We were in a hurry to experience Thailand after our short stay in Vietnam, we were expecting sunshine and smiles, and we were served !
Barely out of the airport, a hot wind blows us to the face bringing with it a little of the city of Bangkok which stretches away. In a matter of seconds, we have the impression to feel the animation of the city.
We watch the city through the windows of our taxi (not our best idea at the time, but we will come back to it later). We arrived at night, and all is light, music and laughter.
From this first journey that brings us to our lodging, we realize one thing : the city is immense ! It seems to stretch for miles and miles. Unable to see the end. It must be said that it's one of the largest cities in the world with an area of 7 762 km2. This explains why Bangkok is said to swallow you completely !
We understand that Bangkok is a city to discover, but that you can't tamper.
Already, its name (and I speak here of its real name, in Thai) is already something exceptional. Did you know that it is in the Guinness Book as the longest city name in the world ? We discovered this randomly during one of our walks, curious we did some research and here is its full name :
« Krung Thep mahanakhon amon rattanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok phop noppharat ratchathani burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amon piman awatan sathit sakkathattiya witsanukam prast » (Imagine putting it when you are asked to write your "City of Residence") Which means : « City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra's behest.» (Thanks Wikipedia).
It's badass !
A bit of history :
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, only since 1782, after Ayutthaya, was destroyed by the Burmese army (voir notre article sur Ayutthaya), and that the new king Rama I should be forced to retreat to the lands of the future Bangkok. The king wished to take advantage of the river by having it cut in the middle, so that in case of a new Burmese attack, they could be protected by a natural barrier and have a means of escape easy and fast.
What to see and what to do in Bangkok ? The inescapable :
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo :
Grand Palace :
Our 1st destination : Grand Palace and its temple Wat Phra Kaeo built in 1782 by King Rama I. When we approach, we see the army everywhere. An event seems to be preparing, which is not surprising, as the palace besides hosting the royal residence, the throne room and the Wat Phra Kaeo also contains government offices still used for official events.
- There are fake vendors, or indicators along the road that leads to the palace. Especially when we were there because the road was blocked. Don't listen and head towards the palace.
- The shops right in front of the Grand Palace are obviously more expensive than the others.
We are in the morning, yet the heat and the crowd are already present. When you enter, given the lack of an immediate wicket, you think it's free today (if you're not cute, hopeful like that.). As you can imagine, the reality is different, so we pay 500 baht per person.
As soon as the ticket office is finished, Thai culture is taken in full shape. Gold and monuments with architectural forms as never before seen. Everything shines, there is so much to see, decorations more or less large that our eyes don't know where to look. I'm sure that we have missed a lot of things and that we have to visit it more than once to get the details.
It is both a rich place for the eyes, but also spiritually, we encounter areas dedicated to prayer. Even if the most important area remains the Wat Phra Kaeo: Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha :
We finally arrive near the temple of the Emerald Buddha still considered today the treasure of the city. The first thing you notice is the presence of yakshas, the guardians of treasure with dragon heads present at each entrance of Wat Phra Kaeo, placed here to protect Buddha and ward off evil spirits.
First and foremost, remove your shoes , and a place is provided for purification. Then we can finally go and observe the Emerald Buddha. The crowd is dense, faithful and tourists mingle to admire this statue surrounded by mysteries and countless offerings and gifts as well offered by royalty as by the people.
According to legend... :
It was discovered in a chedi (these constructions in the form of a conical or pyramidal tower) disengaged by lightning, and presented itself as a statue in gilded stucco.
Later, the stucco cracked and the translucent green stone appeared.
Did you know ?
- Although It bears the name of emerald, the Statue is actually made of jade.
- The Statue has 3 costumes of precious stones that are changed by the king himself, according to the seasons during great ceremonies.
We finish our visit after having taken full eyes with this first experience in front of the Thai culture. All the photos we could see are incomparable in the face of reality. This particular culture can only be fully admired by seeing it with its own eyes.
