Why I Love Bangkok Posted by sasha on May 21, 2015 in Uncategorized
When I first visited Bangkok back in 2011, the city didn’t exactly give me a great first impression. From haggling with rude cab drivers, to being stuck in awful traffic, to dealing with hawks and touts, I couldn’t wait to get out of the Thai capital and head south to the islands. Since then I’ve been back to Bangkok four times, and with each subsequent visit I’ve grown to love the city more and more. In fact, it’s a strong contender for my favorite Asian city, and I’ve been to lots of them – Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, and more.
If you’re like me and had a rough first trip to Bangkok, consider revisiting this city to give it another shot. One thing that helped us enjoy our more recent trips there much more was staying for a week at a time and renting an apartment on Air BNB. This is cheaper than a hotel and on par with hostel prices, but it gives you much more of a local experience. Plus, most apartment complexes in Bangkok have a pool and/or gym, meaning you can work off all that food and booze from the night before and then lounge by the pool before heading out to explore.
Once you’ve got a place to stay lined up, get ready to explore the five aspects of BKK that have made me fall in love with the city:
Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time traveling around Southeast Asia eventually succumbs to a bit of temple fatigue; after a while, they all just start to look the same. There are over 400 temples (called wat (วัด) in Thai) in Bangkok, which should come as no surprise in the capital city of a country that’s 95% Buddhist. The grandest and most famous temple is without a doubt the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว). Other notable temples include Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์) – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun (วัดอรุณ) – the Temple of Dawn. Even if you’re sick of temples, you’ve got to set aside at least one day for taking in the main ones.
I hate shopping. Just ask my fiancée and she’ll tell you how miserable of a human being I am to visit a mall with. That’s probably why I’m wearing the same t-shirts I bought in college and the same backpack I first brought to Thailand in 2011. For some reason, though, I love taking in the markets of Bangkok. Although insanely crowded, a stroll around the Chatuchak (จตุจักร) Weekend Market is incredibly entertaining. You’ll find all sorts of quirky items for sale, it’s great for people watching, and there’s tons of vendors selling snacks and drinks. For a less touristy market experience, head to the Ramkhamhaeng Night Market, located right below the train station by the same name. I just so happened to be staying near here on my last trip, and I loved getting off the train, grabbing some kebabs and a beer, and checking out the makeshift shops set up out of old VW vans.
Although Bangkok is notorious for its raunchier side that comes out at night, the city is also rich in culture that’s more PG rated. You could easily spend half a day exploring the National Museum, which gives free tours in English, German, French, and Japanese. Other museums worth checking out are the Jim Thompson House and the Kamthieng House Museum. You can also experience Thai culture just by taking a stroll in the park, where people gather to do exercise, fly kites, or just hang out. Make sure you’re there at 6 PM, and you’ll see another unique aspect of Thai culture. If you still need more culture in your life, catch a performance of the excellent Siam Niramit show.
Whether you’re into dingy street food stalls or high-end restaurants, you won’t go hungry in Bangkok. One of my favorite things to do there is try new places to eat, whether they be a famous hole-in-the-wall pad Thai joint or a popular new restaurant. For one day of epic eating in Bangkok, I recommend finding a super local market for lunch, where you can fill up for $1-2 on authentic Thai food. You know it’s authentic by the hordes of office workers eating there on break. In the evening, head to Eathai – quite possibly the best food court ever. Here you can munch on real deal Thai cuisine from all over the country sold from street carts in the basement of one of the city’s trendiest shopping malls. It’s all the good aspects of street food minus the rats and stifling heat!
When it comes to nightlife options, Bangkok is very much your oyster. Stay in the city for a few nights and you can explore the many sides of Bangkok after dark. From the backpacking debauchery of Khao Son Road, to the expat hangout bars on Soi 11, to craft beer joints like Beervana, to the infamous go-go bar districts with their ping-pong shows, night owls will absolutely love Bangkok. You never know what’s going to happen on a night out in BKK – last time I was there, I found out that a world-famous DJ was giving a show in a tiny bar on a Wednesday night. These kinds of things just happen in Bangkok.
In the weeks to come, we’ll dive more into all of these aspects of Bangkok, exploring some of the city’s best temples, markets, nightlife hotspots, and more. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the Thai capital:
Have you been to Bangkok?
What are your thoughts on the city?
What do you love/hate about it?
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