What is Bangkok Like? A City Much Different than People Lead You to Believe
When looking into going to Southeast Asia, we pretty much knew we had to go through Bangkok. And from all of our internet research and talking to friends, we were terrified of this. It seemed as if it was going to be the most crowded, smelliest, and just overall disgusting city.
However, we quickly saw this was yet another time to not listen to everything people say. We flew into Bangkok on New Year’s Eve and unfortunately had to stay on Khaosan Road. I can see why people do not like Bangkok if this is the only place you stay. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like a great place to hang out with friends, drink as much as you want, and stumble your way home. If that’s what you want to do, great. However, for us, this was absolutely miserable. We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible and were so grateful we only had one night there.
For a more in-depth guide to the city, see this Bangkok travel blog post.
1st Lie: Bangkok is Crazy
As soon as we moved onto our second hotel, everything changed. Khaosan Road may have been the place for us in our early 20’s, but we did not feel comfortable there. Thankfully, we stayed at a hotel in Siam Square and just instantly felt like we belonged. We were so grateful for the skytrain and all of the walkways above the street. It allowed us to avoid the incredibly scary crossing of streets that we’d heard horror stories about. It sounds so petty, but it made a big difference in our comfort when moving around a city.
Maybe it’s from our time in New York, but the hustle and business of the city did not feel overwhelming to us, it felt like home. Yes, if you only go to the busy tourist places–temples, Grand Palace, Khaosan Road–you know what, Bangkok is going to seem crazy. If you do your research, figure out what works best for you, you can see that Bangkok is a city filling with all sorts of secrets that can fill your every need.
If you do need a day out, consider the Pattaya Floating Market.
2nd Lie: The city is hard to get around
Another critical aspect of our comfort in Bangkok, we openly accepted public transportation as our friend. We realized that we could not take cabs in this city. There is way too much traffic, and you can lose hours of your trip sitting in cabs. On top of that, nearly every cab in the city refuses to turn their meter on and wants to charge you a flat fee. AKA, they are trying to charge you double or triple of what you should pay. Not worth it. Use the skytrain, ferry, and subway, they are the fastest way to get around, they’re clean, and they’re better for the environment!
3rd Lie: The city is dirty
The city is prettier than it gets credit for as well. Lumphini Park is right in the middle of the city and is a great place to go for a walk, ride around in a little boat, or go for a run. Plus, they have massive lizards that hang out there too! They were so big that at first we thought they were alligators. The skyline at night is especially beautiful. The river is routinely filled with dinner cruises, ferries, and locals going out fishing. It is a river filled with an ideal chaos that encompasses the city so perfectly.
Also, we found that the city itself was pretty clean. The subway and skytrains were immaculate, and the streets were much cleaner than other Asian cities we’d visited.
4th Lie: The train station is hectic
This is one thing we kept reading about in post over post during our research for Thailand. We made sure to get to the station a half hour earlier than we needed to when we were taking the train because of these horror stories. And they were all lies. The train station is old, that is true, but it is also incredibly charming and beautiful. We even got a delicious banana waffle there that made our morning wait a little bit better. In fact, we visited two, one for our trip to Kanchanaburi and another for the train to Chiang Mai, and both were great.
5th Lie: The food is dirty
Street food in itself gets a reputation as being dirty and something you need to be careful with because you can get sick. I do think that is partially true, but in Bangkok, that was not the case. Compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, I have never seen so much care put into ensuring food cleanliness. Cooks were constantly wearing gloves, changing out old products, and double and triple layering anything you were taking to go to make sure it did not get gross. Of course, you still cannot drink the water here, but besides that, all food and drink were very well cared for.
Other Helpful Aspects of Bangkok:
We did not put together a complete city guide to Bangkok, though one is linked to here, but these are some helpful tips to get the most out of a visit here.
Another important factor for our comfort in Bangkok? The people. Thailand is world-renowned for its friendliness, and that does not stop in its biggest city. Whenever we were lost, unsure, or just looked plain confused, we would be greeted with a smile and at least an attempt to help us get to where we needed to go. In addition, more people spoke English than we imagined and it made us feel even more at home.
Food is something we are slightly passionate about, and when you are in a city like Bangkok, it is never-ending. It comforted us to know if we were having a rough day, tired, or just plain out of it, we could find something to make us feel better by simply walking down the street. It also has world-class fine dining, the best of which we were lucky enough to experience with our meal at Nahm.
We left the city. Crazy as it sounds for a place we loved so much, but going out of the city and heading to a beautiful little town like Kanchanaburi made us appreciate everything we had in Bangkok even more.
So What is Bangkok Like? It is not a city for everyone, but it is a city with a lot to offer. Do your research, take some chances, and go in with an open mind. Even if you do not like the city, it is a perfect jumping off point for the rest of Southeast Asia. Do not believe everything you read on the internet–except MLT of course–and figure out what works best for you!
Heading off to explore the rest of Thailand? This Thailand itinerary has you covered.