To know :
- Correct outfit obliged. This applies to both men and women. As usual: covers legs, shoulders, avoids necklines and other outfits deemed disrespectful. Otherwise you may be denied entry. However, they lend clothes against a deposit of 200 Baht per garment.
- No photos in the Wat Phra Kaeo.
- No representation whatsoever of Buddha: tattoo, jewelry, clothing, etc.
- Cameras too big are forbidden, don't bother you to bring your super mega lens.
- You can't smoke in Grand Palace.
- You have to be quiet. Only tour guides can speak loudly.
Lire aussi : What to do and not to do in Thailand ?
Practical information :
Opening time : Open every day from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. They no longer sell tickets at 3:30 pm.
How much does it cost ? : 13€ (500 baths) per person.
Khao San Road :
It is THE backpackers' neighborhood par excellence. And so a good place if you want to go out at night ! On our side, we have a little leaked this atmosphere !
In Bangkok, it is very easy to party. But the city is also known for its bar for girls or go-go girls. If many tourists only go for this, it's also a very good tourist attraction where one can easily get your money plucked!
War Arun, Temple of Dawn :
When we saw it for the first time, we were shocked by its simplicity. It must be the only one in the city that doesn't have glittering gilding. This in no way removes its beauty: its main prang is still covered with chunks of porcelain. It is one of the most important symbols of the city, and one can find it on the rooms of 10 baths.
We go aboard a small boat that makes us cross the river for a paltry sum. Even what surrounds the temple is nice, located at the water's edge, you can just enjoy the view while drinking a tea (Thai version so good and less chemical, to try absolutely !). Strolling around, we discover souvenir stands where we can buy elephant and Buddha figures (a little in contradiction with the fact that representing Buddha is disrespectful ) or put on the traditional Thai costume.
We are a little doubly unlucky, for the temple is in the works when one goes there, the scaffolding spoils a bit the experience. And also, because the place is known to be beautiful at sunset (and not at dawn !), too bad the weather is cloudy.
Practical information :
Opening time : Ouvert tous les jours de 08:30 à 17:30.
How much does it cost ? : 2,5€ (100 baht) per person.
Besides the small shops, Bangkok includes a number of shopping centers that will make everyone happy. Luckily, because we could easily buy an external hard drive after the previous one stopped working (I'm not telling you how we panicked to save as many pictures as possible.)
Getting lost in the city :
Strolling through the streets without aim is often a good way to discover small treasures (Keep the address of your accommodation on you if you stroll a little too much !)
During our walk, we come across a small temple where we are invited to enter, we are shown how to bow correctly, they share with us some of their rites.
Then, our feet lead us into small alleyways until we find ourselves at the water's edge. Oops, we're supposed to be on the other side ! We still test this little path misunderstood, people are quietly drinking a beer near the water, they smile at us, invites us to drink with them. We share a moment with the inhabitants of these old dwellings near this troubled water. Suddenly, we see a small boat, we ask if it can make us cross : no problem ! We put our buttocks on the small canoe that pitch easily, it is short, but the memory will remain, we know. We give a few baht for the gesture, after all, he has spared us a long detour!
It's this kind of small moments that make the beauty of a journey more than any visit to a beautiful but ultra touristy place. So don't hesitate, lose yourself, no matter the place !
Looking for monitor lizards ! :
While we stop at the water's edge to watch big fish wriggling near the surface, we are surprised by a movement of the corner of the eye. Without thinking, we think of a crocodile when we see this "lizard" form, and then finally, we understand that it is a monitor lizards. At once, we become more attentive, and we realize that it is not alone ! Other of these congeners tan a few steps from the dwellings.
From that moment, whenever we are near the water, we watch for them. It was quite surprising to see so in the city! (We soon discovered that there were everywhere in Thailand).
Chatuchak Weekend Market :
This is one of the biggest markets in the world open only on weekends. Nearly 15,000 booths spread over 10 hectares!
We go there, without really knowing what to expect. And then hardly the entrance crossed is the effervescence. There is everything, everywhere! You can eat, drink, dress ... Everything is divided into sectors, which simplifies the task considering the size of the place !
