Bangkok has always been up there on my bucket list, partially thanks to the film The Hangover 2 and secondly because I've always wanted to immerse myself in Thai culture and there's no better place than starting at the capital. Thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand last month I was able to visit the first time and learn everything I needed to know about the city. Bangkok is definitely a love it or hate it place. Before I embarked on my travels I had heard mixed reviews from friends, bloggers and other tourists, but this did not deter me. The only way to truly discover Bangkok was to see it for myself.
Bangkok is a large, bustling city with vibrant street life and plenty to see and do. The city has a population of over 8 million people making it one of the most thriving cities in the world and covers an almighty 1,568.7 square kilometres of land. The Chaophraya river sprawls through the city centre connecting a network of canals and is home to many 'river families', most of whom live in houseboats and use the canal for work. Walking along the streets there are plenty of food vendors and street markets selling everything from handbags to flowers and typical Thai street food.
Getting around Bangkok is relatively easy and rather cheap compared to Western world public transport. The taxi's my friends and I caught cost less than £5 for a 40 minute journey in rush hour traffic, whereas in England this would probably be around the £20 mark if not more. One of the most popular methods of getting around Bangkok is by Tuk Tuk, a three-wheeler mototaxi and a form of novelty transport. These Tuk Tuks are popular with tourists as you can see a lot of Bangkok on your ride and they are really affordable to use. However, if you are to use these Tuk Tuk's beware as they can go quite fast in between traffic and with open sides, they aren't the most secure vehicles in Bangkok. Tuk Tuks can be flagged down really easily from most roadsides and cost less than taxis. If you're looking for fast transport but don't like the idea of being stuck amongst the Bangkok rush hour, the Sky train is Bangkok's equivalent of the London underground - but in the sky, obviously. There are three sky trains all owned by different companies and each go in different directions. You must buy separate tickets for each train and they can only go in one direction. The sky trains are air conditioned and take around five minutes to get to your destination, it's perfect for if you are in a rush. Finally if you have a wild side and a love for motorbikes, you can always catch the Bangkok motorbike taxis. Motorbike taxis are affordable and fast, but yet again have a tendency to swerve through traffic and give you the odd mini heart attack. I have been assured by many people that they are safe to use, but something I wouldn't personally give a go.
If you love shopping you are spoilt for choice in Bangkok. Bangkok has everything from quirky independent street markets to large shopping centres such as the Siam Centre. The Siam Centre is one of the biggest shopping centres in Bangkok and looks absolutely luxurious. The grounds have waterfalls and beautiful decor and inside the Siam centre is host to over 200 international and Thai brands. If you love grabbing yourself a genuine 'designer fake' the MBK shopping centre sells an array of fake designer handbags from Mulberry to LV and is popular with most tourists- just be careful, you're not legally allowed to take them out of the country.
Khao San Road Market
One of my favourite places to visit in Bangkok is the Khao San road street market. There's food, music and plenty of street vendors. Khao San road is popular with thrifty backpackers and is great for those looking to haggle. The street is really colourful and you are bound to grab yourself a bargain. I brought home plenty of dresses, t-shirts and souvenirs and spent less than 200baht.
A trip on the Chaophraya
If you're looking for an affordable way to travel and see the sights, it is worth getting on an express ferry on the Chaophraya. Not only will you be able to see the famous river, but it also connects to a lot of leading landmarks such as the Grand Palace. The river cruise enables you to see fantastic views of Bangkok and experience the Bangkok lifestyle from the large hotel chains and luxurious apartments to the shanty shacks along the river.
Have you been to Bangkok before?