The gateway to all things Thai, Bangkok is a haze of crowds, families of six on a scooter and Buddhist monks dressed in traditional attire roaming the streets. This one-of-a-kind city is a true paradox. There really aren’t many places around the world where you’ll find an ancient temple and carvings done over 700 years ago, only to move to a rooftop bar to watch locals sing their hearts out at karaoke.
Book your accommodation in advance
When planning a trip to Bangkok, many people don’t want to be tied down and instead book accommodation as they go. Since you and your mates are going to be there for a weekend, we suggest booking your accommodation in advance. There are great hostel options for large groups and these vary from getting just the basics (a bed and shared ablutions) to private rooms. Check out Hostelworld for the best variety. If you’re not into the hostel vibe, we’d suggest Qui Hotel which is centrally located and next to the seafood market. Luxury options are also in abundance and the gorgeous Siam Kempinski (below) is the ultimate 5-star option, world renowned for its spa and culinary options.
Your accommodation is now sorted and as much as you and the guys are going to be hitting the bars and different party spots, you’re going to have to throw in some sightseeing.
Don’t miss these sights
With the incredible attractions in Bangkok, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t add these three sites to your itinerary.
The Reclining Buddha
A visit to Wat Pho is a must for any visitor to Bangkok. The Reclining Buddha is 15m tall and 46m long. The impressive structure will wow you from the very start, with its feet alone measuring over five metres. It’s covered entirely in gold leaf. Bring coins so that you can put them in some of the 108 bowls inside the temple – this goes towards the upkeep of the wat as well as bring good fortune for the doners.
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Bangkok and once you visit, you’ll know why. It was once the king’s home and at one point the Thai government worked from the palace. The artworks and intricate paintings will keep you busy for hours, so give yourself lots of time.
Over 8,000 stalls line over 27 acres of land, making this one of the biggest markets in the world. Bargaining is the name of the game and sales abound. Because of its mammoth size, don’t expect to cover everything. The market is sorted into different areas including those for fashion, arts and crafts, pet supplies and furnishings, so grab a map and hone in on your must-buys.
Bars with a view
Bangkok is filled with secret bars and clubs on just about every street. You and the crew are likely to whizz around from one spot to the other, but if you need a great starting point, here are some suggestions.
Sky Bar – Lebua State Tower
Famous as the setting for the helicopter scene in The Hangover II, this rooftop bar offers spectacular views of the city, 820 feet up. It even has a cocktail named after it – the Hangovertini. And if you need a bite before imbibing, the award-winning Sirocco restaurant, serving Mediterranean cuisine, is just steps away.
Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Silom Rd
Octave Rooftop Bar – Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit
The Octave Rooftop Bar is known for its spectacular 360-degree views of Bangkok. As the highest spot in the city for a round of drinks, this is just a three-minute walk from Thonglor Skytrain Station and opens at 5pm. Unlike many rooftop bars, the Octave has tables ready for seated parties and serves great food.
Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, 2 Sukhumvit Soi 57
Where to go for local food
Thai food is a hazy assault on the senses and no matter your taste, you’ll find something that you enjoy. Street food is supremely popular (and very delicious) but if you’re looking for faultless menu options, take a scroll.
Somsong Pochana is famous for serving Thai food that locals will make in their homes. Located in Rattanakosin, you’ll be spoilt for choice with curries, daily specials and traditional desserts including khao fang piak (rice pudding) and mango sticky rice.
Another popular spot in Rattanakosin is this local restaurant in Dinso Road. They’re famous for their coconut sorbet (below) but the sour lotus stem and prawn soup is not to be missed. The meals are affordable and the portions large, so go hungry.
Tips for surviving Bangkok
Beware the tuk tuk drivers: Most taxi and tuk tuk drivers are above board, but watch out for the ones wanting to take advantage of you. In these cases, the drivers get kickbacks for every tourist he manages to take to a gem store, designer or tailor. They’ll tell you the shops you want to go to are closed, it’s the king’s birthday or there’s a traffic jam. Be polite but firm and once you prevail, enjoy the ride.
The meters: Some taxi drivers will tell you their meters aren’t running or “we’ll sort it out when we’re there.” Don’t listen. They will up their price and charge you an exorbitant fee for a short distance. If they insist, get out and wait for another cab.
The suits: If you’re looking to have a suit made, there are some genuinely great tailors in Bangkok. If your friends haven’t given you some tips, ask around at your accommodation before trusting a taxi driver.
The Sak Yant tattoo: A lot of people want to get inked while in Thailand but many get conned, thinking their Sak Yant bamboo tattoo is legit. The tattoo involves a monk performing it and bestowing his blessings. Some shops in Khao San Road will tell you that it’s a traditional Sak Yant tattoo but know that this can only be done by a monk using a piece of bamboo.
Water: To avoid potential stomach issues from consuming unboiled tap water, stick to bottled water.
Treat yourself: You probably won’t get a more affordable massage than in Bangkok. There are massage parlours all over and the only regret you’ll have when you’re back home is not indulging more in getting your body whipped into shape.
Khao San Road: Khao San is to Bangkok what Bangla is to Phuket. It’s filled with bars, dancers, drink specials, cabaret shows and lots and lots of tourists. You’ll end up here at least once on your trip and it will fall under the category of ‘What happens in Khao San stays in Khao San.’
And here’s another cool tip: If you want to relive some of the epic moments from The Hangover II, there are custom tours that you can book. From private pick-ups to visiting bars as seen in the movie, the outing is worth every cent.
– TEXT BY JESSICA FARAH
PHOTOS: SIAM KEMPINSKI HOTEL BANGKOK FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, OCTAVE ROOFTOP LOUNGE & BAR FACEBOOK, 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.