Starting my adventure in Thailand, I landed at the Bangkok International Airport, where my boyfriend was waiting for me and off we went to look for our lodging (by taxi).
I had pre-booked an amazing looking guesthouse in a more quiet part of the city. It was in a less touristy area, which is what I usually look for. Seeing the local community and how they interact and go about their daily lives is the best part of travelling, so I thought I would go for something more authentic for my few first days in the country. After a lot of online searches, I found a gorgeous place called the Siamotif Boutique Hotel – away from the chaos and hustle and bustle of the city, right by the Chao Phraya River. Intimate is one word to describe this little gem of a hotel. There are only about nine rooms in total. The staff there were extremely hospitable and friendly, breakfast was a divine affair, and there were even free bikes we could use to cycle around the city (be cautious – Bangkok doesn’t boast the safest road structure or drivers – I’m being kind when I say this!)
Photos Courtesy of Siamotif.com
The place was extremely clean and we had a lovely little room with a loft double bed (yes, you have to climb a ladder to get into the bed!!), and a gorgeous private balcony with bean bag seating – perfect for enjoying hot Bangkok evenings. It was love at first sight <3. Getting there is a bit of a hassle, it’s not as easy a location to find, especially the first time around, but it was worth it.
We were going to spend the next couple of days in Bangkok, so I wanted to make sure we’d get to see all the major attractions (or most of them anyway), before travelling onwards to Chiang Mai. Here’s a list of places you HAVE to see when in the area:
- The Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha Temple – “A FEAST FOR THE EYES!!!”. Absolutely and immeasurably beautiful. The kaleidoscope of colours and all that gold, the intricacies of the design along the palaces walls, all those beautiful, shimmering gems adorning the buildings, structures and statues!!! You cannot go to Bangkok and not visit the Grand Palace, it would be absolute blasphemy. This complex of buildings at the heart of the city has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782.
It has a combined area of 218,400 square metres (2,351,000 sq ft), surrounded by four walls, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island. The Grand Palace is not a single structure, but is actually made up of numerous buildings, halls and pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. It as a particular asymmetry and eclectic style created through time, due to its organic development, with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years! It’s divided into a series of quarters, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; the Outer Court, with many public buildings; the Middle Court, including the Phra Maha Monthien Buildings, the Phra Maha Prasat Buildings and the Chakri Maha Prasat Buildings; the Inner Court and the Siwalai Gardens quarter. The Grand Palace is only partially open to the public as a museum, but it remains a working palace, with several royal offices still situated inside. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (which is not really a temple at all, but in fact a chapel – it has no living quarters for monks), houses a beautiful emerald coloured Buddha statue sitthing high up on an altar of gold, designed to represent the traditional aerial chariot attributed to Hindu gods. The Buddha, although named “Emerald” Buddha, is in fact carved out of a solid block of Jade. You can’t take photos of the Buddha as taking photos within the temple is prohibited – but it is so beautiful, you just have to sit there for a couple of minutes (and then some) to take it all in! Remember to take your shoes off when entering temples!
Admission to the Grand Palace costs 500BHT per person. The place is open daily from 8:30AM until 4:30PM. There is a dress code so you must not wear revealing clothing – I wore a light pair of harem pants and a t-shirt and I was fine. They don’t like people wearing flip flops either, so it would be best to visit wearing closed sandals or closed shoes.
- Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) – Another must do for a first time visitor in Bangkok is the Wat Pho. Located just behind the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple (about ten minutes away by walk), this complex is one of the largest in the city and is famous for its GIANT reclining Buddha which measures an astonishing 46 meters and is covered in gold leaf!
It also houses the largest collection of Buddha images in all of Thailand and is the country’s earliest centre of education! The temple compound itself is in fact the national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, including of course, the famous Thai massage. You can actually book a massage session on your visit! There are two massage pavilions located within the temple area as well as some separate rooms outside the complex. I did not have an opportunity to get this experience, although I would definitely go for it should I visit Bangkok again!
The temple complex itself is just a work of art, and strolling through the 8 hectares of the grounds is a peaceful and serene experience! We visited at around 4:30PM and stayed till closing time. There were much less crowds than in the Grand Palace and it was a perfect end to a day of hectic sight seeing around the city!
A very special moment for me was seeing the monks praying within the temple. We were actually allowed to go watch the ceremony and it was a very moving and spiritual experience and I truly felt honoured to be present at the time.
