Scott kicks off this episode explaining that he and Trevor are often asked by friends, family, friends of friends, and friends of friends of some guy they met one time at a bar, “What should we do while in Bangkok?” He explains that Bangkok is a city of 10 million people and it’s arguably one of the most dynamic, exotic, and action-packed cities on the planet. How you should spend a few days there is a hugely subjective question, one with a myriad of answers, but that they have a few suggestions to make the most of your time in the City of Angels. Today they’re going to share with you some of their favorite things to do, places to visit, how to get to them, best spots for a drink and tasty food, and ensure that you don’t waste your time in Bangkok.
First Impressions: Trevor explains that, when he first came to Bangkok in the 90s, he had no preconceived ideas about the city whatsoever. He stayed over in the Khao San Area and celebrated the 4th of July in Bangkok. He had heard about a place called Woodstock and thought that would be a good place to celebrate. There was no skytrain yet and he had no idea how far away things were; he also had no idea about Bangkok’s red light districts and it turned out to be quite an adventure taking a tuk tuk all the way across town and ending up in Nana Plaza – where Woodstock was located. Scott then talks about his first impression of the city: one that was no less awe-inspiring.
Flow: Scott talks about how, the first time you are in Bangkok, or the first few months for that matter, it’s just hectic, chaotic and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to things. As you go along, you realize there is a flow and, in many ways, you have to go with it. While the city has lots of traffic, there’s always a boat, motorcycle taxi, train, taxi, etc. to get you where you want to go.
Trevor mentions how you learn to never take a taxi that’s sitting waiting for a fare and reminds listeners to go back and have a listen to Episode 5: Bangkok Scams, Hustles, and Tourist Traps for tips on getting around Bangkok hassle-free
Three Person Rule: Scott then talks about how Thais, and Buddhists for that matter, tend to not want to disappoint. Rather than say “I don’t know”, they’ll make something up to at least feel as though they didn’t let you down. He then explains the ‘Three Person Rule’ in which you ask three people about something, take the most consistent answer, or the person that doesn’t delay or deliberate in answering, and go with that.
Trevor thinks that it’s funny that Scott says that, because he’s found that: A) if Thai people don’t know the answer to your question, often because they don’t understand what you are saying, they will often answer “Yes”. So if you ask, “Which way is the grand palace?” they will say “Yes”. If you ask what time the palace opens, they will say “Yes”. B) Thai people aren’t generally skilled at reading maps or giving directions and asking for help to find something is not usually the best way to find it. Sure, you may get some good advice, he explains, but generally speaking, if someone tells you where to go, don’t automatically assume that you are going to end up there from those directions. Fortunately there is literally something interesting around every corner, so its fun to just wander around aimlessly and discover something neat, he explains.
It’s Not Dangerous: Scott talks about how movies you saw while growing up might make you think that Thailand is dangerous, but it’s not. While bad things can happen here, just as they do anywhere, Bangkok is a very safe city. Smile, get to know people, but listen to your gut, he advises. You’re less likely to end up in trouble in Bangkok than back home in the west, especially if you are full of alcohol and up to the same shenanigans you would be back home.
Trevor then explains that Bangkok is certainly safe by western standards. Honestly, he says, the only people he has ever felt threatened by were police and taxi drivers. Otherwise, most Thai people are not aggressive and unless you are losing your cool and threatening someone, well, then you probably deserve to get your ass kicked anyway. Otherwise, if you use some common sense, like not walking down dark alleys by yourself at 3am, in which case you might have to deal with some unfriendly street dogs, you should otherwise be ok. Again, just don’t start shit with a taxi driver or the police, he warns. If a taxi driver is clearly trying to rip you off, just say, “Oh!”, and pretend you saw something that you want to get out to see and ask him to stop.
Eat it Up: Scott emphatically states that there’s literally no better cuisine on the planet with easy accessibility than Thai food. If there are lots of people at a food stand or restaurant, get in there and try some, he advises. It’s likely only $1-2. Have a taste and if you don’t like it, leave it. Ask people about the dish, watch it being cooked (don’t get in the way) and you’re bound to learn a ton and make friends along the way too.
Three Nights in Bangkok: Scott and Trevor then give some tips on the best sites, massage parlours, restaurants, bars, and other activities before going ahead and each giving different itineraries for spending three nights in Bangkok.
