First time in Bangkok? If you’re only staying for two days like me, good luck trying to fit all of the worthwhile attractions in your tight schedule… Or here’s another idea: follow my lead as I take you on a two-day adventure through the city. You can always squeeze in more stops if you have time to spare.
Morning: The Pak Klong Talad flower market
Thai people love to decorate, from the food they eat to the clothing they wear and the houses they live in. And what better way to decorate than with flowers? Flowers play a huge part in Thai tradition and religion, brightening up streets, trees, buildings and shrines. The biggest flower market in Bangkok is the ‘Pak Klong Talad’. Walking around might be a bit overwhelming at first because this is not your typical market. It’s more like a compilation of narrow sidewalks with vendors and stalls on both sides, plus it’s right next to the busy main road so at times the smell of gasoline is more overpowering than the aroma of the flowers. But if you immerse yourself in the colors, the scents, the smiles and the many different floral shapes and creations, it’s a wonderful experience. From aromatic frangipani to jasmines, roses, lilies and orchids, they’re all there and they’re all fresh. You’ll also find many hand-crafted flower garlands or phuan malai, which are a symbol of good luck and happiness in Thailand. Some of them are true pieces of art! Try visiting in the morning, when the heat underneath the big sails is still tolerable.
(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
Lunch at The Deck
Of all Thai dishes, phat thai is probably the best known. It’s a simple dish, made with stir-fried rice noodles and egg and all kinds of additional ingredients like vegetables, tofu, shrimp and roast peanuts. It’s served as street food all around Bangkok, but it’s a popular lunch dish in proper restaurants, too. Like The Deck, which is only a ten minute walk from the flower market. Or you can take a tuk-tuk of course! The seats outside have a lovely view over the river and the charming temple of Wat Arun, the seats inside have air-conditioning 😉 You’ll need to make reservations if you want a good spot, it gets really crowded during lunchtime! There’s several things on the menu including European-style food, but you’ll notice that most of the Thai people here order the phat Thai. That’s how good it is!
Afternoon: the Temple of Wat Pho
There are tens of thousands of Buddhist temples scattered around in Thailand and about 500 of them are in Bangkok… Close to the flower market (and next to the Grand Palace) lies Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, dating back to the 16th century. It’s said to be one of the most interesting (and largest) temple complexes in Thailand, mainly because of the buddha inside: it’s 15 meters high and 46 meters long and covered in gold leaf from head to toes. The feet alone are 3 meters long! The soles are decorated with mother-of-pearl. Why visit Wat Pho instead of the Grand Palace? I guess ideally you should visit them both, but if you have limited time, Wat Pho is perfect. There’s less tourists so wondering around is more relaxing, you can see the entire complex in about 2 hours, plus, you can take pictures inside the temple, unlike in the Emerald temple at the Grand Palace. You also get a free bottle of ice cold water. A very, very welcome gift!
Shopping at CentralWorld
There are less expensive and less touristy places to go shopping in Bangkok, but still, CentralWorld downtown is one of the most exciting places to visit if you’re a shopping fan. The mega complex has just about anything: from designer clothes and the latest technology gadgets to books, furniture, food and beauty products. What else? There’s restaurants and cafes, 15 cinemas, a kids zone and a huge outdoor square for events like the Thailand Happiness Festival in July or Bangkok’s official New Year countdown party. Oh and there’s an ice-skating rink, too! Before you know it, several hours have passed while you’re walking around…
A night at the Chatrium Riverside Hotel
Why choose the Chatrium? For the view: it’s on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, so breathtaking cityscape & river views are guaranteed. For your convenience: the hotel is only 35 minutes from the airport and has a complementary shuttle boat service to and from the nearest Skytrain Station (which is like a metro system up in the air). For the location: from the Chatrium, it’s only a 15 minute walk to the hip Asiatique entertainment district and shopping areas. Also, the Chatrium towers are so high they provide some sort of orientation point.
