After having already visited a number of Asian cities, I thought it was time to travel to Bangkok. I mainly used the first full day in Bangkok to explore the main highlights of this city.
I spend the night in the W Bangkok hotel in the popular Sathorn district. The W Hotels are hipper brothers of the well-known Westin hotels. The luxury hotel brand is aimed at a younger audience that is willing and able to pay a higher price for luxury, but does not want to sleep in an old-fashioned five-star hotel. That means cool beats in the lobby, lots of glitter in the rooms and a futuristic look. I mainly chose the W Bangkok because of its location near Sky Train station Chong Nonsi. Above all, the hotel is an excellent base for me. In addition, the price I found at booking.com for this hotel was certainly reasonable for a luxury hotel in a city like Bangkok.
7:20 am – breakfast
Despite the six hour time difference, I managed to go to sleep on time last night. Usually I get more jet lagged when I fly east, but this time I fell asleep around 11 PM and got up by 7 AM. The alarm clock function of my phone helped with that. After a quick and pleasant shower, I get dressed
Breakfast is included in the room price. I take the elevator to the second floor where the hotel restaurant can be found. I am escorted to my table and the friendly waiter asks me what kind of coffee I want and how I want my egg this morning. I order a double espresso. I leave the egg for today. The buffet looks so extensive that I will first take a closer look at it. I’m in Asia so I opt for an Asian breakfast: fried rice with BBQ pork, a fish biscuit, some pork salad and cilantro. Delicious!
08:00 am – on the road by tuk-tuk
After I have applied and have taken a sanitary break in my hotel room, I go out. I get out of the hotel and enjoy the view. It’s very crowded. On the street I stop a tuk-tuk and ask him what it costs to take me to the Royal Palace. Initially, the tuk-tuk driver wants 250 Bahts for that. In the end I finish the price at 150 Bahts, which is less than four euros. To our understanding, it almost seems like I’m dropping the tuk-tuk driver off, but I know he still gets a very decent price with this.
The tuk tuk is a means of transport that you see a lot in the streets of Bangkok. These three-wheelers with two-stroke engine skilfully tear between the busy traffic. For passengers, it means that the drivers’ antics often provide enough conversation material when you later tell others about your holiday in Thailand. My tuk-tuk takes me to the Grand Palace in 15 minutes.
8:20 am – scammer
After I have paid and the tuk-tuk has disappeared from my sight again, I am approached by another tuk-tuk driver. He asks me what I want to see here. He also tells me that the Royal Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho cannot be visited today due to a Buddhist holiday. For only 50 Baht he wants to take me to two temples elsewhere in Bangkok that should be open. Although it is still early, I soon realize that this best man is trying to con me. They are well-known tricks that are performed in some countries, but Bangkok is especially known for this. If you agree, you will soon be taken to friendly shops of the tuk-tuk driver, for example a clothing maker. They try to make you buy stuff under pressure that the tuk-tuk driver gets his commission on. Firstly, something like this is just a sewing stroke, secondly, you are wasting valuable time that you would otherwise have wanted to spend. I thank the man kindly and tell him to check out the entrance anyway, knowing that I can almost certainly just go in and his story is an asshole story.
8:25 am – buy pants
Before I can enter Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, I will first have to do something about my wardrobe. After all, shorts are not allowed. Clear dress rules apply. For example, the shoulders should be covered, belly shirts are not allowed and your legs should be covered up to the ankles. Long trousers with holes and / or tears are also not allowed. Close to the entrance there are several sellers who have responded to this in a handy way. They sell shawls and long pants that you can put on over your own pants. For 100 Bahts (2.5 euros) I buy black and white pants with elephant prints on them.
8:40 am – Wat Phra Kaew
The first sight on my list for today is Wat Phra Kaew . This is the most important temple in Bangkok and actually in all of Thailand. This Temple of the Emerald Buddha is located on the grounds of the Royal Palace. That’s why you always buy a combination ticket for these two highlights of Bangkok.
