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Bangkok : Weekend Guide

Sightseeing guide for a weekend in Bangkok

Here's my weekend Bangkok guide for the busy business traveller or those who just spend a couple of days in town, before jumping onto one of the many awesome islands in Thailand.

Bangkok was the first city I ever visited in Asia, back in February 2010. Our vacation in Thailand at the time was both an amazing and terrible experience, as we were guilty of all the mistakes a traveller can make in this country (e.g. take a tuk-tuk, believe the driver who tells you that "the temple is closed today", get tricked into buying silk and jewels, attend a ping-pong show).

The last night of the amazing holiday, while riding a tuk-tuk after the last dinner in Bangkok, I had my purse on my lap, seconds before it was got stolen. It felt like a movie or a nightmare, totally  surreal. A motorbike came on the side, a hand came out of nowhere, to grab my tiny vintage snakeskin bag and pull it away from me, as the motor accelerated. Time stopped. I recall the scene in slow motion. The black motorbike, the wind on my face, my hopeless hands pulling the metal chain, golden links jumping on the air, hope disappearing into the night. I lost my iPhone3GS (a very valuable factory unlocked item at the time, that had come to me straight from Hong Kong) and all the pictures from our vacation (elephant, cooking classes, SPA, buddhas, remain in my mind though). But, on the positive side, I learnt that nothing is as safe as it seems. I have not experienced further  incidents, despite traveling alone, ever since.

Thailand is a beautiful country that offers good value for the money, but still it has issues. Poverty, lack of public healthcare or education, prostitution and hunger. A society with issues has individuals who are willing to make the most out of "rich tourists" (at least compared to them) so you gotta watch out. This is not a place for violent crime, but pickpocketing and scam are extremely common. 

I was on my own this time, somewhat jet-lagged as it was just a week after having come back our New Year vacation in Aruba. But I left my brand-new 6Plus home, took just enough cash for the day and went out to explore. Bringing back nothing but good memories from my short-yet-intense sightseeing spree.

1. Bangkok main Temples : Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun

I was staying at Aloft Hotel in Sukhumvit (soi 11), which is a very busy shopping and restaurant district well connected to both the Subway and the Skytrain. This made made transit and therefore sightseeing, a very efficient activity. My plane landed at 10AM on a Sunday. I took a cab, checked-in and showered. 1PM, and I was ready to hit the streets, with one clear goal in mind: visit all main temples of Bangkok before they were closed. Keep in mind that they close early and you may need more time than you would expect, given the masses, queues to rent (deposit) clothes and the heat, which combined with jet-lag, will likely slow you down. 

Sightseeing guide for a weekend in Bangkok

Start early if you can, but if you are late like me... Get drinks to hydrate on the go and make the most out of a limited timeframe, always keeping opening times in mind:
- Wat Phra Kaew : 8:30AM - 16:00 PM
- Wat Pho : 8:30AM - 18:30PM
- Wat Arun : 8:00 AM - 18:00PM

Also, remember to withdraw some CASH - there are ATMs all over the place, but I always feel safer at the airport. The first day you will need roughly 4000 BAHT:
- Taxi from Airport (1500 BAHT)
- BTS train (42 BAHT from Nana, one-way)
- Boat (40 BAHT, one-way)
- Rental Clothes (50-100 BAHT + 200 BAHT deposit)
- Temple Admission Fee (500 BAHT, 100 BAHT, 50 BAHT)
- Something to eat and drink (500 BAHT) - dinner excluded

The route is intense, but simple, when split in two phases:

1A) Reaching the Boat Terminal
- From Aloft, walk to the intersection of Sukhumvit soi 11 and Sukhumvit Road.
- Get on the BTS (sky train) green line at Nana station (towards National Stadium)
- Transit to the other BTS line at Siam Square (towards Wongwai Yai)
- Get off at Saphan Takshin and walk to the boat terminal
* Find MAP here

