I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get a post finished about Bangkok, as it was our first ‘proper’ stop on our travel year and we had an awesome time! We did more here in the time we had, than pretty much anywhere else so far. Probably because it was first and we were a bit over excited. We were absolutely knackered by the time our two weeks were up and grateful to be headed for the peace of Phuket’s beaches! Having said that, we made some amazing memories and the quick video of our trip makes me smile so much. You can watch it here.
So here we go, a general overview of the best things to do in Bangkok, according to us! I’ve also included a load of information that we would have found useful at the start…
What to do
These are our top things to do in Bangkok, on a budget and that are kid and adult friendly! There are obviously famous temples and all sorts of other wonderful things to see in the city. They will come up first on the tourist websites and guide books, and they really are amazing. However, these were the things we found most enjoyable during our stay and they came in at a low price too!
There are a number of floating markets in the Bangkok area, Google will tell you where they are and they all offer similar experiences: great photograph opportunities and lots of amazing food! We decided to go to a smaller market, not too far away. Trying to keep track of three small children in a busy market, near water, didn’t really seem like the best plan! We chose Taling Chan market. The best thing about this one is that it is quiet, easy to navigate and has a really lovely boat trip leaving from the pier. There is a bit of a market on land, including a plant area and general stalls where you can pick up snacks and souvenirs. Further in is a small pavilion where live, traditional music is played. Then out on the river is a large floating pontoon full of tables. You walk along and choose where and what you want to eat; the large local prawns being one of the most popular choices. Most of the places have a lady on the pontoon serving and then another down on a small boat doing the cooking. The short boat trips leave roughly every hour from roughly 10am (roughly…all the information online says different stuff and then the people at the ticket off say something again, so just turn up and find out). The ticket office is right in the centre of the market, you can’t miss it. Go straight there when you arrive to find out the times, then you can wander for a bit when it turns out one won’t be going for a while. The boat trip is great though! It takes you along the khlongs (canals), past traditional houses on the water’s edge and to a small but peaceful temple before returning by a different route. You can feed the fish, see a load of different water birds and even spot giant monitor lizards swimming along! We absolutely loved it!
It seems impossible to see all of this, even if you have days to spare. We went twice, hitting the main street (food and souvenirs) the first time and focusing on the art area the second. Highlights for the children were the ridiculously cheap ice lollies being made from bottled drinks on the street and the mangoes. There is amazing food everywhere you look. You can find everything in this market; vintage motorcycle jackets, original art, erotic soaps (!), even kitchen sinks!
Note: getting wifi here proved really difficult (ruling out Grab) and so taxis/tuk tuks to get home can be expensive. Try to plan a trip home ahead of time or budget for a pricier ride back.
ChangChui Airport Space
We actually found out about this by driving past a random road sign. After a quick search on the internet, it turned out it was an Instagram dream and a big part of the young, modern Bangkok that is interesting to see. The city isn’t all about temples and traditions! Not all of the park is open in the day, but that is the best time to go if you are taking small children or if you are looking for shots for the ‘gram. The best part for us was the Jurassic Plastic exhibition by Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji. The art space offers classes and activities whatever the exhibition though, so there should usually be something going on. Plus there are loads of giant artworks to explore and enjoy, all around the space. I would suggest looking at restaurants, choosing one and making a booking ahead of time, directly with the outlet. This is not because they get busy but because opening times and days vary.
Tuk Tuk Ride
Tuk Tuks are a actually a pretty expensive way to get around, especially over long distances. It is much cheaper to use Grab (SE Asian Uber), the train systems or walk! They are so much fun though and cheap in terms of an activity! We used one just for the distance between the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. Not too pricey and a big thrill for the kids…if a bit white knuckle at times, weaving in and out of traffic.
OK so you can find these pretty much anywhere, but Bangkok malls are wild! If you have more than a couple of days to spend in the city, it is definitely worth wandering round a few…even if it’s just for a break from the heat! Our favourite for wandering about was probably Central World. For those travelling with small children, most of the malls offer stroller rental. You just need to take your passport (no ID, no pushchair) to the concierge/info desk and a top notch stroller is all yours for a few hours. Bliss, if like us, you decided not to bring a pushchair (as they are pretty much pointless on road/pavements in SE Asia) but have had enough of carrying your massive toddler around!
Eating is important Bangkok and there is food everywhere. It is rare for people to cook more than rice at home so you can pick food up at almost any time of day.
These were our highlights:
Mango sticky rice – this is found everywhere. Grab a pot and eat on the go.
Random street food – just go for it! We had a couple of ‘misses’, including a beef liver soup that even Tom and I (and we are pretty adventurous) couldn’t stomach. Everything else was amazing though! Pick the stalls with the biggest queues or the most delicious smells. Two of our favourites were grilled mini bananas with coconut caramel sauce and tiny pancakes filled with quails eggs, ham and chilli.
Pad See Ew – thick ribbon noodles with meaty sauce and Thai basil.
Lab Gai – minced pork or chicken with lots of shallots, Thai basil, chillies and fish sauce.
Where to stay
This really depends on your budget and what you want to do in the city. We went for an AirBnb out of the main tourist area, in Ratchada. This meant we spent a little more on Grab taxis to reach certain places but we saved a lot on food as we ate at local prices rather than inflated tourist prices. If you are coming for more than a few days, this is probably the best option. You get a real feel for what it is like actually living in Bangkok. We barely saw any tourists until we went into the main zones. If you are only doing a two or three day stopover, book somewhere near Khao San Road though, so you can hit all the main sights nice and easily.
Any other tips? Anything you think I should have included? Add them in the comments!