Bangkok, Thailand is the capital city of Thailand. With an area population of over 14 million people, the best way to enjoy this city is to roll with it. Don't fight the crowds and instead enjoy the sensory overload of new sounds, spices, and wall-to-wall people. Our single biggest tip is to spend the money on a private tour guide. Our guide and car (with air-conditioning), navigated this bustling city with swift expertise. On our own, it would have been stressful and time consuming. Joy, our guide, also helped us select the best street food (a Bangkok must-do experience), zip through busy markets, and was a wealth of knowledge of the city's history. Tips: bring shawls and longer skirts for women and easy slip on shoes to visit temples; day pack for extra water for humidity; imodium (can happen even when you're careful); and take caution in eating fresh fruit or produce.
Wat Pho; Reclining Buddha: One of the oldest temples in Bangkok. In addition to the beautiful grounds, where you may run into a large group of domestic cats lounging in the middle of the tourists, you will find the impressive Reclining Buddha. Be prepared to be dwarfed by this 15m high and 46m-long statue.
Wat Arun: This temple, known as "Temple of the Dawn," is made of porcelain pieces. Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, Wat Arun must be viewed at night (see photo above) and during the day to really appreciate it's unique beauty.
Canal tour: It is hard to appreciate just how many canals criss-cross Bangkok unless you take a canal tour. Sit back, enjoy the breeze, and take a break from the crowded streets.
Royal Grand Palace; Royal Temple: Built in 1782, this large complex of buildings contains museums, temples, and amazing architecture. Audio-guides are available but we found this to be another essential spot for a private, knowledgeable tour guide. Dress codes are strictly enforced here. Tip: There's an air-conditioned textile museum that provides a respite from the heat but also interesting textiles.
Wat Traimit; Golden Buddha: This temple houses a 3-m high solid gold buddha.
Pahurat Market (Little India); China Town: A wild sensory experience, these bustling markets will take you out of your comfort zone if you do not like crowds. Even so, this one-of-a-kind experience is unforgettable. Enjoy the exotic street food and endless shopping stalls as streams of people make their way through these markets.
Maeklong Railway Market: We'll admit that iconic railway market, founded in 1901, is a bit overrun by tourists. That being said, it's still an interesting sight to see a train literally roll through the market and much of the market itself is still authentically local.
Damnern Saduak Floating Market: This again is filled with tourists and probably because it is designated by the government to be a tourist attraction, it has a whole lot of overpriced goods. Even so, it was still fun to float in our boat and people watch. The boat ride also includes a trip through some of the extended canals beyond the bustling market. One market booth outside of the boat area had a wonderful local artist who sold us a small painting that now hangs in our living-room.
Ayutthaya Historical Park; Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit; Wat Mahathat: The oldest and longest capital city of Thailand is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A knowledgeable tour guide will help you appreciate these well-intact ruins, especially if you love history. Our guide also brought sun umbrellas which turned out a lifesaver as there is virtually no shade here.
Where We Stayed
Air BnB Listing: We stayed in a modest 2 bedroom AirBnB. Photos on the right are taken from our apartment, show the unique neighborhood -old buildings, new skyscrapers, temples in-between. $242 for three nights for the 4 of us. This apartment was clean and had what we needed but would not have worked if we intended on cooking like we normally do. Unlike other stops, we knew we would be primarily eating street food. With the packed itinerary too, we also knew that we would have little downtime here. This clean placed was safe and adequate for our needs.
Where We Ate
Street Food: A trip to Bangkok would not be complete or authentic without experiencing the street food. Our tour guide helped us select safe bets and we skipped anything raw. If you don't like spicy food or you're wary of street food in general, try things like fried bananas (pictured here), coconut pancakes, and other similar deserts.
Restaurants: With all the street vendors, we only ate a few times in restaurants and for convenience only. One place we stumbled upon on our last evening in Bangkok was Bkk Bistro Bar, which is owned by a chatty ex-Pat. After three days of Thai food, the kids welcomed the American options and friendly ambiance. The prior night we ate at Kurissara, near our Air BnB. It was fairly good but mostly convenient.