Before we begin:
- If this is your first time reading A Paddy Abroad, note that anything written in green text contains a link with further information.
- BKK is an acronym for Bangkok.
- As I am European, many of the prices listed are compared to Euros. At the time of writing this, 1 Euro was almost the exact equivalent to 1 Dollar.
- A tuk-tuk is the door-less taxis that you’ll see buzzing around the city.
“Imma let you finish but…” – (Kanye West 2009) the following series of blog posts are more suited towards the younger traveller. “How do I know if I’m within that bracket?” I hear you say; well…if you didn’t have to Google Kanye West. This blog has been written through the eyes of a twenty-something year old single male traveller on what he considers to be good, bad or indifferent. Having lived in Thailand for almost two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the country extensively in that time. This is my definitive guide to Bangkok.
Unless you’re departing from South-East Asia, chances are you’ll be arriving in Bangkok. Not only is Bangkok one of the most diverse cities in the world, it’s brimming with an endless amount of hidden gems just begging to be explored!
- Keep any documents that they give you at customs.
- Exchange your money. Ideally, you should do this before you leave home. 10,ooo baht (268 euros) is more than enough to keep you afloat for the first few days, if not the best part of a week. I wouldn’t be arriving with wads of cash for obvious reasons but it’s wise to have a decent sum to get you started. Bank charges are very expensive here (over 5 euro per transaction), so it’s best to take your money out in bulk. At the time of writing this, the maximum amount you can extract from an ATM at one time is 5,000 baht (134 euros). This is also your daily limit.
- Become accustom to the money. Download the free app from www.xe.com for assistance.
- Purchase a sim card. You’ll see many companies selling them once you reach arrivals. If you don’t purchase one here, you can easily pick one up at most 7-eleven outlets. I recommend ‘TRUE’ or ‘AIS’.
- Remember that Thailand is a developing country and much of the population live in poverty. Watch your pockets.
- Don’t book a taxi from one of the inside taxi ranks. They charge 3 to 4 times the price and are nothing more than a tourist trap. Follow the signs for the outside taxi rank and ensure they are willing to use the taxi meter. En route, the taxi driver may ask you for the highway toll. This is perfectly normal and legit.
- Don’t step on Thai money if you drop it. It bares the Kings face and will be considered as an act of blasphemy. In fact, it’s safest not to discuss the King at all throughout your stay unless your words are of sheer admiration.
- Don’t bare the soles of your feet in public. Feet are considered as the lowest part of the body in Buddhism and baring your soles is considered extremely rude.
- Don’t touch a Thai person on the head. The head is considered the most precious part of the body in Buddhism and is not to be touched.
- Don’t do anything that you think might be illegal, regardless of how minor you believe the offence to be. Foreigners have received the death penalty for possession of drugs here and ‘Lese Majeste‘ (speaking ill of the King) can earn you up to 25 years behind bars.
- Don’t listen to a stranger that tells you a particular place is closed. A common scam is for locals to look for puzzled looking tourists and offer them ‘assistance’. When said tourist states where they would like to go, the local informs them that the destination is unfortunately closed or under construction. 99% of the time, this is a lie. The tourist will then be given a list of alternative options at which point a tuk-tuk will usually show up (what a coincidence). Both the local scam artist and the tuk-tuk driver will receive a commission from the new destination and the tourist will be none the wiser. This scam has caused many tourists to miss some of BKK’s most beautiful attractions.
Where to Sleep:
The most popular destination for most lodgers is the infamous Khaosan Road. It’s here where you’ll find the vast majority of Bangkok’s hostels, a wide array of bars (the cities cheapest), restaurants, clubs, markets and a whole lot of craziness. It’s located outside of the City Centre, a little bit dirty and often very crowded but if a culture shock is what you seek; look no further. For those of you on a slightly more luxurious budget, I recommend staying closer to lower Sukhumvit (Soi’s 1-20). Sukhumvit is essentially the City Centre and a little more upper-class. It’s also directly in the heart of the public transport system which makes it easier for you to navigate around the city.
Khaosan Road – ‘Suneta Hostel‘. Cheap, spotless, free breakfast, helpful staff and a prime location.
Sukhumvit – ‘Sofitel Sukhumvit‘. Situated in the heart of Sukhumvit and home to the cities best rooftop bar.
