Bangkok seems like your typical South East Asian city – bad traffic, noisy, dirty, and sunshine so hot that it melts your cheeks. Stalls line the streets of the Sukhumvit area selling anything from frying pans to Viagra and pimped out tuk tuk’s will be offering you rides all over town. Once the sun sets the Thailand you always hear stories about rears its head. Ladyboys and prostitutes tickle your arm as you walk by offering to love you long time and you can hear the madness of the infamous red light districts from a few blocks away. Despite all this, Bangkok has so much more to offer. It’s a world class city with fantastic shopping malls, cheap taxis and probably the best street food you will ever eat in your lifetime.
Food: You can eat very comfortably at street stalls and local eateries for under $2 a meal.
Drink: A bottle of water will cost around 50 cents. A beer in a bar will cost you between 80 cents to $4, depending on how classy your joint is.
Transport: A short ride on the BTS metro will cost you around $1. A 10 minute taxi ride will run you about $5-$7. The local bus will cost around 25 cents.
I stayed at…
Skyy Hotel – This is a fairly new hotel in Sukhumvit that is hidden down a side street away from the hustle and bustle of the main road. Once you locate the right road it’s very easy to find and you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you head up to reception. It’s boutique and classy – up to par with some of the 4 star hotels I’ve stayed in. I went in February and after some simple niceties with the guy at reception he upgraded me to an Executive room. Set me back around $50 a night – not cheap but worth it!
If Skyy Hotel doesn’t seem like your thing, I’d recommend staying in the Sukhumvit area. It’s well set up to receive tourists, and taxis are cheap enough to take you anywhere in the city.
For a more thorough guide on where to stay in Bangkok, check out my Bangkok Accommodation Guide.
One thing you should eat is…
Sheesh…it’s so hard to choose just one thing…Thailand has some of the best food in the world!
However, if I were to choose the first thing that comes to mind it’s the mango sticky rice. You’ll be able to find this place in most street food joints in the city, and what makes it so good is the incredible Thai mangos. In this tropical weather they grow them softer and sweeter than ever.
One thing you should drink is…
Tom Yum Goong – I had the pleasure of trying various Tom Yum soups in Bangkok, although I seem to have forgotten to snap a photo of any of them! Don’t worry, it’s sold all over town and I’m sure you already know what they look like anyway.
But here’s what I loved about the Tom Yum in Bangkok: I had just eaten a Pad Thai and was kinda half full, with enough breathing room in my guts for maybe something small just to top it all off. My first thought – a bowl of Tom Yum would be perfect! So I call the girl over and order it, and for $2 or so was thinking it’s a pretty good price for the small $12 bowl I’m used to getting at home.
Sixty seconds later I look over and the darling waitress is struggling to haul this enormous bucket of Tom Yum over from the kitchen. I stare in horror at the overflowing moat of volcanic Tom Yum in front of me, with small flashes of guilt for all the world’s starving children. Once that passes I spend the next hour wading my lips through my personal Tom Yum ocean, the potent mix of Thai chili and Bangkok’s 35 degree heat unleashing a sweat tsunami to pour down my face. The waitress asks if everything’s OK, probably assuming I’m dying, to which I smile and soldier on through the litres of soup that remain. Hands down, the best Tom Yum ever.
One place you should go to is…
A Muay Thai fight. I went to MBK Fight Night at MBK Mall. This is a fight night that’s on every Wednesday at 6pm. Get there early if you want a seat!
If you’re lucky you’ll also get to see a few fights of Muay Kard Check – this is bareknuckle fighting and might have been the gnarliest thing I’ve ever seen. A Cambodian and Thai jumped in the ring with nothing but a few bandages wrapped around their fists. I’ll never forget the echo of the Thai’s knuckles crashing into the poor Cambodian kid’s jaw.
To get there, get off at National Stadium Station on the BTS metro. From there it’s no more than a 5 minute walk.
My buddy Vincent managed to charm us into the VIP area, where he jumped up on the canvas and took some incredible snaps.
Photo credits: Vincent Pastore
One place you should party at is…
RCA. This an area with a more local vibe, where you’ll miss a lot of the backpacker crowd. Every taxi driver will know where it is. We went to club Route 66, which was quite impressive.
The tourist crowd generally congregates at Khao San Road, which can be a bit of a zoo. I suppose you need to go there at least once. Watch out for the guy who does some pretty amazing magic tricks – he’ll tell you how he does it if you pay him a few dollars!
Also, you also cannot leave Bangkok without visiting Soi Cowboy. This is a red light district, but it’s a tourist attraction all in itself. Legend has it that an American “cowboy” opened the first bars along here back in the 70’s, which is how the place got it’s name. Today the little street has evolved into a hectic, colourful, festival like atmosphere, packed with tourists from all over the world. You’ll see as many old women following their lonely planet guides here as you will old men following their junior self. Thailand is infamous for sex tourism, and along Soi Cowboy sits one of the most famous red light streets in the world. It’s crazy, depressing and interesting all at the same time. Walk through it once and you’ll never be the same again.
Photo credits: Vincent Pastore
Ease of entry 9/10
Bangkok airport is one of the best in the world. Direct flights from everywhere!
Cheap, fresh, delicious, healthy! Not only is the local food amazing, the city has all your western favourites on offer, too.
Far too hot to walk around comfortably in the day. You’ll be showering and doing laundry a little more than usual…
Not always the ‘city of smiles’. Scamming is common and I’ve heard my fair share of corrupt police stories. Violent crime appears less likely.
The BTS (train/metro) is cheap and efficient. Taxis are cheap (although they might drive you around the block a bit).
Most locals are friendly. Of course you’ll meet a few unsavoury characters, particularly during the night.
Quite a few parts are surprisingly clean, actually.
GREAT shopping, lots of places to eat, and a whole ton of cultural stuff too..
A little bit of everything, although prostitution is widespread.
For such a great city, it’s incredibly cheap. Will suit a traveler on any budget.
Bangkok scores: 76/100
I do my best to give an objective score based on my own experience of the city. If you disagree, I don’t care! Just kidding, I do 🙂 Did your experience differ to mine? Let me know in the comments below!