More Time, More Ideas
If you have been granted more time to explore Bangkok, you can be sure this city provides a plethora of options to choose from, ranging from the historical and cultural, to modern-day entertainment.
Make The One Day Itinerary (published on this website) your starting point, but allow more time and space to explore the attractions and the surrounding areas thoroughly. If you add the National Museum to the list, you can easily stretch the suggested itinerary over two wonderful days of exploration into past- and present-day Bangkok. The National museum is situated by Chao Phraya river so you can leave the ferry at the same point as when you were visiting The Grand Palace (Tha Chang pier – pier number 6). The museum is the biggest in South-East Asia and a good opportunity to discover Thai art and history, as well as view artefacts from other Asian cultures, such as the Khmer, Chams and Vietnamese. If nothing else, a visit to a museum can offer a respite from the scorching sun and heat.
If by now you feel exhausted from all the high culture and crave some livelier surroundings, consider visiting Bangkok’s China Town (also known as Yaowarat Road). Most of its areas can be accessed from the MRT (metro) stop at Hua Lamphong or if you trust your navigation and map reading skills, you can leave the ferry at Ratchawongse Pier (pier number 5) and walk there. You can also get a taxi, but insist the driver puts the meter on (and if the meter is running suspiciously fast, change for a different taxi), or you’ll be paying more for this ride than the combined cost of your whole holiday so far. In the evening and at night, China Town becomes a pulsating, energetic place, blazing with neon lights, bright colours and exotic smells. It’s a bit like entering a part of town that has been decorated for Christmas, except that Christmas is every day and the temperatures are tropical. China Town is a good place to eat street food or have a restaurant meal, to shop or visit a Chinese Temple. You will soon notice that there is a large and prosperous Chinese community living in Thailand (14% of Thailand’s population is ethnic Chinese) and a lot of Thais have Chinese ancestry (approximately 40%), including the King. When eating in China Town make sure you chose a restaurant that doesn’t sell meat or products of endangered animal species. Unfortunately, a lot of the establishments there advertise dishes made out of shark fins, the consumption of which is responsible for the horrendous suffering and approaching extinction of these magnificent predators. Remember – you vote with your feet. Maintain moral standards when visiting foreign lands. Don’t support animal cruelty just to get a culinary kick. This applies to the whole of South-East Asia (and of course the whole of the World).
The following day can be reserved for a visit to the famous Jim Thompson’s House, which sits in the centre of Bangkok on a small canal (Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Road) and can be reached either by BTS Sky Train (BTS station: National Stadium) or by taxi (see notice above regarding taxi meters). Jim Thompson is one of the best known foreigners to ever have lived in Bangkok. American by birth, with great fondness for Thai people and culture, he was a charismatic man who set up the Thai silk trade with the Western markets. He disappeared mysteriously while on holiday in Malaysia in 1967 but his house remains as it was and offers good insight into the social life of that era, as Jim was a keen host and entertainer. His house exhibits superb examples of Thai architecture, art, furnishings and silk products.
It’s high time now to visit the most talked about street in South-East Asia. Khao San Road. You’ve heard people fondly recalling its craziness, you’ve seen the more or less imaginative T-shirts, now you get the chance to see it for yourself and marvel at the variety of people and strange wares found there. On this road, people-watching alone can be fun and interesting enough. You can get some good bargains on Khao San, eat on a budget and even buy a fake driver’s licence, pilot’s licence, or qualification from Oxford University (on sale next to the police station)! If you are a more discerning foodie, I entice you to leave Khao San Road. Go to the end of it (to Tanao Road), and then cross the road to enter a smaller alleyway where amongst some budget guesthouses and restaurants, Ethos awaits you. Meet one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It’s vegetarian, but you definitely won’t miss the meat. If you read the menu carefully, you’ll not only leave with a satisfied belly, but also a new outlook on nutrition. Bangkok is full of little gems like this.
The last recommendation is for diehard shoppers only. If you are in need of anything – clothes, electronic appliances, accessories, or you just fancy window shopping and a great café, visit one of the shopping malls (well, towns) in the centre of Bangkok. Leave the BTS Sky Train at Siam station for one of Asia’s biggest shopping centres – the Siam Paragon, which offers a daunting feast of shopping and entertainment. The latter includes the movie complex with the largest screen and seating capacity in Asia, and the largest aquarium in South-East Asia – Siam Ocean World. If that hasn’t exhausted you completely, you can always continue your shopping spree next door, at the Siam Square and Siam Centre/Siam Discovery. If you thought London’s Westfields was colossal, prepare to recalibrate your standards.
You can now probably appreciate the greatness and variety of Thailand’s capital. And you’ll either want to escape to a place less crowded and noisy, or wish you could stay longer.