Hey there! It’s been quite an interesting few months over here and I can’t wait to update everyone about what I’ve been up to. If you’ve been following on facebook or instagram, you’ll know that my original plan to go to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam has gotten, well, sidetracked to say the least. I’ve fallen in love…with a little island called Koh Tao. I’ve been on this small piece of paradise (on and off) since early January and changed all my plans to stay here for longer. I’m doing my dive master training with Roctopus Dive and am absolutely loving it.
Living as a dive master trainee on a tiny, beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand spoils a girl. I enjoy my morning coffee with stunning pink and orange sunrise views from the middle of the ocean over looking jungle-lined hills, wake up with the fresh breeze from the boat and spend my days exploring our vast oceans with underwater creatures. When it’s time for any of us to pop back over to Bangkok whether to meet friends, do a visa run or run some errands, I can understand why my fellow divers feel a bit more gutted than excited for their mini-holiday.
But, after spending nearly three weeks in the capitol of Thailand, I can safely declare that I’ve figured out the big bad Bangkok, at least enough to really have a rockin’ good weekend there. Listen up though – Bangkok is definitely not the kind of city you can gracefully wander around and stumble into hidden gems (aside from street food). Rather, it’s a know-where-to-go-or-you-will-surely-die-of-pollution sort of city. Here are some great finds to get you started!
Where to Stay in Bangkok
When I first arrived in Bangkok, I headed straight for the famous backpacker mecca of Khao San Road. After about 48 hours of binging on the mess that is KSR, I knew I had to get away from the hippies, vomit and fried insects. Though completely debaucherous and worth experiencing, I definitely prefer to stay in the Sukhumvit area and visit the rowdy concentration of entertaining tourists on my nights out.
Aloft Bangkok – Sukhumvit
This is my hotel of choice primarily because I earned eight free nights here with my Starwood Preferred credit card. The Aloft is in an ideal location on Sukhumvit Soi 11, right near the BTS (public transportation), and is priced quite reasonably. It has lovely views of the city from the pool, a trendy, modern design and a great club, Levels, on the property.
3Howw Hostel- Sukhumvit
When I’m staying by myself in Bangkok, I choose the Three Howw. It’s near my favorite street, Sukhumvit Soi 11 and both public transportations (MRT and BTS). It’s incredibly clean, quiet and has pod-style beds for those that want even more privacy. I love that each bed has a shelf, lockable storage, a light and a plug. Plus, it’s a great bang for your buck hostel-wise.
NapPark Hostel – Khao San Road
NapPark was the first hostel I stayed at. It’s fabulous if you’re looking for somewhere clean and relatively quiet near Khao San Road, but still want to meet people. I’m so glad this was the first place I stayed in Bangkok as it was a great introduction to the backpacker world of Southeast Asia. Similar to Three Howw – it has all the amenities of a great hostel, including a laundry room!
Things To Do In Bangkok
Night Bike Temples and Flower Market Tour with Grasshopper Adventures
I attempted to visit Wat Pho and the Grand Palace during the day during two different visits to Bangkok. Both times my group and I were so sweaty and miserable we had to ditch out and could barely appreciate what we were looking at. I finally figure out the way to do it on my last trip – the night bike tour with Grasshopper Adventures. While it’s admittedly a little scary riding a bicycle in Bangkok, it was an epic adventure navigating local back alleys and getting to experience both Wat Pho and Wat Arun after dark. We also loved seeing the flower market in action – one of the most unique and authentic experiences I had. I fully recommend these guys!
Bangrak “Village of Love” Food Tour with Taste of Thailand
Okay…I kind of became a Taste of Thailand groupie. I did this tour three times and forced my tour guide into becoming my friend. Yep, I loved it that much. Every time I had friends in town I signed us up right away. This is an absolute must for any foodie visiting Bangkok. You’ll learn so much about the city’s history, the local culture and all about different Thai dishes. Almost everything I learned about Thai food, I learned from these guys. From street food to Royal Thai cooking, you get the full experience with this tour – and it costs less than $40.
Cooking Class with May Kaidee or Bai Pai
I’ve now done three cooking classes in Thailand and have loved every. single. one. It might be because I miss cooking tremendously, or because I’m just awesome at picking cooking classes. Either way, if you’re in Bangkok and are looking for something to do, they both put on a killer class. I happened to have gone on my final Taste of Thailand food tour with two employees from May Kaidee and after four hours of giggling with them and taking about a million felfies (food selfies?), I was easily convinced to come try one of their cooking classes. Since they focus on vegetarian cooking, it’s a great option for anyone who’s looking for something a little different – and there’s a surprise at the end of the class. It’s conveniently located right near Khao San Road and is relatively cheap for a cooking class in Bangkok. On the other end, Baipai is more upscale and located in what feels like a mini jungle in the city. They have their own vegetable and herb garden, where they teach students about each ingredient used in traditional Thai cooking. Go for Baipai if you want something a bit fancier (but still loads of fun), go for May Kaidee if you want something a bit more unique.
Traditional Thai Massage at Health Land
Everyone has their own opinion about where to go for massages in Bangkok. I’m a believer in getting the most bang for your buck, even on the luxury side. Healthland has a few different locations throughout the city and provides an excellent service at an extremely competitive price. Try the two hour traditional Thai massage for $500 baht.
