Bangkok – visited this city with zero expectations, and came out of it extremely pleasantly surprised. It’s true that Bangkok may not have a lot of “tourist attractions” the way NYC, London, Barcelona do – in fact, I was quite worried I wouldn’t be able to find enough things to do in my four days there. Surprise surprise, turned out four days was NOT enough and I only managed to go through half the things I had originally planned to do (also owing to my slow pace, and voracious love for shopping…) Yes, Bangkok is a huge city filled with smog and gridlocked with traffic during rush hours; but just like most other cities (including Manila!), there’s a sort of beauty in the hustle and bustle that can surprise you and touch you in ways you can never imagine. So come here with an open heart, and hopefully you’ll come away pleasantly surprised just like me! Read on then, if you’re interested in visiting and falling in love with yet another city. Below is a snapshot of how much you can expect to spend while here – note that the shopping cost will definitely vary from person to person
Table of contents
- FAQs for Bangkok first-timers
- Things to do in Bangkok
What flight should I take from Manila to Bangkok?
Cebu Pacific is THE way to go! They have a 6:40am flight that will get you to Bangkok by 8:40am; and a 12:35am flight that will get you back to Manila by 4:55am. Guaranteed to help you maximize your leaves and get the most out of your x full days in the city!
Also, because you’ll be taking such early flights, this hopefully means chances of your flight being delayed would be negligible – which was certainly the case for me!
When’s the best time to go to Bangkok?
I’d recommend November to March (with November and March marking the highest traffic footfalls) as these are considered to be the “cold” months of Thailand. To be honest though, it was still pretty darn hot when we were there, with sudden rain showers occurring in the middle of the day so make sure to bring an umbrella with you – or borrow one from your hotel
Where should I stay while in Bangkok?
As my #1 agenda was to shop with some sightseeing, I’d definitely recommend you stay in the vicinity of the major malls (e.g. Platinum mall, Siam) which still have pretty decent access to the main train stations:
- Pratunam – personally I appreciated Pratunam more because it’s near Platinum mall, my favorite shopping mall ever! Plus, our hotel was located near Phaya Thai, which is the last stop on the Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line; thereby allowing us to make our way to the hotel by foot without having to get a cab post train ride
For a more detailed breakdown of pros and cons on where to stay, check out this link
How much cash do I have to bring?
Bring around 10,000 to 15,000 Baht depending on your propensity to shop. Detailed breakdown of my expenses provided earlier, but truth be told, without shopping, I really only needed 6,000 Baht. Having said that, most people come to Bangkok to shop so I encourage you to gauge yourself well and bring cash accordingly. Note that markets and malls where you’ll be doing most of your shopping do NOT accept credit cards
If you’re wary of bringing around a lot of cash, or you don’t want to exchange too much money into Baht, never fear for you have two other options:
- ATM: All the malls I’ve seen had ATM machines – so as long as you have your ATM card with you, you should be good to go
- Money exchange: My personal favorite is Super Rich as they’re found in most train stations as well as near major landmarks. I also felt that they offered the best rates (for both PHP and USD). If you’d prefer to go the money exchange route, just bring a decent amount of PHP / USD with you
What’s the best way to get around the city?
- By train
- Sukhumvit Line
- Silom Line
- MRTA Subway
- By cab / Uber / Grab
- I would recommend you use Uber/Grab instead, as it’s ~20-30% cheaper than taxis (unless they agree to use the meter)
- If you MUST take a taxi, try hard to get a cab who will agree to use the meter, as opposed to a flat fare – you’ll save tons for sure!
- By tuktuk
- Ridiculously expensive, probably because they can tell you’re tourists… But worth it if you’re just planning on a short ride (not just because of cost, but also because you don’t want to subject your lungs to the horrible smog and smoke of the city)
- By foot
- You will be glad to know that all the malls in the Pratunam-Siam area are connected by a walkway. I’d recommend you walk instead as the traffic jams especially during the weekdays are plain awful
What are must-brings to Bangkok?
