Feel you missed out on a gap-year? Want to go travelling with your friends? Or just fancy a holiday to somewhere a bit more exotic? If you’re planning to go travelling in Asia this summer, no doubt one city will be a stop on your itinerary. That is Bangkok; Thailand’s capital, gateway to Asia and the king of all backpacking destinations.
So to make the most out of your time in this vibrant city – giving you the sights, sounds and smells – here are the Top Ten most memorable experiences:
In many ways, Khaosan Road is everything wrong about travelling and Bangkok; overdeveloped, touristy and if you want to eat at McDonalds or Subway, why are you travelling at all? Yet the road is definitely worth a visit, full of souvenirs, slogan t-shirts and other suchlike travelers; so grab a Tiger beer, sit down and watch the crowds at the location that epitomises backpacking.
2. See The Reclining Buddha
Travelling around the mainly Buddhist Thailand and South-East Asia,you’ll bound to see many Buddha images. Trust me though, the one at Wat Pho one is worth it. An impressively large 150ft long gold Buddha statue with mother-of-pearl feet situated in a beautiful and tranquil 20 acre temple compound.
3. Take A Tuk-Tuk Ride
Yes, they are noisy, slightly uncomfortable and if you have drivers like I had, you will either be clinging on for dear life as you weave between the Bangkok traffic or trying not to be scammed. I loved them and no trip to Bangkok is complete without a ride on this unique form of transport.
4. Try Some Street Food
Travelling is all about the experience and, of course, food is a big part of that. Be adventurous – Thai cuisine is both brilliant and cheap. With street food, you can fill yourself up for a whole day’s sightseeing for a bargain price. Go for the delicious Pad Thai or if your feeling extremely brave, try some deep-fried crickets or squid.
5. Haggle at Chatuchak Market
Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest in Thailand; 35 acres big, 8000 stalls, 2000 visitors. The market sells everything from exotic pets, antique books, food, handicrafts, clothes and household items. Try haggling – its good fun and all part of the shopping experience – and you’ll probably come home with a bag full of Thai treasures.
6. Climb The Temple of Dawn
The impressively 80m tall Wat Arun dominates the skyline of the city’s west bank and is one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. It is intricately decorated with porcelain and sea shells. Climb the extremely steep – close to 90 degree – steps at sunset for a fantastic panoramic view of the Chao Phra river and Bangkok skyline.
7. Take A Walk through Chinatown
There’s no better way to experience a city than just strolling the streets, meeting the locals and sampling its true atmosphere. Head to the colourful Chinatown; exotic, chaotic and full of gold shops. Or head down to Damnoen Saduak to visit the authentic, albeit touristy, floating market.
8. Visit The Grand Palace + Wat Phra Kaew
This complex is pretty expensive by Thai standards, and it has a strict dress code. However, the Thai ‘Fisherman’ Trousers are good fun and the palace is exceptional in its beauty; the buildings are traditionally Thai, with stunning architecture covered with colourful mosiac tiles, ornate paintings. The temple is the holiest Thai Buddha site, with the Emerald Buddha image protected by the famous Yaksha ‘demon guardians’.
9. Take A Boat Cruise
Chao Praya is the lifeblood of Bangkok, with canals running through the entire city, and giving the city the nickname ‘Venice of the East’. Take the normal riverboat taxi; its low-cost and an incredible way to see the city – spot the temples towering up from the riverbanks and see how modern and old, rich and poor live hand in hand.
10. Don’t Go To A Ping Pong Show
I’m joshing, of course. Go if you want, as its definitely an experience. Just be careful as there are often hidden costs (and often other hidden ‘packages’). Everywhere you go in Bangkok – especially at night – a man will pop out and try to send you to one of these, offering a wide variety of sexual acts to satisfy every weird desire. I personally didn’t see one; my friend did, however – the feedback involved birds, darts, balloons and ended with full live sex. No, I’m not joking.