I buy an entrance ticket for 500 Baht at the ticket office. Quite a steep price for Thai standards. Given the crowds (already at this time!), This entrance fee is not an obstacle for the many tourists who come here. With the ticket in my hand I walk on to the entrance of the site. Although it is quite busy, this all goes quite smoothly. You walk in through different rows next to each other. On the site I admire the many buildings that are here. How beautiful this is! The large stone guards in some places remind me of the Efteling.
To see the Emerald Buddha myself I have to walk to the central ubosot. The way is easy to find. You just have to follow the crowds and come out on its own. Signs will automatically lead you to the entrance where you first have to take off your shoes according to good Thai custom. From the outside I try to take a good photo of the only 66 centimeters high Buddha statue. Unfortunately that does not work well, I see at home later. The picture is out of focus. I know you are not allowed to take pictures indoors. So I messed up this opportunity. There are worse things in life. Once inside I see a huge golden altar where the Emerald Buddha can be admired at the top. The statue is made of jade. Hence the green color. He is wearing a golden robe. I’m in for a few minutes
9:35 AM – Grand Palace
When you have completed the temple complex you can walk towards the Royal Palace (the Grand Palace). The correct way is indicated by means of signs. Today this palace only serves as a venue for ceremonies. It is also used during some holidays. The current king nowadays mainly resides in the Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin.
The Grand Palace is a beautiful building with many gold elements on the roofs, stately doors and beautiful ornaments. Stone elephants and living guards guard this palace. Unfortunately, you can only admire the building from the outside. I am very curious what it looks like on the inside. However, the doors remain closed. I take some pictures around the palace. In the meantime, I also take pictures of several groups of people because they ask me to. It often happens when you are traveling alone that other people ask if you would like to take a picture of them with their camera or smartphone. Usually I do that with love and pleasure, also now.
After less than half an hour on the grounds of the palace, I walk to the exit. It’s time for the next attraction: Wat Pho. This Buddha is literally south of the palace. The entrance is only a short kilometer walk from the Grand Palace exit. That is roughly a 10-12 minute walk.
10:15 am – Wat Pho
What I remember very well about twenty years ago is the enormous size of the Reclining Buddha. Today I am releasing the intention to one day return to this special image. After paying 100 Bahts, I can enter the temple complex. It soon becomes apparent that the Reclining Buddha is not the only Buddha statue that can be admired here. I enjoy the stupas, temples and decorations spread over the complex. In total, the complex has more than a thousand Buddha statues.
The main temple of Wat Pho is considerably busier. Before I can enter I have to take off my shoes again. The first thing I see inside is the head of Phra Buddha Saiyas, as the reclining Buddha is locally called. The enormous Buddha statue has a length of no less than 46 meters and a height of 15 meters. Because the Reclining Buddha is partly behind pillars, it is quite difficult to properly photograph this enormous statue. That is why I mainly take a mental photo. Full of admiration I take in the immense artwork before I leave the temple and eventually the temple complex again.
11:15 am – historic Bangkok
From Wat Pho, I walk towards the water. I know Wat Arun is across the street. That temple is considered one of the most beautiful in Bangkok. So I really cannot ignore a visit to Wat Arun. The streets between Wat Pho and the river also appeal to me. It is bursting with nice restaurants, coffee bars and shops in historic buildings that are often in excellent condition. I walk around and take the necessary amount of photos.
11:40 am – lunch
Knowing that there will be very busy with lunches in a minute and I am bound to some kind of time frame, I decide to have lunch now. Fortunately, because the place where I now want to have lunch only has six tables and is currently ranked third in TripAdvisor when looking for the best restaurants in Bangkok. The restaurant where I have lunch is called ‘ The Sixth’. It is really a very small, but attractive restaurant. The first impression is immediately a very good one. I decide to order the house specialty: Pad Thai. According to good Thai custom, it is not a large portion. In Thailand people are used to eat more than three times a day and stick to smaller dishes. The Pad Thai has a delicious taste and especially not too spicy. I always think that’s a shame when the piquancy dominates the taste. Fortunately, that is not the case now. I enjoy eating my lunch. In the meantime, there have already been previous companies that tried in vain to get a table in The Sixth. Probably also people who, like me, discovered this gem in historical Bangkok through Tripadvisor.