Sukhumvit to main temple area in Bangkok map

1B) Exploring the temple area
- At boat terminal of Saphan Takshin, buy one-way ticket to Tha Chang (Wat Phra Kaew and Royal Grand Palace)
- Get off, walk to the Palace entrance (ignore ANYONE who tells you that it is closed), rent some clothes in case you are wearing something short and/or sleveless & explore this amazing ground.
- Take a stroll to Wat Pho (next stop), rent some clothes (see above) and amaze at his mother of pearl soles.
- Time to get on the boat again (at Tha Tian Terminal) to cross the river, on the way to our last stop of today, Wat Arun.
- Rent clothes and get ready to climb as the sun sets. I am afraid of height. I was alone, wearing a scarf around the legs but still.. It was well worth it.
- Go back to Tha Tian terminal (the one besides Wat Pho) and wait for a boat returning to Saphan Takshin, where you can get on the BTS and come back to the hotel.
* Find MAP here

Bangkok temple visitor map

Then I went and had a cozy dinner at Crave, the superb rooftop restaurant of Aloft, but Sukhumvit Soi 11 is packed with cool restaurants (like OSKAR or Zanzibar) to check out if you are in good company and not alone like me. Another interesting spot to check out is the Food Court at the top of Terminal 21 shopping mall, which is not the most romantic place, but RIDICULOUSLY cheap (we went there one night after work and paid like 30 BAHT for a plate of curry plus another 30 BAHT for frozen coconut water, dinner for less than 2€!!).

2. Bangkok shopping spree and the largest Gold Buddha on Earth: From Wat Traimit to Siam

Sunday was over and a hard week of work ahead of me. Weekdays during business trip boil down to shower-breakfast-cab-office-cab-sandwhich-customer-cab-hotel-food-work-bed (restart) but Saturday eventually arrived, providing 5h of sightseeing before continuing on to the next leg of my trip. I had the super kind Candy from Darlin Jewelry deliver the coolest set of clutch and racelet at the hotel. This is a brand I have been following for years but I had never really bought anything from them because of the huge import taxes of EU (I had to pay A LOT the first time I bought clothes from Japan so I learnt a lesson there...). I have many weddings this year and well, as you already know, I am really into anything big, bold and bright.

Sightseeing guide for a weekend in Bangkok

Lacking much time or money left to spend shopping, I decided to kick off the day paying off tribute at the ultimate big, bold and bright thing: the Gold Buddha at Wat Traimit, which is the largest gold statue on Earth. Again, very easy to get to Wat Traimit from Aloft.
- Get on the MRT at Sukhumvit Station
- Get off the MRT at Hualamphong Station
- Walk from Hualamphong to Wat Traimit
- Rent clothes and admire the largest gold Buddha on Earth.
- Go back to Hualamphong Station
* Find MAP here

Sukhumvit to golden buddha map

Instead of going around Chinatown (honestly I did not see much of a point, given that I was travelling to Taipei that afternoon) I decided to explore the shopping malls along Siam Road. This is an impressive succession of consumption hubs, starting at National Stadium BTS center, you can walk via the elevated walkway through MBK Center, Siam Discovery Center, Siam Paragon, Siam Square & CentralWorld. To get there from Hualamphong is again a breeze:
- Get on MRT at Hualamphong
- Get off MRT at Silom
- Walk from MRT Silom station to BTS Sala Daeng station
- Get on BTS at Sala Daeng
- Get off BTS at National Stadium
- Then stroll around the stores for as long as you can... Knowing that you can always jump on BTS at either Siam or Chitlom, to return to the hotel on time.
* Find MAP here

Siam shopping spree map

On your way back to the airport, please budget 3-4h just in case. Traffic in Bangkok can sometimes be as nasty as in Jakarta, so you can be stuck on a jam for 1-2h which is not fun if you are boarding an international flight next.


Laura Artigas said...

Loved having this mini weekend guide on my pocket when I traveled to Thailand and had only two days to walk around Bangkok.
More than maps or directions I really appreciated tips on "ignore anyone telling you the temple is closed" -hahaha, really true- or ways to move -I also picked a random biker but I was, thankfully, not alone-.
Experience of an expert worths more than anything.
Great Claudia, Thank you!

Clau said...

Yay!!! Glad it helped out!!!

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