The sound of Tuk Tuk whizzing by…..the whine of their small motors struggling to haul the five backpack toting tourist down Sukhumvit road, to whatever thrilling experience awaits them, in the streets of Bangkok. The smell is instant…..the crack and pop of the street vendors twirling eggs, peppers, and whatever else you dare not ask in their woks. It’s a sound and smell you will not soon forget and one you will come to miss.
With so much constant excitement to be found in Bangkok, its hard to figure out exactly where to dedicate your time. Luckily, I am going to narrow things down for you to the top can’t miss, mind-blowing, some times awkward, must experience moments, in Thailand’s thrilling capital of Bangkok. So, journey with me as I walk you through my top five experiences, and why you can’t miss them!
Now full disclosure most of these are not going to be found on your standard top list….they aren’t glamorous…they aren’t packed full of selfie, snappy, insty, satisfying moments. These are unique one of a kind experiences that will truly connect you with the Thai people…or at least they did for me!
5. Pratunam Market – Thailand’s Largest Fashion District and Market
Now I am no stranger to shopping, however in all my days serving as a luggage rack for my girlfriends collection of shopping bags, I have never experienced anything quite like this. The sheer amount of people and business taking place in this small corner of Bangkok, makes for a memory you will always cherish and a story you will tell for years to come…..or if nothing else, you will always remember that time you almost got run over by a motorcycle driving down the isle….inside….like an actual motorcycle…inside….I”ll let your process that for a moment…..thats more time than I had.
My new friend was kind enough to honk before he whizzed by me with a bag full of 5 cent shirts and proceeded to turn deeper inside. I quickly came to realize this was a normal every day occurrence. I didn’t have to use any extreme diagnostic skills or anything….I just was the only person who jumped, froze, lost my breath, and shrieked all at the same time.
Everyone else carried on like normal as he whizzed inches from their faces, blowing by fixtures full of dress shirts, pants, ties, costumes, or anything else you could possibly imagine. Little did I know he was actually the lucky one….meanwhile further into the market there were kids, half the size of me running or wheeling I should say, bags and bags of more fabrics and clothes to their families stalls.
Pratunam market does offer some quality experiences besides near death however. The prices are simply the best in all of Bangkok. Most vendors you encounter selling trendy souvenir shirts, or the ones you can’t wear in front of your parents bought them from here in bulk. This means DISCOUNT for you! You’re welcome.
Take advantage of the insanely low-cost and buy your souvenirs here. It will take you a few hours to wander through all this market has to offer. You will get a little lost, you will see things that you will never forget, but you will leave with a smile plastered to your face and a bag full of discounted souveys!
Ohhhhh and the food….their is no shortage of snacks around the market. If you are craving sweets though, the mini Thai pineapples are a must. They are smaller and sweeter than their American counterparts…or Hawaain or wherever our pineapples come from…point is get them. They are good and best of all like 80 baht or roughly 3 dollars.
When: 11:00 -18:00 ish (Hours vary) Night Market starts at 18:00
Where: BTS Skytrain to Chit Lom Take Exit 3
4. Chatuchak Weekend Market – Largest Market
So…….if you’re a shopper and you ignored my suggestion for Pratunam, were scared off at the idea of a wild motorcyclist, or just still somehow need more shopping then Chatuchak is your cup of tea.
Chatuchak is one of the largest markets in the world. It has over 15,000 stalls selling anything from t-shirts to Christmas ornaments carved to look like small male %&#$’s…. you read that correctly. They have tally wacker (mom censored) shaped ornaments for sale (stocking stuffer anyone?). If that’s not your thing though don’t worry you can always scoop up one of the many bags of exotic, borderline frightening fish for sale in the pet section.
Guy’s PRO TIP… if you are traveling with a girl…..and do not want to come home with a dog, four dogs, or a plane full of dogs, then I suggest you avoid this section at all cost. You have been warned. My job is done.
Despite the oddity of some of the things for sale, there is a certain awe that washes over you as you wind through the maze of stalls in front of you. If you allow yourself….. you will get lost in the feeling of adventure. You will be proud for a moment of where you are, where you came from, and what you did to be standing in that maze, in that moment. It is a truly unique experience where you find yourself doing as the Thai do, arm to arm with them as they too navigate the maze buying, selling, living, and of course smiling.
Ok….ok…I got sentimental for a moment back to the shopping. What to get? My tip if you don’t already have a passport cover they have DIY covers everywhere there for about 60 baht. That’s around 6 dollars and it includes your name stamped on a leather plate and a little metal travel icon or two if you want. It really is a great deal and a quick momento of your experience. You get to make all the selections yourself. Color, stamp location, icon logo, ect, do it….you won’t regret it.
I don’t know about you but, shopping….well pretty much anything if I am honest makes me hungry. Chatuchak has no shortage of great food options with tons of fresh fruit, smoothies, Thai food, cultural food, chinese, or bugs… if your into that sorta thing.
So Chatuchak market in review…..food, shopping, visually stimulating, bugs, puppies, and male shaped Christmas ornaments. Where else in the world can you find that kinda combination. It is without a doubt worth a visit to experience shopping the way the Thai’s do it and they do it up big….like you need a map of this place kinda big.
When: Friday 18:00-24:00 Sat/Sun 09:00-18:00
Where: BTS to Mo Chit Station take Exit 1
3. What Pho Temple – Birthplace of Thai Massage
Ohhhh the memories….I still recall like it was yesterday what happened to me on a firm wooden table, in front of a room full of people, at What Pho….another story for another time. What you need to know is that there are a lot of temples in Thailand. Over 40,000 if you wanna get all technical and stuff. What Pho is one of the truly unique experiences in Bangkok. It is credited as being the birthplace of Thai massage and has a small massage school in the back garden where you can even enjoy a massage while still in the temple. It is a beautifully designed and organized temple. The mosaics statues, flowers, and giant reclining Buddha provide the perfect backdrop for this adventure.
