This was our third trip to Thailand, with this visit being centered on its vibrant capital, Bangkok! We spent a week in this amazing city, trying to soak up as much as possible, and while we couldn’t cover every bit that Bangkok had to offer, we still enjoyed what we saw.
On a side note, it’s too bad my last name isn’t Night. Then I could call this “One Night In Bangkok”. Like the song. Get it?
As with our last visit to Thailand when we went to Chiang Mai, we booked our trip to Bangkok over Christmas break. Bangkok’s average temperature is around 30 degrees C (or 85 F) all year round, but December is still, apparently the best time to visit as the temperatures are more bearable than the rest of the year. Go figure! Needless to say, considering Hong Kong was a chilly 12 degrees C (53 F) when we left, we were happy to go spend a week in some warmth!
Here is a map showing where Bangkok is relative to Hong Kong. It is an easy 3 hour flight away for us.
And here is another map that shows the general area that we stayed in Bangkok.
The city is quite large and there are many hotel and accommodation options. However, we found that staying in this central area near the Asok BTS light rail station and the underground Sukhumvit MRT station was optimal. There was plenty to see and many restaurant options within walking distance, and being near the train stations allowed us to get around easily. Traffic in Bangkok is utterly insane and if you can walk and take advantage of the trains, that is your best bet.
We stayed at the Royal President Hotel, located a quick 5 minute walk from the main Sukhumvit Road. We chose this hotel because of its central location in the heart of the tourist area of Bangkok, as well as its close proximity to the BTS light rail system. We used the light rail daily to get around to where we wanted to go, so being a 10 minute walk to the nearest station was a huge asset.
For $110USD/night, we got a family suite…two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room and kitchen! It was a great value for what we got, and we even had a washing machine in the room to do laundry. Included in our room rate was a great buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant every morning. It was definitely a great deal in a very comfortable hotel!
Boasting over 10,000 stalls (yes, that is the correct number of zeros!), this is the largest, and probably most famous market in Bangkok. You can easily access it by taking the BTS light rail to the Mo Chit station, and from there, all you need to do is follow the crowds because everyone is going to the same place!
It’s about a 5-10 minute walk to the market from the BTS station, and once you’ve arrived, be prepared to be immersed in a maze of stalls that sell just about everything you can think of!
The Chatuchak Market is known as a weekend market with the main hours being Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. However, I have also read that a number of stalls are open during the week. Whether or not this is true, I’m not sure since we went on a Sunday. And while the market was definitely crowded in certain areas (like the main entrance), it wasn’t packed solid throughout the entire area…thank goodness! Considering it was so hot outside, any space for air circulation was welcome!
The Chatuchak Market covers a massive area that incorporates open-air spaces as well as large interior covered areas with a maze of lanes. There are stalls selling typical touristy type things like Bangkok t-shirts, but there were also regular clothing stalls.
Then there were wallets, handbags, spices, ceramics, paintings, dishes, woven baskets, jewelry, decorative lights…and even air diffusers and paper and ribbon crafts! The range was impressive! We didn’t explore every single lane of the market because it was simply too big, but they just had so much stuff!
And don’t forget all the food! There were several food stalls scattered throughout the market, the main stalls being in this one large area that had a bunch of tables and plastic stools for makeshift dining areas. This was quite an experience and one that I describe in more detail in Where To Eat In Bangkok!
Chatuchak Market is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Bangkok. And if you happen to get caught up in all the items for sale and end up buying too much, DHL actually has a service stall/office there and they’ll take care of shipping your new buys back home for you!
Who’d a thought??
This a market is where locals go to get loads and loads of fresh ingredients for cooking their amazing Thai dishes. While this market is a little bit out of the way, it is still completely accessible by the BTS Light Rail system, with about a 10 minute walk from the Samrong station.
Once you make your way down to street level from the elevated walkway, you will enter a covered marketplace full…FULL of a vast variety of foods. From fresh fish and meats to fresh fruits and vegetables to dried seafood to preserved vegetables to fresh meats to eggs to herbs and spices to sauces…this place has it all! I took so many photos of all the food and I still couldn’t capture the extent to how much there was!
