The largest city in north Thailand, Chiang Mai is home to unique cultural sites, delicious food (khao soi noodles…), and offers access to numerous overnight/volunteer opportunities across northern Thailand.Read More
Any traveller who’s ever visited Thailand has probably made their way through Bangkok at some point, and they all have something different to say about it. In fact, there are few cities we’ve been to that inspire more love/hate reactions than Thailand’s capital.
Home to nearly 8.3 million people, this gigantic city has no shortage of new experiences and things to do. In fact, there’s so much to Bangkok that it’s almost daunting to try and plan out what you want to do here. Personally, I think this, and Khao San Road, are the main reasons some people claim to “hate” this city.
BUT, don’t knock it till you try it, no matter what anyone says. There are many, many amazing things to do in Bangkok. We spent a little less than a week exploring the city and had a blast. Here’s a breakdown of some of our highlights.
Experiences in Bangkok
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Over 400,000 visitors hop on the metro to Chatuchak Park each weekend in order to browse the 15,000 stalls of Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest market in all of Thailand. You can get lost for hours, like we did, among the thousands of visitors and vendors haggling over Nepalese gemstone bags, delicate silver jewelry, and ornate wooden carvings. Anything you could hope to shop for, there’s probably 6 of, so take the day (or, hell, the whole weekend) and get ready to drop some dollars at this fabulous market.
Something that we unfortunately didn’t get to, ladyboy shows are frequently labeled a “must do” attraction of Bangkok, so they have be included as our “coulda, woulda, shoulda, but didn’t.” The most popular is called Calypso, and you can catch this eye-popping performance twice every day, so there’s plenty of opportunity.
Wat Phra Kaew (Reclining Buddha)
If you’re looking to explore one of the more cultural attractions of Bangkok and don’t feeling like shelling out for the Grand Palace (aka, if you’re just like us), this is a great alternative. Much cheaper, less crowded, and with plenty of temple views and photo ops for you rising instagram stars. Despite being near impossible to photograph, the reclining buddha in this temple is incredible, and regardless of whether or not you hit up the Grand Palace, this temple is absolutely worth a visit.
Floating Markets of Bangkok
Another thing we opted out of, Bangkok is famous for its floating markets. While they’re a bit pricy to go see, you either splurge for a tour or catch a cab out of the city and hire a boat, there’s no doubt that it’s a sight to see. There are five floating markets outside of Bangkok, the most famous of which is Damnoen Saduak. We decided it was a bit too pricy for us, but many would argue the getting to witness the hundreds of boats floating up and down the river laden with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other goodies make it well worth the money.
Another one for the instagrammers out there. Unicorn Cafe has gone viral for the simple reason that suddenly everyone is obsessed with unicorns (the internet is a weird place). That being said, it’s a fun place to check out and a great place to take some pictures. Go early, it gets very crowded very fast. The food is all rainbow, a little weird but, hey, that’s the theme. We weren’t all that hungry for rainbow pasta, but the crepe cake was awesome! Must love sugar.
Where to Stay
Hint: not Khao San Road.
We met a lot of backpackers who warned us off Bangkok and the majority of them (major shocker here) stayed on or near Khao San Road, the famous backpacker street in city. It is crowded, dirty, and full of absolutely wasted travelers by 9:30pm most nights. Even if you’re looking to party in Bangkok, we wouldn’t recommend you stay there because not only are there other places to party but its also pretty far away from the metro, which is the best way to get around.
We stayed in an area called Sukhumvit and loved it. It’s known as a party central, with major clubs and bars all within walking distance of the metro stop. We stayed at a hostel called 1SABAI and it was great, if quiet. It was right next to Slumber Party Backpackers, which has numerous hostels throughout Thailand and is definitely where the party’s at.
Either is a great stay, depends how much you want to sleep each night, and they’re both a quick 10 minute walk to the metro that will take you almost anywhere you want to go. Definitely recommend staying in this area. Less touristy, plenty to do, great food, easy access to metro…what’s not to love?
Where to Eat & Sip on Some Coffee
There's no shortage of amazing restaurants, cafes, bars, and cheap food options in Bangkok and I don't know how one could create a "complete" list, but here's a couple of highlights from our personal food tour in Bangkok.
Simple Natural Kitchen: We are slightly addicted to brunch, and this place had an epic one. We ordered shakshouka and avocado toast and it was great. Definitely recommend.
