Bangkok is our third and final guide on our tour of Thailand with Chang Beer, a trip of a lifetime to immerse ourselves in Thai cuisine and culture. If you’ve never been to Thailand you need to set your flight trackers to keep an eye on cheap flights and book whenever you see a deal. Once you get to Thailand, it is incredibly afforable. We love this country so much and will be back! The Chang Beer journey was especially amazing because we got to experience three distinct regions of Thailand.
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and one of Asia’s most famous and cosmopolitan cities. Did you know the real name for Bangkok is actually “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”? No joke! We’re so glad we got to see Bangkok in all its glory, but when you come to Thailand plan on experiencing at least two regions. Bangkok is a giant, modern city with over 12 million residents, it’s close to the equator so it’s extremely hot most of the year, and has traffic at all hours of the day. Don’t let that diminish its amazingness though, there is so much to see and do from beautiful river cruises, to famous temples, to nightlife, to delicious food.
What to Eat in Bangkok, Thailand:
Thai Curry – There are many types of curries in Thailand. Varying in color and spice level. Note: these are different than curries from India. All curries start with a curry paste made with herbs, chilis, or onions/garlic. Many use coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai basil. Curries can be packed with veggies, seafood or meat. They are usually served with rice, noodles, or roti.
Roti Sai Mai (Thai Cotton Candy) – Thai cotton candy is much different than the cotton candy you find in the US. It is less fluffy and more of a stringy consistency. It is laid in a circular crepe pancake, so it almost looks like a candy floss taco! Wrap it up like a tortilla and take a bite. It is very sweet and super unique. We found this being made in Ayutthaya and it was mesmerizing to watch. The sugary base is stretched and stretched in order to be made in just the right consistency.
Itim Kati (Coconut Ice Cream) – Creamy, coconut Thai ice cream that is topped with roasted peanuts, jellies, corn, and other fun options. To top it all off it’s served in a coconut shell. It is perfect for cooling off during a hot day and the presentation is totally Instagram-worthy.
Mieng Kham (Thai Lettuce wraps) – This healthy dish can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack. It is made with all the fillings laid on top of Chaplu leaves, which reminded us of a grape leaf. It includes chopped lime with skin. Don’t think this lime is for squeezing for juice and discarding, you actually wrap this whole lime segment in the wrap and eat it, skin and all. Mieng Kham also includes Thai chilis, peanuts, and small dried shrimp.
Durian – This is known as the world’s stinkiest fruit and you can find it all over Thailand. People either love it or hate it! You will even see signs at metro stations banning patrons from bringing Durian on the train! We tried some durian ice cream and Karen thought it tasted like a Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly. She liked it and Gavin absolutely hated it.
Thai iced coffee – Boy, do we miss Thai Iced Coffee. We don’t drink a ton of coffee at home, but we couldn’t get enough of this while in Thailand (maybe staying up late had something to do with that?!?). It is a strong coffee packed with caffeine and mixed with sweetened condensed milk. The perfect way to cool off on a hot morning. We picked this up everywhere, from Café Amazon (Thailand’s version of Starbucks), to the coffee lady wheeling a cart around Chinatown serving it up in a portable bag!
Thai tea – The drink is made from strongly brewed Ceylon tea, sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and served chilled. It is poured over the tea and ice before serving to add taste and creamy appearance. Sometimes you might find it made with orange blossom water, star anise, crushed tamarind, and other spices as well.
Pomelo Salad – One of our favorite dishes in Thailand was this refreshing salad made of pomelo (a version of a grapefruit), it has a terrific balance of sour, spicy, and savory. It is both refreshing and packed with flavor. If you can find it in the US let us know where, and we’ll be going.
Nam Kang Sai aka Soupy Dessert Thing – A bowl of various jellies and candied fruits which are scooped into a bowl and topped with chunks of ice and then doused in sweet syrup and coconut milk. Nam kang sai is one of the most unique desserts we have ever tasted. It reminded us of eating a sweet bowl of cereal, we suppose. We can see how it could be a perfectly cool Thai dessert on a sweltering hot afternoon.
