Sunday, February 24, 2013

48 Hours in Bangkok

I didn't know what to expect before going to Bangkok. I heard mixed reviews of people either loving it or hating it. Wanting to move there or find the first flight out. We arrived late on Saturday night and were greeted with much welcomed humid air, smiling faces and a friendly cab driver who, though his stifled laughter, still couldn't seem to get us to pronounce 'hello' and 'thank you' in Thai properly. We eventually got better with the 'sa wat dee ka' and 'khaawp khoon ka' with time. It was a warm welcome from the city I was so unsure of.
In this site seeing mecca, we hit the ground running the next morning and saw as much as we could in the short 48 hours we had there. Here are my top picks of how to spend even a short time in this bustling concrete jungle.

.Markets, markets, markets. One thing I love about visiting other countries is looking through the local markets. Buying or just looking are equally enjoyable as you peruse stall upon stall that would intimidate even the most experienced of shoppers. Filled with textiles, jewelry, bags, sculptures, knockoffs and more, you can find everything your traveling heart was hoping for. In Bangkok alone there are several to choose from, the most popular being the Floating Market and Chatuchak Weekend Market (known to the locals as 'Che Che' Market). 

TIP: double check the times and days of the markets you are wanting to see. Every market has different operating hours and days. I have been spoiled by markets in Korea being open seven days a week so I didn't even think about most larger markets in Thailand only being open on the weekends. Both the Floating Market and the Chatuchak Market run on Saturday and Sunday and unfortunately we missed them both. Just another excuse to come back and visit right?

No worries though, there are 'smaller' markets hiding around every corner of this country and we saw our fair share. The picture taken below is from a market near Soi Rambuttri Street (an amazing bohemian, backpacking haven filled with eclectic restaurants and hostels). The market was several blocks long on either side and was shut off to cars and transportation during shop hours. 
bangkok market
.Feel the tranquility inside of one of the many temples. Similar to the markets, tourists can find several different temples without even meaning to. In order for us not to get 'temple overload' we picked three or four temples that we wanted to see and stuck with those. If you try for all of them, you can literally spend days visiting the 19 'well known' ones in the Bangkok area. We decided to stick with The Marble Temple, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Even though we still wandered into several others as we were walking down the street. 

Another one to check out is the Royal Palace. We didn't exactly make it all the way into this one. There is a lady standing at the gate and her sole job is to tell everyone passing if they are appropriately dressed or not...while yelling through a megaphone. I was one of the lucky ones blasted for *gasp* wearing shorts. In any temple associated with the government, you must cover your shoulders and knees in order to enter. Don't worry though, there are garments for rent with a small deposit that is returned when the garments are. After seeing the line to rent these said garments, we turned and walked right back out with the intention of coming another time which unfortunately didn't happen. 

TIP: Go early! Any of these temples are sure to be swarming with site seers by the early afternoon. To ensure great pictures and not having to rub up against dozens of strangers, aim for mid morning and beat the rush.  

bangkok temples
The Marble Temple
bangkok thailand
Wat Pho was definitely my favorite temple that we saw in Thailand. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and is home to a 46 meter long reclining Buddah. I realize it looks large in the picture but it's nothing compared to seeing it in person. As soon as you walk into the room, your head automatically goes all the way back in order to take it all in.
bangkok thailand
Wat Pho
 bangkok thailand
Wat Arun was another one I was very excited to see. We never made it across the river to go inside but the views from across the way were just as magnificent. When lit up at night, it's especially beautiful.

.Take a ride down the Chao Phraya River. This is one of the best ways to get from one end of the city to the other. You can either take a private long-tail boat taxi or opt for the cheaper way of traveling and hop on one of the many ferries that travel along the river. It's also a great option to take a tour of the river around sunset and see the coastline come alive with lights as the guide tells you about history of the river and temples that line it.
.Spend the night sipping cocktails and overlooking the city of Bangkok from the Banyan Tree Hotel's rooftop restaurant and bar. While the cocktails are a bit high for the land of cheap eats and drinks (around $9 for the local beer and on up from there for mixed drinks and wine) the views of the city are well worth it. We decided to make a date out of it and enjoyed the views of the sprawling city below us mixed with the stillness that comes with being so far above it all. 

TIP: there is a dress code for both the restaurant and the bar area. Men need to be wearing long pants and ladies cannot wear jean shorts. We learned this a little too late as we came straight from sightseeing that day and hubs was still wearing his shorts. Thankfully they do have loaner pants to wear, although it doesn't look as classy when they're about three sizes too big.
bangkok thailand

We loved the city a lot more than we thought we would and would love to return someday. Even though we both agree that two to three days was enough for us to see and do all that we had hoped to. Any other suggestions on what to see in Bangkok?