One night in Bangkok…(due to a missed layover) was all we had in this city of 6.4 million people! Can I complain? Not too much, seeing that a night in Beijing landed us a few solid hours hiking the Great Wall of China on our 1 year wedding anniversary…could I have planned it any better? Nope!
After much research on “to stay in Bangkok” or “to not stay in Bangkok”…we decided to give this city its fair shot and we were glad that we did!
Most of the temples and sites that we wanted to see were either within or in close proximity to the old town. We opted to stay at the boutique Phranakorn-Nornlen hotel which has a family run feel to it. Taxis (read tuk tuks) didn’t always seem to know where this hidden gem was as it’s not in a tourist area and to be frank, my husband and I looked at each other with wide eyes when we pulled onto the tiny street that the hotel was located…our fears were quickly squashed when the staff came out to greet us (at the awful midnight hour) and help us find our room. The open air common area is very cute with lots of attention to detail and while a bit hot due to the climate; the individual rooms are air conditioned and very comfortable. Breakfast is provided with the room cost and delicious, plus you receive a free drink ticket to be used when desired. The hotel also offers a cooking class during specific days of the week and also $10 hour-long massages…but do make an appointment!
Things to do
To officially kick off our Thai holiday, we opted for a Thai cooking class so that we could learn about the different Thai varieties so that we weren’t completely lost and stumbling across menus. The cooking class we opted for is from the Silom Thai Cooking School. Our teacher took us to the local food market to pick out our food and learn about the various vegetation that is indigenous to Thailand. Then, we were escorted back to the school where we learned to make 5 different thai dishes: Pad Thai, Laab (larb), massaman curry, Tom Kha Gui soup, and mango sticky rice. We even made our own coconut milk for the soup! I don’t know if it was because it was our first official Thai meal but my husband and I raved the entire trip that this meal was definitely our favorite of the whole two week vacay across Thailand! We weren’t the only one who enjoyed it, a couple we met was visiting their son who worked for the American Embassy. They had indicated he had been to this particular school three times already and was then sending his parents.
For our one year anniversary, my husband and I had planned to celebrate at Asia’s #1 restaurant and ranked #13 in the world (according to some important list, I’m sure), Nahm. I’m not kidding when I say, I had made reservations nearly 8 months in advance! Due to our bout in Bejing, we sadly were unable to make that reservation. However, close friends of ours also planned to visit Nahm a week later and described it as epic. Expect to spend $30-$40 per person (quite expensive by Thai standards…on par for New York City standards)…and I mean…it’s Asia’s #1 restaurant!
Street food is not to be shunned! For an afternoon snack or meal on-the-go, don’t fear…the Thai people have mastered the art of street food. It’s delcious and CHEAP!
For about $0.50, pick up a fresh coconut with the tops lobbed off in front of you for a thirst quencher! The coconut water is luxurious in the Thai heat and an added bonus: getting to eat the coconut meat right off the coconut!
Most people will visit the Thai beaches and leave minimal time to the major cities so I would suggest to hit up the temples in Bangkok as they’re so close in proximity and very convenient to each other. Keep in mind that temples are to be respected and require men and women to cover their knees and women to cover their shoulders. When entering temples, you are also required to remove your shoes….so pack and plan accordingly. I found easy to slip on shoes along with a floor length light weight skirt and light weight capped-sleeve shirt or a maxi dress with a cardigan to stow in your purse worked best.
Grand Palace is not to be missed. Period. The decadence of palace built in 1782 makes even the European classics look drab. The Wat Phrae Kaeo is home to the famous Emerald Buddha that is arguably the most famous Buddha in all of Thailand. The long ear lobes signify a noble birth and the lotus-bud positioning of the hands symbolizes purity and beauty. In the same area, you will find Wat Pho, home to the famous reclining Buddha.
Across the river is where you’ll find Wat Arun which dates back to the battles between Siam and Burma. After Ayuttaya had fallen to the Burmese, General Taksin and the remaining survivors vowed to march “until the sun rose again” and to build a temple there. Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, was that temple. The treat of watching the sunset over the Chao Praya River from the top of the prang must be magical.
Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha) is home to a 11.5ft (3.5m) Buddha made of solid gold (5.5 tons) that was only discovered in the 1950’s after a plastered Buddha was left out in the rain during relocation. The following morning, Monks walked past noticing a glimmer of gold shining through the plaster. It is still unknown how old the Buddha is or how it even arrived in Bangkok.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest and most ornate temples in Bangkok. Three kings had their hand in the construction of this temple beginning with Rama I in 1782, followed by Rama II and Rama III.
The Talin Chan or Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was high on my to-do list. Sadly, time did not permit. Bangkok has been known as the Venice of the East due to the popularity of floating markets in the canals. As a result, the floating markets have unfortunately become a bit of a tourist trap so keep in mind that while you may pick up some fresh tasty treats, it won’t be an exclusive shopping day by boat that one can dream of.
For some American history in Bangkok, check out the Jim Thomson House. Jim Thomson was a self-made entrepreneur who settled in Thailand after spending time there around the end of WWII. He spearheaded the silk industry for Thailand and was highly regarded….by everyone except who may be responsible for his disappearance in the jungle. His body was never found and his home has since been turned into a museum. If you’re not up for the museum, you can still purchase his fine Thai silks… at American prices.
Thoughts to go
Be prepared to bargain – It feels like stealing but vendors are notorious for up charging…begin low and after some negotiations, you’ll end up at a fair price.
Watch out for taxi scammers – Negotiate a fee up front or insist they turn on the meters. We liked to use our hotel to negotiate a fair price for us prior to making the trip.
Be specific with your taxi or Tuk Tuk – If you tell them that you want to go shopping, they may only take you to places where they are receiving kickbacks. Many tour guides soliciting tours off the street are known for this tactic as well.
Buddhist people tend to focus on their contributions in the current life so that they can reap rewards in the afterlife. For this reason, you rarely will see Thai people getting upset or committing acts of crime. The Thai people are happy to see tourism boom and we found customer service to be superb and friendliness, abundant.