Where to Eat:
A food lovers paradise, Bangkok can surprise even the most frequently exercised pallet. It’s world famous street food can be found on every corner where you’ll discover prized national dishes such as Pad Thai and Tom Yum Kung. If eating by the street is a little too adventurous for you, the cities countless high end hotels will leave your taste-buds in a swirl. To dive directly into the deep end of this highly renowned cuisine, why not try one of the many food tours and cooking classes on offer.
Thanying ($$$) Previously owned by Thai Royals, Than Ying serves some of the best Thai food in the city. The beef Massaman curry is an absolute must!
Arun Residence ($$$) Reservations are essential here and may possibly include a waiting list. Located by the Chao Phraya river, it boasts stunning views of Wat-Arun (Temple of Dawn), one of BKK’s most famous temples that lights up at sunset. Upon booking, ask for the table with the best view. You won’t be disappointed.
North-East ($$) One of the very best Thai food chains around. The menu is huge and the food is incredible. The sweet and sour fish is one of my favourite dishes in the city.
Cabbages and Condoms ($$) Don’t allow the name to scare you. Although the endless amount of artefacts expertly constructed from condoms may be enough to shock you, the food at Cabbages and Condoms is enough to make even the strictest of Catholics stick around for a taste. The menu is reasonably priced and boasts a vast amount of dishes from all over the country.
Taste of Thailand (Food Tour) From 5 star dining to creepy critters, the Taste of Thailand Food Tour has it all. I highly recommend the evening option and fasting for at least 6 hours before you arrive. Doubling as a walking tour, prepare to be taken on an evening you will never forget.
Cooking with Poo (Cooking Class) The woman who taught Jamie Oliver how to cook Thai food offers a half-day cooking course for just under 40 euros. Need I say any more?
Luckily for me, many of my friends from home have come to visit me throughout my time here. Although the vast majority of them were more than willing to embrace the Thai food, for some, it was just too ‘out there!’. Here’s a few of my favourite western spots that I like to indulge in from time to time:
The Smokin’ Pug ($$) Open not much longer than 3 months, The Smokin’ Pug has already become one of my favourite spots to treat myself. Run by an extremely friendly American duo, their customer service is second to none in the city. Like all good BBQ establishments, The Smokin’ Pug pays meticulous attention to the preparation of their meat. It’s juicy, generous in portion and cooked to absolute perfection! I highly recommend the Pulled-Pork Burger with a side of Mac n’ Cheese. Wash it down with a cherry coke or one of the many craft beers on offer and you’ve had a good day!
Hemingways ($$) Another lower Sukhumvit gem, Hemingways is the perfect escape away from all the hustle and bustle that awaits around the corner. The menu offers a large selection of Western (particularly Cuban) and Thai food along with one of the cities best Happy Hours.
London Pie ($) The ultimate hangover cure! Located on Ekkami Soi 10, London Pie serves up the best English Breakfast on this side of the world. Sausages, bacon, hash browns, beans, mushrooms, black pudding, eggs, tomato, thick toast a huge mug of tea. BLISS! If you’ve already had your breakfast, the freshly baked pies and English favourites are every bit as good!
Where to Drink:
A drink at the end of a long day sightseeing is never a bad idea and there are few more beautiful sights than atop Bangkok’s rooftop bars. If heights don’t excite you, there are more than a few drinking establishments aligning the City Centre, notably in the Sukhumvit area.
L’Appart Rooftop Bar ($$$) Sitting proudly atop Sofitel Sukhumvit, they offer expertly constructed cocktails at a fair price. Their daily Happy Hour takes place between 5pm-7pm and offers 2 for 1 cocktails.
Above 11 Rooftop Bar ($$$) My favourite place in the world to watch the sunset (6:30pm). Ideal for couples and one of the greatest city views you are likely to see.
The Iron Fairies ($$$) The interior of this extremely unique establishment is unlikely to rival anything you’ve ever seen before. Designed to look like a fairies home, it delivers a truly magical atmosphere along with some excellent live bands.
Cloud 47 Rooftop Bar ($$) Possibly the cheapest rooftop bar in the city, Cloud 47 is located a mere 5 minutes from Patpong Night Market and Red Light District. The beers are cheap and the views are sublime!
