5 Ways to Experience Bangkok
June 23, 2013 § 5 Comments
5. Marvel at the big picture
Like the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Grand Palace is the one must-see sight while visiting Bangkok. Once you set eyes on the palace, you wouldn’t question why it was so recommended. It’s magnificent, breathtaking and a visual feast.
4. Look closely at the details
The detail of the ornate decorations may often get overlooked by the grand architectural structures. There is a lot to look at when you visit the temples and it can be overwhelming (especially in the heat!) but it is worth taking a few closer looks at the wall. You’d be amazed by the variations of colors and patterns covering the temples. The titles of each section are vivid, beautiful and different.
Could people from the past create such beautiful work if they have the attention span of a modern person?
It’s not just the tiles though. The wall murals depicted scenes for epic stories. Even if you are unfamiliar with Thai folklore, you can easily figure out what is going on. The stories need no explanation.
It’s worth paying attention to details everywhere you go. As a tourist, it’s easier to pick up details since you are actively drinking in the new sights. If you apply a tourist-filter to your daily life at home, you often spot gems that you have never noticed before.
3. Taste everything
If you’re a picky eater, you miss out the all best things life can offer. Expect to have no idea what food you are ordering and what is in it and be pleasantly surprised. Try everything you see and ask the locals for recommendations. The food I’ve had at Bangkok was some of the best I’ve ever had. Everything was flavorful, with a tasty sweet, sour and spicy kick.
Being from Taiwan, eating from food trucks and street vendors is a norm for me. Bangkok has a similar eating culture, as there are places to eat everywhere on the streets at all hours. It’s always a good idea to exercise some common sense when eating at food trucks. Avoid eating seafood and raw food. Make sure the seller isn’t using water from the canals or a gutter. Check to see if there are rats, cockroaches near the stand. Eat at the places with long lines because 1) people don’t go back to places that give them food poisoning 2) if you have to wait, the food is guaranteed to be delicious. Unlike the States, the food courts at shopping malls are also a great place to eat. There is a huge selection of Thai foods but also a variety of other cuisines in case you get tired of eating Thai.
Coconut ice cream is my new favorite thing. I never considered ordering coconut flavored ice cream until they served it at the business conference I was at and the rest was history. It was rich, creamy and refreshing, the perfect snack in the Thai heat. I proceeded to stop whenever I saw coconut ice cream throughout the trip. The Thai ice tea was another favorite and a must-try.
Blue Elephant is an upscale Thai restaurant with amazing food. The prices were equally amazing (read: expensive) but worth the splurge if you are looking for a nice restaurant in Bangkok.
2. Respect the culture
This one is a no brainer but people easily forget that jokes and gestures that they are accustomed to can be seen as offensive. Some Thai words sound hilarious in English but take care not to be outwardly mocking them in public.
Religion is a very important aspect of Thai culture, evident as Bangkok is scattered with beautiful temples and the tiny shrines guarding each building. If you are female, avoid getting close or touching any monks.
The King and Queen of Thailand commands the respect and reverence of the Thai people. You will notice that photos of the royal family is everywhere. Anywhere/anything with a picture of the royal family (even banknotes) needs to be treated with great respect. Try to refrain criticisms of the King in public. Be aware of the different cultural norms in Thailand and embrace the differences. I always find it fascinating to see how differently people from all corners of the world live, which is partly the inspiration of this blog.
1. Avoid getting scammed
Bangkok is often called ‘The Venice of Asia’ for the many canals flowing in and out of the city. Coupled with the thousands of beautiful floating market photos on Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, it comes as no surprise that floating markets are a popular tourist destination in Thailand. Thanks to every single guide-book on the market, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was my number 1 choice for visiting a floating market as it was ‘the most popular’ and ‘most photogenic’. The guidebooks also mentioned that the floating markets are very touristy, something I semi-ignored.
If I were to describe Damnoen floating market, I would say it looked like an elaborate scam set up for tourists. The canals were congested with boats and boats of tourists. The souvenirs that the vendors sold were a few times more expensive than what you can get in normal souvenir shops in the city. Getting a boat into the market is a scam within itself unless you are traveling with a local. It was a site just for tourists, to fulfill their romanticized image of a floating market.
The pictures were still pretty great, despite all the unpleasantness of it all.
My favorite part of the floating market trip was actually the scenic residential area prior to entering to the market. We zoomed past tons of houses with a lot of character by the water.
Chatuchak market is another hot tourist destination site in Bankok. It is the world’s largest outdoor market, spanning 35 acres and 5,000 stalls (source: wiki). A flea market and thrift shop monster hybrid, it is a goldmine for shopaholics and treasure hunters. Chatuchak sells everything a person can possibility need, from clothes, shoes, furniture, food to live animals, arts and electronics.
Planning a trip to Chatuchak felt vaguely reminiscent of planning a battle plan for Black Friday. It is not for the fainthearted. If you want a casual, comfortable shopping experience, stick to the shopping malls at Siam where the AC is turned on full blast. Have an idea of what you want to buy and tackle those items first. Find a map of the market and figure out which areas you need to go to buy those things. If you attempt to casually walk around, you may find yourself knee-deep in small reptiles.
Comfortable close-toed walking shoes and a water bottle is your best friend. Flip flops are fine as well but the ground is often wet and mucky, so you most likely end up with dirty feet at the end of the trip. Haggling is recommended by every single blogger on the internet but I was extremely unsuccessful during my trip. Please leave any haggling tips in the comments!
If you get tired or hot (which will likely happen), stop by JJ Mall for a break where it is nice and air-conditioned. There are also free clean bathrooms with no lines.
The worst scams are from tuk tuks and taxis. Before you get into any moving vehicle, it is essential to confirm the cost of your trip. Taxis are technically required by law to run by the meter but I could count on one hand the number of taxi driver’s that were willing to use a meter. The ones waiting around tourist destinations know they can easily get a unknowing tourist to pay 10 times more than what is normally charged. The fare starts at 35baht and goes up by 2 baht per km. Tuk tuk‘s are fun to ride but I couldn’t help but feel pissed off when trying to negotiate a price. They’re great for short distances and worth taking at least once. Always do your homework and research prices online before you do anything. Just because you are a tourist doesn’t mean you have to get ripped off as a tourist. Knowledge is power, and in this case, money.
Bangkok is amazing and I had an amazing time. There are tons of other things to see and do ( like getting a Thai massage at Wat Pho) but these were just the highlights of my trip. Can’t wait to go back!