Bangkok in a nutshell
My wonderful friend H asked today for some ideas on where to go, what to do, and the style of the people of Bangkok. Bangkok is an amazing city, and a few words here would not do it justice. But I will try my best to condense a few things.
Places to shop!
1) Hands down, for me was Chatuchak market. I visit almost every time I go. Be prepared for close spaces, sweaty bodies, not being able to really figure out where you’re going, and be aware of pickpockets. But beyond that, it’s an amazing experience to see, and they have a ton of everything! Seriously! A pet corner, plants corner, food corner, and of course, my favorite corner is the fashion corner.
Tips: Dress in something that you can either wear something over easily, or you don’t mind wearing something under for you to test clothes easily. Not everyone has a changing stall. Also, at 6 p.m. sharp, they play the anthem and everyone is expected to stand and not move in respect. Respect the local custom and do the same.
Transportation: Take the MRT to Kamphaeng Pet; the station AFTER Chatuchak Market. The exit takes you straight into the market, and as you exit, turn right towards the toilets, then take the first left. It goes straight into the fashion area.
2) A nice alternative is the Asiatique market by the riverfront. Its new, and designed in the style of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. The shops are good, and they try as much as possible to showcase local designers. The restaurants are also nice. It’s a more upscale version of Chatuchak, though it can still be just as hot.
Tips: Similar to Chatuchak, dress appropriately for easy clothes trying. Bring cash, though some of the bigger shops accept credit cards
Transportation: This can be a bit tricky. If you want something fun, you can take the BTS Sky Train to Krung Thonburi, then walk to the pier, and take the free Asiatique boat to the riverfront. Though of course, you need to watch out for where and when the boats are. Taxis are possible, but given its still relatively new, not all taxis will know how to get there. More transportation options here
3) Platinum mall. This is the wholesale market of Bangkok. A giant mall near Siam Paragon, walk in and be prepared for the crazy onslaught of people, and things and clothes everywhere! Typically you can get a very good deal for clothes, but you most likely wont be able to try them on. Also, not all shops will sell you single items. Upside, its pretty amazing experience
Tips: Again, though indoors, its quite warm. Bring lots of cash
Transportation: You can take the sky train to Siam and from there switch to a motosai (motorbike taxi), or a tuk tuk, or walk (~10 min maybe, though in traffic).
Honorable mentions: The new mall, Terminal 21 is well designed with each floor having a different travel/ location theme (love!). Very comfortable, and easy to get to, and showcases loads of local designers. Take the BTS skytrain to Asok
Places to eat!/ drink!
I have to rely a lot on my local friends for their recommendations, because of course what is Thailand if not for its food. We tend to not go back to the same places but there is one I think you deff need to try and make it out to
1) Iron Fairies. It’s a an amazing semi underground place that has no real signs on its doors (typically closed) but its worth it going inside. The burgers are DELICIOUS (yes, not very Thai I know), they have a live band playing in the small area upstairs. They make little iron fairies downstairs (place looks like the inside underground steel wielders dream, and they even have a secret room behind a secret panel for smokers who want to smoke (and with an invisible camera looping back to the main room). Hows THAT for an awesome evening
Tips: MAKE RESERVATIONS. This place is small, and gets booked out like nobody’s business. Also be aware of the fun, but surprising Thai magician. If you don’t end up getting a table, don’t worry, Thong Lor is an amazing place filled with tons of awesome restaurants. Just be adventurous and walk down its many lanes.
Transportation: Taxis are your best bet. Though maybe best to take the BTS to the closest station (Thong Lo), and then cab it down.
(Zaab Eli, food and sports!)
2) Zaab Eli. Also located in the Thong Lor district, this place specializes in awesome North Eastern Thai food, and overlooks their own small futsal stadium. Yummy food AND yummy eye candy? Yum yum!
Honorable mentions: Rosabieng on Sukhumvit Soi 11. Take the BTS to Nana, and walk over to Soi 11. The street might seem a little dodgy at first, but trust me, its all good. You have to walk a little bit further in. Soi 11 also has pretty nice restaurants all around. Sirocco of course, for the breathtaking view of Bangkok at night. Though a closer option if you are in the city is Longtable which also gives you a great view of the city (albeit lower view than Sirocco)
Things to do
(Queen Sirikit Park)
For me personally, my favorite part about Bangkok is just walking its streets and finding small little places for yourself. Bangkok is filled to the brim with cute little cafes and restaurants, and markets galore. There is always a good massage place to be had, or a good mani/ pedi place. Or just little amusing things like sitting in a café and watching people go by. If you like to run, head over to Queen Sirikit’s Park for a wonderful jog around the lake (also cycling, rollerblading galore).
(The Grand Palace complex)
Of course if you have not been to Bangkok before, the temples are a must see – Head to The Grand Palace along the Chao Phraya river. Just make sure you cover your shoulders, and your legs. The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) is also a beautiful temple built with broken mosaics, though smaller in scale (and less tourists) than the Grand Palace. You can also catch the Chao Phraya river cruises to see these sights from water. Breathtaking.
Bangkok is not for the weak. ALL ladies in Bangkok (and even more so, the ladyboys) have their A-game on when they move around. So if you show up not wearing makeup, and not dressing up a bit, get ready to stick out like a sore thumb. However, most of what they wear is predictable. Ballet flats is a good thing to pack. Practical and fashionable (you don’t see too many women walking around in heels), usually a cute sundress, or a skirt with a top tucked in, or shorts with a nice top tucked in. They typically wear their hair down (I have no idea how they do it, my hair frizzes like crazy in the weather), and a little bit of makeup. Typically lipstick, a bit of blush, a bit of eyeshadow is good. Don’t have to go all out, and of course, little handbags.
Depending on what type of person you are, you could just pack enough to manage for half your time there, and assume you will go shopping early and buy enough to sustain the rest of your days there.
‘High street’ local brand Jaspal is wonderful for trendy clothes for decent prices.
Other things to note
Traffic in Bangkok is notoriously bad. So unless you have the patience to sit in traffic for an hour and watch the traffic light signal count down from 90, I strongly recommend you BTS/ MRT and walk it all around. Bangkok has an amazing pedestrian system, essentially built underneath the train lines, which guarantees you some coverage from the sun, and puts you above traffic (and therefore better air circulation then being stuck in the traffic down below). More efficient public transportation is the use of the BTS/ MRT and motosai (motortaxis). They are generally located at the beginning of the streets and can be identified by their fluorescent jackets. Once you get to the beginning of the street you are looking to go down, tell them the address, negotiate a fee (up front) and hop on the back of the taxi. Prepare for what would probably be the scariest and most exciting trip. Women tend to sit side saddle on the bag, but nothing wrong with straddling. Of course what is fascinating is that the women tend to side straddle while texting and not holding on at all (I do NOT recommend doing that). Also do be very careful because these motorcycle taxis will weave in and out of traffic like crazy. My friend almost lost her sandals once because they were too close to the trucks.
As for nightlife, there are so many places to go its hard for me to narrow it down. But with local friends, I tend to go to Narz (Sukhumvit Soi 23), Muse (Thonglor Soi 10) There are live local bands playing here if you want a real local feel. They also do good dinner upstairs by the way and the RCA party area, food and drinks are cheap, though be warned this is probably because you also have a ton of college age kids here.
I have always loved Bangkok, and I hope you enjoy your stay there too!