Bangkok Sights


TOP 5 FOR BANGKOK
1. The Grand Palace
2. Street food- anywhere and everywhere!
3. The Reclining Buddha
4. Central Mall
5. Boat ride on the canal
Bonus: One of the city sky bars
ACCOMMODATION
True Siam hotel
I arrived into Bangkok on my way to a tour through Cambodia and Vietnam. I had four full days and nights in the city, which at the beginning seemed like infinite amounts of time to explore. That time went by in a heartbeat. I can honestly say that I fell in love with the place, dirt, smog, garbage, and traffic included.If you’ve never been to a large city without traffic rules, you’re going to be horrified the first day. Having seen Delhi, Marrakesh, and Kathmandu, it seemed pretty normal to me. Basically, you are constantly looking every direction and sprinting across intersections to avoid losing your toes to flying tuk-tuks, or being slammed full-on by a car. It’s fun!

On my first day, I checked into True Siam Hotel, highly recommended both based on location and cost. 40 euros per night got me a spacious room with a private hot shower, huge bed, and very helpful staff. Located near Phaya Thai rail station, it’s off the beaten tourist track but still in the center and very convenient to get to from the airport.

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True Siam Hotel

I took a stroll towards the Bangkok arts and cultural center, where there was a live band playing and a bunch of food and souvenir vendors set up. From here I took my first Tuk-Tuk ride to Chinatown, universally known as the capital of street food (some more impressions here). It’s a dizzying crowded area packed with tourists, street food carts, music, smells, shops, and pickpockets. If you don’t like crowded places you might hate it here.
I stepped into the blissful air conditioning at Tang Jai Yoo for my first taste of Thai food- Tom Yom Ghai seafood hot pot, delicious and blow-your-head-off spicy. If you don’t like spicy food, you may starve in Bangkok (kidding, that would be impossible).
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The next morning I was off to see the Grand Palace- astoundingly gorgeous (more on that here). The vibrancy of the colors sparkling in the sunshine is incredible, every glance more beautiful than the last. The 500 baht entrance fee is high but certainly  worth it.
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Offerings outside the Grand Palace.

Just down the road is the Reclining Buddha- an absolutely mammoth golden laying Buddha. The size is simply amazing. After my visit I stopped in for lunch down a side street at Home Cafe, for a green tea latte and the most lovely stir fried basil chicken dish, for the equivalent of $3 usd. As you can tell, me being both a bargain hunter and lover of good food, this place is hard to beat.

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Offerings at the Reclining Buddha

I continued walking in the bright sunshine through Amulet market and the university campus, eventually hopping on a boat from Chang pier to Maharaj pier, where there is a gentrified shopping area.

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Sinking houses on the canals.

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Beautiful Bangkok canals

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View on the canal

I continued towards Khao San road, meaning “milled rice”, a former rice market and now the place where backpackers go to get lost. You will find pickpockets aplenty, 1 million souvenir shops, 1 million bars offering 75 cent draft beers, massage houses, and hostels. If you wonder how a business man from London might morph into a dreadlocked pot-smoking shoeless hippie, it’s easy to see how it could happen here. $5 massages and 75 cent beers can sustain one for quite a long time. I had said $5 massage and it was fantastic.

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Khao San Road

That night, after a street food supper, I headed to Baiyoke hotel, the tallest building in Thailand with claims of the best view in Bangkok. The 400 baht entrance fee is steep and gets you one drink  on the 83rd floor bar. I can honestly say this was the biggest rip-off- the hotel is run down with peeling paint, stained carpets, and kitschy crap decorations. The staff are unfriendly and the “free drink” is off a very limited menu offering only cheap watered down drinks. Their only saving grace is the view.

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The next morning, bright and sunny again, I headed to the Jim Thompson house. This museum is by guided tour only, and the brief but informative 40 minute tour was one of my favorite things in the city. The house is a blissful oasis from the dirt and grime and crowds of the rest of the city. Jim was an American architect you came to Thailand during the war and fell in love with the culture and people, eventually moving here and making it his home. He was responsible for making Thai silks famous, when they appeared in the movie “The King and I” and won the world over with their intricacy and beauty. The house is set directly set on a canal, as at the time a community of Muslim silk weavers which Jim worked with were located across the river.

His house was a combination of Thai and American style- normally Thai houses would have entirely separate rooms with staircases outside, but here everything is connected. The furniture is a beautiful mixture of Thai and Chinese antiques, the dining table being an absolute masterpiece of woodwork.  Lamps in the living room are made of overturned Burmese drums. In the entrance hallway the floor is an imported Italian marble- no expenses were spared here. The walls are decorated with beautiful paintings and maps. Entrances to rooms have the traditional Thai raised floor, which l learned is to block evil spirits from travelling through (they can only move in straight lines). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the house.

The tour guide also introduced us to the idea of Spirit houses- all across Thailand when a new building is constructed, a “spirit house” is made as well- a tiny construction on the property which cannot be in the shadow of the main house.  The purpose is to apologize and thank the spirits for disturbing their home. I think this is a beautiful idea, and I kind of want to make a little spirit house for my apartment 🙂
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Example spirit house in Bangkok

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Ancient press used for making patterns on silk.

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Silk weaver at Jim Thompson house.

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Gardens at the house.

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To this day, it’s not known what happened to Jim Thompson- he disappeared in 1967 without a trace. Interestingly, he was born in 1906, the year of the horse, and his horoscope predicted he must take care at the age of 61- the year of his disappearance.

That evening I went to Above Eleven, another sky bar which was an infinitely better experience than Baiyoke. Columns constructed to look like trees sprout from the floor, which is a three tiered affair with two restaurant levels, live music, and the rooftop bar. Comfy couches and lounges are strewn around and mixed with high top tables. Food is a fusion between Peruvian and Japanese, and I enjoyed calamari sushi and a Manhattan, before going to meet a friend at Havana Social just down the road. Havana social is a loud funky speakeasy- the entrance is through a phone booth down a side street, making it pretty hard to find! But anyone on Sukhumvit Road 11 which is the bar street both bars are located on, can direct you.

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On my last day in Bangkok, I visited the Golden Buddha in Chinatown, Central mall, one of the most beautiful malls I’ve ever been in with a very cool Harrods-esque market on the top floor.

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Gorgeous doors to the Golden Buddha

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Monks outside the Golden Buddha.

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In the afternoon I took a taxi a bit outside the city to Jatujak market – a huge market full of souvenirs, flowers, and home wares.

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I want them all!

That evening, I met my GAdventures tour group to embark on a 10 day tour through Cambodia and Vietnam. More adventures to come!

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Categories: Active Weekends, Running around cities, Running on beachesTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. I really love the photos! After all this time in Asia (10 years) I still havent been to Thailand yet, despite having several Thai friends here in Shanghai. The altar with the pigs head looked distinctly southern Chinese.

    • Thanks! It was easy to take good photos as there was SO many astounding sites! I loved Bangkok, hopefully you make it there soon 🙂

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