Few places in the world can tickle all my senses the way Bangkok does. At first glance, the massive metropolis and towering skyscrapers might intimidate; the hot city roads are polluted and filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic so notorious it’s voted as one of the world’s worst places to drive in. Over the recent years, political instability and street riots have scared away tourists, which has made a dent in Thailand’s number one industry.
Those reasons are enough for some travelers to skip Bangkok altogether and head straight for Thailand’s fabled islands and beaches instead. But if you dare to look a little deeper and stay a little longer, trust me: you will find a true gem of a city in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok has long been part of the “Banana Pancake Trail”, the nickname given to the Southeast Asian route that are today well-traveled by backpackers and many other tourists from the West. Most travel far and wide to this region for many reasons: escape the harsh, cold winter and submerge their senses into the organized chaos and seek paradise in seemingly dystopian third-world countries.
Despite all that, millions of brave travelers continue to make their way to Thailand to visit Bangkok every year. If you’ve never been, or have only treated Bangkok as a stopover to other destinations, here are 5 reasons why I feel you should give it a chance:
Delicious, cheap food is abundant:
If you love food like me (especially spicy food), you’ll love Bangkok. From crazy street food (fried grasshoppers, anyone?), unique Thai dishes by the road (fried fish covered in Thai herbs), to Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ll be spoiled for choice. I highly recommend opting for the inexpensive food offered at Bangkok’s side streets and food courts, where I was able to get several dishes and drinks for under $5. While you’re there, don’t forget to try the local delicacies: papaya salad (my favorite), Tom Yum soup, chicken pandan, pad Thai, and so much more.
Bangkok is paradise for bargain hunters like myself! Bangkok has just about everything I could want and need. From high-end luxury shops to miles of stalls side-by-side at the night markets, Bangkok has infinite choices when it comes to shopping. Don’t forget to haggle at the markets but if you prefer more upscale choices, Bangkok also has several massive air-conditioned malls carrying luxury name goods. Not to be missed is the Chatuchak weekend market where there are hundreds of stalls carrying a dizzying array of just about everything: food, paintings, sculptures, handicrafts, clothing, and more. Other places I think are shopping at are the MBK Center, Siam Paragon, Central World, Central Chitlom, Em Quartier, and Platinum. For market-style shopping, definitely visit the Train Night Market and Khao San Road after dark.
Stunning temples and palaces:
Although Bangkok is a modern, metropolitan city, it has preserved its religious and historical architecture. The glittering palaces and temples are adorned with gold, intricate carvings, and design that took my breath away. The most popular temples and palaces include the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Temple of Dawn, The Giant Swing, The Marble Temple, and Wat Pho.
The temples all make for great photo ops, which I took full advantage of. Many tour operators can arrange packaged trips a full day, several days, or half a day. There’s also the option of going on your own, so that you can choose which temples you’d like to visit – which I thoroughly enjoyed and can’t recommend enough. These attractions only have a minimal entrance fee so tours are quite affordable.
Affordable accommodations: Despite being a top tourist destination in the region, Bangkok still has an expansive selection of hotels that won’t break the bank. There are hostels with beds for just $8, and five-star hotels for just $100. Bangkok is one of the world’s cheapest places when it comes to luxury accommodations; plus, because it’s extremely competitive I was able to find great travel deals online at the last minute. Bangkok offers great accommodations at a fraction of the price you would normally pay in other capital cities.
Easy transportation: I found getting to and around Bangkok to be efficient, cheap, and easy! The train systems are clean and are simple to understand; there are enough stops to take you to most areas of interest around the city. When I needed to travel a short distance, I would just hire a tuk-tuk, or a taxi. I took the scenic route by opting for the Chao Phraya Express and traveled by river while the city’s silhouettes dazzled under the sun around me. If you want to travel to other provinces, cities, or countries, Bangkok has two airports servicing international and domestic flights. So grab your luggage and hop to it!
Bangkok has so much to offer the traveler who is curious enough to spend several days. In fact, it’s not uncommon for foreign visitors to end up moving to Bangkok because they simply couldn’t resist the charm beneath the chaos and disorder. I’m not ready for that currently, but you never know! Give Bangkok a shot – you just might end up loving it as much as I do!
Author: Diane is the co-writer of The Luggage List and currently lives in the Philippines. Equally in love with both tropical and mountain life, her travel plans are fueled by the obsession of finding the best possible views at sea or in mountaintops.