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Planning a First-Time Visit to Bangkok

Updated on June 23, 2018
Iammattdoran profile image

Matt is an avid traveller and self-confessed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, & travelling the world.

Grand Palace in Bangkok

One of my Bangkok Pictures.  This is the Grand Palace in Bangkok
One of my Bangkok Pictures. This is the Grand Palace in Bangkok | Source

Travelling in South East Asia

When my girlfriend and I were visiting Bangkok last summer, we were four and a half months into a a year-long backpacking trip around the world. We had already been travelling for 5 months through India, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and had been, to be frank, slumming it all this time.

We were not looking forward to the heat and the chaos of Bangkok and finding our next basic but adequate hostel. Basic and adequate would normally be fine, but what we wanted was a little comfort. And we wanted to stay a little longer and make ourselves comfortable. We wanted to completely empty our bags, wash all our clothes, iron them, and put them away neatly in drawers. What we wanted was to stay a for week in Bangkok and really take it easy for a week in Bangkok.

Where is Bangkok Located

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What do you think of Bangkok

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A Week in a Bangkok Apartment

We broke from our normal habit of booking a cheap room in a hostel and instead paid a bit more for an apartment in Bangkok, as we were looking to stay for a full week and we thought this would provide good value for money - which it did. The Bangkok apartment provided by a company called Bangkok Living had air-con in all rooms; cable TV with English channels; a fridge, a kettle, a toaster and a microwave. Needless to say, the Bangkok Living apartment had its own bathroom with a shower that actually had hot water! In a word, it was the perfect place in which to relax and enjoy our week in a Bangkok apartment.

Bangkok Apartment - Short term or Long term

This is not the kind of week in Bangkok that would immediately spring to mind in many people's heads. My week in Bangkok does not include all night drinking sessions; there's no late-night liaisons with women with strangely masculine facial features; no impulsive tattoo decisions; it's not a week in the Bangkok Hilton; and there are no ping pong balls involved. All of the above exists in pockets of Bangkok for sure. But it's unfair to say that this is an accurate representation of the Thai capital. I opted to rent an apartment in Bangkok and unwind for a week and see how the real people of Bangkok live in a real local neighbourhood.

What to do in Bangkok

What
Where
When
Wat Arun (the temple of dawn
west side of Chao Praya River (opposite Tha Thien Pier)
Daily 08:00 -17:30
Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw
Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Daily 08:30 - 15:30
Chinatown (Yaowarat)
Central Bangkok
Best at night
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak
Saturdays and Sundays, 09:00 - 18:00
Chao Phraya River
Bangkok
Daily

Delicious Iced Coffee 'to go'

I had a few of these delights during my week in Bangkok
I had a few of these delights during my week in Bangkok | Source

Best area for Bangkok apartment

We stayed several kilometres outside of the main centre of Bangkok, in the Phayathai neighbourhood near the Bang Sue railway junction. There were no tourists in this neighbourhood so we got to live among the locals, like locals. For us, this was the best area to stay in Bangkok as it suited all our needs at the time. There was a big 'Big C' supermarket maybe 10 minutes' walk from our Bangkok apartment, which housed a good-sized food court on the lower ground floor where we could sample a variety of cheap tasty dishes. Taxis run along the main road towards Big C all day and they're also very cheap.

However, I was always happy to take the walk from our Bangkok apartment as it meant I could get my daily fix of mango sticky rice sold by the woman next to the overpass outside of the Supermarket. Only 30baht ($1US) and it is out of this world! Up until this point I had thought that the street food in Vietnam was the best but after spending a week in Bangkok in our Bangkok apartment I was ready to concede that the Thai food came pretty close.

Visiting Bangkok

What to do in Bangkok: Another of my Bangkok pictures taken at the site of the Reclining Buddha
What to do in Bangkok: Another of my Bangkok pictures taken at the site of the Reclining Buddha | Source

What to do in Bangkok: The Reclining Buddha

What to do in Bangkok: The Reclining Buddha
What to do in Bangkok: The Reclining Buddha | Source

Food in Bangkok

There were many Bangkok restaurants and street food stalls selling lite bites in the area in which we stayed but I have to admit that we did struggle with the language at times. With this not being a neighbourhood frequented by many tourists, there was not so much English spoken. To be quite honest we ordered in a lot of the time. The owners of our Bangkok apartment left very clear instructions with regards to how to order from a number of companies in the local area. We ordered from McDonalds a couple of times and also the local Thai restaurant. I can't remember the name of it now but the food was incredibly cheap and very good.

