Top places to See in Bangkok, Thailand. And scams to watch out for.
Bangkok doesn’t make a great first impression. My first time here was on a trip with a girlfriend. We stayed in the Sukhumvit area (close to the Nana skytrain station) and were overwhelmed by the air pollution, traffic, and cement. We were scammed for $3,000 on our first day (that’s an embarrassing story detailed here). We were impressed by the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew but had been happy to leave Bangkok for the countryside.
My 2nd and 3rd visits to Bangkok were as a single guy and I enjoyed the city much more. I barely remember my evenings here – between the cheep booze and the easy friends I made it is all a bit of a blur…Bangkok is the most exciting city that I’ve ever visited and it can just overwhelm. I don’t care if you’re an expat or a visitor, you have to exercise control to survive in Bangkok. It took me a few trips here to learn that lesson.
I stayed at the Royal Hotel on those trips, located close to the Grand Palace, and used the river boats to visit sites such as Wat Arun on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River and Dusit Zoo (a bit further up the river). It was also close to Khao San Road which is admittedly really tacky but a good place to have a beer and people watch.
This time, with Lissette, was my 4th time in Bangkok. We stayed 2 days and visited many of the sites I had missed on previous trips. She didn’t like the city as I much as I do (again, too chaotic and polluted) but I expected that. Bangkok is a city that grows on you. The city still excites me, just mentioning it gets my heart pumping. On one of my trips I encountered an elephant walking along the sidewalk. Where else would this happen but in Bangkok?
My favorite places to See/things to Do in Bangkok:
- Visit the Grand Palace (ie. Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Pho, and Wat Arun Watchararam
- take ferry along river
- Jim Thompson house for a taste of classic Thai culture/architecture
- Golden Mount (Wat Saket)
- Patpong at night for shopping and girlie shows. More risqué are Nana Soi / Soi Cowboy
- Go to a bar with views over the city. A few I like: Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, Park Society at Sofitel So.
- a ride on the skytrain
- Dusit zoo (good for those with kids)
A couple of tourist attractions I found disappointing: The Vimanmek mansion (where you are herded in like tourist cattle) and Muay Thai kickboxing (I love Muay Thai, but see it somewhere else – prices for tourists astronomical in Bangkok).
Planning a visit to Bangkok? Check our “Hypothetically Perfect Day in Bangkok” post.
I mentioned scams. Taxi drivers here are evil and are constantly trying to screw you over. It might be a “meter taxi” but they’ll always quote you a ridiculous fixed price – we had just arrived at the train station and a guy quoted me 400 baht to our hotel. Finally, we got a driver running his meter and the actual cost was 100 Baht. Tuk Tuk drivers are the same. There’s always a hustle in Bangkok and someone could probably write a book on all the different ways tourists get scammed. But exercise control, keep your eyes open, and don’t get suckered in by overly-friendly people…do these things and you might actually find yourself enjoying Bangkok.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Thailand
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