Wonderwall: We parked it at this coffee shop for a couple of hours to get some work done. Can't argue with great coffee and a chill atmosphere.
25 Degrees: Looking for a great burger in Bangkok? 25 Degrees has got you covered. It also have a fantastic happy hour and is a great place to stop after a long day of touring some of the Bangkok's more famous attractions.
Not Just Another Cup: We so badly wanted to make it here (again, addicted to brunch) but we didn't realize until too late that you'll need a reservation to sit down. Don't be like us. Reserve and enjoy.
Iwane 1975: We ate here maybe 2-3 times while we were in Bangkok. Easy walking distance from the metro station in Sukhumvit, about halfway between our hostel and the station, this place has an amazing brunch/lunch (we have a problem) and absolutely everything we ordered was delicious. I'd recommend one thing in particular but it's just all great. Take yourself here and thank me later.
Terminal 21 Mall: Much like Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Bangkok has some fantastic malls. We spent tons of time in Terminal 21 because it was so close, has amazing destination themed floors (go to Tokyo!), and has a fantastic food court. You've got plenty of options and it's an easy and typically cheaper option than restaurants every night.
Where to Party
Hint: not Khao San Road.
I’m not just hating here. The government and police force in Bangkok have imposed a strict midnight curfew and even conduct raids along Khao San Road in an effort to curb the wild partying in Bangkok. Other bars and clubs are also being affected by this curfew, but Khao San Road has been hit the hardest and if you go on a weekend night you’ll see the streets packed with drunk partiers by 11:30pm as the bars begin to close down.
It. Is. Not. Fun.
Some alternatives? The club scene around Sukhumvit is good, but not easy on the wallet. You’ll pay to get in and then you’ll pay double for drinks.
If you’re looking to go clubbing, and you’re in the Sukhumvit area, go check out Slumber Party Backpackers. Ask them where is best to go on any particular night OR make it even easier on yourself and join them when they hit the clubs. The night we went with them we hit Route66 Club and they went on to Onyx Club, which we opted out of. They host solid pregames every night and it’s a great way to meet fellow backpackers in such a big city.
Sukhumvit Road is also an option, especially the Red Light District around Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboys. GENTLEMEN, watch your wallets, these ladies know what they’re doing and they’re probably not just interested in your face (though I’m sure it’s great).
Rooftop bars! There are TONS of rooftop bars in Bangkok and they are a great time. We only hit one while we were there, Sky on 20, and loved it. Shop around a bit and see which one suits your fancy, but chances are you won’t go wrong with a fantastic view and a fancy cocktail.
Another alternative is take you and your gang on a self guided bar crawl! We did this one night and had a blast just walking around and checking out any fun bar or brewery we could find. Our favorites that we found were CRAFT, a fun outdoor brewery venue with beer flights and good old American rock tunes, and Iron Fairies.
Iron Fairies is dope. I have a thing for absinthe bars and this one was absolute magic. The decor is dark and suits the name. The live band is very talented and, though they’re a bit pricy, the drinks are great. We didn’t try the food, but heard great things about that as well. Even if it’s just for one drink, it’s a quirky and fun place to check out.
How to Get Around Bangkok
Metro, metro, metro (and walking)! If you can avoid Tuk Tuks and Grabs in this city then absolutely do, they can get pricy and the traffic is AWFUL at peak times. The metro is easy to use and cheap, definitely the best way to explore the city and surrounding areas. Whenever we hit a place that the metro couldn’t take us, we got as close as we could and walked.
There’s also a great Sky Train in Bangkok, which we used to get to the Unicorn Cafe. There’s a stop for it in Sukhumvit as well if you’re staying there! More expensive, but worth taking at least one trip on.
Bangkok is a vibrant, chaotic, and diverse city that easy to get lost in, literally and metaphorically. Give yourself the time to explore it a bit and don’t listen to the haters - this city’s got a great time waiting for those who seek it.
After experiencing both Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, I came up with a loving analogy to compare the two.
If Koh Phi Phi is a first semester freshman in college who’s never left home and is finally turned loose on the world of partying, then Koh Lanta is the super senior who’s taking the bare minimum number of classes and spending most of the time stoned on the couch.
If you’ve gone to college, you probably get what I’m saying.
Koh Lanta is bigger, less crowded, and unbelievably chill compared to Koh Phi Phi. To be honest, one of the best things to do in Koh Lanta is nothing, which me and my two companions did plenty of. Also eating, which I recommend you do at Secret Garden. I think we went there four times in three days (the crepes...).