We love these fruit juices so good and so refreshing ! And then also on small ice cream. We wander around aimlessly, just to discover it and I think that if there is no specific goal, it's the best way to discover it !
Practical information :
Opening time : From 9am to 6pm on weekends.
Getting There : Located North of Bangkok, it can be reached via the BTS metro by getting off at the Mo Chi stop.
How long to stay in Bangkok ? :
Bangkok is a huge city, therefore, you should expect 3-4 days minimum to see the basics. The best is to schedule at least one weekend day in your stay in order to go to Chatuchak Weekend Market.
On our side, we stayed a week and a half, but intersected, that is to say that we did 4 days on arrival, and the rest before catching the plane. But this was done as we returned more quickly from Koh Samui following the loss of all Nils papers !
Read also : One week in Koh Samui
Where to stay in Bangkok ? :
For our first nights, we took an AIRBNB, a little out of the center to have our little cocoon quiet! There are many proposals AIRBNB in Bangkok, so this may be a good plan especially if you are looking for some quiet. However, we must be careful, because although apartment sharing is recognized in Thailand, it's also punishable, as the law is not very clear on this.
We tell you more about it in our: Travel Guide: Thailand.
When we came back to redo the papers, we chose a rather expensive guesthouse (especially considering the quality of the rooms), but ideal, just a few meters from the embassy. However, it proposed a restoration and a common space sympathetic. It is also possible to book a number of activities at the hostel.
The two nights before flying, we were at a hotel close to the airport: Villa Suvarnabhumi. Brand new, this is a hotel and not a guesthouse so the prices are higher. However, there is a very good quality, the rooms are spacious and beautiful, the place is very clean and most importantly, there is a pool ! We especially recommend that for the price we paid, we had the breakfasts included and the shuttle to the airport.
New Road Guest House
Website : newroadguesthouse.com
Price : For a double room with private bathroom and fan it costs 20 €. For the same with the air con, the room is between 30 and 40 €
Activities : luggage storage, restaurant, free wifi, possibility to book activities via reception. Good location in the city center (and near the embassy haha).
Villa Suvarnabhumi :
Website : Villa Suvarnabhumi
Price : For a double room with air conditioning and private bathroom, breakfasts and shuttle to the airport included : 40€
Activities : swimming pool, free wifi, bicycle, fitness center, souvenir shop, …
How to get around Bangkok? :
We walked a lot. What, let us be honest, has not always been easy especially, because of the chaotic circulation of the city.
With the heat, watch out for sunburn and drink !
However, especially, to get back, we did take public transport:
- taxis are counted by thousands, and so one finds very easily in Bangkok.
- tuk tuk, we took some just for fun ! This is not at all the most economical mode on the contrary, but you must at least try it once or twice!
- Many buses criss-cross the city, it's not necessarily easy to find out of it so don't hesitate to ask a helping hand to the passers-by ! For our part, a couple of students have completely guided us, and even paid our ticket (as in Vietnam ... either they are very nice or we do a little pity haha).
- Bangkok has its own Skytrain called Bangkok Skytrain, or BTS, which serves part of the center of Bangkok.
- If you want to leave the road, and have some peace, you can sail the Chao Phraya River. Several boats offer crossings from point A to point B.
How to make the connection between Bangkok city center and the airport ? :
We can already tell you not to do like us: don't take a taxi ! If prices are low in the city, for the airport-city center link, it will be more expensive than other means of transport. In addition to the race (between 5 and 8 € or 200-300 baht), the airport tax of 1.5 € (50 baht) and the toll.
The best being to look for a UBER, which is very used in the capital. Or you inquire if your accommodation to planned shuttles.
As for our departure, we were in a hotel close to the airport, where a shuttle was included in the price of accommodation.
Read also : Thai Taxi Survival Guide.
So much for the huge Bangkok ! We still have a lot to discover about this city, and the best advice we can give you and to lose yourself and discover its secrets !
So, want to be "dépayser" in Bangkok ?
The prices shown are the ones we had, you may encounter a difference (good or bad!) but at least it gives you an idea.