We went late morning and it wasn’t crowded at all. But from what I have read, this place is crowded and bustling first thing in the morning when everyone shows up to get the freshest of ingredients.
Besides all the raw ingredients for cooking, there is also a large section towards the back of the market where there are several stalls selling cooked food. We didn’t eat anything on this visit, but my oh my…there were so many things that looked and smelled so amazingly good! There were way too many foods available for me to get photos of everything! And like most street and market foods, everything was cheap!
In addition to all the food, there were also a few stalls selling household items. There were even a couple of stalls selling Christmas garland and balloons! I have to admit that was a very random sight!
We only visited the food section of the Samrong Market, but on the other side of the main road, there is another section that covers non-food items like clothing and housewares.
Not surprisingly, Bangkok has its own Chinatown, and it is best to visit the area at night when the energy and frenzy and liveliness is at its peak. This is Bangkok, afterall, where frenzy is second nature! So why not completely immerse yourself in it?!
Depending on how you get to the main strip of Yaowarat Road, you might get to see the main Chinatown Gate, which is quite an impressive marker to the area.
We actually didn’t come across the gate until we were leaving the area, and interestingly, there is not much activity around this grand and ornamental gateway. All the Chinatown action is actually happening several blocks away.
Once you get to the main section Chinatown, there will be no question that you have arrived at the right place. The best words I could come up with to describe the area was frenetic, crazy, and oh-my-goodness-me-madness! 😉
The main strip, Yaowarat Road is packed with cars and taxis and tuk tuks and motorbikes, all jockeying for the best position to progress down this road.
Add to that the masses of people walking down each side of the road, trying to see everything while not getting run over. It is, quite literally, insane.
As insane as this may sound, it is also an experience that you have to have at least once if you visit Bangkok. The energy in the area is unparalleled and there is simply so much going on, it is an odd sense of organized chaos. If anything, you might miss something because of all the activity because you don’t know where to focus your attention! There are the neon signs, many street vendors selling street food, streetside restaurants with tables spilling out onto the sidewalk…and don’t forget the traffic and noise.
We ate dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown and it was quite the experience, sitting at a table on the sidewalk as noisy cars and throngs of people passed by! I write about it in more detail in Where To Eat In Bangkok, so be sure to check that out!
If traveling by the train system, the closest station is the Hua Lamphong MRT stop. From there, you either have to walk about 15 minutes to get to the right area, or you can hire one of the many tuk tuks waiting right outside the train station. If you decide to walk, it’s good to make sure you have GPS on your phone so you can figure out how to navigate your way there as it’s not completely obvious.
One usually can’t talk about Bangkok and not talk about floating markets.
Our floating market was quite an experience. I originally wanted to go to Khlong Lat Mayon Floating Market that was one of the closest floating markets to Bangkok. I did not want to travel far, and I wanted to go to one that was less touristy. However, somehow in trying to arrange a ride to the market (none of them are easily accessed from any of the train or light rail stops), we got talked into going to the Damnoen Floating Market.
While the Damnoen Floating Market may be considered one of the most famous in Bangkok, it is also a 1.5 hour drive from the main city. It is also incredibly touristy and they really put on the pressure to sell you on the boat ride packages which we were not interested in.
Long story short, after a bit of rigamarolling, we got the driver to take us directly to the market area..this after he claimed that the market area was really far away. Perhaps it was after we said that we just wanted to go back to Bangkok that suddenly the floating market area became only 10 minutes down the road.
Anyway, this is something to keep in mind if you do make the trip out to one of these floating markets that are further out from Bangkok.
Once we got to the main market area where we wanted to go, we could see the boats in the floating market.
We could also see all the tourist boats making their way through the canal. While the boat tours looked like they might be interesting, we were glad we didn’t give in to paying for one!
