I’ve long heard of Bangkok but wasn’t really sure when I would end up there myself. When my partner and I decided to take a leap of faith and coordinate a 1-month journey throughout Thailand – the vision became a reality.
Notorious for it’s feature in movies such as the Hangover 2, Bangkok has a reputation of crazy night life, chaos, and even crime. In reality, nearly any place has those aspects of life.. especially if you go looking for them. What we experienced however was far from that widespread perception that movies and TV shows depict.
What you focus on expands, and what we chose to focus on were historical sites and good food.
The Floating Market
We started our day off at one of the many floating markets, Khlong Lat Mayom, which was my favorite part of the activity-packed day! We had read about this supposed non-touristy market where mainly locals go and we’re glad we did. (Note - this is only open on the weekends)
The abundance of fruits, food, and more was a party for the senses. I was elated to find durian, one of my favorite fruits for its cancer fighting properties and other benefits! Normally very pricey in the states, I enjoyed a large chunk for 100 baht ($3 US dollars).
The fruit indulgence didn’t end there – dragon fruit, another normally pricey favorite, was only 50 baht (about $1.50 US). Basically, I found fruit heaven!
We walked around and observed the environment – soaking in the Thai culture and energy.
The floating market seemed to be a popular place for families to come and enjoy the day. A lot of people bought bread and other foods to feed the fish which made for an entertaining feeding frenzy.
Of course, we had to get on to the “floating” part of the market so we hired a long tail boat for 150 baht/pp ($4). It took us not only along the market, but through the floating village as well where we received a glance of how people live along the river. The ride lasted a little more than 30 minutes and took us further than we expected – very much worth it in our opinion.
We had originally planned to see two floating markets that day but we enjoyed ourselves so much at this first one that we ended up just spending all the time there until our next destination.
The Grand Palace
A trip to Bangkok is not complete without a visit to the Grand Palace. It certainly lives up to its name, with awe-inspiring architecture and divine craftsmanship. Pictures really don't do it justice.
Although the name gives off the idea of being one large building, the Grand Palace is in fact a collection of buildings along the highly visited property so make sure that you allow yourself enough time to fully explore. I’d recommend at least 2 hours. We didn’t get a guide but my thought would be that it’s probably worth it. (Note: Entrance fee is 500 baht ($15 US) and can only be paid in cash.) Once we were inside we were almost overwhelmed by how much there was to see.
We set our focus towards the Emerald Buddha, where pictures aren’t aloud but it’s truly a site to see. It is a statue of the meditating Buddha seated in a yogic posture, made of a semi-precious green stone, clothed in gold.
By the time we arrived here, it was about 2PM, very hot – and after recording video and taking pictures, we realized it was nearly 4PM and time for us to head over to the site of the Reclining Buddha before it closes at 5PM.
Note: Proper dress code is strictly enforced at the temples for women AND men. Your shoulders, knees, and ankles must be covered out of respect. If you’re not wearing the proper attire at the time, I wouldn’t worry too much as there are many stores outside of and within The Grand Palace that sell long pants / skirts for only 100 baht ($3). They had a light feel which makes them much more comfortable to be wearing in the heat rather than jeans or even yoga pants.
Pronounced Wat Po – This temple is the site of the famous Reclining Buddha. It felt like a dream come true to see this in person! Costing only 100 baht to visit, this is worth every penny and only just down the street from The Grand Palace so don’t miss out!
From there, we rushed back to our hotel to take quick showers and attempt to catch the sunset from a rooftop in Bangkok. We chose Octave, a lounge on the 45th floor within the Marriot. The rooftop view is 3 stories and offers a 360° view of Bangkok. Although it was a cloudy day and we didn’t quite make it in time for the sunset, we loved it nonetheless! Definitely make it to one of the rooftops to see the city light up at night.
While yes, the roads are busy, that only makes sense considering Bangkok is one of the most populated cities in the world and amplified by foreign travelers. Aside from that though, we didn’t find it to be anything beyond the ordinary.
Where to Eat
For those who don’t know, I live a vegan lifestyle and my partner is vegetarian so we do specifically search out restaurants that cater to our demographic. Please keep in mind though that the places I’m about to recommend can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. If you don’t believe me – just check their reviews ;).
On our first day we visited Suananda which is also a yoga studio and ayurvedic center. Out of all the places we ate, this was my favorite!
We ordered spicy mushroom soup, green curry, the falafel salad, and pad thai – all of which were delicious!! For dessert, we topped it off with carrot cake and savored every bite. You could really taste the freshness of all the plates and although we left full, it wasn’t the type of full that leaves you ready for a food coma like other foods do.
The next day we enjoyed breakfast at the Floating Market (a mix of fruits) and then ventured over to Mango by The Grand Palace for lunch. The inside is quaint and the portions are large!
They have a massive menu so everyone is sure to be satisfied. The first thing that caught our eyes was their Kombucha selection! We ordered ginger and lemongrass to which a generous amount of each is served. No exaggeration when I say the ginger kombucha was the best I’ve ever tasted! For anyone who loves the kick – don’t miss this.
