Travel Advice For Bangkok, Thailand
We used taxi to go to restaurants, but we walked a lot and also used Sky Train/BTS as well as Metro to get around the city. We used this pink taxi (sorry, I don’t even know the name, but they are easily found everywhere) and we had pleasant experience. The drivers seem to know the roads well although hardly any of them spoke good English. We also got help from our hotel staff to explain where we were going before we were getting on a taxi.
If you go out in town in Bangkok by taxi and you don’t know your way around, I highly recommend that you write down the address, if possible, have someone write down the address in Thai (ask your concierge, but this is not a must), have a map to the place or a guide-book with you that lists the place you’re going just in case. If you check a location online, make sure you go to a couple of very reliable sources because I notice that addresses for places in Bangkok are listed differently. I found Travelocity usually reliable, but the addresses for Bangkok were not very accurate. I say this because Bangkok is not an easy city to get lost by car because of the way roads are structured and you can go round and round the area or be stuck in traffic. In fact, my friend who recently traveled to Bangkok, had trouble with her driver, had to get off her taxi because he was making circle and could not find the hotel she was staying.
Even though I am glad I could say that I have an experience riding a tuk-tuk and I have pictures out of the experience, I should have avoided it and I’m very grateful that nothing happened to my kids. I personally do not recommend it to families with young children. While they look so cool, fun and tempting, they are dangerous. While on it, I was concerned about the safety of my kids. He probably drove like over 50 miles per hour at some points (I kid you not) and we were on a seat without any seat belt and there was nothing to protect us on the side. Only thing we can hold onto was the low bar or a poll on the side. It’s freaking scary when a driver goes zig zag, makes hard turns, and drives like a maniac. I thought I made a mistake, but I felt trapped to use the driver, too. You will learn why next.
☆ BE AWARE OF CONS
When we were at the Grand Palace, I saw a sign that said “Do not trust anyone who approaches you.” I wish I a little heads-up like that earlier. Nobody ever told me about the cons that are out and about in Bangkok. They are scams targeting tourists.
If you’re curious, here’s my story. This is going to be a bit long, so do skip if you’re not interested.
On the very first full day in Bangkok, I had a day with my girls by myself while my husband was in his training. I read up some tour suggestions and decided to go check out Wat Pho, reclining Buddha. I even took a Sky Train and metro. (I didn’t know about the water taxi then. I will write about Sky Train and metro as well as water taxi later.)
I decided to take tuk-tuk. We were in Bangkok, why not? I negotiated the price and got a driver. As I was taking the photos of my girls before the ride, one random guy approached me. He asked me where I was headed. I told him I was going to Wat Pho and he puckered his eyebrow and said “Why? Why do you want to go there?” Hum. That’s a weird question. I couldn’t answer though.
Basically he claimed as a tour guide and told me that unfortunately for that day, which was a day before Chinese New Year, the district where Wat Pho and Grand Palace are located is blocked after 2:00 pm for the holiday. It was 1:50 pm.
He asked me to show him my map (I’m such a dork) and circled three locations for me and my girls to visit; Wat Ratuchanadda, Sapphire Export Center, and Marble Temple. According to him, Sapphire Export Center is usually for the retail business, but opens once a year for one week to the public and that day happened to be the last day of a week. (Red light, red light. I was clueless though!!!) Well, now I can tell that it sounds very sketchy, but at that time, I totally believed him.
There was one (and only other) tourist at Wat Ratuchanadda. He told me that he just came from the Sapphire Export Center and he was guided by a tuk-tuk driver. His story was similar to mine.
What I figured out later on is that the tuk-tuk drivers get some deals if they take their customers to their contracted jewelry centers. My tuk-tuk driver spilled the beans. He asked me to go to one more place where I ‘only had to look’ (yeah, right) and be his sponsor so that he could get a coupon. He kept repeating only for 10 minutes and no need to buy. That is so fishy.
I was in a hurry, so even though he took me to the door of the building, I refused to go in (I was with two young tired sleepy kids!). Finally he reluctantly took me to a Sky Train (BTS) station I requested. He actually got upset and I felt bad. I tipped him a bit more than I usually do. This is my experience and if I could help other tourists avoid the same situation I was in, that will make me happy.
☆ SKY TRAIN (BTS)
I didn’t read any guide-book on how to ride a Sky Train or Metro and I was fine. It’s very easy. You need small change, so if you don’t have any, just go to the window, tell the name of the station you’re going and give the bill. You get change. Simple.
If a child is taller than 90 cm, you have to pay the fare. The train is safe and clean. The trains seemed to come every 10 minutes. If you’re with small kids, make sure you take your kids to the bathroom before you get inside the ticket booths because one time I had to go back outside to find a bathroom for my 3-year-old’s wee call. Pain!
