November 12, 2016
We decided on 3 days and 4 nights in Bangkok. Now we know that isn’t nearly enough time, but we still had a lot to see. We could stay longer if we wanted to. So the following is our itinerary for the first of our 3 full days in Bangkok.
A lot of blogs out there will either love or hate Bangkok. We found more of the we hate Bangkok. It was hard to not be a little skeptical of the place when you arrive. The hour drive from the airport, sitting in traffic, buildings that looked more like the west than buildings you would assume would look like in Thailand. It is very spread out and so the first thing to do is decide where you want to stay. The major areas are:
Sukhumvit, Siam, Silom, Pratunam, Riverside, Chinatown or Khao San.
We decided on Riverside since a lot of the things we wanted to see were close to the ferry taxi stops and to just cruise along the river. See our flight and hotel decisions below.
Our first destination was going to be The Grand Palace. We hopped on our hotel’s ferry shuttle to the main ferry taxi terminal (more about transportation at the end). We loved being able to take a ferry wherever we went.
It was a short 20 minute ride and you saw a lot. One of the things is this sign in remembrance of their King. I will keep this short as I will mention it throughout the post, but their king of almost 80 years passed three weeks before we were there. It is a respectful 30 days of mourning and this was the first of hundreds of shrines, sign, posts and pictures for the king. There were a couple requests to tourists on how to act during this time. Merriment was to be minimal. Our pool closed early and so did some bars. Customs at the airport also handed out black ribbons to be worn on your left shoulder or over your heart.
The Grand Palace
The royal family has not lived there since 1925, but it is still used for official functions. We wanted to make this a must see because of the rest of the grounds. The Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is on the grounds, the most sacred in Thailand. A note before you arrive: 1) cost 500 baht/person. 2) there is a strict dress code. Legs for men and women to be completely covered, as well as shoulders. They have clothes to borrow for free (just a small deposit you get back) 3) you will have to take your shoes off when entering to see the Emerald Buddha, so if you have bare feet phobia, bring socks.
4) Please respect the no photos inside the emerald Buddha, there is a small area outside that you can see some of it.
When we arrived, we ran into hundreds of people waiting to pay their respects to their king. There were groups throughout the outside and inside. They had roads closed and security everywhere.
Finally getting inside the grounds was nothing that you can anticipate. It was so beautiful.
The colors and characters were like nothing else we saw. We walked around for probably an hour before we got in line to see the Emerald Buddha.
The building was lined with these Garuda’s. They are mythical bird-like creatures that hold a snake diety. Generations of Thai families were there to pay their respects and see the temple for the first time. Again we do not have any pictures of the inside and we only took the picture from the outside of The Emerald Buddha at an opening. People still come here to pray. We only took a couple moments inside as to not disturb the prayers.
Throughout the grounds were the lines of people paying their respects. They waited for hours in the heat.
Last but not least the palace. The European influence mixed perfectly with the traditional Siamese roofs of the Grand Palace.
As we were leaving we were lucky enough to see the changing of the guards.
To get to the grand palace we took our hotels’ free ferry shuttle to the Sathorn Ferry Station. Then we hopped onto the yellow ferry taxi and got off at Tha Chang. See map below.
Wat Pho is within walking distance of The Grand Palace. As we were walking people were handing us drinks and candies and water. We were hesitant to take them because we were not actually there to pay our respects to their king, but they were persistent in a very humbling way. They also tried to feed us, but we didn’t feel right eating food that was meant for people waiting for hours.
When we were planning our trip and telling people that we were going to Thailand, they couldn’t stop talking about how cheap the food was and how good it was. I kept thinking we aren’t going to be able to find it and stopped myself from asking every person where exactly they found it. It didn’t seem real or correct. How do you stuff yourself and drink for under $5 for 2 people. Well, there wasn’t any problems finding it. It wasn’t just the street vendors, but it was actual small restaurants and some restuarants in general.
In this area, there are a lot of small restaurants and food stalls right across the street. We found a side street and we ate for $2 and it was delicious!
This temple is known for housing the reclining Buddha. One of the largest reclining Buddha’s in Thailand. Again, you will have to take your shoes off to get into seeing the reclining Buddha. I was not expecting how big it was. You walk through the door looking forward and seeing nothing. Then you see someone else’s reaction and look up and to your left and it stops you in your tracks. It’s HUGH and gold. This Buddha is 15 m high and 46 m long.
After seeing the reclining Buddha the rest of the grounds are worthy of wandering through.
At this temple you will see a lot of stray animals. Some that take refuge here during their last days.
This is not to turn you off but to let you know what you will see. I was sadly surprised, but happy he had a safer place to be.
One of the most impressive shrines to the king was here as well.
On our way back we had to get back on the yellow line going the other way on the ferries so they made us buy a 7 baht ticket to get across the river. This drops you right at Wat Arun if you want to tour one more temple. It was going through some construction when we were there so we decided not to.
We made it back to the hotel and took a nap after all the walking and site seeing in the heat. It was unbelievably hot! That night we looked through all the night markets and decided on Asiatique since our hotel had a free ferry shuttle there and back. There were a lot of mixed reviews but we loved it there.
The restaurants right on the water and in the inside square were stupid expensive, so we kept wandering and we found the food stalls under the ferris wheel. It was so delicious and so cheap.
It was nice because you could buy some food and sit out on the benches and people watch. I had about four of the deep fried chickens and rice. They were only 30 cents!
We then found this. I almost lost my footing when I saw people doing this. I have seen pictures of the leeches in Indonesia, but these little fishies eating off of your feet and legs I almost blacked out.
I am sure there is something great that comes from this, it was so very popular, but I couldn’t stomach it. There were more shops, massages and ice cream parlors that you could stop into as well as the Lady Boy shows. They were a bit expensive, so be ready for that. We didn’t go to one, but we will next time.
So that was day 1! We fit in a lot and felt like we got everything we wanted out of the day.
Hotels and Flights
We have had people ask us where did you book flights or hotels while you were there since we went with an open plan.
Before we left we had already used hotels.com, and on this trip we wanted to maximize our money and rewards program. We don’t get any money for saying that we use hotels.com but a small commission if you book with them using the link below. Here is the reason why we booked. For every 10 stays you get the 11th free. It’s the average of the 10 nights. We were going to be gone 30 days and so we got 3 nights free. It was worth it for us, especially with their customer service. Their prices also don’t seem to fluctuate that much even if you are booking the night or a couple nights before hand. We were on a pretty tight budget, so the free nights plus credit card points, helped a lot. In Bangkok we stayed at Anantara Riverside. Incredible hotel with regards to all aspects. I highly recommend it.
For flights getting from country to country and within a country, we used expedia and then would search the local airlines. I couldn’t believe how cheap flights were. Air Asia, Thai Airways and a couple other local airlines helped us get around.
There are a lot of options on getting around Bangkok. Scooter, tuk tuk, taxi, ferry taxi, MRT (underground), BTS (sky) and walk.
We used the ferry taxi the most. It was very cheap and you don’t have to buy tickets in advance, just buy it when you get on the boat. It’s usually under $1/person depending on where you are going. If you want to take the more private long tail boats there is a separate line and it is more expensive. It was fun taking the system that the locals take.
We also used BTS, which is also incredibly cheap. It was easy to navigate and you could get anywhere. In this case you do have to buy tickets in advance.
EVERYTHING IS CASH. Don’t worry because everyone has cash. So just keep your belongings close and you will be fine.
Photos courtesy of Bangkok.com