Going to South East Asia for a River Cruise or an Ocean Cruise?
Then the best thing to do is fly in a few days early to acclimatize and enjoy a stay in modern Bangkok.
It’s not over the top in attractions but for a sure a good place to get used to the time difference from home & to recover from the long flight & climate change (especially if coming from colder climates). And yes, Bangkok has several interesting things to see and do…
….we spent 3 nights here before our recent Myanmar River cruise on the Irrawady River and have compiled several tips below to save you time & get the most out of a short 1-3 night stay.
Attractions in Bangkok!
1. The Grand Palace (above) is one of the most popular attractions that sits in the heart of Bangkok & was the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) until 1925. The Grand Palace is worth a visit. See it’s numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards that were built back in the late 1700’s.
2. Wat Pho Reclining Buddha is one of the largest single Buddha statues at over 160 feet long. See the picture below to get a taste:
3. Take a River Taxi across the Chao Phraya River for the fun of it and then visit…
3. Wat Arun is one of the most stunning and prominent architectural monuments in Thailand. This riverside Buddhist Temple has a small fee to enter allowing you to climb up it’s many staircases, take many pictures & explore.
4. Siriraj Medical Museum in Bangkok is one of the most interesting & unique medical museums you will visit but is NOT for the squeamish type. Nancy was so excited to go. Shawn not so much:-) Tip: Hire a tuk tuk to take you there as the hospital is BIG it makes the museum tricky to find.
5. Snake Farm: is conveniently located in the city of Bangkok where you can watch a venom demonstration and a show. Check the website for details. TIP: Be sure to show up for the snake show and then check out the rest of the facility after, otherwise it makes for a rather dull visit.
Some Interesting Things about Bangkok!
First thing you will notice is the friendly Thai people. They still bow to show respect and welcome you to their country. The fact that most locals have so little but are genuinely happy is a delightful sight in itself… we found it a humbling lesson.
Bangkok is NOT a walkable city.
The side walks are uneven so care must be taken when walking (bring supportive walking shoes) but the good news is that because the attractions are spread throughout the city, the sky train provides an easy accessible way to navigate the city to sight see without hassle. Plus, Tuk Tuk’s and taxi cabs are widely available & quite inexpensive as most things are in Bangkok.
Our Suggestion: The day you arrive after your LONG flight, plan to check into your hotel, take in some “lite” sight-seeing and get lots of rest- you’re going to need it with the jet-lag you will experience. At the most, take a tuk tuk ride just for the experience and fun of it, have a bite to eat and get a massage… A perfect first day in Bangkok.
Shopping in Bangkok!
Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world and is a shoppers paradise. It has a shopping mall district where you can walk out of one large shopping mall and take a short walk into another.
Bangkok also has a large outdoor market called Jatujak Weekend Market. BUT if you are short on time or would like to go to the best place to grab a few gifts and shop then definitely go to the MBK mall and leave the rest. We went to several malls (Siam, Central World & the Jatujak market) and by far in our opinion, the MBK has everything the others offer and MORE.
Note: the weekend market does NOT offer any electronics & few accessories). MBK is clean, has competitive prices and the food choices are plenty…
…If you want dim sum in the MBK Mall we recommend a restaurant called Hongmin– the food is delish!
That said, you will find many choices for delicious food in Bangkok. Here is another Thai meal we had at the MBK Mall and it was delicious and yes- you can find many choices without heat or chillies like below:
Another place we recommend for authentic Thai food is Tipsamai Restaurant which is across the street from Wat Ratchanaddaram & in the Golden Mountain area (check your map & ask a local). Order the Pad Thai.
Massage Services in Bangkok!
We have one word for that… Cheap! And fortunately the quality is excellent. Expect to pay approximately $10 for 1 hour foot massage and about $12 for a 1 hour oil massage.
English is spoken well here by locals so you can easily talk to them and they will be happy to give you directions or help you navigate a map.
Warning: “Some” locals (not the majority) will try to lure you to shop with them and will tell you that whatever you are looking for is closed for the day– this likely will not be true. Just keep that in mind.
Sex Trade in Bangkok!
After dark we were expecting to see prostitution on city street corners all over the city because sex tourism is well known & tolerated here, but surprisingly, that was not the case. It is mostly contained in 2 small areas of town called Nana Plaza & Soi Cowboy.
Hotels in Bangkok!
So, when looking for which hotel to pick and what area to stay in during your visit we would recommend staying away from those two areas listed above if that’s not what you want in your face your entire stay. As for which area to stay in would be best- we would say that it depends on what you are coming here to do. If shopping is something you plan to do mainly then get a hotel closer to the MBK Mall. Otherwise, the attractions are so spread out that the Sofitel, Four Seasons or Intercontinental hotels are a good choice.
Local currency is called Thai Bhat (pronounced Ba-t) and as of today: $1USD is 32Bhat. USD is NOT widely accepted here so you will need to change money. For the best exchange rates, convert your USD here in Bangkok at a local currency converter booth, which are located all over the city. TIP: The currency exchange rates are better at these booths then at the airport or the hotels.
Ok, now you are ready and prepared to stop over in Bangkok.
Like we said, please be sure to fly here a few days early to adjust & be jet-lag free by the time you start your Cruise…. we cannot express how important that is to your health and for your FULL enjoyment of your upcoming cruise!
If you have any questions about Asia River Cruises or Asia Ocean Cruises or to book one, give us a call or email and we will be happy to assist you.
We appreciate you!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!