Our 'normal' week in a Bangkok Apartment

After travelling for almost 5 months, and ever so slightly missing the things that made us happy from our Manchester apartment back home, we wanted to give ourselves some things to do for our week in our Bangkok apartment that had nothing to do with backpacking. We quickly fell into a routine which was great to break up the travelling as we still had 7 months on the road ahead of us. The Bangkok Living apartment complex had a residents-only gym and swimming pool that we would go and use for an hour or so every morning. The gym is small but no one else really used it in the day as I guess other Bangkok Living residents were at work.

During the day we'd do some reading and writing or experiment with our new photo and video editing software. We'd watch TV, make tea and toast and quite simply relax.

Bangkok Apartment: Bangkok Skyline at Night

Bangkok Apartment: a stunning view of the Bangkok skyline
Bangkok Apartment: a stunning view of the Bangkok skyline | Source

What to do in Bangkok: Central Bangkok

Of course, at some point during our stay in Bangkok we did make our way into central Bangkok at least once, although the sight-seeing element didn't take up too much of our time. It was so hot and as we hadn't yet re-charged our batteries we had neither the energy nor the motivation to see the sights of Bangkok. From our Bangkok Living apartment we walked to the Chaophraya river and took the Chaophraya express (river taxi) down the river to the general sightseeing area of Bangkok. You get to see a lot from the river so we considered this to be a little bit of sightseeing in its own right.

We wondered around the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) and had a look around the the Bangkok Grand Palace before taking a taxi over to Bangkok Chinatown and sampling the street food. I couldn't seem to work out where the main 'hub' of all the stalls were though. We walked around for a while but it all seemed to be mostly trade establishments with just the odd food stall dotted amongst them. By this time my adventurousness had worn off and so we went and ate in a traditional Bangkok restaurant.

Things to do in Bangkok: The Cinema Experience

We made one more trip into central Bangkok, specifically to go to a Thai cinema and watch Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. This time we took the Bangkok MRT to the area of Patumwam which is actually a very ugly area filled with huge shopping centres, market stalls and noise. It can get pretty claustrophobic as you're forced to walk on the pavements to avoid the 6 lines of traffic whizzing past but market traders take up a lot of the space. And then there's the concrete MRT line running over-head which makes everything seem darker than it really is.

Anyway, we got off here and went into the cinema. It was quite exciting to be doing something so normal. We even bought snacks and Cokes. The film was ok but the most memorable part was when, just before the movie started and everyone had taken their seats, a message appeared on the screen in Thai. At that point everyone rose to their feet, and so after a brief pause and looking around to find that we were the only people still seated, we quickly followed suit and stood there staring at the screen as a video of the Thai king played accompanied by some grandiose music. A minute later we took to our seats and the movie started.

Apartments in Bangkok - definitely Recommended

We loved our week in Bangkok chiefly due to our stay in the Bangkok apartment and would stay again if ever back in Bangkok. Although we only booked for one week, we ended up extending and staying for 10 days in total and the manager of Bangkok Living was so helpful and friendly that we really didn't want to leave. By the end of the 10 days our batteries were fully charged and our enthusiasm for seeing and doing new things was back up to 100%.

If you're thinking of visiting Bangkok or anywhere else in Thailand then consider investing in a guidebook and/or a good map.

Comments

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    • Iammattdoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Doran 

      5 years ago from Manchester, UK

      Thanks Tastiger, glad you enjoyed the memories! Thanks for reading and the positive comment. Matt

    • tastiger04 profile image

      tastiger04 

      5 years ago

      I loved Bangkok....great hub! Brought back memories :)

    • Iammattdoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Doran 

      5 years ago from Manchester, UK

      Go for it yougotme! People say it's not for everyone but I think there is something for everyone! Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

    • yougotme profile image

      Renz Kristofer Cheng 

      5 years ago from Manila

      Wow, great travel guide! I'm lucky enough to be living in a Southeast Asian country too because the airfare and travel time will be less. I haven't been there, but I really want to. That's why I sworn to visit this when I get the chance to.

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