☆ WATER TAXI
If you want to go to Wat Pho or Grand Palace or both, I highly recommend taking a water taxi. Your kids will love it and so will you! My husband and I liked the Chao Phraya Express Boat better than a smaller boat which was quite pricey. We were charged 400 Baht ($13.5) for 4 of us, but for the Express Boat, each of us paid 20 Baht ($0.70).
After making a visit at Grand Palace, Wat Pho and late lunch, We stopped at a massage place by the water taxi station near Wat Pho. I heard that Wat Pho is a birth place of Thai Massage and I have never experienced Thai Massage before, so I was very curious. My husband wanted to get foot massage after a long day of walking.
This place is not a spa where you hear relaxing music, smell lavender or other aroma, and lay in a dim exotic room. I loved getting Thai Massage though. I was worried about my girls for sitting around for an hour while waiting for my husband/their dad to get foot massage and me to get full body massage, but the employees kindly let me use a small room surrounded by curtain and my girls got to play in it while I got a massage.
Thai massage to me was like yoga and acrobatic massage. You wear a simple cotton shirt and pants they give you, so you do not take off your clothes. It involves a lot of stretching and pulling. I felt very relaxed afterwards. I think it’s worth checking it out although my girl friend wasn’t a big fan when she got it in Bangkok, so it might not be for all.
☆ FLOATING MARKET
My husband was told by the local Thai staff that he shouldn’t go there. I don’t know exactly what they told my husband, but they said it was set up for the tourists and not worth checking out. I was skeptical, so I asked the concierge of the hotel and he didn’t recommend it either. He said that the nearest floating market is about 2 hours away, which is a whole day trip, but the markets are already moved to the ground (I’m not sure if it was because of the dry season. We were there in February.) I heard that if you want to see the water market, you should go to Chiang Mai.
☆ DUSIT ZOO and WHAT BENCHAMABOPHIT/MARBLE TEMPLE
Even though those are wonderful places to visit, they are not recommended at the moment. We were in Thailand in February 2011. The political situation in Bangkok was still not so stable. This will change eventually, so do check newspaper and ask your hotel concierge for the current security information.
What would be a chance for you to be caught in a demonstrations? Maybe very small. Who knows? However, personally speaking, I think it’s better to be cautious. I went to Marble Temple because I didn’t know until after I had visited the area where Dusit Zoo and Marble Temple are located that this area was not considered so safe because of their proximity to the Parliament of Thailand, the prime target of the demonstrations. Do you know that 14 animals were relocated to other location prior to the red-shirt rallies in 2010?
I saw some police in full suits and helmets barricading a couple of locations near Marble Temple. It’s eery. At that time, the demonstrations in Egypt was at the height, so that put me on a high alert as well.
I passed by a demonstration on the way back from Marble Temple. I didn’t feel good about having my kids by my side on a tuk-tuk when we passed by the demonstrations and I did not have a cell phone I could use in Bangkok. What is concerning about the demonstration is that you never know when it turns into a violence. Being cautious and avoid the areas where locals don’t get near unless necessary are advised.
Check newspaper or subscribe to Twitter news feed to learn about the most updated information.
In Vietnam laundry services are very inexpensive. We were able to have our clothes washed for $1 per kilo and it was a same day service. No, they don’t go to a local river and wash your clothes. They did a great job. On the other hand, in Bangkok, we paid 400 Bahts ($13.5) for 2 kilograms of laundry for one day service. Near our hotel there was another laundry place, but they only offered a service where you pick up the clothes on a following day, so it didn’t work out. It is not as cheap to do laundry in Bangkok, but the service seems to be readily available.
My husband didn’t have one and he said it was uncomfortable without one.
You can buy them easily in Bangkok, but my husband could not get a pair he liked with a good price. They are not so cheap unless you go to Chatuchak Market.
3. scarf or sarong for women
If you plan on going to Grand Palace, you must have an appropriate outfit for it. For more information, please see here.
4. wet tissue/wipes
6. camera (of course!)
☆ RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS
Restaurant Recommendations in Bangkok, Thailand Part 1
Restaurant Recommendations in Bangkok, Thailand Part 2
Conrad Bangkok Hotel and President Palace Hotel
☆ THAI AIRWAYS
We used Thai Airways for the first time. I was very impressed. Great service, clean airplane (bathroom even had an eau-de-toilette), great food and individual screens for movies and games! We had a pleasant trip.
This advice is based on my own personal experiences. I have no intention of making anyone worried or scared and I am not saying that what I experienced would be true for everyone. If you could read this as your future reference to help you prepare your mind for your future trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I would be delighted. That is my number 1 intention of having this post. Number 2 is to recount my travel experience to others. Bangkok has so much to offer and it has certainly become one of my favorite places I have ever visited.
This is the last post on my trip in Bangkok with my family. Thank you to those who have read my posts for visiting and reading my blog!!
I closed my Vietnam posts with a funny video, but I don’t have anything like that for Thailand unfortunately, so here are the photos of my kids making funny faces.
Dang, I love my munchkins. Do you think they will be upset with me later in their life that I posted these photos….? I hope not!