A recent visit to Bangkok as part of a golf trip to Thailand (my first) was a real eye opener.
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and home to over 15 million people. It usually ranks in the Top 3 ‘Most Visited Cities in the World’ along with London and Paris. You may have heard how friendly the Thai people are and it’s quite true. They are exceedingly courteous and always smiling. Always!
I’ll have a more comprehensive feature on Thailand in an upcoming issue, including our golf experience, but based on our recent travels, here are the Top 10 Things to Do in Bangkok:
Visit the Grand Palace
This is the number one tourist attraction in Bangkok. The Palace covers more than 61 acres and has been the official home of the King of Siam since 1782. (The name was changed to Thailand in 1949). The Palace includes hundreds of buildings from royal residences to beautiful ornate temples, all surrounded by lush gardens, fountains and statues. Plan on spending a few hours here. There’s a lot to see and photograph.
Ride the Sky Train
Traffic in Bangkok can be difficult. The Sky Train rides above it all with air conditioned cars and a spectacular view of the city. Most of the major tourist attractions can be reached by Sky Train but even if you’re not going anywhere in particular, it’s a nice way to see Bangkok.
Visit Wat Pho
Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok and houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. It is best known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, a 46 metre long statue covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho is also the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught at the temple. And you can get a massage here too.
Take a Boat Trip on the River
The Chao Phraya River and all its canals are an integral part of Bangkok’s transportation system and there are several options for a river ride from larger ferries, water taxis and cruise boats to smaller long tail boats. The long tail boats are the most fun – low slung, narrow water craft that seat up to a dozen and feature a huge motor mounted high in the stern with a long shafted prop that extends about 20 feet. The boats can get into the narrow canals where you will see grand hotels, high rise condominiums and magnificent mansions side by side with rickety shacks built inches above the water. It’s a fascinating tour!
Have a Thai Massage
Thai massage is available all over Bangkok, from street shops to more luxurious spas and hotels. A traditional Thai massage can be done with the recipient fully clothed and often is done in a public place or a room with others. The practice involves rhythmic compressing and stretching of the entire body for an hour or more and is very therapeutic and relaxing. The hundreds of street locations in Bangkok offer traditional Thai massage at very low prices compared to North American spas but some also offer sexual services so it’s important to do your research before you start.
Eat in Chinatown
Thai culture includes contributions from the countries that have invaded and traded with Thailand over the centuries including India and China. Bangkok’s large Chinatown district is a vibrant, bustling community that is interesting in daytime but thoroughly captivating at night. The bright neon lights, street music and traffic sounds are the backdrop to a teeming, bustling, endless parade of people visiting stalls, restaurants and shops in the quarter, where the aroma of street food permeates everything. The place we ate in was hot and crowded but the food was delicious and the beer was cold.
Take a Tuk-Tuk Ride
A tuk-tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle or a rickshaw with a motor. It usually has a cover and the passenger section may even have sides. The driver sits up front and there is barely room for two people in back. They’re fast and noisy and the streets of Bangkok are full of them – usually ferrying people to and fro but often racing each other, weaving at high speed in and out of traffic, barely skirting by larger trucks and cars, alternately hammering on the gas or squealing the brakes and constantly bleating the horn. It’s a wild exhilarating ride but once is usually enough to say, “been there, done that”.
Have a Drink at the Sky Bar
The vertigo inducing Sky Bar at the top of the Lebua Hotel is an open air cantilevered platform that sits 820 feet in the air with nothing but a plexi-glass railing to keep you from a free fall. It’s reputed to be the highest al fresco bar in the world and was the scene for some of the action in the comedy movie Hangover Part 2. The views across Bangkok are stunning but the best time to be there is at sunset when the light show is incredible. One of the featured drinks is called a Poptail and includes any combination of alcohol with a popsicle. Neither the drink nor the setting is for the faint of heart.
Eat Street Food
This would be a no-no for many people in most countries but Thai people like to eat out and tourists benefit from street vendors on every corner barbecuing everything from chicken to shrimp to squid, then combining them with succulent vegetables and delicious sauces, noodles and rice. I’ll need many more trips to identify the names and ingredients but you can’t beat the taste or the price.
Shop at Asiatique
The open air waterfront night market is home to over 1,500 shops, stalls, restaurants, bars and activities selling everything from Thai silks and cottons to souvenir elephants and jewellery. Asiatique also features live music, theatre and puppet performances. The best way to get there is by water taxi and if you can’t find the perfect souvenir of your time in Thailand at Asiatique, then it doesn’t exist.
Based on what we heard about Bangkok while we were there, we know we just scratched the surface on this trip. There are plenty of other attractions that sound intriguing such as Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), which is pictured at the top of the page, but those will have to wait for our next visit.