Save all of your shopping for the Chatuchak weekend market. Anything that’s sold in any of the markets is sold here at the cheapest price you can find. Make a day out of it as it’s massive and you’ll want to take lunch/beer breaks throughout. Aside from purchasing classic elephant pants and cheap tanks, my friends bought beautiful pieces of art here. I walked away with gorgeous painted shoes that I’m obsessed with.
Where to Eat in Bangkok
Discovering food in Bangkok has been an adventure in itself. After some serious trial and error, here’s a short list of my recommendations.
I practically lived at the Suk11 restaurant. If you’re going to go anywhere – go here for either lunch, afternoon noodles or dinner. It’s all amazing and on my favorite, tucked away Soi 11!
LUNCH: Eat cheap for lunch. Order as many of the small Isaan-inspired salads as you can handle. I always tried a new one, but favorites are papaya salad, mushroom salad and the grilled chicken, all served with sticky rice. Make sure you dictate the level of chilis you’d like (even one chili in these authentic salads make them super spicy). Cheap and absolutely delicious.
NOODLES: Grab and go at the noodle stand in front for a cheap, but delectible meal. Only three noodle options to choose from, all 50 baht and you cannot go wrong. You can even get your noodles for takeaway, bring them over to Cheap Charlie’s to pair with your Singha.
DINNER: Splurge here for dinner. Go directly for the curries. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
These guys do street food in a more “comfortable” setting. I say, it’s fabulous food and perfectly mixed cocktails in a well-designed restaurant that could excel in any big city in the world. They also serve a bomb Khao Soi – my favorite Thai soupy noodle dish (totally the official term) from the north of the country.
A tasting menu for about $35? Yes, please. I originally turned my nose up at my friends’ idea to come here since you can get street food for $1 in Bangkok, but returned with Liz for a girls date night out. We devoured our five course tasting menu and forced the chef, Tee, to come out and take a picture with us. Poor soul had no idea what was coming.
Boat Noodles at Victory Monument
If you’re up for a true Bangkok food adventure, head over to Victory Monument for some boat noodles.You can hop on the BTS, get off at the Victory Monument stop and do what I did – ask around until someone points you in the direction of these small bowls of noodles. Order a bunch and stack ’em up!
Where to Drink in Bangkok
Like most big cities, Bangkok has its fair share of awesome bars to let loose at. These are the few that are worth checking out even if you just have a few days in the city. Most of these are in Sukhumvit, my favorite neighborhood of Bangkok.
Above Eleven | sunset cocktails on a swanky rooftop
Most people tend to head to Sky Bar, the famed rooftop from the movie The Hangup. Above Eleven is my go-to rooftop instead. It’s cheaper, has great views of the city and is in Sukhumvit. Just head to the back of the Frasier Suites hotel for pink skies and creative cocktails.
Maggie Choo’s | live music in a 1920’s speakeasy
Multiple people had recommended a night out at Maggie Choo’s and I kept missing it – cancelled plans, moved reservations – I was determined to make it there. When Liz and I walked through the hidden door, we were immediately impressed with the 1920’s style decor, the geisha girls, and the plush velvet seats. It also helped that it was Blues night and the main singer was from Chicago.
Cheap Charlie’s| casual outdoor beers
Hidden on the corner of the little nook in the middle of Sukhumvit Soi 11 (just walk down the side path on the left), Cheap Charlie’s is the place to grab casual beers, play some cards and get the night started. If you want to do it right, grab noodles from the Suk 11 street stand for take away and bring them over to eat at Charlie’s wooden tables.
Sukhumvit Soi 11 Clubs | dance your heart out
Levels. Sugar. If it’s that kind of night, you’ll know where to go just by walking down Sukhumvit Soi 11. Make sure all guys have no shorts or flip flops on and be ready to shell out a bit for drinks.
Quick Tips For Your First Time in Bangkok
Stay near the BTS and the MRT (public transportation system) and take it as much as you can. Hop in a cab when you need to, but never during rush hour unless you want to sit in a car for two hours. Always ask the driver to use the meter and show him on your smart phone where you’re going (don’t just say the name of the place. For iPhone users, you can pull up a map on your phone while you’re on wifi, leave it up once you’re offline and your GPS tracker will still work. Bangkok really isn’t a walking city – it’s too hot and polluted.
Guides and Maps
Your Smartphone | For general directions if you know where you’re going, pull up where you’re going while on wifi and leave it up on your phone. Trip Advisor also has an offline map, but I tend to just use my iPhone map.
LUXE Guide – Bangkok | For recommendations on swanky things to do in the city, use this guide. I loved the bar and restaurant recommendations, but they also have details on daytime activities, spas and tours.
Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok| This is an annotated map with great recommendations for anything and everything in the city! It has great tips and tricks for local/expat hot spots and is especially useful because you can locate yourself on the map and search around your current location for anything you want (i.e. bars and restaurants nearby). It also comes with a guide that categorizes establishments in the city. Looking for a live music venue? Sit-down Thai food? Nancy has them all listed :).
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