‘The City of Angels’ is not for everyone, it certainly wasn’t for the first time I visited. In my mind it was smelly, dirty and full of (s)expats in search of well…what many people come to Bangkok for. I’m not a big city girl but I do love a pretty city and Bangkok is not. But on my second visit, I changed location and experienced a totally different side to the city and what I saw, I liked. This is why Bangkok grew on me…
1. I didn’t stay in Chinatown
The first time I stayed in Bangkok for 2 nights, it was in the Grand China Hotel in China Town. There was absolutely nothing grand about the place and it wasn’t the cheapest either. It was the first place we experienced just how radically different Thai hotels really look in comparison to their website photos. And this particular one had not been renovated since the dark ages. Chinatown is not the first impression you want to get of Bangkok either. Jetlagged zombies, we wondered through rancid smelling streets where women prepared meat, cleaned dishes and threw out trash all on the dirty street outside their food stalls. Cockroaches ran beneath the table as we barely ate at a corner seafood restaurant.
2. We stayed in 5 star heaven called Swissotel Nai Lert Park.
I reviewed the Swissotel Nai Lert Park near Chit Lom BTS stop. Within its walls we found a sweet combination of utter luxury and style. And in its centre was an oasis; a tropical garden with a waterfall and pool. And in Bangkok’s heavy humidity, a refreshing pool is invaluable. Breakfast time offered up everything imaginable that you can’t easily find in Thailand; pastries, delicious bacon, muesli and yoghurt, salmon and honey dripping from raw honeycomb. Needless to say, this is a place no one ever wants to leave.
3. I discovered the Sky Train.
On my first trip, I didn’t stay long enough to find or use the sky train. But discovering it can make or break Bangkok for anyone. You can avoid the tuk tuks and taxi drivers who will rip you off for all your money if you don’t know better and it will take you almost anywhere. Plus the skywalk allows you to walk out of the harsh sun’s glare and away from Bangkok Traffic. You can access all the central shopping areas with ease and relatively cheaply. An average ticket will cost you around 40 baht and the ticket machines are simple to use. Here’s a map and more info: BTS
4. I steered clear of Khao San Road.
Khao San road is supposedly the place you’re meant to visit in Bangkok. After living in Thailand for eight months and becoming well-acquainted with dirty tourist traps, I recognized this road as one of the biggest. Farangs are being relieved of all their money from vendors who know they can ask a lot of clothing, jewellry and alcohol. During the day tour operators are making conversation to sell you expensive tours and by night restaurants and bars are filled to the brim with drunk tourists who will later be fooled into thinking a pretty man is actually a woman. Even if you’re looking to party there are better places to do it.
5. I strolled around Silom neighbourhood.
Staying at Swissotel allowed us to stroll in and through the Silom district. It was like no other area I had seen in Bangkok. Tall green trees lined clean streets and numerous trendy coffee shops can be found in amongst massage parlours and restaurants on Lang Suan Road. This was also the first time we laid eyes on a monitor lizard which was swimming in a waterway- Scary but unexpected in a city centre nonetheless.
6. I found Lumpini Park.
Amidst the tuk tuks, traffic and chaos of the city is a patch of green where you can escape. Walking through the gate of Lumpini Park will feel like you’re leaving the smog behind you and joining the runners and cyclists who come to exercise on the well-marked pathways here. You can sit on a bench and picnic beside the lake, go paddle-boating in a white swan and watch the monitor lizards lounge on the grass. People come here to rollerblade, do aerobics classes and nap beneath the trees.
7. I lost myself in the Friday Night market.
At the weekend, I discovered a busy market on the opposite side of the road from Siam Mall. It was a bit of a fashion feeding frenzy, but looking at the beautiful cheap garments for sale, I was ready to be a part of it. To preserve my husband’s sanity, I sent him to a coffee shop and I ran off promising to stick to a budget. Glittery pumps, pencil skirts, knock-off designer dresses, bowler hats, jewelry and bright blazers all hung enticingly from the rails at a fraction of the price you would ever see in the malls. It was heaven and hell at the same time. I would have shopped forever, but thankfully hubby saved me from myself and from bankrupting us.
8. I knew bits of Thai.
Knowing some Thai goes a long way when negotiating bargains and prices for transport. It means that tuk tuk drivers can’t have their way with your wallet and we could give the amount we’d pay from the get go. Clothing vendors often dropped their prices radically when I asked the price in Thai and gave them a counter amount.
9. I learnt what a mall should really look like.
Bangkok malls really know how to do it. They use the most innovative ways to attract shoppers and bring totally unique experiences to your visit. Giant wooden horse sculptures and Superman statues greeted you at doorways, aisles were decorated to look like Parisian streets and the mannequins were like nothing I’d ever seen. Shops went all out with the store fronts and transformed every part of the store in relation to a theme. Ceilings were screens playing all kinds of messages and stairs change their imaging as you walk up them.
10. I ate at the Central Chit lom Food Court.
Just around the corner from our hotel, we found the food court at the bottom of Central Chit Lom mall. Every kind of delicious food could be found in this upmarket mall at very reasonable prices. Paella, pizza, tikka chicken with rotis, macaroons, espresso and more. Within the supermarket section we saw beef (like we’d never seen in Thailand), salmon, fresh fruits and every other product imaginable. If I lived in Bangkok, I would hope it would be near here.
What was YOUR first impression of Bangkok? Did it change the second time around?