Whenever people ask me about the best place to go to for a newbie traveler, my standard reply is this: Bangkok. It’s an inexpensive destination, easy to navigate and full of pleasant surprises – just the kind of stuff you need when you’re still dipping your travel toes wet. So I thought it’s best to kick off this series of posts with a travel guide on Bangkok: where to stay, what to do and where to eat in one of the most dynamic cities in Southeast Asia.
Check out Khao San Road if you’re in a budget. A note of warning though, this spot never slows down so you’re always in the middle of activity. The nearby neighbourhood of the Old Town also offers good options, so you’re still near the temples surrounding the area. I highly recommend Feung Nakorn with their top-notch service: a glass of orange juice upon arrival, a free map, daily free water and some tips on where to eat and where to go. It’s hidden in an alley but temples, tuktuks and even the Chao Phraya are all walking distance.
I’ve also tried the beautiful OneDay in Khlong Toei. It’s a hostel and co-working space in one, so this is perfect for digital nomads. I splurged during my stay earlier this year and got a private room – BEST DECISION EVER. The bed was so big and so soft, and I had a lot of space all to myself. Oh and the shared bathroom? It didn’t feel like shared at all because I never bumped into anyone during my two day stay. And while I didn’t try their dorm rooms, I did sneak a peek and yes, they come with a lot of character too.
I’ve also heard a lot of good feedback on the popular, multi-awarded Lub d hostels. They have two branches in the heart of the city and both are conveniently located near train stations, in Siam and Silom. I’m hoping to try one of them the next time I’m in town.
Learn more about Thai history and culture through the temples. I know a lot of people get templed out after awhile, so I’d say stick to the trio of Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Take note though that the Grand Palace is a series of temples within one compound, so it’s probably enough for some travellers. Don’t get swayed by tuktuk drivers saying it’s closed for some function or event – most of the time this is just a scam to get you to somewhere else. Walk straight to the entrance and see for yourself if the temple is really closed. Also remember to respect local customs and keep your shoulders and knees covered when visiting the temples.
For something more contemporary, check out the art in Bangkok Art and Culture Center. There’s no entrance fee and you can spend a whole afternoon exploring each floor. Some artists set up shop inside the building and you can even ask them to draw you for a small fee.
I have a soft spot for mango sticky rice and pad thai so if you’re looking for something quick and cheap to eat, these two should be your top two picks. They’re easily accessible in Bangkok with its numerous food streets. I’ve personally tried the stretch of Sukhumvit Soi 38 and it’s a great place to start! Just take note that cars and motorbikes also use the street, so be mindful of your belongings and where you’re walking.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, go to Thong Lo for Soul Food Mahanakorn. The tamarind ribs were perfectly tender, they were practically falling off the bone. Try their samosas and prawn satay too!
For comfort food, brunch favorites and an “Instagrammable” ambiance, I’d say go to Casa Lapin. They have several branches in the city, but the one I’ve tried is right next door to OneDay. They’re pretty generous with space and as long as you order something, they’ll let you hang out and do your thing.
Try the efficient commuting options: tuktuk, boat or train! My personal preference is hopping from one train line to another because it’s clean, fast and inexpensive. They’re also conveniently located so it makes sightseeing easy.
Want a crash course on what makes Bangkok tick? Khao San Road has it all: food, booze, shopping, backpackers. I’m one of the few who don’t understand the appeal, but it’s something you should do at least once, preferably at nighttime. After you get your fill, cross to Soi Rambuttri, where it’s quieter and more chill.
Go shopping at Chatuchak. Be there early since it’s open only on weekends and it gets packed by lunchtime. There’s a free map for visitors, but I didn’t get one when I went there. It’s a little useless really, because the place is one huge maze of shopping stalls! Most people pick the clock tower as their reference point, what my friend and I did was pick one of the gates. I can’t point you to my favorite stall but do keep your eyes peeled out for man with a moustache selling band shirts in a small, quiet alley. I remember having a good time shopping for shirts while he played Arctic Monkeys’ She’s Thunderstorms.