- A mobile phone that has 3G (or download an offline map and grab an Uber/Grab from your hotel while you still have internet) – note that Bangkok does NOT provide free WiFi
- Your trusty water bottle to save you from the stifling heat
- Sunblock to protect your skin from the harsh UV rays
- Your wallet (with Baht/PHP/USD) so you’re ready to shop or exchange money no matter where you end up
- Sturdy walking shoes to last you through the multiple temples and shopping marathon
- An umbrella / cap for the occasional rain showers
- The Bangkok Airport Link Airport is ridiculously convenient. A ticket from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phya Thai (city center, and the link’s last station) will cost you 45 Baht, and will take ~45 minutes
- Other alternatives would be a bus or a taxi, depending on where in the city you live
Things to do in Bangkok
Here’s my lowdown on the three places to shop till you drop! If you’ve got only two days to shop, set aside those time for these 3! Note that I compiled this list with budget shoppers / bargain hunters in mind, so for those seeking Louis Vuitton and Chanel, this list aint for you
#1 Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the biggest markets in the world, spanning over one kilometer and consisting of more than 15,000 booths. This market has over 27 sections filled with clothing and shoes (what I care about!), jewelries, handbags, wooden furnitures, hand-made local souvenirs, silk scarves, local paintings, and all other sort of knick knacks you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere (or at least not in the same magnitude here). However, because it IS huge, would recommend you already scope out the sections you want to check out beforehand and beeline there! Don’t make the mistake of mindlessly wandering around – you may never finish…
This market is well-recommended simply because you’re surrounded by so much variety in fashion (in stalls right beside each other), while boasting great quality clothing at extremely reasonable prices. Even better for single shoppers, there’s no need for wholesale shopping here (i.e. buying additional pieces will lower the price of the clothing) as stalls do allow you to bargain even if you’ll only buy one piece – of course, buying more will allow you to bargain more effectively!
- Recommendation: Once you see something “unique,” you should probably snap it up. Because of the sheer size of the market, it is infinitely difficult to come back for the item you were eyeing + you lose all bargaining power once you come back as the seller will know how much you want the item
- Operating hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 – 18:00
- How to get there: Skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station
#2 Rod Fai Vintage Market
First off, know that there are TWO Rod Fai Markets – so be careful where you end up. Personally, I’d recommend the one at the Ratchada area of Bangkok (right behind the Cultural Center MRT) – simply because it’s more accessible and I enjoyed it!
While smaller than Chatuchak, stuff you’ll find in Rod Fai can be split into three: (1) Similar to Chatuchak with potentially less variety, but CHEAPER as this market is frequented by locals as opposed to tourists; (2) new finds such as antiques, curious, and secondhand toys that are damn cool to look at (and Instagram!) but a bit heavy on the wallet, and (3) AWESOME FOOD
I’d recommend this market simply because you get great finds at local prices (read: cheaper), experience the local vibe – with its plethora of chill bars and hip locals, and expose yourself to really yummy food at dirt-cheap prices (just follow the crowd, although tbh, all the food stalls were pretty damn full when we were there)
- Operating hours: Thursdays to Sundays, 18:00 – 24:00
- How to get there: MRT to Cultural Center
#3 Platinum Fashion Mall
For Filipinos, think Greenhills except a LOT bigger and cleaner + you won’t be able to try on the clothes before purchase. While the clothes you find here can also be found in the other malls, I’d generally recommend Platinum Mall as it’s just more convenient for shopping (air-conditioned, nicely arranged stalls)
When shopping, this would be where I recommend you to scout around first for cheaper prices. While big, Platinum Mall isn’t THAT big that you won’t be able to find your way back. Also, as designs do repeat from stall to stall, it would make sense to check them out first before deciding where to buy – not just for the price, but also because other stalls may offer more variety
Stall owners won’t allow you to try on the clothes before purchasing. To this end, it would be good for you to know your measurements before you start buying clothes – e.g. bust size, waist length. Another alternative is to just ask the stall owner if she thinks the clothes would fit you. They’re generally very honest, if a bit too honest – as they’ll frankly look you up and down and say, “No. That won’t fit. None of the clothes in my stall will fit you.” Lastly, after buying, you can head to the public bathroom to try it on. If it doesn’t fit you, the stall might allow you to exchange (doubtful but you can try). If it does fit you nicely, you can use that as a measuring tool for your next purchase
Word of warning: Many of the dresses, pants, and shorts are designed to fit women of a slimmer build. If in doubt, stick to simple items like slip dresses, loose tops, shoes, and costume jewelry
- Wholesale wholesale wholesale. As Platinum Mall is a wholesale mall, the more pieces you buy, the cheaper it gets! Would recommend you come here with friends/family with similar tastes as you, so that when you buy, they’ll probably buy too – netting everyone a nice discount
- Bring a large bag with you! You may enter with the best of intentions, but only someone with tremendous willpower can leave the mall without buying 1 or 2 or 3… or 10 things. So come prepared, else you might be forced to buy a big bag to place all your new purchases!
- Operating hours: Everyday, 9:00 – 20:00. Would recommend you go on a weekday though, in order to avoid the crowds. Likewise, most stalls really open 10:00 onwards, and close by ~19:00 – so try to do your shopping during that time
Cultural sights appreciation!!
