technology based). After being lost for a while and not wanting to leave the air con, we took an ice cream break before venturing out into Siam Market to find what we were looking for.
After spending what was literally hours in this district, we were ready for going back and getting some food and feeling less sorry for our financially struggling selves after seeing so many beautiful things! We headed out for some street food dinner down Silom Road, where I had a horrendously spicy curry… It was good but probably too much for me to handle judging from the amount I was sweating while eating it!
Day 3 – Thai Massage & Nightlife
We had initially only planned to stay in Bangkok for the two nights, but received an email earlier in the week from Stray Asia, our tour company, asking us to stay until the next bus left Bangkok three days later in order to spread out the numbers on the bus. In exchange they offered to pay for three nights of accommodation so how could we refuse?! We made our move over to our lovely private twin room in a hotel just off Koh San Road, thinking we had just won the lottery. A twin room?! Luxury! We were hugely grateful for being so well looked after by Stray Asia, and very much appreciated the gesture on their part for our troubles.
After excitedly realising we could watch English movies on tv, we headed out to KSR for the free Thai massage that we were also offered. Now, I’ve only had one massage in my life at this point, so although I was very excited to be rid of my backpack pains and aches, I was apprehensive of how hard they would be as I’ve heard a mix of things about the famous Thai method of massage! I needn’t have worried, because although at times I thought she might break my back as she sat on my legs bending me in ways I wasn’t sure I was meant to bend, for the most part it was hugely relaxing and therapeutic. We were treated to a whole hour, and needless to say felt amazing afterwards!
As we had started out the day with a pampering session, we continued on with the theme by getting some extremely cheap spring rolls (maybe a few too many in fact), and browsing the many cheap but great clothes on the main road. After we felt satisfied with our purchases and following a brief shower and swim at the hotel we headed back out for drinks. This was our first experience of KSR at night, and my word it is such a different place! It screams tourism, aimed at the typical backpackers aged 18-25 and feels like it could be anywhere. It wasn’t my favourite experience of the city that I was growing to enjoy so much, but it’s a huge part of the city now, so needs to be embraced.
After seeing many bizarre things including giant reptiles roaming the streets, henna tattoos being done onto a bumcheek, and more cheap alcohol than I could ever imagine, we met some friendly people and made the terrible decision to see a certain famous type of show in Bangkok… Without going into too much detail, it involved sleazy people and a decision to never go again! But hey, I can say I’ve been now.
Day 4 – Chatuchak Weekend Market
The weekends in Bangkok mean that there’s so much more going on than during the week. We had been told about an extraordinarily big market in north Bangkok, so after a long sweaty walk and a train ride we eventually got to explore the 8000 stalls on offer at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Mo Chit. I’m certain that we barely covered 500, but there was so much to see, in the 40 degree heat you just have to try and listen to your body when it’s time to stop even if you are enjoying whatever activity you’re doing!
After getting some souvenir gifts for everyone’s family members and friends we hopped back on a beautifully cool train later that afternoon. As the train pulled away and the rows upon rows of stalls we never saw became apparent, only then did I realise just how colossal the market is. So I would strongly recommend taking a visit there if you get the chance, you’ll easily find a few things to take home at an amazing price! The market is also helpfully organised into categories, so if it’s clothes you’re after you know exactly where to head, and if household items is more your thing then you’ll head to a different section. Easy! Just remember which way you came in, otherwise finding your way out of the labyrinth might be trickier than you think!
Back to KSR for dinner with everyone after a refreshing swim, we headed to Jojo’s food stall for our favourite Pad Thai of the area. After trying a few different places we were happy with this place in particular. Not only did it taste amazing, for only 30 Baht (60p) you got a really decent sized portion! This was to be my last night with Alex on our travels, so we made the most of each other’s company before saying our goodbyes. Next time I’ll catch up with her will be in England, a scary but exciting thought! I hope she and all the other amazing people we’ve met so far enjoy the rest of their travels. I can’t wait to see the photos and hear the stories. Who knows, some people we may even see again one day!
Day 5 – Wat Pho & Wat Arun
Our last day in Bangkok meant rushing around doing the actual sightseeing we had been putting off so far. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to, we just knew we wanted to do it when we were ready and adjusted, and also a little more acclimatised to the heat! We decided to take a walk to the many glorious temples that Bangkok has to offer. Our first stop was to be Wat Pho, on the way there we spoke to a lovely Thai woman who gave us some advice, hailed a tuk tuk for us and ensured we were given a fair price for the rest of the journey there. We were grateful to her, especially as we really didn’t fancy walking much further.
Once we got to Wat Pho I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the magnificent buildings and lavish interiors we were about to experience. Buddhist temples are unlike Christian churches (or any other religious building I’ve entered for that matter) for a number of obvious reasons, but one major thing that really struck me was the pure extravagance that was associated with these places. The bright multicoloured decorations, paintings, buildings and statues all provide you with a sense that this is a nation truly devout to their religion, as it seems absolutely no expense is spared in creating a place of worship, often quite literally, fit for a king.
Within Wat Pho there are several temple buildings visitors can enter. Armed with our maps, cameras and water, we followed the crowds to discover what we would find inside. The first and probably the most impressive temple-in-a-temple we visited houses the famous Reclining Buddha. Coming in at around 46 metres in length, this Buddha really gives you the impact of just how seriously the religion is taken here. Unfortunately for us, Buddha was having his feet restored to its former glory (or a very fancy pedicure as I like to think of it), so we were unable to see his entirety, but nonetheless we were completely wowed by our first taste of temple exploring. A very hot and sweaty afternoon saw us throughly get our Baht’s worth in and around the enormous complex of temples. Little did we know that this was only a small portion of what Bangkok, and Asia had to offer.
After completing the marathon of temples in Wat Pho we made our way over the river to Wat Arun to explore yet another iconic temple of Bangkok. It would seem that this is the time for restoration, as the main column of the famous temple was also undergoing building work, but this didn’t detract from the awe of the size and impressive feat that went into creating the structure of the main pagoda. While we felt on a roll and eager to complete the trifecta of Bangkok temples, we headed for the Grand Palace only to be told we had arrived too late to visit the final complex of buildings. This might’ve been a blessing in disguise however, as the afternoon was getting later and we were so exhausted we wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the grandeur of the palace, so we saved it for another time. An early start and a long day meant we made the use of our excellent hotel room for the last time with a longggg night’s rest.