My husband Erik and I's first stop in Thailand was Bangkok! And despite being told numerous times that Bangkok was “just another big city”, we were completely surprised with how magical, busy, hectic, and exciting the city was to us (especially after having lived in Maui for the past year and a half).
Things we did in Bangkok:
We were only there for about 4 days, and considering we were pretty jet lagged with the 12 hour time difference, we were actually able to do (almost) everything we had planned!
Wat Pho temple
A buddhist temple (also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) that houses one of the world's largest buddha statues. It is located in the Phra Nakhon District of Bangkok and was only a few dollar Uber ride from our apartment.
Things to note about Wat Pho(and really any temple in Bangkok or elsewhere in SE Asia):
- Bring a jacket or scarf to cover your arms, they will not let you in to see the buddha if your shoulders aren’t covered
- Cost: $100 baht to get in (around $3 US)
- Taxi drivers outside most temples will tell you that the temple is full and they aren’t letting anyone else in - as a way to try to get business from you and take you somewhere else. Just say thanks or Kob khun kha and go in anyways
Obviously there are tons of other temples in Bangkok but without much time, we just picked the one we wanted to see the most and called it good
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the famous backpacker road in Central Bangkok. This is a MUST see/do in my opinion because it is so quintessentially Bangkok, although it was much shorter than I had expected. It is a crazy street filled with authentic Thai street food, vendors, restaurants serving “buckets” i.e. literally a bucket of alcohol + a mixer, henna shops, tattoo parlors, and dried scorpions on sticks for tourists to try (Erik even ate one - vlog footage to come😂)
There are a handful of malls in Bangkok, but the two that we visited were MBK and Terminal 21. Both MBK and Terminal 21 are definitely worth checking out, but Terminal 21 was my favorite because each floor is themed after a different city. Plus it has AMAZING food with tons of different options and price points.
$10 massages are literally EVERYWHERE in Thailand, including Bangkok. Just walk down any street and you’ll have tons of options to choose from. This was one of my favorite parts of the city. But beware, traditional Thai massages don’t usually include oil, and instead include a combination of stretching, rocking, and the occasional back cracking which I totally was not aware of. Don't get me wrong though, it was still amazing (especially for $10). Plus, if you want oil you’ll usually just have to pay about 50-100 baht more (about 2-3 USD)
The Sky Bar(s)
There are a few different sky bars in Bangkok with EPIC views of the city. The Red Sky Bar in Bangkok, and the one where the Hangover II was filmed, the Sky Bar in the Lebua Tower. Be prepared for a dress code, a pricey menu, and having to check any purses or bags at the door before going in, but the views at the Lebua Tower Sky Bar are 100% worth it.
Be warned that traditional breakfast is hard to come by in most of Thailand, Bangkok included, unless you want street food. If you’re looking for an amazing American breakfast in Bangkok I highly recommend Breakfast Story on Sukhumvit street (one of the major streets in the city). After our 20 hour travel experience the day before, I was STARVING and this place had everything I wanted…a massive omelet with tons of veggies, a fresh fruit bowl, and an iced coffee with almond milk. Be prepared to pay for it though, they do not have typical Thai prices and my breakfast alone cost about 500 baht (about 15 USD)
Street food is EVERYWHERE! And although i’m sure most of it is amazing, i’m a little sketched out by meat that has been sitting in the hot sun for god knows how long. I also had a hard time wanting to eat anything hot when it is 85 degrees and humid out. For these reasons, I didn’t actually eat any street food when in Bangkok (Anthony Bourdain would be so disappointed) but if you did, you could get a full meal for around 1.50 USD almost anywhere. I did however, seek out many of the street vendors thats were serving mixed fruit and “shakes” (fresh fruit mixed with ice, water and sugar).
Also, the malls had surprisingly good food options! At Terminal 21, the top two floors are full of restaurants and “cafeteria style” food options that seriously blew my mind (and obviously i’m a bit of a food snob). There were also tons of more "formal" restaurants which were a little bit more pricey, but with either option you’ll have your pick from tons of Thai food options in addition to pretty much anything else you could ever want. The “cafeteria style” options are closer in price to street food, and all you have to do is load a card with money prior to choosing what you want. I actually loved this because Erik and I could get different things if we wanted, and then if we had any leftover money on our card we would get fresh fruit or smoothies for dessert. Each time we ate at either mall, we each got a TON of food for less than 5 USD a person.
What about Gluten free/ dairy free/ vegetarian/ vegan options in Bangkok?
If you’re planning on traveling to Thailand with any strict dietary guidelines, I highly recommend bringing a card to show to the restaurant that explains your dietary needs (in Thai). Even then, if you have a true allergy to a certain food, I would be extremely careful when eating in Thailand because I got the feeling that most places don’t really care if you have a food sensitivity or not, they will make your dish how it is traditionally made.
For example, I don’t have a peanut allergy but sometimes I just didn’t want extra peanuts on top of my pad thai or papaya salad, and every time I asked, they still came with peanuts. Not a big deal because I could just pick them off, but I do feel for anyone who might have a serious anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts or something else.
Eating gluten free in Bangkok would probably be pretty easy as there are tons of rice dishes everywhere in Thailand, however i’m not sure about what ingredients are used in their sauces, spices, etc. I no longer gluten free, so I didn’t ask, but you could either learn how to say "gluten free" in Thai or search for foods labeled gluten free. However, I didn't find that to be too common.
Eating dairy free in Bangkok was actually relatively easy - Erik avoids dairy and loved that he could choose from almost everything on the menu, wherever we went. BEWARE though that many almond/soy milks have added milk to them!!! WTF!! We only realized this after Erik's post-nasal drip became horrible after drinking coffee a few days in a row and once we checked the ingredients of the almond milk we were adding to it, what do you know! Whole milk!
Eating vegetarian/vegan in Bangkok seems like it would actually be really easy. There were tons of vegetarian options pretty much everywhere we went that i'm sure could've easily been made vegan by leaving out the egg or fish/oyster sauce.
Other random things I learned about traveling in Bangkok:
- Be prepared to wait a LONG time for an Uber. Usually it will take them at least 30 minutes to get you, and at least 30 minutes to bring you anywhere in the city. It's not their fault, the traffic in Bangkok is just ridiculous. I'm sure if you're used to a big city though, this won't be anything new for you.
- The cost for an Uber anywhere in the city is usually 100-400 baht. And unless you can walk to your destination, ubers/metered taxis are your best bet to get around unless you want to take a motorbike. I was not that brave.
- Try a tuk tuk! They are a little more expensive because of their touristy nature, but they are a super fun experience you’ll definitely want to have while in Bangkok.
- Another transportation option is the sky train which is a cheaper option but also takes a REALLY long time get you even short distances
- Pack light!! You can shop for literally any and everything you need in Bangkok for only a fraction of the price you'd pay at home, especially clothes! I bought a super cute pair of shorts that fit better than anything else i've found in the US for 8$ US.
- Breakfast is hard to come by, as is coffee. We ended up getting iced coffee at 7-eleven most days and adding our own almond milk.
- There is free wifi at nearly all restaurants
- My cell phone actually worked really well! However if you're worried about this you can buy a sim card pretty much anywhere. True wireless stores will even put it in and set it up for you.
- Many places don’t have toilet paper, only bidets, so bring your own if you can’t get down with spraying yourself clean