Bangkok & International Travel Tips
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Amazing Thailand: It begins with the people and Land of Smiles are some taglines associated with Thailand from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I have to say from my experience, these are great ways to describe how I felt while traveling through Thailand! Earlier this month I took my first trip to Asia and traveled through Thailand! This was somewhere that was on my travel list for awhile and I was so excited to make this dream come true. The people, food EXPERIENCES I had during these 10 days, were bucket list amazing life adventures! If you like what you see, add it to your goals, write it down and I will hope you get there! See my post on goal writing for more info here.
Since there’s so much I want to share with you about my experiences in the different places I visited in Thailand, I’ll bes creating a few posts to share the details. Join me on my journey and blog series for Traversing Thailand where each week we will explore another part the trip and country! This first post will cover what I saw of Bangkok along with travel tips and suggestions of what to pack, what to know before you go, how to beat jet lag and when to go! I’m excited for you to come along as I re-live my journey from the beginning! Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions below! Here is the program, my friends:
Please know these are my personal travels and my own experiences based on what I saw and did while I was there. And as you go on your own trip, know that not everything works out as planned, so adventures take place WITHIN your adventure and not everything goes right! When traveling, remember to stay open, be patient and make a CHOICE to have the best experience as possible for whatever comes up (or us, we missed our flight from Shanghai to Bangkok and stayed an unexpected night there, then almost didn’t get to Bangkok the next day)! For my trip I went with a few dear friends so you may see them along the way! One major benefit was that one of our friends is Thai and he speaks the language fluently! This gave us a very special, local experience in terms of understanding and experiencing Thai customs, their hospitality, and some unique sight-seeing adventures that would not have otherwise been available to us.
Where we stayed
Pratunam area of Bangkok
We stayed at the Hotel Berkeley Pratunam – I really recommend this hotel. The price was very reasonable, the amenities were great, the rooms were very nice and the pool was AWESOME – It was an infinity pool overlooking the city! Breakfast was also included in our rate and the buffet was huge and delicious!! There were so many different types of food and drinks, that it was guaranteed to make even the pickiest eaters happy! The hotel was in walking distance to lots of shopping, a night market and not far from sightseeing, so the location was perfect for local strolling.
The Pratunam and Siam district is at the center of modern Bangkok with luxurious five-star hotels, joined by massive shopping centers and entertainment complexes. The area is is best known for shopping (it’s SO shocking that we just happened to stay in this part of town) 🙂 Siam Paragon is an enormous up-market shopping complex at the heart of the district. It’s joined by Siam Square and other shopping and entertainment centers. Several Skytrain (BTS) stations serve the area, so it’s easy getting from shopping centers to hotels in Pratunam and Siam district (BUT we did not take the train).
Pratunam has an enormous clothing market and you can find everything from wholesale textiles and designer knock-offs to fine silks and handmade fashions (I did not find the knock-offs, we were there so briefly)!
Personally, I would never drive here! They drive on the other side of the street than we do in America and it’s VERY busy. I would not rent a moped or car in Bangkok (and I have driven downtown Chicago and Boston so that’s saying something)! Taxis are cheap and so are Tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorized vehicles used as a taxi), and they are fun (some people don’t find them safe, but we had no issues).
Night Market ~ View from Above
Since we were stuck in Shanghai longer than expected and there was a parade honoring the King that prevented us from sticking to our original sight-seeing itinerary, the only site we visited was Wat Pho. I’ll list a few other suggested sites in Bangkok that we didn’t get to but were on my list (photos are from my trip).
With our limited time in Bangkok, these are the things we did with photos to follow:
Here are a few things that would be on my list for my next visit:
Overall, our time in Bangkok was very short and I would have liked to do a few more things (that I listed above) but we had to amend our plans as we had that unexpected night in Shanghai. Bangkok is a big bustling city and the things I liked most were the street vendors for shopping/eating and visiting the temples. See photos below.
Photos ~ Wat Pho
Street vendors selling food are EVERYWHERE and have delicious local delicacies! And we ate from them everyday. To prevent any food illnesses, I recommend ensuring any meat is cooked through (if they make it while you watch, even better) and to go to the places with the longest lines. All the food I ate while I was there was very, very good (I eat mostly fish – sometimes I’ll have meat, but very rarely and there were SO MANY options, endless). I will say,when vendors and restaurants tried to recreate American food, it was not good – so I recommend sticking to the THAI FOOD in Thailand 🙂 Everything was fresh and delicious. My favorites were everything with shrimp plus more:
Shrimp Pad Thai
Shrimp Spring rolls
Shrimp Fried Rice/Pineapple Fried Rice
Shrimp Pad See Ew
Shrimp Salad with Mint and Lemongrass
Chicken on a Stick with Peanut Sauce (I had a bite) yum!