SNOP! ($) Located just 5 minutes from RCA (we’ll get to that shortly), SNOP! is a prime location for pre-drinks before a big night at the cities best nightclub district. The customers here are mostly Thai which means you’ll be paying Thai prices. A bottle of whiskey to share will cost you little more than 15 euros.
Cheap Charlies ($) Often crowded with locals and tourists alike, Cheap Charlies offers the lowest of prices in the very best of locations (Sukhumvit 11). Get here early if you want a seat.
Khaosan Road ($) The cheapest beer in the city, available every 5 feet.
Where to Party:
No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep. In a city such as Bangkok, failing to party to the full of your extent is nothing less than a mortal sin! Famous for it’s diversity, Bangkok holds a surprise around each and every corner of the city.
BITEC – BITEC is an events centre and only open for large scale events. Thankfully, due to Bangkok’s obsession with EDM, BITEC has hosted some of the worlds biggest DJ’s throughout my time here. Hardwell, Steve Aoki, W&W, Alesso, Sander van Doorn and many more have all paid BITEC a visit in recent times.
ROUTE 66 – Located in the nightclub district of RCA, ROUTE 66 is, in my humble opinion, the best nightclub in the city. With a variety of different rooms that each house a separate genre of music, it has the ability to cater for everyone. Your entry fee converts into drink tokens of the same value so it’s technically free to enter. Many may argue that the crowd here is relatively young (mid-20’s), but for single, male, music enthusiasts, it’s absolute paradise!
LEVELS – Located on Sukhumvit 11, LEVELS is the perfect place to end your night if you’re in the Sukhumvit area. The crowd are classy, the music is top drawer and they provide a table service on the outskirts of the dance-floor if you’re willing to splash the cash.
NUNGLEN-ESCOBAR – Don’t expect to find too many foreigners here. One of the most, if not the most popular bar with BKK locals, NUNGLEN offers a reasonably priced table service to the sound of live music. Directly beside NUNGLEN you’ll see ESCOBAR, a favourite hang-out for some of the best local DJ’s BKK has to offer. I like to alternate between the two throughout the course of the night, depending on my mood.
WIP – One of the best kept local secrets, WIP is an underground nightclub that dishes out the very best of EDM until the early hours of the morning. As with NUNGLEN and ESCOBAR, you won’t find too many foreigners here and that’s just the way I like it. Thai people, Thai prices. NUNGLEN-ESCOBAR and WIP are both situated in the Thong Lo district of Bangkok, approximately 5-10 minutes drive from lower Sukhumvit.
What to See:
Home to over 12 million people, Bangkok is home to an abundance of activities to keep you entertained. As there are far too many to list, I’ll provide the links to what I consider to be in the ‘must see’ category:
The Grand Palace – Number 1 on the majority of lists, The Grand Palace is the former home of past Kings and royalty. It’s beautiful architecture is simply mesmerising and one could happily spend an entire day here.
Wat Pho (directly adjacent to the Grand Palace) – Home of the reclining Buddha and the most prestigious massage school in the world. Believe it or not, an hour long massage here will still only cost you about 10-15 euros.
Wat Saket – Also known as ‘The Golden Mount’, Wat Saket is a beautiful golden temple that requires good strong legs to get to. After conquering the steps, you’ll be treated to a beautiful view of the Old Town and all it’s glory.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – The largerst weekend market in the world is home to absolutely everything you could possibly need and want. If it’s not sold as Chatuchak, it doesn’t exist! Note that Chatuchak is also called JJ Market and only opens on Saturdays and Sundays.
Khaosan Road – If not to rest your head, Khaosan Road and it’s surrounding streets should be visited at least once. Aim to arrive after dark for the full experience.
Lumpinee Boxing Stadium – Muay Thai is an art that Thai people are very proud of. It it a martial art practised all over the world and respected by millions. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is possibly the greatest place in the world to watch this art unfold and comes with an atmosphere that would rival any sporting event.
“That’s all folks” – (Bugs Bunny). For a personalised itinerary, check me out on https://www.fiverr.com/boxcarracer or feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or via twitter (@bangkokexpats). I sincerely hope that the above information is of use to you and that you have a safe and enjoyable stay here in BKK.