When it comes to Thailand, Bangkok doesn’t score as much shine as the country’s other more popular tourist destinations, such as Phuket or Koh Samui. But the crazy capital of the “land of smiles” is definitely worth exploring. We chatted to Pentravel expert, Zia van der Merwe, to find out why Bangkok deserves more than a one-night stopover.
Here’s the inside guide…
If you could describe Bangkok in 3 words, what would they be?
Bangkok is a diverse city with a blend of cultures, great shopping and crazy traffic! In three words, I’d describe it as: busy, colourful and cultural.
What has been your best experience in Bangkok?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to one specific experience, but I love shopping in Bangkok and visiting its incredible temples.
What has been your most challenging experience in Bangkok?
The traffic – it’s really hectic. And then there are the locals who constantly try to get you to do business with them instead of the guy next to them. #rollseyes
What are the top 3 experiences in Bangkok?
Without a doubt, it’s visiting the temples, going shopping and enjoying the nightlife. One of the best places to go is Khao San Road which is filled with fantastic bars and cocktail spots, both upmarket and relaxed. There’s really something to suit everyone! Bangkok is also well known for its rooftop bars, also called sky bars. The 360 degree views are incredible, but the drinks can be pricy.
What’s the best way to get around?
I recommend the Skytrain (BTS) or MRT (underground system). They’re both very easy to use, cheap and operate in English. And best of all, no traffic!
Could you share some etiquette advice for first-time visitors?
When you’re shopping at one of Bangkok’s many markets, don’t accept the first price. It’s considered good manners to barter.
Sometimes, when you’re paying for something, the vendor, shop owner, or bartender (whoever it is you’re dealing with) may try to ‘help’ you find the correct change. Be alert in these situations, as sometimes they take more than needed.
Another market tip… try and go through to the middle of the market and not stay on the outskirts. The same products are available but at much cheaper prices!
As a sign of respect, always (always!) cover your shoulders when you visit a temple; also try not to wear shorts and skirts that could be considered too short.
Any hidden gems to share?
Do not make use of your hotel spa. Instead, visit a local spa – you’ll enjoy the same treatments at a much better rate.
Out of all the markets in Bangkok, the Chatuchak Weekend market is the best. My advice is to try and do Bangkok at the end of your trip, over a weekend. That way you can have the best shopping experience and not have to carry all your purchases with you to your next destination.
What’s the best place to stay in Bangkok, and why?
Stay as near to the BTS or MRT stops as you can so that you can enjoy easy access to any area in the city.
What does an ideal day in Bangkok look like?
Start with a half-day city tour to get orientated – during this tour you can visit the two major temples, Wat Pho and Wat Kalayanamit. Then, take a stroll through the flower market and the busy streets of the city. End your day off with some shopping before heading out to Patpong to explore the nightlife scene.