Entrance to the Wat Pho costs 100BHT per person and admission is between 8:30AM -6:30PM. Remember, same rules as Grand Palace apply regarding clothing! You mustn’t wear anything too revealing! Also, shoes have to be removed when entering sacred areas of the complex.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) – Unfortunately, during my visit, this beautiful structure was being restored, so it was mostly covered in scaffolding and not open to the public. Called Wat Chaeng by the locals, this impressive temple is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Given the architecture, as well as the fine craftsmanship of the Wat Arun, it’s not surprising that it is considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand! It has a tower measuring 70 meters in height is shimmers in the sunlight as it is decorated from top to bottom by beautiful, tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain. My suggestion would be to visit this temple in the afternoon – stay as long as you can, you should be able to climb the central prang of the building. The climb is steep, but the views are worth it from what I hear – you should be able to see a bird’s eye view of the winding Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Entrance is between 8:30AM – 5:30PM.
My advice is, go to the Wat Arun temple during the late afternoon – leave the place at closing time, then head towards the other side of the river (there’s a water taxi service which is only 3 BHT per person!!) and have dinner with the best view in Bangkok! I had dinner at The Deck – directly opposite to the temple. It was a gorgeous evening and it was so much fun watching (and hearing) the gaudy, showy party ferries passing by on the river, while having dinner and a nice glass of refreshing Sangria. 🙂 Make a reservation in advance if you’re having dinner there and remember to ask for the best table in the place, on the terrace right above the river!
Khao San Road – if you love street markets, this is THE place to visit! A dazzling display of colours and lights, cheap (and not so cheap) keepsakes, and delicious, deeeeelicious STREET FOOD (there’s also the disgusting, “too crunchy”, cricket and cockroachy variety – try them out of you dare – I didn’t)! Khao San Road epitomises the meaning of Bangkok for most travellers!!! Noisy, fun and full of eclectic treasures, this place is a must visit, especially on a warm night. Strolling through this road whilst sipping on a cheap cocktail bought from a (very cool) converted VW van, is such a treat! Sorry, don’t have any photos of the place, I was too busy staring, eating and drinking lol. But here are some photos I got off the good ole’ internet!
Chao Phraya River Cruise – taking a cruise along the river is a relaxing experience where you get a chance to see the hustle and bustle of the hectic, crowded city of Bangkok from completely different perspective. It’s a fun way to spend a chilled out afternoon, sipping on a cool drink whilst lounging and enjoying the city views and seeing the main sites from a different, more watery perspective ;). We took a river cruise from Ayutthaya city (which I will mention later on), down to Bangkok. It was about an hour long and was a great alternative to taking the bus or a taxi back to the city! Try it out! Most cruises have lunch or dinner included in their package, as well as a drink or two! There are some groovy dinner cruises available for you “night owl” travellers, so if you’re into cheesy 90s tunes and looking for a good meal, you’re in for a bright neon lit treat!! Check out the photo below to see what I mean… 😉
Ayutthaya Kingdom – Although not within Bangkok, the old capital city of Siam, Ayutthaya is definitely worth a detour whilst in the city. Situated 85km north of Bangkok, there are various ways to get to Ayutthaya. We had decided it would be best to book a day tour with Viator.com which included a visit to the King’s summer residence – the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. King Prasat Thong originally constructed the complex in 1632 but it fell into disuse and became overgrown in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, until King Mongkut began to restore the site in the mid-19th century. Most of the present buildings were constructed between 1872 and 1889. Watch out for the really, really cool Asian Monitors in the artificial pond on the palace grounds! They’re huge!!! Measuring about 5 feet, these beautiful lizards can easily be seen swimming or just chillin’ on the lawns around the water. ❤ An American tourist was kind enough to point out to us, that this “KOMODO DRAGON” actually grows up to ten times the size of the ones in the palace!!! I guess that’s where Godzilla comes from right?? 😀 😀
After this came the highlight of the tour – the Ayutthaya ruins! Absolutely magnificent to see and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 13, 1991, this place is just theming with various archeological gems. As the temples with entry charges are in ruins there is no dress code, although visitors are still advised against doing anything disrespectful or blatantly stupid, like jumping on or climbing any of the Buddha statues (yes it’s been done – yes you will be hated by the locals – NO, I haven’t done it!). The working temples tend to charge no fees and there are often no officials to check that a dress is appropriate, although it would be more respectful to follow the dress codes of course. Make sure to have a look at one of the ruins most famous attractions – the Buddha head in a tree!!! This is where I experienced my first Coconut Water drink. I loved it! Refreshing and sweet! 😀
So that’s basically it for Bangkok, or at least what I saw while I was there. There are loads of other places of visit of course – the Floating Markets, a multitude of Wats and Soi Cowboy, the Thai version of a Red Light District. You should always see what your priorities are when visiting a new place, depending on what you’re most interested in seeing or experiencing, of course. I was quite pleased with what I managed to see, but I would definitely have spent a couple of more days in Bangkok had I had the option.
Next I’ll be going through what I did in Chiang Mai….
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