People either love Bangkok or they hate it. There seems to be no in between.
I, personally, love it.
With it’s tropical climate, endless skyline and vibrant culture, I couldn’t get enough of everything Bangkok has to offer.
With only 4 days in the city, I had to hit the ground running. But coming off a long trip from Europe, including a 17 hour layover in Beijing, jet lag stopped me dead in my tracks. I arrived at my hostel in central Bangkok around 9am my first day and passed out in the lobby until 2pm. I’m talking passed out so hard I was drooling and one of the front desk ladies brought me a blanket because she felt bad for me.
Side note: I stayed at NapPark Hostel near Khao San Road and it was AMAZING. I highly recommend it if you are heading to Bangkok any time soon!
I could’ve easily slept the rest of the day and destroyed my body’s internal clock even more, but I decided I needed to get out of the hostel, walk around and (most importantly) find some coffee to help me stay awake the rest of the day.
Now, let me start by saying that when I travel I try avoid chain restaurants and instead, opt for local restaurants and coffee shops. However, in this case, jet lag won and I ended up at Starbucks (embarrassing, I know). I hadn’t slept in days and my eyeballs felt like they were falling out of my head, so I desperately needed some coffee and, it turns out, Starbucks was just a short walk away. I made a friend while trying to decipher the menu, a guy from Germany, and we spent the rest of the day hanging out together – drinking coffee on a balcony overlooking a busy Bangkok street before heading to dinner at a small, local restaurant that I was 98% sure was going to give me the worst food poisoning of my life (it didn’t). Jet lag may have won my first day in Bangkok, but it’s amazing what some good company, good food and little bit of caffeine can do to you.
The next morning I was feeling great and was ready to explore everything Bangkok had to offer. My first stop was Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan, a royal temple located in the heart of the city. Loha Prasat, the most well known structure at the temple, stands out among the Bangkok skyline thanks to it’s 37 metal spires, which represent the 37 virtues toward enlightenment. The temple grounds were beautiful to walk around and surprisingly quite and peaceful, considering the temple’s location right in the middle of Bangkok.
After exploring Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan, I headed to Wak Saket, otherwise known as the Golden Mount. Wak Saket is one of the main temples in Bangkok, which features an artificial hill topped with a large golden chedi, or Buddhist stupa. 344 steps lead to the top of the hill, an easy climb that feels like a jungle oasis in the middle of an urban metropolis. The chanting monks and ringing bells get louder and louder as you approach the top, where you are greeted with stunning 360-degree views of the city. Inside the temple, a small staircase leads to the roof where the chedi is. Here many people pray and make religious offerings, such as flower garlands, lotus buds, incense, and money. Although I’m not religious, this was one of my favorite experiences in Bangkok.
After spending the morning at the temples, I explored the city a bit by a form of local transportation called khlong saen seab, or a long boat. This was such a fun experience because it was so different from any other public transportation I had ever taken! The boat carries people through the Bangkok’s many canals, providing unique views of city life along the way. The khlong saen seab is definitely a slower form of transportation compared to the city’s buses and metro. But if you have time to take it slow, it’s a great (and cheap!) way to see the city.
That night, I did what all backpackers must do in Bangkok – I partied on Khao San Road. Khao San Road is known as the backpacking capital of the world, with thousands of young, adventure-loving foreigners flocking to this street as they make their way through Southeast Asia. Of course there are many young backpackers in a lot of cities across the world, but let me tell you, there’s nothing like Khao San. Lined with bars, clubs and many food stalls, the street always has an electrifying buzz. But at night it comes alive with music blasting, alcohol flowing and the party spilling into the street. It was a night for the books and an experience I won’t forget (I’ll leave it at that).
The next day, I got a slow start, still recovering from Khao San. I headed to a local restaurant for lunch with a few of the people I went out with and we tried to recount all our adventures from the night before over bowls of Thai curry. We stumbled into a few other people from the hostel who said they were trying to catch a taxi to explore airplanes. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I like airplanes so I got in the taxi with them.
A 45 minute drive later, the taxi driver dropped us off in front of a gate somewhere on the outskirts of Bangkok. There was a “guard” at the gate who asked us to pay a small fee and then granted us access to a large field full of old, abandoned airplanes. This is known as Bangkok’s airplane graveyard. Some of these planes are occupied by families, who were in need of a structure to call home. But there are also several planes that we were free to explore, including a few smaller planes and a portion of a Boeing 747. We made our way through the planes, being incredibly careful of every move we made as we squeezed through cargo doors and climbed ladders. It was a surreal experience standing in an abandoned 747, exploring the cockpit and imagining the places it’s been.
My last day in Bangkok, I decided to take an organized tour to Damnoen Saduak floating market, located about an hour outside of the city. I woke up early and was picked up in a van full of other tourists who were joining the trip. The drive was rather enjoyable as it offered views of the Thai countryside, which was a nice change of scenery after being surrounded by highrise buildings the past few days. Once we arrived at the market, we were told we had a few hours to explore and to meet back at our meeting spot at a designated time. I thought a few hours wasn’t going to be enough to explore, but I quickly realized I couldn’t get out of that market soon enough. While I’m sure at one point this was how people lived their daily lives, selling goods from their boats to make a living, it was clear that today it was nothing more than a tourist trap. People screamed at and even grab me trying to force me to buy things. Everything was overpriced and if you wanted to do anything other than breath, you had to pay for it. While the market provided many colors, sights and smells, I was happy to head back to Bangkok – but not for too long because I had a bus to Chiang Mai to catch that night.