You can buy food from the boats where old Thai women will cook up whatever dishes they are offering, and then you just sit on the side of the canal and eat. However, there are also a number of food stalls in the main area where you can sit at a table and they will serve you your meal.
We opted to do that, enjoying a variety of Thai dishes after wandering the markets a bit.
There’s no shortage of tourist things to buy, see, and do at the Damnoen Market. You can even have your photo taken with a giant snake (I think it might have been pythons?)!
Yes, those were real, and that is the handler hanging out with one of his pets. We opted not to try it out! 😉
Something I found surprising about Bangkok was all the big fancy malls they have. While there was the grittier street level experience with street vendors, street foods, traffic and noise, and sidewalks that can end without warning, there were these big shiny malls with popular and high-end shops and a great selection of dining options. It was a big juxtaposition that I can say I didn’t expect to see.
We only visited three malls while in Bangkok, and all of them were at BTS stops, so accessibility was incredibly easy. We mainly went to these malls to check out the food options (of course!), but I also knew that I could find popular mainstream shops such as H&M and Uniqlo if I really wanted to.
Terminal 21 is at the Asok BTS light rail station. The mall itself is designed like an airport or cruise terminal with different gates for each floor and each floor representing a different destination.
One interesting thing when we visited this mall was we had to walk through a metal detector when we entered the mall.
We thought it was part of the whole theme of the mall, but as we discovered upon visiting other malls in Bangkok, everyone has to walk through metal detectors!
Emquartier is another mall, even more impressive than Terminal 21 and located at the Phrom Phong BTS light rail stop. Besides being full of a wide spectrum of shops, they also have an extensive offering of dine-in restaurants in their Emquartier Helix building.
Another impressive mall is Siam Paragon at the Siam Square One BTS light rail stop. I didn’t get any photos of the interior, but it was another mall with floors and floors filled plenty of shopping and dining options.
There are other malls in the city where you can do some shopping, many of which also house grocery stores. Besides being a shopping or dining source, these malls are also great if you need a break from the heat!
If you’re interested in taking a day trip, you can hop a chartered bus to Pattaya City.
For about 108 Thai Baht ($3.40 USD) each way on an express chartered bus, you can get to Pattaya in a couple of hours.
Whereas Bangkok is inland, Pattaya is right along the coast, so you can go visit the beaches. While Pattaya does have a reputation for its night scene and go-go bars, you can still visit areas where you can avoid them if you want. We did go to have afternoon coffee and smoothies at a coffee shop near the infamous Beach Avenue, but we were well away from Walking Street at the southern end.
We spent one night in north Pattaya in an area called Na Kluea near Wongamat Beach. This neighborhood is home to several hotels and dine-in restaurants, and it also has easy access to the beach. It is a quieter, more family-friendly area than the hotels along Beach Avenue.
We actually enjoyed lovely meals at a few different restaurants while in Pattaya, and you can read about them in Where To Eat In Bangkok!
If you’re interested in this field trip, express buses leave from the bus terminal every 30 minutes and you buy your tickets when you get there.
Christmas in Bangkok
One last note about our trip to Bangkok: while we did not spend Christmas there, we were impressed by some of their Christmas displays. Considering Thailand is primarily Buddhist, several of the Christmas displays at malls and public areas really went all out! With giant Christmas trees, Christmas displays, Christmas music blaring outside, and Christmas-themed stage shows outside malls, it made us wonder, at times, if we were, indeed, in Thailand!
While it took us a while before we finally visited Bangkok, we were glad we finally made it! I have to admit that I had my reservations, based on things I’d seen on the web. But I’m happy I got to see it for myself and to see the amazing city that it is. It is an interesting and vibrant city where you’ve got the clean and shiny cosmopolitan side juxtaposed against the grittier and more cultural side. It is definitely worth visiting this amazing city and we are looking forward to visiting again so we can go see the things we’ve missed on this trip!
If you plan on visiting Bangkok, be sure to read my other post on Where To Eat In Bangkok!