Brilliant Bangkok: 5 day travel plan & experience

This itinerary / experience for Bangkok is brought to you from Thomson Tailormade. Thinking back to my own trip to Bangkok, in 2003 I think, I have to wonder if it’s time to start thinking about heading back. Anyway, here’s the guest article:

I’d heard that Bangkok was a crazy place – a city of sin. But we found the Thai capital to be an enthralling, beautiful city. Sure it was a little chaotic and the traffic and fumes were hard work at times, but the friendly people, the jaw-dropping sights, the wonderfully spicy aromas – they were just fabulous. Better still it’s a pretty easy place to get to with great air connections from all over the world. And Bangkok holiday packages come in all shapes and sizes whether you’re after a bargain or something ultra-luxurious so there’s something to suit all budgets.

Day 1

Bangkok’s ultra-modern airport came as my first surprise. Suvarnabhumi Airport where all international flights touch down is about 30km outside the city. But it’s pretty easy to get downtown. You can take the train and be down town within an hour. Arriving at the station, we hopped into a taxi to complete the journey and got our first introduction to the city’s famous, honking traffic. It was late at night, bright neon lights from billboards all around blazed out at us. There were people everywhere – in cars, on mopeds, on foot. It was a joy to check in to the peace and calm of our hotel. Thailand is pretty good value for money. You can get 5 star comfort for far less than you pay in Europe or the USA, even in cosmopolitan Bangkok. Hotels along the river are a good option as they offer great views. I’d read the reviews for the Mandarin Oriental and decided to splurge. And we weren’t disappointed. It’s a famous place with a 134-year history and it combines old era charm with fantastic service and ultra-modern facilities. I lay back in a deep bubble bath scented with lemongrass bath lotion that smelt fabulous. We then crashed out on our vast bed, jet-lagged but with smiles on our faces.

Day 2

After a breakfast that never seemed to end there were so many courses, we headed out to explore. It’s easy to wander down towards the river and take one of the passenger ferry boats. But you need your wits about you getting on and off. They don’t hang around. They pull over in a haze of smoke and spray, people jump on and off all at the same time and then with a woosh you’re off, ploughing through the choppy river. You can pick up a map of the ferry stops from the hotel reception. Our destination was the most awe-inspiring sight in the city – the famous Grand Palace. This complex of graceful temples and courtyards is the most holy in the country. A word of warning – you have to dress smartly to get in. No shorts or mini-skirts! We had to hire some sandals with proper straps from a little guy across the road. The most spell-binding moment for me was seeing the remarkable Emerald Buddha carved from a single huge piece or jade. Wreathed in incense smoke with people knelt in prayer all around, his serene stare was captivating.

Day 3

Bangkok is a great place to go shopping and we spent most of our third day in the busy malls around Siam Square. There’s pretty much everything imaginable here. We spent ages in the MBK mall which is full of small stalls selling all manner of gadgets and clothes. I picked up lots of cheap T-shirts and jeans which were surprisingly well made, watches, wallets, ipod covers and more. The food hall on the top floor was a great place for really cheap lunch. Most of the dishes available at the stalls here were listed in English. I had a huge bowl of Tom Yum soup – stuffed with prawns and vegetables and seriously spicy. We also tried a bright green, incredibly sweet soya drink that was so sugary we could only drink about a third of it. Thai people might like their spices, but wow they love sugar too! After lunch we headed over to Siam Discovery Center and Siam Paragon Center shopping malls where the more mainstream branded stores are located. Everything here was pretty reasonably priced too – but to be honest it felt just like a mall back home. MBK was far more interesting. We ended day three on the 55th floor of the Centara Grand Hotel just off Siam Square. Here we sat on silk cushions and sipped cocktails, watching as the sun set over the vast metropolis and the brightly lights began their nightly flashing and strobing. It was magical.

Day 4

Day four was all about Jim Thomson. One of Bangkok’s most famous residents, an American by birth, Thomson made the city his home and spent many years revitalising the silk weaving industry here, offering locals a dependable source of income too. Using fabric created by local Thai artisans, he created beautiful shirts and ties, successfully exporting them and becoming wealthy in the process. And then, mysteriously, he just disappeared. When he was on holiday in Malaysia, he went out for a walk and never returned. To this day, no one knows the full story. Before his disappearance, he built a beautiful house made of teak in the traditional Thai style. It has been turned into a museum of his life and Thai silk production and design. We found it fascinating. What’s most striking is the way that these days it’s surrounded by high rise buildings and busy roads. But once you are inside it’s a haven of peace and tranquillity, surrounded by thick banana trees; a glimpse of what Bangkok must have been like in the 1950s. Thomson was an avid collector of antiques and curios and the house is full of interesting exhibits from across South East Asia: Ming vases, Burmese statues, Cambodia stone figures and more. We spent several hours wandering around the house – which is pretty expansive with lots of rooms. We headed out for some dining and clubbing action later that evening. We went to a Bedsupperclub a seriously cool, funky lounge bar, club and restaurant. It was full of sophisticated urban Thais dining and dancing in futuristic neon-lit environs – a complete contrast to the chaos and clammer of the streets outside. A top tip is to get your hotel reception to book a table in advance for you.

Day 5

I saw the film The Beach years ago and I was fascinated by the idea of seeing the backpacker district in Bangkok. It was here that the low budget travel scene in South East Asia really started back in the hippy era. The concierge at the hotel told us that locals often go down there to ‘sightsee’! The main strip is called Khao San Road. We took a crazy ride in a tuk-tuk – a three wheeled taxi – to get there and spent several hours wandering the warren of alleyways and stalls along and off the strip. Here there were more cheap and cheerful souvenirs and trinkets – the quality a distinct notch down from wares we’d seen at MBK. As evening began to draw in, the road was barricaded off at each end and became a pedestrianised zone. The cafes and bar-owners pulled tables and chairs out onto the road, hi-fis were cranked up a couple of notches. We chose a place at random and ordered Pad Thai – a plate of fat noodles with prawns, peanuts and all sorts mixed into it. Washed down with a very cold local Singha beer it tasted awesome. We ended up chatting and drinking ’til the early hours with a bunch of backpackers in a nearby bar and even tried some of the local firewater. Called Sang Som, you mix it with coke and it slips down dangerously well.

Oddly, my head felt fine the next morning. But that’s Bangkok for you – full of surprises!

If you fancy a trip to Bangkok check out these package holidays at Thomson Tailormade.

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  1. […] as a travel destination. There are plenty of great places to see in Asia (Malaysia, Nepal, and Thailand spring to mind), but I don’t consider China one of them. For the […]

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