Morning: The Baipai Thai Cooking School
The best and most fun way to experience Thai cuisine (or any other foreign cuisine for that matter) is by taking a cooking class. The Baipai Thai Cooking School is located in the northern part of Bangkok. The kitchens here are modern but still have a very Thai home-like set-up and on the menu we had Thai dishes like Red curry with pork and bamboo, chicken in pandanus leaves, papaya salad and red curry paste. First you learn a bit more about the authentic Thai cuisine and flavors, then you make a tour in the herb garden and finally the wok is heated and the cooking commences. Expect to play around with a lot of coriander, olive oil, garlic, chili, coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar and lemon grass! There’s also a lot of pounding with a mortar and pestle involved… If you’re vegetarian, like me, the ingredients are changed without any problems, which I thought was a great bonus. After that, the table is set and you enjoy your homemade lunch.
Afternoon: The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American architect and businessman who fell in love with Thailand in the fifties. He moved to Bangkok, bought six Thai teakwood houses and made them into one, while respecting the authentic Thai architecture. Some of the houses came from other villages and were dismantled and assembled again in Bangkok! He decorated the house with furniture, art and elements from all around the country, from the roof tops to the chandeliers and even a children’s pee pot! Because he was such a fan of Thai traditions, he helped revitalize the Thai silk industry. In 1967 he mysteriously disappeared during a trip to Malaysia… His house is now a museum but even while he was still living there, he had already opened his house to the public. Whatever he gained from those visits, he donated to charity. If you’re interested in Thai architecture and art, you’ll love this visit! But even the gardens are worthwhile. You’d never suspect so much luscious green in the middle of the busy city centre! One of the main garden attractions is a 100-year old tree, providing a pleasant shade. Too bad you’re not allowed to take picture inside of the house (and they’re serious about it!), but since it’s a compulsory guided tour it would be impossible to keep up with the guide and the interesting stories if you’re taking pictures. While you wait for the tour to begin, you can admire the huge fish in the garden ponds, you can visit the (expensive) silk shop. Right on front of it, a man demonstrates how to unwind and spool silk.
A pampering Thai Massage
Visiting Thailand and not have a message? It’s an option, but you’d be missing out… The friendly ambiance, the professional pampering, the exotic smells and settings, it all adds to the experience. One of the grooviest relaxation spas in Bangkok is the Oasis Spa. Next to dozens of different kinds of massages, scrubs and wraps, this spa (which has the appeal of a beautiful private villa) offers 11 spa packages and we went for a two hour package – the shortest on the list, other options lasted up to 4 hours! Our package included a traditional Thai massage followed by a Thai Herbal Hot Compress and an Aromatherapy Oil Massage. I’ve never been a big fan of massages. My bones crack in weird places, which makes me too body-conscious. But in this case, I was so relaxed I almost dozed off. The traditional Thai massage was especially interesting. It included a lot of pressing, stretching and manipulating the body… A bit painful at times, but all the more rewarding afterwards. We had the massage right before our flight back home: a highly recommended order! Get off at PhromPhong Station and the Oasis staff will pick you up for free.
Evening: dinner at Cabbages & Condoms
Let me tell you right now that Cabbages & Condoms will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The restaurant is run by a non-profit organizations called PDA (Population and Community Development Association). Parts of the restaurant profits are used to provide the poor Thai farming villagers of contraceptive pills and condoms, to give HIV/Aids education and prevention, for environmental conservation and various other development activities of PDA. At the restaurant you are treated you with great traditional Thai food, an enchanting and fun decor, and condoms. A whole lot of condoms. Want to see and read more about C&C, click here to see a separate post about it.
All of the attractions on Google maps:
- Want to see or read more about my visit to Bangkok? Here are three Belgian bloggers that went along for the ride: TravelMagic (in Dutch), Au gout d’Emma (in French) & Mel Loves Travel (in French).
- Flying to or from Bangkok: I flew Thai Airways on a direct flight to and from Brussels. We flew on new plane with quite a lot of leg space, friendly staff and lovely Thai food (very tasty veggie option).