LEMONGRASS in anything
COCONUT EVERYTHING (I liked coconut before the trip, now I’m obsessed)
Fried Bananas with Ice Cream
Mango Sticky Rice!
*(Yes, all of these options above come with things other than shrimp) 🙂
Talad Night Market
If you go to a storefront or by the beach, the oil massages were about 400-600 baht for an hour (Thai massages were cheaper but I wanted to relax more than be stretched)! = $14-$17 dollars!
The massage at the hotels run closer to 1300 baht but those can usually be charged to your room, so I suggest that route if you want more of a spa experience or need to save your baht!
GET CASH! Thai Baht
Have cash (Thai Baht) on hand – either order before you leave (I did this online beforehand through my bank, which you can usually receive within a few days at the best exchange rate) or exchange it when you arrive (don’t use the airport exchanges as they tend to be more expensive). I suggest estimating how much you’ll need and bring enough to cover what you expect as many places don’t take credit cards (other than hotels and some shopping, but most restaurants, shopping venues and transportation only take cash). Most of the items you purchase will be from street vendors or tiny family owned shops that just don’t take cards, so keep that in mind (if you run out of cash, there are ATM’s and currency exchanges throughout most cities so you won’t be stranded). Note, everything is very cheap compared to American standards, $1 US Dollar = approx 30 Thai baht. My Thai omelette on NYE was 50 baht, so about$1.50.
When to go
There are three seasons in Thailand – monsoon, hot and cool seasons. Make sure you go during the hot and cool (dry seasons), you’ll see amazing deals for the monsoon season, so keep an eye out for that. If you go over the holidays, be sure to book your hotel and flights around the country (within thailand) early, otherwise you’ll pay more and or not get the beachfront hotels on the islands.
The hot season runs from March through to June, with April and May the hottest months of the year.
The monsoon season usually is accompanied by heavy rain but will normally have rough seas and can vary year to year. On the Andaman Sea / Phuket / Krabi / Khao Lak or west side of the Isthmus this can start as early as April or May, although it officially begins in June and runs as late as October.
The cool (which still seems hot to me) season November – March (I would go during this time and I went the end of December/Early January and it was still 75-85F some humidity and rain but perfect for us)!
Best time to visit These Cities in Particular
Andaman Sea / Phuket / Krabi / Khao Lak – November to May
Gulf Coast / Samui / Phangan /Kho Tao – April to October
Out of these times there may be some bargains but again, beware of the rain! (EEK)
Well That’s Good to Know, Type of Info
Etiquette and The King – The king is very highly regarded in Thailand and you’ll see pictures of him displayed all over the country. He died in October and we came across many many services, parades, photos and ceremonies dedicated to him, and folks dressed in black and wearing lapel ribbons honoring him. Do not say or do anything disrespectful of the king or the royal family – that’s a big no no.
In a temple – as stated above, men and women must cover their knees and shoulders.
Bow to altars and bow 3 times after saying a prayer in a temple. Do not be obnoxiously taking photos inside temples (I stepped outside to take the photo of the inside and tried to be discreet).
MANY international flights do not allow you to check in ahead of time. This can be frustrating and nerve-racking for us with OCD, so have patience.
PRINT your travel itinerary for all of your flights and create a travel itinerary document with all your planned hotels (include phone #’s and addresses – this is also helpful to provide cab drivers with if they don’t speak fluent English) . At customs, were were asked to provide our tickets to our next flight and didn’t have them yet, so we were able to use our travel itinerary instead.
Travel adaptors & Converters (There is a difference and without both, it could cost you your hairdryer/straightener)!
Notify your bank in advance to let them know you’ll be traveling for fraud protection and so you don’t get locked out of your accounts.
Choose an internal data plan for your phone or get a sim card when you arrive.
Don’t rely on free wifi. any places didn’t have reliable wifi and and that can put you in a bind if you’re traveling with a group and need to connect.
Look up and print/add the international code for your country to your travel docs so if you miss a flight or need to make a call within the country (on your phone that you set up for international calling) you have the numbers you need. Many if not all US 800 numbers are NOT free internationally so be careful when dialing them.
OK fine, I found it! 🙂 http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/international-calling-codes.htm
Talk to your Dr. and get your shots ahead of time and check the Center for Disease Control Website to learn about the different vaccines you should get. CVS and Walgreens offer these shots cheaper than travel clinics https://www.cdc.gov/
Speaking of shots, DON’T DRINK THE WATER or eat the ice or get iced drinks – drink bottled water only. Just trust me 🙂 Yes, I used the water to brush my teeth everywhere, just don’t drink it (think Charlotte in Sex & the City…) 🙁
Two things I learned after missing a connection between Bangkok and Shanghai: whenever an airline puts you on the flight after you miss one in another country, (1) call and ensure they really did book you on that flight even if you have what appears to be a ticket, and (2) don’t fly through Shanghai (try Seol instead).