What to Do in Bangkok, Thailand:
Take a day trip to Ayutthaya – This World Heritage site is 53 miles north of Bangkok, and you can find many tours out of Bangkok. Over 600 years ago, Ayutthaya was a thriving Siamese kingdom and then it was captured by the Burmese in 1767. Today, Ayutthaya is known for its spectacular ruins and temples. Here are some to check out:
Bang Pa-in Palace
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
River Cruise – After taking a van to Ayutthaya, we decided to take a river cruise back to Bangkok. This was a great way to see Thailand! As we cruised, we enjoyed a buffet-style meal and cold drinks and passed many interesting temples and historic sites that line the Chao Phraya River. The cruise time is roughly 2 hours.
Visit Thai Temples – In addition to the Thai temples that we visited in Ayutthaya, we also spent some time in the city of Bangkok visiting temples. One thing to keep in mind: when visiting the temples you need to have the appropriate dress. It is helpful to pack a shawl or scarf to cover up while in the temples. Avoid showing your shoulders or legs. Here are some temples we visited in Bangkok:
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Get Rowdy at a Muay Thai Fight – While at the Asiatique we saw a live-action show around the “epic journey” of Muay Thai. This show, called Muay Thai Live, was a fun mix between a historic play and thunder from down under. After the live action show, they had two real Muay Thai fights. Let us tell you… the women’s match was really entertaining. Karen was even brought on stage to help announce the winner by putting the flower garland around their neck. Head to Asiatique for the fight and stay for the food and shopping.
Take a Tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown – We spent the day touring Chinatown with a private guide and it was the best decision! We can’t imagine navigating the neighborhood without a guide. That included tasting lots of Thai food, Chinese food, and shopping. We were amazed at some of the shops. The auto parts shops (seen below) were astonishing. If you’re looking for a guide, contact Tippy to set up a private tour firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chill Out with Affordable Massages – When in Thailand get as many massages as your time permits! We repeat… get ALL the massages. They’re super cheap, and the best way to start or wind down your busy tourist days. As a note, it’s worth trying a Thai massage, but they are much different than the standard (Swedish/Deep Tissue) massage you’re used to at home. Thai massages are less rubbing, and more stretching, bending, and cracking. If you get them, (at least for the first one) we recommend telling them no cracking of your neck. In addition to the Thai massage, you can get most services between $4-8 per hour. Most nights, we aimed to get an hour foot rub to offset all the walking.
Shop at the Chatuchak (or Jatujak) Weekend Market – If you’re in Bangkok over the weekend Chatuchak is a must stop for anyone that enjoys shopping or the thrill of negotiating a great deal. Chatuchak is one of the largest markets in the world as it has over 15,000 booths with 27+ major sections selling anything and everything you could ever think of from generic t-shirts to antiques. If you plan on going to the market be prepared to spend at least three hours there. Be sure to bring water because you’ll be walking a ton and Bangkok is almost always hot. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t be afraid to get lost in the maze of Chatuchak because you’ll never know what hidden gem you’ll find around any corner. Also, what’s always most important for us there’s plenty of mini restaurants and food stalls throughout the market all serving their own specialties. Similar to any city when traveling, we recommend going where the locals are eating and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Our favorite foods that we found in the markets were Itim Kati coconut Thai ice cream (remember it’s hot outside), pork drunken noodles, and an ice-cold Chang to prepare us for all the negotiating.