Bangkok is world-renowned for its beautiful temples, so make sure to allot even if just half a day to check out their golden temples. Quick reminder – Shorts, sleeveless tops, and slippers are not allowed in the temples, so let your wardrobe be guided accordingly
#1 The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)
Must-go temple compound! Simply beautiful, the intricate attention to details is a testament to the love showered upon this place. Also, at the time I was in Bangkok, this was also the place where the late king’s body was kept, so it was extremely humbling to see all the mourners come to pay their last respects to their beloved king.
- Cost: 500 Baht
- Operating hours: 8:30 – 15:30
#2 Wat Pho
Check out the Reclining Buddha for no reason other than this is the one of the LARGEST SINGLE BUDDHA IMAGES in the world + it’s a ~10mins walk from the Grand Palace, so why ever not? Also, I heard that behind Wat Pho, there’s this amazing massage school that people should definitely check out – costing ~400 Baht
- Cost: 100 Baht
- Operating hours: 8:30 – 18:30
#3 Wat Arun
Afterwards, hop on the ferry to bring you to Wat Arun – with its tall spires and majestic views. Best to come here during sunset, you’ll be rewarded with IG-worthy shots that will take your breath away
- Cost: Ferry (3.5 Baht), Entrance (50 Baht)
- Operating hours: 8:00 – 17:30
Additional recommendation if you’ve got the time
- Ayuthayya: A UNESCO World Heritage Center, this city will leave you in awestruck wonder! It’s a bit far though, so make sure to allot a full day for this. Potential ways to get there: Bus or with a tour van. You can then get around the city via bike or tuktuk (I wouldn’t really recommend going around by foot as it is SO HOT)
- Wat Saket and the Golden Mount: Prepare for a non-strenuous mini-hike to see a beautiful temple, and an even more beautiful panoramic view of Bangkok. Operating hours: 7:30 – 17:30; Cost: 10 Baht
- Erawan Museum: A bit outside the city, friends who’ve been there claim it’s worth it for its beautiful and quirky designs. Operating hours: 8:00 – 17:00; Cost: 300 Baht (a bit steep!); How to get there: BTS to Nut station, then taxi to the Museum itself (~80-90 Baht)
My greatest love in life – no blog post of mine would be complete without this. If an eating section is not present, then either the food in that city/country must be really BAD (which must be impossible, no?) or I just didn’t have enough time to go around and taste test the eating wonders of the city/country (which also seems impossible…)
#1 Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
My friends, if you have only one floating market to go to – go to this one! To be fair, this isn’t the traditional floating market per se, where you are steered on boats or where lovely wares are displayed on boats. Instead, what you get is an entire market of mouthwatering local delicacies at dirt-cheap prices – even by local standards!!! My friends and I ate like kings and queens by the canalside, and watched boats lazily pass us by as we munched our way to foodie heaven. The only downside to going to this market is… everything seems so expensive once you’re back in the city
- Operating hours: Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, 9:30 – 16:30
- How to get there: BTS to Bang Wa exit, then take a taxi (~80 Baht)
- Distance from the city: Allot ~45mins to get there
#2 Chinatown Yaowarat Street
As with all places, Chinatown almost always guarantees a pitch perfect meal – perfectly attuned to my chinky heart
Why bother searching for the perfect place to eat, when you can whip up the perfect dish yourself? Loved loved loved this cooking school experience, best one I’ve had so far! From the market shopping (for vegetables and meats) to the actual prep (had to chop stuff up, I was SO SLOW. This Auntie from Korea was such a pro!) to the cooking itself and painstaking plating afterwards (to varying degrees of success), and finally, to the sharing of meal with friendly strangers at the end – where it’s not just about breaking a sup, but also breaking the ice as you talk about anything and everything under the sun (usually along the tunes of, so what’s good to see in your country? Where have you been to in Bangkok?)
- Cost: 1000 Baht
- What you get out of it: A lovely experience, Instagrammable photos (the school itself is SO pretty), hopefully an ability to cook (or at least, an appreciation of how difficult it is to cook), and new friends from around the world. ++ a cookbook they’ll provide at the end of the class
Thip Samai Noodle Shop – super famous for their Pad Thai! Unfortunately, because we skipped Wat Saket and the Golden Mount, I wasn’t able to try it for myself; but the reviews by friends and strangers alike have been phenomenal! So make sure to check it out if you drop by the Golden Mount 🙂
And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoy your BKK trip as much as we did – and till our next travels!