I have just returned from Thailand and what a magnificient city it is! I have always passed Bangkok as a transit point. This time, I am determined to explore this wonderful city that have attracted visitors from all over the country.
Hopefully you will be able to make the trip on your own without much required assistance or taking tour. With proper planning, you can cover much more places and really live like the locals.
1. Plan your trip well and in advance.
If you plan early and book your airticket early, you save a lot on the fare. Many foreigners and Westerners travel via Air Asia to Bangkok. Website: airasia.com. Also, plan where to go according to places that interests you:
You can perform google search on sample of travel schedules and information on places of interest. Very useful if you have a copy of the Bangkok city map and Lonely Planet guide book.
Maps are very useful tool to plan your travel. Especially those with transport and bus routes. When planning, travel to places of interest located at the same area and estimate how long you will need. Also plan for extra places that you may visit in case if you finish your planned places early. And if you plan to travel to too many places and now you are not able to make it in time, you may try to squeeze to another day or strike it off altogether.
2. Where to stay.
- Most budget travellers opt for guesthouses around Khao San area. There are tonnes of guesthouses in Khao San whereby you can get price starting from 150 bath (RM15) room per night. But remember, what you pay is what you get. Unless you are travelling on a shoestring budget, otherwise I would advise you to stay in midrange places that costs between 500- 1000 baht per night. For a very low price, you may get rooms that is too near the main road (very noisy at night), bed with bugs, shared dirty toilets, rooms with thin walls partition, etc.
- Even though Khao San is not located along railway lines, it is located very near to Bangkok’s most famous temples/landmarks such as Democracy Monument, Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho, Wat Saket (Golden Mount), Wat Arun,, Wat Bowon and Marble temple. If you like to walk, they are all within walking distance.
- Would suggest you stay not on Khao San road itself but a few roads off it because at night it is as noisy as Petaling Street and the noise go well past midnight.
A list of guesthouses are listing in this website: http://www.khaosanroad.com/. You can book before hand via email (most of them do not accept phone booking). However my advice: if you are arriving on non peak period (actually literally anytime of the year), you can just walk around to look for places.
- Very important: google the website for reviews about the guesthouse. Supposed you select one guesthouse that you want to stay… google it using search words like ‘ABC guesthouse reviews’ to read what others who have stayed there write about them. I have eliminated many guesthouses that I wanted to stay from the list because I have read many bad reviews about them.
3. What to Bring
- Try your best to travel light- don’t bring too much stuff as it will inhibit your movements around. Trolley bag is good and helps you get around.
- If you have your own medication, bring them along.
- Light travelling clothes, make from cotton (because Bangkok is hot and you will sweat a lot). Important to remember that if you entering temple/wat areas, you need to dress respectfully (ie not revealing, transparent or low cut clothings, shorts, etc).
- For toileteries: if you are not selective, you can just buy from the place you stay. I would recommend you either buy from 7Eleven (open 24 hours a day and almost on every street in Bangkok). In Khao San area, buy from this supermarket: Tang Hua Seng. Prices are cheaper than 7 Eleven and sells almost anything you need- it is a place where the local shop. Most brands such as Dove, Head and Shoulders, Lux, etc are available anywhere in Bangkok and most stores will sell the smaller version.
- Comfortable walking shoes (I brought my sports shoes and never use them). For me, I survive in Bangkok on walking slippers.
- For food, there are sold all over the street. In Khao San area, most vendors can speak English. You can get most items and imported stuff sold in Thailand.
- Handphone, camera chargers. In Thailand, a 2 way socket plug is used. So do not bring plugs that requires a 3 way plug (like those used in Malaysia).
TRAVEL TIPS IN BANGKOK:
1. Upon arriving from the airport
When you arrive at the Bangkok airport, as you exit, ignore the touts that come to ask you for taxi service. It’s very expensive. From the place you arrive, take the escalator down on level and get either your airport bus or taxi from the counters. If you travelling alone, then you can take the airport bus (150 baht) which goes to 4 places: Bus AE2 will take you to Khao San. There is also another bus to Hualampong Station (central train station if you plan to take a train to other towns). The bus is from 7am to 11pm and comes about half hour or hourly. The bus takes the highway. If there are about 2 or 3 of you, then take the taxi (the taxi counter is next to the airport bus counter at the exit). For meter taxi, bear in mind there are 50baht extra service charge and if you want to use the highway (to avoid traffic jam), then you have to pay the highway toll: 2 tolls totalling 45 baht. Always opt for highway because if the taxi is stuck in the infamous Bangkok jam, you may end up paying more- if you are already tried from the flight, travelling in the jam may add more trauma.
2. Check in to the hotel/ guesthouse.
As your bus/taxi reaches Khao San or whichever area you wish to go, walk around and go off the streets from Khao San. Ask around for rates and see the rooms before checking in (because what you see in the advertisements may not be what’s real). That is why try to travel as light as you can, otherwise you will have a hard time hauling your lugage here and there. The place I stayed is off Khao San road and costs 750 baht per night (double bed, air con, attached bathroom, towels, clean sheets, small fridge, cable
TV). Take note that cable TV in guesthouse contains very few cable channels and may not be very clear. Up to you to decide coz you may want a cheaper room since you will not be spending much time in you in your room anyway.
With a smile, curiousity and determination, you can get around very easily in Bangkok. Most locals are very friendly people. Furthermore, there are Tourish booths and tourist police around all the major tourist spots in Bangkok such as Wat Phra Kaew, Siam Square road, etc. I decide to go around relying on public transport and on foot as most Thais do. I will indicate description for travelling to and from Khao San road:
To Siam Square: bus no 15 (no air con) 7 baht (RM0.70). Once you reached Siam Square, you can go around the famous shopping centers and the areas around it. You will also have access to the BTS skytrain line that links you all over town center.
To Wat Phra Kaew: bus no. 15, 32 or 53 (it is actually nearby so if you are in the mood, you can also walk towards Khao San to the main road, pass the Sanam Luang (Royal Grounds- a very large field used for demostrations and at night, there are people giving talks there).
There are 2 main modern train systems: BTS and MRT to take you around some interesting venues in Bangkok. BTS and MRT run on separate routes but both trains will meet at following stations: Chatuchak (Mo Chit stop for MRT; Chactuchak stop for BTS) and Si Lom area (Si Lom stop for MRT; Sala Daeng stop for BTS). Note: Unlike in Malaysia, most of these train stations do not have lifts and some you have to use staircases. So avoid carrying heavy stuff with you (like a big trolley luggage) if you are taking the train.
With bus no 15 from Khao San, you will arrive at BTS (Skytrain) Central station where you can visit the following interesting venues:
1. Chactuchak Park (Jatujak): Stop at Chatuchak Park station (BTS) or Mo Chit (if you are taking the MRT). From the train station, it is only a short walk to the famous Chactuchak or weekend Market. Take note that Chactuchak only open on Sat/Sun and most stores will be opened by 10am (if you go too early, some shops may not be opened yet)
2. Sala Daeng BTS stop.
Si Lom area is near Sala Daeng stop. There are a few shopping centers located around Si Lom area like Si Lom Ctr shopping mall and Patpong.
3. Lumphini Park and Suam Lum Night Bazaar.
From Siam Square, take BTS to Sala Daeng (2 stops ahead for about 20 baht). Walk a short distance to the MRT station of Si Lom. From there, taken MRT to one stop to Lumphini. You can check out Lumphini and Suam Lum night bazaar– so it is best to arrive at the place in the evening. But I felt Suam Lum’s things are more expensive and the area is a bit too commercialised. You can check out the photos taken at my Webshots page.