Get a Suit at Tailor on Ten – There are hundreds of tailors in Bangkok to choose from, and we can 100% recommend Tailor on Ten. They aren’t the cheapest tailor, but you pay for what you get. Gavin’s suits from a previous visit eight years ago still look and feel amazing, and their customer service is top notch. #93 Sukhumvit Road Soi 8, ( near Nana Station), Bangkok 10110, Thailand https://www.tailoronten.com/
Spend the Evening Exploring Asiatique – This is a fairly new night market along the river. If we lived in Bangkok this would be a regular date night destination for us because they have a big mix of food vendors, a ton of small boutique shops that are pretty affordable, and lots of entertainment. This is where we went to see Muay Thai Live. Asiatique also has a big Ferris wheel, other amusement rides, live music, and fun side shows. 2194 Charoen Krung Rd, Khwaeng Wat Phraya Krai, Khet Bang Kho Laem, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand http://www.bangkok.com/shopping-mall/asiatique.htm
Take in the Beauty of the Pak Klong Talat Flower Market – This is a must-visit spot for any flower fan! The market also sells veggies & fruits, but the main attraction is the large amount of fresh flowers. It’s open 24 hours, but it’s busiest before dawn when the fresh flowers arrive. You’ll see workers delicately folding and stringing flowers to make Phuang Malai, a traditional Thai flower bracelet given as an offering or kept for luck. The market and some of the flower arrangements they sell have symbolic values, so always be culturally aware and polite. 116 Chakphet Rd, Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
Where to Eat in Bangkok: Best Restaurants in Bangkok
Baan Khanitha - This was our first dinner of our Chang Ambassador trip and our guides gave us a run down on how to eat in Thailand (hold your spoon in your right hand, fork in the left hand, and use the fork to push the food into the spoon). They also gave us a tour of many traditional Thai dishes. This restaurant is a great spot because the menu is large so you can try many Thai dishes including Mieng Kham (Thai Lettuce wraps) and Nam Kang Sai dessert. Numerous locations. http://www.baan-khanitha.com/index.php
Celadon Restaurant – Located next to the Sukhothai Hotel Bangkok and overlooks a large lotus pond. The feature an elevated high end authentic Thai menu, and the best pomelo salad we’ve ever had. Throughout the dinner, they also have a small Thai dance show. 13/3 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand http://www.sukhothai.com/celadon-,cuisine_viewItem_1-en.html
Café Amazon – Yeah, it is the Starbucks of Bangkok we suppose, but their Thai iced coffee was deliciously refreshing and packed with caffeine. We picked up our coffee here on numerous days. Various locations. http://www.cafe-amazon.com/
Our Favorite Spot in Chinatown – Make a right out of Shanghai Mansion Hotel, walk a little over a block, and on the left-hand side there is a restaurant without an English name and a line of people waiting for the best crispy pork soup we’ve ever had. This was likely the best food we had in Chinatown, even though it was soup and over 100 degrees out. The soup is a clear peppery broth with perfect noodles and a ton of scrumptious crispy pork. The pork belly was so good that Gavin even ordered an extra side of crispy pork after his soup (he probably could’ve eaten 3 more bowls if we not had approaching dinner reservations)!
Street food everywhere!!! – As Andrew Zimmern says, “If it looks good, eat it!”.
Bangkok Nightlife & Best Bars in Bangkok, Thailand
Listed from most formal to most casual
Banyan Tree Hotel Moon Bar – Grab a snack and cold Chang Beer while on one of the tallest open-air rooftop bars in the world. It’s the perfect way to see how vast the city of Bangkok is. If anything, come here for the view and get a gorgeous photo of Bangkok. This was right down the street from our Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel. 21 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand
Teens of Thailand (ToT) Bar - Behind large wooden doors, you’ll find this small but trendy gin bar. It must be quite the hot spot because while we were there, we were seated across from “the Ryan Gosling of Bangkok” aka one of their country’s biggest celebrity heartthrobs! Chinatown, 76 ซอย นานา Khwaeng Pom Prap, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
Tep Bar – This is just around the corner from ToT. This upscale bar has a gorgeous ambiance, deliciously crafted cocktail and tasty small plates. It was one of our favorite stops for drinks in all of Thailand. Chinatown, 69 -71, Soi Yi Sip Song Karakadakhom 4, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Shanghai Terrace at the Shanghai Hotel – Right next to the lobby of our hotel, this bar had chic décor and open access to the energetic Yaowarat Road. Sit back and enjoy a cocktail while people-watching on Chinatown’s busiest streets. We especially loved their fresh passion fruit drink, head here for happy hour! 481 Yaowarat Rd, Khwaeng Samphanthawong, Khet Samphanthawong, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand https://www.shanghaimansion.com/dining/
Happy Bar – This place felt like a speakeasy! You need to maneuver through narrow alleys between swarmy khaosan and rambuttri roads to get to this real rasta bar! Come for live reggae music and to escape the crazy party scene on the streets outside at Khao San Road.