Tipping in not mandatory anywhere or expected, but is HIGHLY appreciated (more than most places I have traveled to).
Thailand is a third world country and many of the locals that we met would love to travel to the US one day, but because of airfare and travel costs, they are not able to do so.. I AM SO BLESSED to be able to travel there and all over their country. When we got there, everything was VERY reasonable, our highest priced meal was $15 a head. The elephant pants I purchased were $4, and taxi rides, food, services, and everything else was cheap! So If you have the means to give 20-100 baht for a taxi tip or to a porter, it’s a very nice gesture. It’s recommended to tip 100 for a massage (or 50 baht per 30 minutes) and 100-300 Thai Baht as a tip whenever you really appreciate a service, (which is $9-$15 US dollars) and you would MAKE THEIR DAY! I really suggest it, the reactions we received, were beyond priceless. Also it is suggested to hand tips directly to the servers and service provider to ensure they get the tip and you can see their reactions!
What to Pack
Lots of layers – it tends to be cooler in the north and hotter in the south. It can be VERY humid during the day, so pack breathable clothing.
Hand sanitizer, wipes and disinfectants
Rain Coat, rain gear & small umbrella
BUG SPRAY (there are mosquitos)!! Especially in the north
Long pants/dresses/skirts to cover knees for temples
Long sleeve shirts or shawl/pashmina to over shoulders for temples
If you’re spending time with the elephants I suggest bringing extra bags for dirty clothes and portable laundry detergent to wash soiled clothes if there isn’t laundry service during your trip
BYOTP!! Bring your own Toilet Paper (No no, not for everywhere) see toilet note below
Compression socks for the plane
What to know about the toilets! What no one talks about:
What no one told me (until it was too late) so maybe I can help you?? If you find a bucket and a cup next to the toilet it means you should take the cup of water and dump it into the toilet forcefully to make it flush. I found this a few times in southern Thailand (Krabi, islands). Also, many times you cannot flush TP down the toilet and or there will be no TP at all, so I suggest bring your own and carry it with you when you go to the temples or out for the day. (especially for the ladies and or those who are prone to #2’s later in the day when you may be away from your hotel toilet)!!
Ok two more things about toilets: (1) Some are VERY low to the ground and still look like they have a toilet bowl, in these cases you DO NOT SIT on them, no. You step onto the toilet and squat (I was not sure, and only came across one).
(2) Sometimes you’ll see a hose next to each toilet, NO I did not use one, but my friend did, hahah I think it’s a sort of like a bidet ;0.
Beating the Jetlag (see your Bicoastal Beauty tip of the week, below)!
A few handy phrases:
Mai Aow (krub/kah) – I don’t want it (smile when you say this, it is polite, yet will dissuade any street seller from pursuing you further).
(In some areas “R” words take an “L” sound. i.e. “roi” (100) becomes “loi” and “Chiang Rai” sounds like “Chiang Lai”. The Rs and Ls may also be dropped altogether; i.e. Sri Racha is pronounced “See Rachaa”. “Pla” (fish) becomes “Pah” and, “Krub/Khrup” sounds more like “carb”.
|Sabai dee ru (krub/kah)||How are you?|
|Sabai dee (krub/kah)||Fine|
|Khob Khun (kup/kaa)||Thank you|
|dai||(you/ I) can|
|mai dai||can not|
|mai pen rai||never mind (handy all purpose phrase to express the Thai go-with-the-flow attitude)|
|pood Thai mai dai||I can not speak Thai.|
|kow jai mai||do you understand?|
|mai kow jai||I do not understand|
|nee Tao Rai?||How much?|
|pang mak||very expensive|
|lot noi dai mai||can you give a little discount|
|chok dee||good luck|
|nit noi||small – not much – a little bit|
What I’m wearing – Banana Republic Maxi Dress, J. Crew Jackie Cardigan, Cole Haan Sandals & Nordstrom BP Tote
Here is your Bicoastal Beauty Tip of the week: on these long journeys bring melatonin or a sleep aid for the plane. As you start getting closer to your destination, try to adjust to their local time and sleep when they are sleeping. Then when you arrive, do your BEST to stay up with sun! Try to be up as long as you can the first day during the daylight hours and then crash at 8-9pm. This will help you to not wake up in the wee hours of the morning or to feel horrible when you wake up.
I hope this is helpful and you enjoyed it! Please leave a comment below, what would you like to see more of and what did you think of this post? Do you have any questions for me? Have a wonderful week, friends!!
Photography via my iphone 6 and Ben Methakul
*Some information referenced from TripAdvisor