Dealing with jet lag was a breeze coming from Australia. Lately I had been in the habit of going to sleep late and waking up late so with Thailand being 3 hours behind it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. I woke up at 8 most mornings so I always felt like I got the most out of my days.
TIP: Download the map of the area you plan on exploring on your phone before you leave WiFi. Free WiFi isn’t at every other corner in Bangkok like it is in some places.
Bed Station had free “breakfast” so I had some toast and jelly and a coffee at Di Cafe, a cute little spot in the alley behind the hostel.
TIP: When you go to the temples make sure you dress appropriately. I wore a maxi dress with sleeves, airy but not revealing. They ask that you not wear thin strap shirts, nothing low cut obviously, shorts are fine as long as they’re not too short. For shoes I wore sandals, think comfortable and easy to take on and off as you’ll be doing that quite a bit. This site has a good do/don’t list.
Ratchathewi is the closest Sky Train stop to the hostel, it was literally around the corner. An all day Sky Train pass costs 140 THB which is only about $4USD. The Sky Train maps are also very easy to navigate. There are only two main lines so even if you’re new to public transport, it’s a cinch. I took the train to Saphan Taksin Sathorn/ Central Pier station on the Chao Phraya river and from there took a taxi to the Grand Palace. I loved this taxi ride because I got to see the real city, there was nothing touristy about the route and I believe that ride was less than 75 THB.
TIP: Round up when you take a taxi, tips aren’t expected but rounding up is. Also, when waving down a taxi wave your hand down (limp like), however, most times they’ll find you before you even know you need them. Always ask them to run the meter, Bangkok taxis were great about this. It’s the island taxis that will most likely charge you a flat rate as meters are hard to come by. Finally, common sense, I know, but check to make sure there isn’t a bicyclist coming when you open your taxi door.
The area around the temple is mayhem. Tourists everywhere, swarming in herds wearing matching elephant print pants, sweating, hiding under umbrellas, talking loudly in your ear, pushing, taking pictures of EVERYTHING. It’s chaos. I recommend getting there early, it opens at 8:30AM and closes at 3:30PM.
TIP: Most timetables are in military time, I set my phone to this to avoid confusion.
Entrance to the Grand Palace was 500 THB. This includes: the Phra Maha Monthian Group, Chakri Group, Borom Phiman Mansion, Dusit Group, Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, Subsidiary Buildings, the Upper Terrace and the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. They offer free walking tours every half hour or so in different languages. I did the English tour with an Indian family of 4, it was a nice small group so we were able to ask plenty of questions.
Next I went to the Wat Pho Temple (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) a block away from the Grand Palace. I ate some delicious Pad Thai at a street vendor for 100 THB before heading in. Entry was 100 THB. This temple complex was my favorite, far less crowded. People were passing around free postcards to raise awareness of Buddhist etiquette. There was also some kind of school event going on at the temple that day. The school girls were singing, people were offering free food and drinks, it was awesome!
Next I took a ferry over to the Wat Arun Temple. Finding the ferry station was fun. Getting lost allowed me to see real Bangkok, I ended up going through this warehouse where they were selling food I’d never seen before. It smelled horrible and looked disgusting, I loved it. The ferry was only 5 THB. I didn’t end up paying to see the Wat Arun Temple because it was under construction at the time. It honestly didn’t look like much to see, I felt satisfied observing through the gates.
In the distance I saw the top of the Wat Kanlaya Temple so I asked around to see if anyone could tell me how to get there. A German girl my age overheard me asking and said she was headed that way too so we walked together. This temple wasn’t much to see either so Anja and I decided we’d check out Chinatown. We waved down a Tuk Tuk and he brought us over there.
TIP: Always bargain with Tuk Tuk drivers, I typically offer half of what they tell me and go from there. If they’re not willing to budge just walk away, another one will be around in a second.
Chinatown was decent. It basically consisted of street food, cheap trinkets and chachkies. It was busy and bustling. Pretty much like any other Chinatown anywhere in the world. We didn’t spend too long there before deciding to take another Tuk Tuk into Siam Center to do a little shopping and cool off in the air conditioning. Siam Center is the hub of Bangkok, it’s where two tram lines and three different shopping malls meet. Bangkok is known for its great shopping and Siam Center is where it all gets real.
Later we found a warehouse type building filled with food carts and picnic tables so we ate dinner there. We both got some kind of egg drop soup and juice. We made plans to meet up later and go to Sky Bar for drinks.
Sky Bar, also known as The Dome at lebua is one of the highest rooftop bars in the world, 63 stories high with 360 degree views of the city. It’s where Mr. Chow gets arrested in that scene in the Hangover 2. It was easy to access from the Saphan Taksin stop. I walked from the train stop, which in retrospect may not have been one of my brightest moments but I lived to tell the story. Everyone at Sky Bar was well dressed, foreign and had a phone in front of their face. I got a beer for… 1,000 THB which was the least expensive drink on the menu, I pretty much just paid a fee to experience the view. And it really was incredible standing on the railing so high with the lit up city below you and wind in your hair. Bangkok has plenty of Rooftop Bars to choose from, all of which are quite expensive, especially for Thailand. If you do decide to splurge and make a rooftop bar a part of your night be prepared to feel a bit pretentious, glutinous and guilty spending so much on a drink while there are so many people in the city below you living in poverty. I have mixed feelings on whether or not I would do it again.