- Old City at night. Start by getting a boat from Saphan Taksin up to Saphan Put. Walk on the iron bridge (built in 1932) – a great place to see three distinct styles of building: a traditional Sri Lankan chedi (the white one), a Thai temple, and Wat Arun (Khmer style). Continue north through Pak Khlong Talad, both the outdoor flower market and the indoor warehouses along the waterfront. Continue north along Maharat Road, then, when you hit the corner of the wall of Wat Pho (worth a look at the chedis lit up on the north side), turn left to Amarosa at Arun Residence. After that tuk-tuks to City Pillar, Grand Palace, Royal Square, and Wat Benchamabophit is pretty cool.
Back lanes of Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown). Use GoogleMaps (or Greg’s Bangkok app) and literally follow your way through some of the oldest streets in the city, including Yaowarat Soi 9 (eat here – ribs), to the street filled with shoes, turning left out onto that one, then right into a very small alley called Phat Sai, then try to take as many small lanes as you can to Ratchawong Pier. Check out the wet market at Itsara Nuphap, heading north two blocks, and exciting out to Wat Khanikaphon and Por Tek Tueng is pretty cool. Day and night this place is a different world and worth trying at least once.
- Ride the boat on Khlong Saen Saeb. It’s a great way to make your way to/from the Old City and Sukhumvit Road. Combine with a transit in the old city to see the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The easiest route is from the intersection north of Central World as you walk towards Pantip Plaza. Hop on the boat there (heading west) and get off at the end of the line, which is right near the Golden Mount.
- Authentic floating market at Tha Kha: located southeast of Bangkok is really the last remaining authentic floating market; then you can head over to a more modern one at Amphawa, see an old Portuguese church north of there via a van/boat ride down the river, then to the Railway Market, where people sell things on the train tracks and move them when the train comes. You can then take a very old train part of the way back to Bangkok and then your van can take you the rest of the way.
- Nana area – Night street market, Arab and African neighborhoods (and food), red-light district, and nearby nightlife
- Ruen Nuad on Soi Convent. 2hr Thai Massage: 600B
- Rakuten at the back of Sukhumvit 33
- Trevor says there are a lot of good massage parlors all over the city and he recommends trying the herbal compress massage.
- Plan two hours for a proper Thai massage.
- Grasshopper Adventures bike ride: Full and half-days are a great way to see a very different side of the city.
- Shooting Pool: If you like to shoot pool you are in for a treat. Girls working in pool halls are some great players. If you are staying on Sukhumivt, there are a few kind of red-light areas that have pool tables with really good players. It’s a great early happy hour alternative if you want to get out of the sun and grab a beer. The bars on Nana (Sukhumvit Soi 4), such as Hillary Bar, have great pick-up games.
- Shopping at JJ Market – Talat Rot Fai – The best Thai-style shopping markets in the city
- Soi Polo Chicken – Soi Polo / off Soi Ruamrudee
- Som Tam Nua – Siam Square Soi 5
- Face and street-food stalls – Sukhumvit Soi 38
- Ribs and soup on Yaowarat Soi 9
- Supanniga Eating Room – Soi Thong Lor
- Hemlock – Phra Athit Road
- Seven Spoons – Chakkrapatipong Road
- Cheap Charlie’s – Sukhumvit Soi 11
- Seen Space – Thong Lor Soi 13
Sway Urban Eatery – Thong Lor Soi 10
- The Old Dutch & Shadow Bar – Soi Cowboy
- Amarosa & Tha Tien Restaurant – Tha Tien Boat Pier
- Sheepshank Public House – Phra Athit Road
- Saxophone Pub – BTS Victory Monument
- Rooftop Bars:
Greg’s Bangkok is an iPhone app that takes you on GPS-guided walking tours of some of Bangkok’s most interesting, dynamic, and strange neighborhoods. As you walk, audio commentary gives you the inside scoop on the places, stories, and hidden details of the area you’re in. Best of all, there are no dodgy tuk-tuk’s to deal with, no taxi drivers to refuse your fare, and no schedule to stick to. Explore at your own pace!
- We’re giving away one app. Be the first person to send us a message on our Facebook page, telling us you’d like the app and it’s yours!
Learn more about Scott & Trevor:
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
- Follow Talk Travel Asia on Twitter
- Follow us on Facebook
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Vine
- Theme Music by Jamie Ruben