What Pho began in 1788, and was restored to beauty during the period of King Rama III. For my yoga fans, several of the statues are displaying yoga poses, going back to the foundation of the temple as a school of Thai medicine and massage.
In my time in Thailand I was privilege to see many beautiful things however, it is hard to say that anything I saw was quite as stunning as the reclining buddha hidden within What Pho. The Buddha is 150 feet long and is clad in gold, with mother of pearl inlays in both the eyes and feet. The feet themselves are worth the trip. Each one has different Chinese and Indian scenes inscribed on them.
Must do when you here! Make change with one of the Thai Temple assistants and walk the line dropping a coin in each of the 108 wishing pots. Just don’t do like I did and accidentally put like 20 in the first pot….then your left with that awkward moment where you have to decide would you rather be that guy who reached inside of one of the wishing pots to make change, or that guy that awkwardly walks past all the pots at the end cause he got a little too excited in the beginning. I’ll let y’all try to figure which one of the two was me.
What Pho is a beautiful and certainly whimsical temple full of history and culture……and a little added experience if you choose to take part in the massages. If you find yourself wandering the streets of Thailand do yourself a favor and pop through the gates. You won’t regret it.
When: 8:00- 17:00 * Massages until 18:00 (Cost 100 baht)
Where: Maharat Road bout 1/2 mile from Grand Palace
2. Khlong Toei Market – Bangkok’s Biggest Fresh Market
Awwwww Khlong Toei….a street photographers paradise, a vegetarians nightmare.
Disclaimer: If you are squeamish, animal activist, or sensitive to smells or visuals then you probably want to skip this little adventure….otherwise get ready to have your sense stimulated in ways you won’t soon forget. I’m talking eye watering, stomach churning, fun.
Bring It On Khlong Toei!!!! Where are my adventurers at? This market really is awesome! It is Bangkok’s largest fresh food market and is largely responsible for sourcing most of the street eats you will or have consumed on your trip through glorious Bangkok.
We will start you off on the tour easy….warm you up if you will….with some colorful fruits and veggies…
The market is full of fresh fruit and produce. Isles and isles of peppers, vegetables, and fruits both recognizable and unrecognizable like the little guys above. Those are rambutans. They taste and look on the inside like little white grapes. They are actually quiet yummy and are refreshing on hot Thai day through the market. Stop and grab a bag for a few baht.
Now we progress…..
Little bit warmer now with some of the grains available at the market. There are tons of different rices available and for most of the time I wandered the market men took more and more bags of rice off trucks, opening them, weighing, them and bagging them.
Alright like Rakifi in the Lion King…… IT IS TIME….
You will certainly see great fruits, flowers, grains, and pastries at Khlong Toei….but you will also see a lot of this.
Well there… see that wasn’t so bad…I kept it PG. There will certainly be some yikes, oh crap, wait what was that…. moments, but the market is something everyone should see on their trip to Thailand. It is a little off the beaten path and the Thai people working and shopping at the market get so excited to see someone wandering through their market. It truly is an amazingly efficient system, though it may not look like it at times.
Take your time, wander through, take it all in. You will make faces, you will smell things you wish you hadn’t, you will laugh, you may cry, but you will cherish the experience, and tell everyone about the time you saw a little kid chop up chicken, or the sweet lady who wanted a picture with the American in her market.
When: 06:00 -02:00 (Thats 2:00 am) Highly recommend the morning hours
Where: MRT to Klong Toey Station then walk East on Rama IV Road
1. Ayutthaya Historic Park – Old Capital of Thailand
Alright..alright…ALRIGHT. I know I know this is not technically in Bangkok, in fact its more like an hour away, but it is something you absolutely CANNOT miss. Ayutthaya dates back to 1350. It was originally a Siamese capital however, was mostly destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. It’s ruins and ancient temples make for some amazing photos and one huge adventure.
Getting to Ayutthaya isn’t all that challenging and is surprisingly extremely affordable. My minibus cost round trip 60 baht. That is about 2 dollars. The vans will seem a little sketch…they aren’t… take the leap, jump in, buckle up, and get ready for your new adventure. Soon you will be staring at this…
Traveling temple, site to site is fairly inexpensive as well. I was able to rent a Tuk Tuk personal driver for myself for around 650 baht. The prices vary and if you can find a group it will make it even more affordable. Even at around 20 dollars for my Tuk Tuk it was money well spent. Some companies offer bikes, but to fully enjoy the experience a Tuk Tuk is a must.
All in all you can expect to spend about 4 hours seeing the temple sites, and another 2 hours in travel time. The whole experience can easily be done in a day. You will sweat through your clothes about 12 times, but don’t worry cause you will be sitting 1/2 inch from 12 other people in that tiny van all the way back. I’m sure no one will notice….
Ayutthaya is definitely a must see attraction for Thailand and its close proximity to Bangkok makes it the perfect day trip/escape from the busy Bangkok streets.
When: Last bus home leaves at 18:00
Where: Train/Private Car/ Mini Bus (Mini Bus every 20 min from Northern Bus Terminal)
Web: Unesco Heritage Site
Well there you have it. Top 5 off the chart, or maybe just off the wall places to see in Thailand.
If you loved the photo’s make sure to check out my Best Travel Photography of 2016 right here!
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