Underestimating the portion sizes, we over-ordered a tempeh burger, more curry, and pad thai. (If you’re noticing a pad thai pattern – that’s alll my partner Giancarlo who is a fiend determined to try pad thai at every restaurant we visit). Seriously, order one thing here at a time and take it from there haha.
Next meal was dinner, and since our night started at Octave we enjoyed a drink here first. Giancarlo ordered the mojito and I order a non-alcoholic Rose beverage that was super tasty! PS: If you get there between 5-7 it’s happy hour which means 50% off the drinks.. You’re welcome ;p
For dinner we found ourselves at the highly recommended May Veggie which prides itself on being a place for even meat lovers. In that sense, it did not disappoint. It has a wide selection of vegan fish, chicken, and even bacon.
We ordered the fresh spring rolls (raw vegan) which were great, and a spicy mushroom soup which honestly we couldn’t finish because it was crazy spicy – so consider yourself warned! Aside from those appetizers, Giancarlo ordered item A21 (lol) - Soft Tofu Meat Stir Fried with Black Pepper which he says had the texture and taste of meat. (Further evidence that an innocent animal doesn’t need to die in order for people to still enjoy their favorite flavors.)
I kept it simple with A48 (these references are cracking me up – but it’s what’s on the menu) Minced Tofu Stir Fried with Basil Leave. And just to give you an idea on cost – my dinner only cost me $4 US. Let’s just say we’re eating realll good around here ;p stay tuned for more restaurant recommendations!
Where to Stay
After 26+ hours of traveling across the globe from Florida – we were happy to have a hotel close to the airport. Great Residence Inn, was honestly far from living up to its name, but it sufficed for the night. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything beyond that. The room had mosquitos flying around, there was no shower curtain or anything to divide it as a shower as it was basically just a high faucet next to the toilet. I wrote more in length about it on TripAdvisor, but in summary – I wouldn’t recommend. The next morning we woke up and Giancarlo found iCheck Inn which felt like a tremendous upgrade! It was only $9 more than Great Residence and was like your own apartment with a shower door AND get this - a bathtub! Also, much safer setting with security on the grounds. We highly recommend!
It wasn’t necessarily in the center of the city, but a taxi never cost us more than $3 to get around.
How to Get Around
Bringing me to the next topic. When researching and preparing for this trip – there really wasn’t a clear consensus on the best way to get around. Some people spoke of buses – but we rarely saw them or information on how to get to them. We experimented with Uber which can be a good way to go if you don’t want to spend cash on a ride but we found that it charges nearly double what a taxi would cost.
Taxis in Thailand are insanely cheap! The meter starts at 35 baht (which is about .50 I think) and then goes up only 2 baht per km. Basically, a 30 minute taxi ride cost us an average of 160 baht (about $4 so we usually left a tip wondering how this is even a profitable business and how much the drivers themselves must get paid).
Kind of off topic – but I really feel that when traveling to another country, you should try to leave it in better condition than when you arrived and that includes helping to support the people who live there. We are so blessed to be able to travel to the other side of the world. Yes, I’m on a budget – but at the same time, the last thing I want to do while I’m here is short-change the locals who are trying to supply for their family.
Back to this main topic though, while most taxi drivers are hard working honest folks, there are some who may try to get one over on tourists. The best way to avoid this is when telling a taxi where you need to go, say meter to ensure they turn it on. If they refuse to use it, it’s often because they want to charge you more than what you would be paying for the ride. If they charge more than 200 baht to go somewhere within 30 minutes, don’t take that ride. Some drivers tried to charge us 500 baht ($15 dollars which is really pricey given Thailand prices). I’d rather use my money to go with a meter taxi and leave them a tip. OR maybe you find a taxi that will agree to a price that you know you’d be paying anyways, but doesn’t use the meter. In this case, as long as the price is fair – I’d say go for it. They probably just need the extra money for themselves. We’ve all been there.
Another option is Tuk-Tuks. Without A/C this should generally cost you less than an actual taxi.
Somewhat embarrassing but also comical is the story of our first (and so far only) Tuk Tuk ride. We had just left from having lunch at Mango nearby the Grand Palace and were excited to take a chance on a Tuk Tuk. The driver said 100 baht to the Grand Palace and we agreed but in retrospect, this is pretty high for what should’ve been just a 10 minute ride. Not to mention, when we got out we realized the driver brought us to the wrong place! We laughed as we realized he brought us to a museum that he probably receives a commission for.
We were so caught in the moment of being in a Tuk Tuk that we didn’t pay attention to where we were actually going – a lesson learned.
Tip of advice – when you’re in wifi, pull up where you need to go in Google maps. Most of the time it’ll stay active even once you’ve left the wifi area. This way, you can see which way you should be going and be sure that a driver isn’t taking you elsewhere. Just note that sometimes Google maps pulls up toll roads which a taxi generally won’t take because it cuts out of their profit so be aware of the alternative routes which are more likely.
All in all, we enjoyed our time in Bangkok and were happy to be able to experience the ups and downs of the city.
On our last day, we took a morning flight to Chiang Mai where we’re spending 5 days.
More to come on this Thailand adventure! Thanks for reading and being a part of the journey..