Following on from my Tantalising Thailand adventure is the second chapter of my recent trip and my experiences as a semi ‘local’ tourist in Bangkok.
Some quick history: my brother has been living there for seven years and although I had visited before, he wanted to introduce me properly to this mesmerising metropolis.
With over 400 wats (temples), 120 shopping malls and 12,500 eateries, not including street food, I didn’t stand a hope of fitting everything into my ten days here, but I gave it my very best shot.
Bangkok is around 90 minutes flying time from Phuket. Travelling domestically by plane within Thailand is relatively cheap, which is another reason it works as a great destination for a multi-centre holiday.
The airport is half an hour out of the sprawling city on a good day, however it can often take up to an hour due to the immense traffic on the roads. When organising a client’s itinerary, I try to avoid flights that arrive or depart around rush hour to ensure a smoother journey, and for the fastest way in and out of the city, I always include a private transfer.
Thai currency is Baht, of which there are approximately 40-45 Baht to the British pound. Bangkok prices are generally very reasonable and it’s easy to have a superb holiday at a relatively decent cost.
On this occasion I didn’t need a hotel, but I do normally suggest, if possible, staying at one of the riverside hotels with a view. Accessibility to the BTS skytrain or the MRT metro service is a must - it’s extremely easy to navigate the system and trains are efficient and clean.
With so much to see, it’s wise to plan your time. I recommend a minimum of three nights and some solid walking shoes. It’s also worth considering putting Bangkok at the end of your trip, as many clients like to shop for local goods, including leather bags, oil burners, cushion covers, silks and made to measure suits to take home. If you need extra luggage for your purchases, there are some great luggage shops around - just make sure they're sturdy enough for your needs.
Bargain seekers should head for the MBK centre or the Platinum Fashion Mall - both have several floors filled with locally designed apparel but please be aware that the fake market is still very prominent in Thailand - don’t get caught out. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is! Most of the genuine European designer goods are considerably more expensive.
Chatachuk is the world’s largest weekend market, spread over 35 acres, and it must be seen to be believed. If you are serious about shopping, get there early, spend at least 4-5 hours there and fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Fresh fruit stalls are abundant; freshly peeled mango, pineapple and papaya are just a few of the sublime choices you will find. The fruit is so ripe, delicious, and juicy. Special mum tip - don’t forget some wipes for when it drips down your wrist! 😊
What captured my senses the most however, was the delicious smells of the local dishes being cooked right in front of you. With so much choice, take your time to savour the experience and be brave with trying new foods.
It’s acceptable to haggle here. However, if you do agree a price, please buy. Shop around first to get an idea of the quality of the product you want as well. My lightweight brother has been firmly told that I’m doing this on my own next time!
Shopping malls are plentiful - I liked the Siam Paragon, which is full of designer shops, a cinema complex, bowling alley and you can even pick up a Porsche or Aston Martin before you leave (I chose not to on this visit).
Central World has a better mix of high street retailers and brands.
All have food halls and lots of restaurants serving every type of food imaginable and some malls can also be accessed from others.
The highest building in Thailand is the King Power Mahanakhon in the Silom/ Sathon central business that opened in December 2016. Take the lift to the 78th floor and drink in the vista from the skywalk. As you can imagine, the views are incredible, and sunset is a popular time. Although we had a fair amount of cloud, it certainly didn’t diminish the experience. I even shuffled across the skywalk, albeit very gingerly, where, if you feel brave enough to look down, the city can literally be seen beneath you.
A similar experience can be had at the top of the city’s Banyan Tree Hotel. Ever the glutton for punishment, this time I stood on the skywalk and even looked down, earning my drink at the rooftop bar!
You can pre-book a table for eating at Mahanakhon if you want to be guaranteed a seat; the Banyan Tree doesn’t have pre-booking.
Bangkok is a foodie heaven. From street food, traditional Pad Thai, curries or ramens - it’s all here in abundance and the tastes are phenomenal.
Another great way to see the city is from the river. I went from Wat Kaew to Icon Siam, the newest of Bangkok’s malls (there may be a recurring theme here!) and the 30-minute trip at a cost of just THB 15 was a fantastic alternative to the train or taxi, plus it’s a bit cooler on the river. You can also jump on at the Millennium Hilton and take a 20-minute river trip to visit the Grand Palace.
Other highlights for me included meeting new friends and reacquainting with old ones - it was great seeing this wonderful city through the eyes of locals.
I would also have been able to report on a memorable pub quiz victory at the Balcony in Silom had the boys listened to me!
I will be more than happy to help with suggestions to ensure your time here is maximised. Bangkok is a fantastic experience of any Thai multi-centre adventure.