12:10 pm – crossing by ferry
I have to cross the Mae Nam Chao Phraya and do that by ferry. The crossing costs four Baht, which is approximately € 0.10 converted. That’s the nice thing about Thailand. Prices are generally very low. It is of course also a crossing of nothing and it must also remain affordable for locals. Just three minutes after the boat has left I am already on the other side. it reminds me a bit of the abras with which you cross the Dubai Creek in Dubai. This crossing takes a little longer (about five minutes) and costs 1 dirham, which is about 22 cents. A bit comparable prices, so.
12:15 pm – Wat Arun
The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) is one of the most photographed temples in Thailand. Both during the day and at night, the temple is a popular object to record on the sensitive plate. After nightfall mainly because of the way in which the beautifully lit temple is located on the banks of Mae Nam Chao Phraya. Especially from the water or from the east bank you can take beautiful photos of this. During the day it is mainly the so-called prang that is recorded in all kinds of ways. This tower is 82 meters high, is built in so-called Khmer style and is decorated with thousands of pieces of Chinese porcelain. Around it are four smaller towers that look a lot like the main tower. A major renovation took place last year. Meanwhile the scaffolding around the prang has disappeared, but you are still not allowed to climb the tower all the way. Whether that is forever or something temporary is not clear to me. It’s a shame, because from the higher positions you must have a beautiful view of Bangkok.
1:00 PM – Hop on hop off boat ticket
The easiest way to get to River City from here is by water. After all, both Wat Arun and River City are located on the great river Menam (that’s how Mae Nam Chao Phraya is often called). So the most logical thing is to avoid the traffic in Bangkok and take the boat to my destination. Fortunately, a tourist boat leaves here. This works according to the ‘hop on hop off’ principle. A ticket then costs 180 Bahts for a whole day. However, you can also buy a separate ticket for 50 Baht. So I do, because I don’t expect to use the boat any more today. 50 Bahts is approximately €1.25.
1:15 PM – on the boat
The boat arrives on time. I continue to the top deck. After all, it is a bit sunny, but the sun is not very bright at the moment. During the fairly short trip I enjoy the view. It is great to see how old buildings, modern skyscrapers and religious buildings form a special mix. From the river you can enjoy the city without having to deal with the hectic pace that usually reigns on the streets. After two stops I get off at the third stop: River City.
1:30 pm – River City
River City is one of the more modern shopping centers in Bangkok. It is especially popular with tourists. In addition to shops, there is also plenty of catering available here. Afterwards I could have also had lunch here at my leisure. On the map I check where Co van Kessel’s case is. I have to be there to go on a bike tour booked through Baja Bikes to participate. On the map I see that I have to go outside. I walk past the parking garage and soon find myself in the office. I sign in with my voucher and then I get a green wristband. I belong to the green group today. I do have to fill in my name and my passport number on a form. This is necessary for the insurance. I don’t have my passport with me, it is safely in the safe of my hotel. So I just enter a fictitious number that is very similar to my real passport number. There won’t be a rooster crowing at it.
2:00 pm – explanation
Before we leave on the bike, we first get an explanation from Cookie, one of the two guides of today. Together with the other guide Nancy, they will accompany our group of twelve people through the streets and alleys of Bangkok today. During the explanation, we are told that we have to pay attention because the other traffic is not really used to cyclists and because we sometimes cycle through very narrow alleys where pedestrians and scooters also go. The intention is that we cycle behind each other and that you have to keep left in Thailand. After two minutes of explanation, we leave with Cookie in the lead and Nancy last in the procession.
2:10 pm – with the boat
We immediately leave the right bank and board the boat to cross Mae Nam Chao Phraya. We go to the other side to actually start the bike ride there. The bicycles can simply be taken on the deck of the ferry. A few minutes later we are on the other side of the river.
2:20 pm – on narrow cycle paths
We cycle through narrow alleys and equally narrow cycle paths through the old part of Bangkok. This is the Thonburi district that already existed before the city of Bangkok. On this side of the river, rents are on average about a third lower than on the other side, there is more peace and quiet and there are fewer sights. Because of this you get to know the real Bangkok here. You drive through the backyards of the residents, as it were. You see people working, cleaning, cooking and you see children playing. You have to be careful to maneuver through this by bicycle. That element may only make the bike ride more fun.
