With travellers often making a beeline for either the gorgeous beaches on Thailand’s many islands or heading north to try jungle trekking, Bangkok often becomes a whistestop tour. I could happily stay for weeks in this wonderful city but over the years there have been occassions where all I’ve had is one day. Believe me, you can get a lot done in this city in a day. Absolutely stay longer if you can but if time is pressed, here are my top things to do in a day.
You’re never far from a temple in Bangkok and with a city that boasts such magnificent religious buildings, get your splash of culture in and join in a morning meditation. I was brought up in a very hippy family. We regularly spent summers in communes, held meditation evenings at my house and my Dad, who is the happiest old fella on earth, has shown that meditation brings a lot of joy. Considering that Bangkok can be a rather high octane city, I love nothing more than starting my day admiring the amazing temples and pausing to take it all in.
My favorites have to be the famous temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) or The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). If you’re up early enough you will witness the monks collecting alms and you can follow them into a temple and start your day with a real sense of Thai calm.
Bangkok is a shopping mecca and with literally thousands of bargains to be had. Take a ride on the superb metro system and head to MBK.
With sprawling floors filled with goodies, it’s easy to get lost in this massive shopping centre. Preparing a list of things you actually need is probably a good idea otherwise you’ll most certainly get carried away! Things like electronic gadgets and camera equipment are really great value here so spend a couple of hours scoping out the best deals.
Bangkok Street food
Thailand is food heaven to me and always will be. Wherever I am in the world I pine for proper Thai food.
After a late morning of shopping you’ll have worked up an healthy appetite. The food court in MBK is absolutely brilliant and nothing like the terrible food courts, littered with fast food joints, that you find in most malls around the world.
MBK manages to have a truly gigantic selection of fresh food on offer. You buy tokens on entry and fill your belly with as much as you can. You could easly find whatever your appetite desires here and it actually has a street food feel with most of the dishes being freshly prepared in front of you. With only a day in the city try and grab some streetfood if you can though
Bangkok has vendors on virtually every corner selling meals that will blow your mind. Healthy soups with rice noodles, moorish spring rolls, the delicious pad thai, the list is endless. Bangkok makes you fall in love with Thai cuisine. It’s the cheapest food imaginable with the best ingredients. Vibrant, spicy and healthy. What’s not to love?
My favorite roadside dish is steamed chicken with rice cooked in the chicken broth. It’s served with the best dipping sauce on earth made with lots of chilli, ginger, fish sauce and soy. You can find this dish all over South East Asia and it makes my mouth water every time I think about it.
Ride in a Tuk Tuk
After lunch, take spin in a tuk tuk. Some hate this form of transport and opt for air-conditioned cabs but I love the madness of a tuk tuk.
Most drivers are friendly and drive safely but it’s true, you do get the occasional nut-job that drives like a bat out of hell. I’ve experience it all and it hasn’t put me off yet.
One tip that you might find handy is to always wear/carry a light shawl whilst in the city. You should respect the wishes of the temples and wear appropriate clothing when visiting and the rules are to cover ones legs and shoulders.
A light shirt and a shawl to wrap around your shoulders or legs is essential. It’s often so hot in the city that you don’t want to wear trousers and long sleeve shirt, so if you take a shawl you can remove it when you’ve left the temple. It has another use too – a way to protect yourself from the fumes of the city.
Like any capital city, Bangkok has a lot of traffic and particularly when you’re stopped at a traffic light, being open to the elements means you’ll inhale more fumes than is good for you. Use your shawl to cover your mouth and T look after those lungs.
Driving around the city is a great way to take it all in. Make sure you haggle for a good price. Haggling is commonplace throughout South East Asia so make sure you’re not taken for an overpriced ride!
Chinatown in Bangkok
Yes I love Chinatown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No matter what country I’m in, you’ll be sure I want to see its Chinatown. Bangkok’s Chinatown is probably my favourite to date. I love strolling along the sidewalk and watching as the street vendors go about their day. The shops sell bizarre fruits and dried goods that I am completely clueless as to what they are and I just love it.
My food hero, Rick Stein, introduced me to the seafood restaurants of Chinatown on one of his shows and no day in Bangkok is complete without pulling up a stool and digging in. Clams and mussels steeped in black beans and chilli, black pepper prawns and crab, razor clams, oh my goodness – it’s all too good. I could eat there every day for the rest of my life and never be bored.
Khao San Road
My favourite place in the city for fun and atmosphere, this travellers mecca will always be famous. After dinner, head here for a road that comes to life and will stick with you forever.
Khao San is packed to rafters with bars, market stalls, drunken revellers, hippy dreadlocked travellers and yes a ladyboy or two. The energy is addictive and it’s absolutely the best place in the world for people watching. You’ll pick up bargain clothes, souvenirs and probably a hangover on this road.