When we weren’t doing nothing, we explored the area around our hostel on foot and around the island by scooter. We stayed at an amazing hostel called Loro Loco, which had incredibly friendly staff and an amazing pool/lounge area. It was also right on Long Beach, the main beach on Koh Lanta, which is lined with fun, colorful sunset bars.
*Note: If you're looking for a bit more of a luxurious stay on island, ASALANTA has amazing reviews and would be well worth checking out!
Needless to say, we spent every sunset and evening on the beach with a couple of beers and as much fresh fruit as we could carry.
Renting a scooter on Koh Lanta is very cheap, only about three US dollars a day.
There's a number of places you can explore on Koh Lanta via scooter. There's Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Mai Kaew Cave, Koh Lanta Old Town, Khlong Chak Waterfall, and countless stunning beaches, including Phra Ae Beach and Bamboo Beach. If you're looking to stack your day full of activities and places to explore, there's no shortage of options.
*Note: We heard from a couple of people that the entrance fee to the National Park isn't worth it, which is why we didn't go there, but if you're still interested it's worth noting that there is in fact an entrance fee of 200B per person.
If you're in Koh Lanta for a little longer, there's also plenty to do just off the island. There's diving, sunset cruises, and a day trip to Morakot Cave. Also known as the Emerald Cave, this stunning cave is on a tiny island just off of Koh Lanta and is well worth a visit. We didn't have enough time when we were there, but if I were to go back that would absolutely be on the top of my to do list.
What we DID do is rent two scooters for the three of us to explore the perimeter of the island for an afternoon. We opted for a more casual exploration and just stuck to aimlessly driving around and seeing the landscape before parking it on a deserted beach with a couple of fresh coconuts for a few hours. If you're enjoying a more low key day or trip, you can't go wrong with this.
Whether you want to go full explorer or have a chill day meandering around the island, you've got plenty of choices.
On a side note, this would be an amazing place to practice riding a scooter, due to the low traffic and wide, paved roads all over the island. So if you’re looking for a place to gain confidence before embarking on a 3-month Vietnamese bike tour… I’ll say no more, you know who you are.
If you’ve been traveling for a while and are looking for a break or if you’re simply in need of a quick detox from the craziness of Koh Phi Phi or the Full Moon Party, look no further than Koh Lanta. This is the perfect place to put up your feet, string up your hammock, and read a few chapters of that book you picked up two months ago but haven’t opened yet.
I’ll start by saying that it’s largely chance that brought us to Phuket. MJ and I were ready to write off Phuket as a tourist-heavy, crowded beach with little to do other than party. Given that we were headed to Ko Phi Phi immediately after to do just that, we almost skipped Phuket all together.
In the end, I’m glad we didn’t.
Phuket is one of the bigger islands off of Southern Thailand and there are many ways to see it. Here’s our take.
I know, I know, starting with the obvious here.
Patong Beach is without a doubt the most famous beach and tourist attraction on Phuket Island. This city is a haven for backpackers is probably one of the best places to meet and party with your fellow budget travelers.
The place essentially is a 24/7 happy hour.
There are no shortage of bars and clubs on Patong Beach. As soon as the sun goes down, head to Bangla Road and duck into any one of the tens of bars and restaurants offering food, seemingly endless happy hour deals, and live entertainment.
Not sure where to start your night? We stayed at Slumber Party Backpackers in Patong, which offers amazingly comfortable rooms and a different party itinerary for every night of the week. If you happen to wander over on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, join their pub crawl and see how long you can keep up (spoiler alert: I personally did not impress anyone).
What else is there to do other than party? Patong Beach is the perfect place to lay out for a nap (go on, you’ve earned it), grab an icy fruit juice (COCONUT!), or even give parasailing a try.
Still not tired? Check out Patong’s night market for some of the most delicious and cheap eats you’ll find in the city.
All right, so maybe you’re a little partied out and are looking for a more relaxing place to spend your time in Phuket. Allow me to direct your attention to…
Kata Beach is yet another stunningly beautiful beach town about 25-30 minutes south of Patong Beach. While it’s also got its fair share of tourists and nightlife, Kata is definitely the calmer of the two.
You’ll have more room on the beach, less noise at night, and less traffic on the road if you’re looking to explore the city on foot, something I didn’t get to do but a friend highly recommended.
After a few crazy nights in Patong, Kata was the perfect place to wind down with a beer on the beach at sunset.