We traded the chaos of Hanoi for bustling Bangkok. It was our first time in Thailand’s capital so we followed a typical beginner’s guide to the city. By the end of the first day, I had already decided Thailand was my favorite country in SE Asia so far.
Our first stop after decoding the public transportation system was the Grand Palace. The name is accurate. Comprised of multiple royal buildings and temples, we spent a good hour wandering the grounds.
During our visit we noticed long lines of Thais dressed in all black. We later caught on that they were there in mourning for Thailand’s King Rama IX who died in October. He is lying in state for a year and a guard told us between 30,000 to 40,000 people visit each day to pay their respects. Once we learned this I also noticed the billboards and pop-up signs speckled throughout town conmemorating the beloved king. It was hard to comprehend as an American, but so interesting to observe.
After learning firsthand to avoid Bangkok’s rickety buses, we opted for a rickety tuk-tuk to visit Wat Pho and Reclining Buddha. The temple is huge, with the star attraction being its 150 foot long gold-leaf covered reclining buddha. The temple also houses one of the oldest Thai public schools in the country and is known as the birthplace of Thai massage, along with having the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. We were able to tour this Wat twice, once during the day and once during our nighttime bike tour of Bangkok with Grasshopper Bike Tours. It was spectacular to see the temples at night without the crowds, I’d highly recommend the bike tour for this reason alone.
Another day we tried our hand at learning to cook Thai food. I’d heard of Amita Thai Cooking School from a newspaper article on Bangkok my mom had given me before our trip. I am so glad we booked it, it was one of our trip highlights so far. The teacher and owner, Tam, is an adorable host and has been doing this for 9 years since moving back home to Thailand after a career in the New York City fashion scene. She taught us how to make papaya salad, pork skewers with peanut sauce, coconut sticky rice, and green Thai chicken curry. She also prepared mango sticky rice for dessert, my newest obsession. We were transported to the cooking school by river boat and back to our hotel by van. The hotel pickup and drop off and all food plus recipes were included in the price. We can’t wait to break out the recipe cards and host a dinner party once we have a home and kitchen back in the USA. And by we, I mean my chef Beau.
Another must-see is Bangkok’s Chinatown along Yaowarat Road. The massive market complex will engulf you in its stalls upon stalls of vendors selling everything you could imagine. Go hungry, as the street food here is some of the best in Bangkok. Speaking of street food, Bangkok was ranked by CNN in 2016 as having the best street food in the world. I believe it, we ate street food for nearly every meal as it was delicious, cheap, and everywhere. Here’s one article to get you started, but any web search will result in plenty of passionate advice on the topic.
Night markets are also worth a visit for food and souvenirs. We took the metro to the Rod Fai 2 Night Market and ate pad thai and fish off the grill for less than $5 total. This market had a lot of locals, so I knew it was legit.
Other favorite Bangkok stops were the flower market, getting a Thai massage (plenty of locations offer them for $8-12 for 60 minutes), and having a cocktail at the rooftop Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyon Tree Hotel. The pricey cocktails were well worth it to experience the view of Bangkok’s skyline.
So I left Bangkok already eager to return. I could visit just for the street food. So many curry vendors left to try!