Polluted, hectic and seedy. Thailand’s sprawling capital has been the marmite of cities in travellers conversations for decades. An assault on senses you didn’t even realise you possessed, it’s streets are filled with delicious markets and cheap bars. Combined with the flurry of attractions and activities, it’s nightlife is perhaps the most renowned in the whole of South East Asia. The following experiences are ones you should never miss when heading to Bangkok.
1) Overwhelm yourself with markets
The sheer amount of available markets is unbelievable, the options are endless. Tick off floating, tech and food markets – shopaholics Bangkok is for you. Prepare to barter your way to some great deals. My all time favourite was slightly more pricey due to its touristy crowd, however, the seafood is unmatched. Poured on to a sheet on the table in front of you, you devour the meals armed only with plastic gloves. Savage? Yes, and fantastically so. Talad Rot Fai Night Market is easily accessible by public transport and a 10/10 recommendation.
For a less touristy experience and friendlier prices, catch the ferry along the Chao Phraya river to Wang Lang Markets. Wander down the narrow shanty styled streets, shopping for handicrafts and street food.
2) Party at notorious Khao San Road
– Khao San Road is perhaps the seediest and most insane part of Bangkok you will visit. In a stretch of 410m you can eat a tarantula and drink entire buckets of alcohol. There are also Ping Pong shows galore, but just do your research on the issues around sex tourism before a visit. The iconic street of no boundaries, Khao San Road is where to party.
3) Brave hurtling down Bangkok’s canals
Chao Phraya river cruises are heavily advertised throughout Bangkok and these will be covered later, but for a slightly more exhilarating experience complete Khlong Bangkok Noi by boat. Shanty huts and graffiti lining it’s banks, the canal offers a glimpse of the gritty Bangkok that so many tourists miss. Prepare to get wet as speeding barges pass.
4) Witness Thailand’s most famous (and brutal) sport live
Again, live Muay Thai is one of Thailand’s tourist magnets and can be booked at nearly every tour agents. However, for a budget friendly option, give these options a miss and instead head down to Channel 7 Boxing Stadium. Here you can watch completely free of charge and be surrounded by a local crowd. A true art to witness, don’t underestimate the brutality of the sport.
5) Play with huskies
On the flip side, Husky Cafe could break a budget. But in what better style than sipping coffee and playing with dogs? 500 baht entry includes two drinks and an hour to meet the celebs themselves. The pups are even trained for photo shoots
6) Marvel at the elaborate Grand Palace
The Palace is a gorgeous example of Thai architecture – simply wander the grounds and take in the ornate designs. A magpie’s heaven, the Grand Palace shows a contrasting side to the stereotype of Bangkok’s streets.
7) Watch sunset frame Wat Arun with cocktail in hand
Slightly pricy but perfectly worth it. Eagles Nest rooftop bar is an intimate perch to watch the temple transform as the sun sinks. Head down a bit before sunset to grab a table with unobstructed views. Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn, is well deserving of a drink or two.
8) Unwind and sightsee from the Chao Phraya
Take in Bangkok’s riverside architecture in style as you float down the Chao Phraya river. There is a hop on hop off option at each port, however, for a budget option ignore this and grab a local barge. Boarding is frantic, as the crew jump to tie up the boat, the side smashes in to the tyres along the pier and rebounds violently. Seconds later, at the shrill of a tin whistle, the crowds surge across. The ride itself is much more peaceful, as you take in temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Claloem Phrakiat.
9) Survive a tuk tuk
Finally, experience the chaos of Bangkok’s traffic in the craziest way of all – by tuk tuk.
Weaving between lanes and taking spaces so small you have to scrunch up your eyes, no aspect of Bangkok is suitable for the fainthearted. The tuk tuk certainly encompasses the adrenaline fueled pace of the city. Hold on to your bags and marvel as you are under taken and over taken simultaneously by whole families on scooters.
Bangkok is a city in which experiences hit you left, right and centre. They are fantastically unescapable. We were constantly questioned incredulously “5 days in Bangkok?” when discussing our trip to Asia, as if this was too long. I can vouch that in 5 days we barely scratched its surface! Embrace the crazy and fall in love.