The photo below is one of the wider trails we cycled over. In the narrowest alleys I have not had the courage to take a picture while cycling.
2:35 pm – Co van Kessel
We stop at a memorial of Co van Kessel. This Dutchman was the initiator of the bicycle tours through Bangkok and the namesake of the company I am on the road with today. Co van Kessel passed away on July 15, 2012 after a fairly long illness. His Thai family then continued their successful business in the spirit of Co. During the stop we also receive a bottle of cold water from Nancy. Although cycling goes at a relaxed pace, you will notice that this light exertion also makes you thirsty at a temperature of 32 degrees. I gratefully accept the H2O and drink the bottle almost in one go.
3:15 pm – temple
We make a stop at a Buddhist temple. I don’t know what it is exactly, I forgot to write down the name. Incidentally, it is not very important for the story. After all, this temple is not one of the five most important temples in the city or anything. After we have parked the bikes in the street, we walk to the temple where we first take off our shoes. Inside we take a seat on the floor. It is important not to sit with your feet facing the Buddha statue. So you sit cross-legged or you put your legs aside without pointing towards the altar. Cookie tells us all about Buddhism and temples.
3:55 PM – Pak Khlong
We cross the river by bike via the King Rama I Memorial Bridge. We go to the famous flower and vegetable market Pak Khlong. Fruit and vegetables are something you can also buy in abundance in other markets. It is especially the flower market that Pak Khlong Talat is so famous for. Originally this market was a fish market. Over the years, Pak Khlong’s role has changed and it now mainly sells flowers, vegetables and fruit. In addition, you also see some household products, clothing and other items being sold.
The many flowers on offer here are not bunches of flowers as we know them. no, they are flower arrangements and pieces intended as offerings. Offerings are an important part of Buddhism. Fragrant and colorful flowers are offered on a fairly large scale. This market is the best place in Bangkok to buy flower arrangements.
We walk between the many stalls. In a number of places the guides let us taste local delicacies such as a fruit that resembles lychee, a piece of fried banana that is breaded with a coating of rice and a sweet snack that is based on coconut. Nice to get to know Bangkok in this way.
4:35 PM – Chinatown
From the market we cycle towards Chinatown. This Chinese district is one of the nicer places in Bangkok. It is definitely one of the most vibrant areas in the city. You can see from the neon signs and the letters on the shops that the Thai language has given way to the Chinese language here. The Chinese food stalls, the red lanterns and the shops with Chinese products show you that you see here in an ethnic district full of Chinese. However, it is not only Chinese that you see on the street here. Tourists and also locals of non-Chinese descent come to Chinatown in quite large numbers. The district is one of the top 10 attractions in Bangkok .
4:50 PM – Cookie’s flowers
The bike ride is almost over. We make another stop at the entrance (in our case now the exit) of Chinatown. It turns out that Cookie and Nancy bought us little flower arrangements while we were at the flower market. They are now handing it out to us as a gesture of gratitude for participating in the bike ride today. A nice gesture that is certainly appreciated.
5:20 PM – Chinatown
Around five o’clock we are back at the place where we started the bike tour three hours earlier: at the office of Co van Kessel Tours. I have no idea where I want to go now. The city map of Bangkok provides the definitive answer: I’m going back to Chinatown to stroll around there at my leisure. On the bike you have little chance to really immerse yourself in what you see around you. A reason to decline. From the Co van Kessel headquarters it is about a 15-minute walk to return to Chinatown. Here I wander through the streets, enjoying everything I see and smell around me.
6:15 pm – Chinese food
Although my preference is definitely for Thai food, I choose to eat Chinese tonight. After all, I am in Chinatown and I have become quite hungry by now. The bike ride and the fact that I last ate more than six hours ago means that I am now ready for a meal. I’m hot, so street food is not an option this time. I just want to relax in the air conditioning. That is why I walk into the first restaurant I come across whose menu I understand. As far as I can judge, there are only Chinese inside. That is usually a good sign. Can’t find the restaurant in TripAdvisor. It’s really just a guess whether this is what.
