Visiting Bangkok? Discover its secrets and major assets in this complete guide, by neighbourhood, with my favourite addresses! Let yourself be surprised by its monuments and markets and discover, in the shade of its alleyways, unsuspected wonders.
Bangkok is a city that can seem terribly chaotic to those who are not used to Asian metropolises and one tends to hate or love it at first glance. As for me, I had to (very quickly) run away from it on my first visit, only to learn to love it as I went along. True love, in short, the one that is built up!
It is this love that I have put in this Bangkok guide, in order to give you the keys that will allow you to learn how to love this gentle giant. It happens in its prestigious monuments and markets (how to pass by?) but also in the shade of alleys and unsuspected temples, far from the aggressive tuk-tuks or the pollution. I hope that what you will find in this guide will surprise you and allow you to prepare a perfect (and unforgettable) itinerary in Bangkok. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Discover the Chinatown district in Bangkok
Every time I go to Bangkok, I go back to the markets of Sampathawong (from its Thai name), with its food and medicinal oddities. Its tight little streets, crowded with merchants, stalls and things that smell good (good and strange at the same time) can only fill us with curiosity. Maybe one day we’ll be able to distinguish them, maybe one day we’ll come here with the firm intention of buying something we never even imagined existed before!
What to do in Phra Nakhon, the old city of Bangkok…
The Phra Nakhon district (also called Rattanakosin Island) is the heart of Bangkok and is home to its most famous monuments and temples. It is besides here that settled (in small pump) a tourism whose reputation made the turn of the world. Who has never heard of Khao San Road? But don’t worry; Bangkok isn’t just a street where all kinds of excesses are allowed. Because if here buckets abound (buckets of alcoholic drinks to share… or not), the deafening noise of the music that mixes is equalled only by the quietness of its other alleys where you just have to let yourself get lost. Intact, rich of a beauty that seems to be immutable (except for its electric cables blooming everywhere), they are the essence of Bangkok, and they make the history of Thailand. Come on, let’s go! Take a tour in this strange ghetto that is Khao San, enter a Thai club, watch the people who forget themselves and the overwhelmed merchants. That’s it, it’s done: we can now devote our attention together to the essentials of Bangkok: everything else!
The Wat Pho, temple to the reclining Buddha
The reclining Buddha of Wat Pho is the Eiffel Tower of Bangkok, except that you have to go into a temple to see it! But what a spectacle: 46 meters long and 15 meters high, this statue rests between four walls decorated with exquisite paintings and refined details. The immense and the infinitely small thus compete in beauty.
And if you thought you’d have gone around it in less than an hour, forget it. Wat Pho is not only one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, it is also one of the largest (80’000m2, just that). Some parts are reserved for monks and students, but you can visit a good part of it. It is also possible to get a traditional Thai massage. I won’t be able to judge its quality, having lacked time, but it was advised to me by a pure Bangkokian who, I assure you, knew what he was talking about.
The Chao Phraya shuttle boats
Of course, the boats on the Chao Phraya River carry their share of tourists, but that doesn’t matter. An efficient and very cheap means of transport (about fifteen baht for a trip!), the boat will allow you to avoid the nauseating pollution of a too dense traffic… and to go sometimes faster than a taxi stuck in traffic jams.
The boat, especially at the Thewet pier (but also everywhere in town) will certainly allow you to witness a strange scene of life: the inhabitants buy bread on the quays to feed the swarming catfish of the river.
Pak Khlong, the flower market
Mainly dedicated to flowers, but not only (fruits and vegetables are also in the spotlight), this impressive wet market is open 24 hours a day and will delight you with typical scenes, smells (ah, jasmine!), movements, negotiations, making compositions… and cute cats. Flowers are sold in bulk for ornamental, decorative or religious purposes. They are essential to Thai life, they are part of everyday life.