Ref: 1 USD = 30 TB
The first time we were in Bangkok, we had arrived from India at 2:30 am and got to our hotel at about 4:30 am. After sleeping in the next day, we had about 6 hours to go around before we had to catch an overnight train to Chiang Mai. In those 6 hours, I had a headache and was annoyed by the traffic and the heat in the area I was in… needless to say, my first experience in Bangkok was negative. But, we had decided to spend a few days in Bangkok for the tail end of our month in Thailand as we were taking a train out to Laos from Bangkok, and I’m so glad that we did. Even after the gorgeous beaches, the perfect days in Chiang Mai, I really enjoyed Bangkok, because at the end of the day, I’m still a city girl at heart.
Bangkok is a pulsing city, steeped with culture and history, yet balanced with modern elements of a cosmopolitan city… a place where looming skyscrapers, bustling streets and seven story malls meet city parks, riverways and of course historic wats. It has a fantastic public transportation system with a large network of buses, ferries, skytrains and subways to get around. The skytrain and subway systems were both well run, easy to use and clean. Also, a very cheap means of transportation – about 15-30 TB one way depending on how far you are going.
We were there for about four days so we saw a lot, but here are a few of the cultural/historic highlights!
We went to three main Wats (temples) all in one day – Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun. We took the ferry to get there (side note on the ferry: take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station, walk to Sathorn Pier and line up to take the Chao Phraya Express boat – you can buy tickets on the boat for 15 TB one way – unless you plan to ride the ferry a lot, the one day pass for 150 TB isn’t worth it). The three aforementioned wats were all accessible from the No. 8 Tha Tien pier stop (you take a 3 TB ferry to get across to Wat Arun). Wat Phra Kaew is on the grounds of the Grand Palace, which in itself was an impressive grounds of glittery mirrored temples and halls after another. The Emerald Buddha itself (which we saw the replica of in Chiang Rai where it was first discovered) was smaller than I thought it would be, but stunning nonetheless.
Our tickets to the Grand Palace (400 TB each – expensive!) also included a couple other galleries, but we didn’t get a chance to go see those.
I think my favorite was seeing the Reclining Buddha (100 TB each) – this thing is just MASSIVE, both in height and in length (15 m high and 43 m long)! Buddha is reclining as this how he laid down before he passed away.
Lastly, we took the ferry across to Wat Arun (50 TB each) and climbed the steep steps to get a view of the city. There’s nothing actually inside the Wat but it’s gorgeous architecturally and provides nice views of the city from its high point. It’s also supposedly one of the most photographed temples in Bangkok – we just added to that statistic 🙂
Everywhere online and in guidebooks and even on guesthouse walls, there are warnings of tuk tuk drivers and ‘guides’ telling you the temple you want to go to is closed and they can take you to another temple. Luckily, we had read these multiple times and I checked online to make sure the places we were going to weren’t closed. We were told no less than THREE times that the Grand Palace was closed, not including the European couple we passed by as we were trying to find the entrance who were told the Palace was closed and believed the people. The first couple times, it was by tuk tuk drivers or other randoms so we knew not to believe them. The one that pissed me off though was one that was standing at the exit to the Grand Palace (but it looks like an entrance) – he looked like he was wearing some sort of uniform and told us the palace closed early at 2pm that day because of some special Buddha day function. And he was doing this in front of an actual army uniformed guard with a gun so it made him seem legit. Luckily, we saw the sign behind him written in English that tickets were at the next entrance so we ignored him and went on (the palace grounds are huge). But I can see how that European couple thought he was legit – he was trying to convince us to go to some other wat – I’m guessing this would have turned into a gem store scam or something. Anyways, my point is to echo the warning – there is only one entrance the Grand Palace – check that one (it’s on the road that starts with an N!). And dress appropriately (skirts and dresses below the knee; no sleeveless shirts or tanks or shorts) or rent icky clothes there.
We got to Bangkok on a Friday night so on Saturday we went to the Chatachuk weekend market (accessible via the MRT subway). We made it through about 8 sections of the market – there are 26 of them I believe. I read online there were 4000 stalls at the market and about $750,000 spent each day! Everything is available here… artwork, food, clothing, jewelry, furniture, flowers, makeup, etc!
Insert by Samir:
The market had tons of food stalls, including coconut ice cream. I had not tried this yet and was excited to do so. Half a coconut shell, with baby coconut fruit flesh, a scoop of ice cream, sticky rice topping, with an extra cup of fresh coconut water. 30 TB. I had it twice. 🙂
Back to Rachel:
Again, though, on the subway to the market, we stopped to look at the route map and some guy that looked like he was in uniform tried to tell us the market was on Sunday and not Saturday and tried to direct us to another market. Beware!
We also went to Chinatown (accessible via the ferry from Chao Phraya river) but this kind of felt like a waste since we were marketed out. And the restaurants were pricey so we ended up eating street food that was ok. But they had some great fresh juice stalls!