As a drink I order fresh watermelon juice. My evening meal will be oriental beef and fried rice with crab meat. The food tastes better than expected. The meat is deliciously tender and the sauce really makes you want more. I almost regret ordering the smallest portion. After about 40 minutes I have finished eating and I pay. The bill is 610 Baht. That is a little more than € 15. Not a cheap meal by Thai standards, but the most important thing is that I enjoyed it.
7:00 pm – on foot to the metro
I don’t feel like getting into a taxi or tuk-tuk yet. Partly due to the wonderful weather at the moment, I feel like going for a walk. In this case it means back through Chinatown towards the nearest metro station. That is Hua Lamphong which is located a few hundred meters east of Chinatown. My original plan was to take the metro and then the Sky train to Siam Square. There are the most beautiful shopping centers in Bangkok and a large number of streets that you can stroll through to soak up the atmosphere of Bangkok. On the way to the metro station I take some evening photos of Chinatown.
Just before I arrive at the metro station I receive a message from an acquaintance of mine from the Netherlands. He is on vacation in Thailand with a good friend and his two daughters. He asks if I feel like and have time to drink a beer together. He’s on Khao San Road. This is Bangkok’s backpacker street, he reports to me. An absolute must if you want to discover Bangkok, he also assures me. I therefore change my plans and spontaneously travel to Khao San Road. I do that with the tuk-tuk. For me this form of transport is by far the best way to get around Bangkok, so if public transport is not convenient then I use the tuk-tuk.
7:40 PM – Khao San Road
After a drive of about twenty minutes through the busy streets of Bangkok I get dropped off at the eastern entrance of Thanon Khao San. The English name Khao San Road is much more famous. This is the heart of Bangkok’s backpacker district: Banglamphoo. Almost every backpacker who has ever visited Thailand has been in this street. It has been said to be the most famous street in all of Southeast Asia. To be honest, I had never heard of it, but that will be mainly because I have never traveled the wide world as a backpacker. I like luxury a bit more if I’m honest.
Khao San Road is busy and has a distinctly different crowd than the Bangkok average. Many people in their twenties and thirties, sometimes a little late teens and a fairly small proportion of people who are over forty, such as myself. I like it here. The street has a great vibe. I see many places where backpackers can have their tired feet massaged. There are also many shops, stalls and bars. On the street you can get to know street food in all variations. The different satés are popular.
A striking stall is the one where all kinds of insects and exotic animals are offered as food. Scorpions, cockroaches and tarantulas are sold here as delicacies. Anyone who thinks you see this everywhere in Bangkok is wrong. This is done purely for the many tourists. At the beginning of the evening, the lady mainly earns money by making people pay to take pictures (10 Baht). Later in the evening, more and more tourists are tempted to eat pests under the influence of enough alcohol.
8:30 PM – Thanon Rambuttri
In the meantime I have met the Dutch company I agreed with in Khao San Road. We went through an alley to a street at the back where we settled on the terrace of restaurant-bar ‘My Darling’. In terms of location and atmosphere, a great place in this nice neighborhood. We chat while enjoying some cool bottles of Singha and Chang beer. It is a very pleasant evening. Although I travel alone and also enjoy eating and drinking alone, I have a great time. A cold beer always tastes better with good company, right?
11:15 PM – Khao San Road again
After a few hours on the terrace we walk back to Khao San Road. The street is busy. It has actually been transformed into one large entertainment area with live music playing at a high volume down the street from almost every bar. Where there are no live musicians, mainly house beats are blown out through the speakers. In places where several bars sit next to each other, you walk from music style to music style while you munch through the nightlife crowd. This is one big party. I doubt for a while whether I won’t stick around here. I drink one more beer with Ronald before looking for a tuk-tuk to take me to my hotel.
11:50 PM – back at the hotel
After a crazy ride through the streets of Bangkok I arrive back at my hotel. On the way, I had the feeling that the driver thought he had to break all speed records. Fortunately, I am used to something. I enter my hotel room just before midnight. My day in Bangkok is over. Brush teeth and go to bed!