Ahhhh Thailand! What is there not to love? It's one of my favorite countries, and in general, Asia is my favorite continent right after Africa. This was the main focus of my 6-week solo adventure, and I couldn't have been more pleased with my decision. My time in Thailand was filled with freedom and wonder at every turn. Let me start off by saying, SE Asia is extremely solo travel friendly. They are used to tourists and have so many infrastructures in place to make your trip run smoothly. Technically, you don't need to book any tours in advance, as there will be plenty of operators offering tours once you venture outside. I say this to show how relatively easy it is to travel in this area, but if you're a huge planner, by all means book ahead (though it'll be more expensive). I'm going to break my Thailand recap into three blog posts, as I spent three weeks there across Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the islands. When I was researching my trip to Thailand beforehand, I didn't read too many positive reviews about Bangkok. Most reviews said to spend a few days then leave for the more culturally filled Chiang Mai or picturesque islands. However, I really liked Bangkok and enjoyed the big city atmosphere mixed in with traditional vibes. This blog post details 5 reasons why Bangkok is worth a visit, as well as a few things to watch out for.
You're going to find temples all over SE Asia, but Bangkok definitely has some impressive ones to start off your trip. The details are incredibly intricate, and seeing all of the variations of Buddha definitely makes you respect how devoted Thais are to their religion. I especially loved visiting the reclining Buddha's, and even if you aren't into exploring different religions, the architecture itself is fascinating. Here are some of the temples I visited:
2. Floating Market
Visiting the floating market, or Damnoen Saduak, is definitely a treat. It's the only floating market I've ever experienced and seeing how I love being on water, it was an afternoon well spent. As you float through the market in a traditional long-tail boat, you will pass vendors selling clothes, food, and souvenirs. Some of them will even use a long stick to steer your boat towards them! You may also see a few food vendors floating by in their own boat and offering to sell you food straight off their grill. I managed to pick up some chicken before floating too far away. It's a unique and fun experience that shouldn't be missed!
3. Night Markets
Thailand in general is known for night markets, but in my opinion, Bangkok had the most lively ones. This is another reason why it's perfect for solo travel. The streets come alive at night, and you don't have to fear being out at 1 am since everyone is out at that time. The night markets sell clothes, food (my favorite), flowers, spices, souvenirs, bags, etc. It's so hot during the day (especially in the summer) so the middle of the night is a great time to explore. A great market to visit is the train market, and the reliable skytrain system will drop you off right where you need to be. Some of my favorite moments were ordering up a $2 pad Thai and sitting down on a plastic stool to gobble it up while people watching. I also discovered a dessert that I still crave at a night market: mango sticky rice! To wash it all down, grab some Thai iced tea (iced tea with condensed milk), which is extremely refreshing. Because it's a big city, the regular nightlife is popping too with everything from local bars to upscale clubs, but avoid anyone asking you to attend a ping pong show (sex show) unless you're into that I guess. I personally stayed away because many people warned that you could be drugged and/or robbed in those clubs.
I legit received a massage in Thailand every day! I received so many massages, that at one point I was sore lol. It didn't matter where I walked in Bangkok, I ran into a massage parlor every couple of steps. Back in 2015, you could receive a 30 minute foot massage (well needed after a day of sightseeing!) for $2, a hour long foot massage for $5, and a full body massage for $10. The massage places aren't fancy or like a spa as its usually just a pallet on the floor for the bull body ones (though there are spas in the city, but why pay more when you don't have to), but those massages definitely worked out the kinks and a chronic pain I had in my neck for months prior. It was also great to pop in for a massage to take advantage of the AC and free wifi. I used that time to catch up with family back home and upload pictures. I dream of spending another month in Thailand spoiling myself with daily massages.
5. Day Trip to Ayutthaya
You guys know I LOVE ruins, and I discovered some a hour drive north of Bangkok. This city was the Kingdom of Siam and a popular trading port from 1350 to 1767. This was the perfect day trip to soak up some history and get a break from the chaos of Bangkok. I believe I scheduled this tour spontaneously through an operator on Khaosan Road (famous backpacker street in Bangkok).
I did visit Khaosan Road briefly to see what tours I could find, but its definitely more of a young, backpacker, partying vibe. It's located in what is known as the "Old Town" and wasn't connected to the skytrain system when I visited. I stayed in a hostel in the Sukhumvit area, which is more modern and walking distance from the skytrain. It was a great place for exploring traditional sights but also getting to the malls, which are impressive to see because of how huge they are.
My main tip for Bangkok is to avoid tuk tuk drivers, or really any drivers in general. They will try to rip you off and take you to shops that you did not ask to be taken to. This happened to me on my first day, and I decided that I would stick to the skytrain if possible. I also had a bad experience with a taxi driver just dropping me off in a place that I didn't want to be, and it took a lot of effort on my part to find my way back to my hostel. It can be a brutal city, which is why I say rely on the skytrain to get around, as the drivers don't necessarily have your best interest in mind. The traffic is also ridiculous and a 10 minute trip can end up taking a hour or more! So please, whatever you do, stay somewhere in walking distance of a skytrain station.
Just writing this blog post brought back so many memories, and I'm ready to pack my bags and head to Thailand for a month! Next week, we'll talk about the incredible Chiang Mai, so stay tuned.
xoxo, Global Midwife