Nana – This is one of the red-light districts in Bangkok. We found a local bar to play some billiards and split a beer tower of Chang with friends. It is an interesting area to walk around with a beer and grab some street food. Just be aware of the types of clubs you are about to walk into!
Khao San Road – This is the biggest party street for backpackers. You’ll find lots of tourists from all over the world spilling out into this bar-lined street. Small shops sell goods to tourists and in the evenings you’ll see street food pop up along the street.
How to get around Bangkok:
Tuktuk ride – When in Thailand, and especially Bangkok this is the best way to see daily life and zip around traffic. Before getting in a Tuktuk you MUST ask the cost to get to your destination, and ALWAYS negotiate down or else it could be expensive.
Uber – Compared to the US, Uber is extremely cheap in Thailand and is a great way to get from point A to point B (and in an air conditioning!). The only major issue with Uber or a taxi is that there’s a very good chance there will be traffic on the road, so tuktuks are usually faster. If you have never used Uber before, use the promo code "bwlej" for free ride credit.
MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit) – The MRT is Thailand’s fantastic mass transit system. When you travel through major cities of Asia you come to realize that they are extremely advanced in mass transit. The MRT can get you to a large amount of Bangkok’s top areas in a quick and air-conditioned manor.
Long-tail boats – If you’re along the water this is the true old school way to see Bangkok. They range in sizes, but they’re all fun and an experience on their own. Same with Tuktuk’s be sure to always negotiate and ask the cost to your destination.
Where to Stay in Bangkok:
Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel – This is a luxurious boutique hotel in the heart of the city and feels like its own oasis. Every room is a suite, and they are huge! We're pretty sure the bathroom alone was larger than most NYC studio apartments. When you step into your room you feel like you’re entering a house on MTV cribs. The hotel itself is extremely elegant, and the staff is beyond friendly. The pool has a ton of cabanas and lush greenery. It is a haven that makes you feel like you’re worlds away from one of the busiest cities in the world. The breakfast buffet also has a lot to offer. Gavin put down about 2 bowls of Thai soup each morning! 13/3 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok 10120, Thailand http://www.sukhothai.com/default-en.html
Shanghai Mansion – This feels like luxury, but is actually an extremely budget friendly hotel. It’s located in the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. Whatever you do, do NOT book your stay here without the “Emperor for Your Stay” package. The package is between $5-10 USD more, and includes complimentary breakfast for two, and your choice of either a complimentary dinner for two or a 60 minute Thai massage for two EACH day of your stay. We only stayed there for one night and opted for the 60 minute massage for two, and that alone made the stay a total bargain. 481 Yaowarat Rd, Khwaeng Samphanthawong, Khet Samphanthawong, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand https://www.shanghaimansion.com
AirBNB – There are a number of nice condos in skyrise apartments available to rent for around $140 US a night. We recommend that you target something in the central district or Chinatown to be close to most attractions. Even if you want to save more money by staying in another neighborhood, the entire city is easily accessible by the MRT public train transportation system. If you have never used Airbnb, use this link to get a discount on your first booking.