Most travelers come to Bangkok and leave either feeling like they can manage it, or they absolutely hate it.
Bangkok was my first stop on my endless voyage 20 months ago. I remember landing and feeling a mixture of happiness to be back in Asia and apprehension about being in such a big, bustling city without a hostel booked, no real idea of what to expect, and carrying the negative opinions I’d heard about it.
I didn’t know much, other than to head to Khao San Road, a backpacker area of Bangkok.
Sure enough, on my first day in, I was nearly scammed by a tuktuk driver who had expertly searched me out on that very road. I was pretty far from public transportation, so it only made me more of a target for anyone offering transportation options. It was seedy, hot, full of ping pong show hawkers, and all kinds of other horrible things.
Now that I’ve gone back for a fifth time, avoiding Khao San, I finally feel that I’ve enjoyed Bangkok how it should be enjoyed. Here are my top tips for really falling in love with the City of Angels:
1) Don’t stay on Khao San Road
Now I know, the key is avoiding that area like the plague! The city has a beating heart that is so hard to see from the hidden backpacker area. It’s far away from everything other than the Grand Palace, which is another tourist trap, if you ask me.
It’s natural to want to be surrounded by other backpackers, but that’s possible by staying at hostels in a few other key locations such as Lub d in Siam Square or 3Howw on Sukhumvit. Khao San is still accessible by cheap transport from these areas if you want to check it out for a night.
I owe a lot of my enjoyment this time around to staying with an expat currently living and teaching in Bangkok. He took me to some local food joints that would be difficult to discover without some local knowledge. I found him through couchsurfing.com which is how I’ve met a lot of awesome people. It doesn’t have to be scary to couchsurf. I just go for people who have a lot of positive recommendations and a good set of experience.
He also lived in an area without many tourists, which gave me a different taste of Bangkok – in a good way.
Oh, and he had this view:
3) Head to places you’ve never heard of in search of food
I met up with a reader who had found a little street side restaurant serving duck dishes (she used eatingthaifood.com, by the way). It was a BTS then taxi drive away from Sukhumvit, but it took us to an area we wouldn’t have otherwise visited – one without any tourists.
I’ll always remember when a Thai woman saw us eyeing some snake fruit, then quietly paid the seller a couple baht so that we could try it, as a gift! That kind of hospitality isn’t as easy to come by in areas that are packed with tourists.
4) Visit Chatuchak Weekend Market on the weekends
Chatachuk is a market that both locals and foreigners like to visit, so there’s still a taste of local culture there. Plus, they sell absolutely everything! Truly talented artists sell their art there, along with one-of-a-kind handmade items that can fit in a backpack.
The Spanish chef who makes street side paella at the Viva 8 there is entertaining to watch as well.
5) Visit Lumpini Park
Many people think of stuffy, crowded, and bustling streets when they think of Bangkok. Get to Lumpini Park to experience Bangkok’s version of Central Park. It’s a great spot for people watching and seeing locals out playing sports, walking around, and interacting, which is something I really dig when I’m traveling. I want to see how life is lived away from tourist-packed areas. There are loads of other cool things to do in Bangkok here, some of which are more popular with tourists, and some of which are lesser known.
Though I’ve been several times, I still feel like Bangkok has many layers to peel back before I’ll really feel like I understand it fully. That said, this trip has sparked my curiosity enough to make me want to explore, which is more than I could say before!
Do you love Bangkok, do you hate it? Do you have more tips to add? Comment below!