Wow Bangkok is one hectic and humid place. Once we arrived in the city we travelled to Khao San Road which is the main backpacker zone. It is very touristy and loud (with Gangnam Style on repeat) so if you are not into staying up too late then definitely stay in a different area of the city. It was our first introduction into Thailand so we enjoyed ourselves with many Chang beers and cheap massages. We also had our first street Pad Thai and it was delicious!
Tuk tuks are everywhere and are a really cheap way to see the sights in Bangkok, however, they will insist on taking you to fabric stores and travel agencies ‘on the way’ in the hope of some kind of commission. We got tired of this really fast and preferred to use scooter taxis to get around instead. We did manage to see some temples amidst all these ‘detours’ and it was interesting to see more of the city than just tourist central Khao San Road. It’s pretty crazy to see the contrast of the modern and old worlds in just a few blocks. Malls sit next to temples that sit next to markets. Bangkok certainly is one of a kind.
A good way to spend a day in Bangkok is to take the river ferry and just jump off at various spots along the way. My highlights were the temples Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat Arun is made up of small tiles and is very intricate and beautiful which makes it look like it has been carved out of granite. The river itself is incredibly busy with all sorts of boats (big and small) making their way up and down.
A good day trip out of Bangkok is the town of Ayuthaya which is just an hour long train ride away. It is a quiet town which is a good relief from the craziness of Bangkok. It is one of the ancient Thai capitals and has some stunning ruins so we hired a tuktuk driver to take us around the sights. Our first stop was Wat Phra Mahathat (The Monastery of the Great Relic) and it was pretty incredible. My favourite part was a Buddha statue that had been completely engulfed by tree roots over the years with only the face being left visible. It was certainly a unique sight.
We also visited Wat Phra Si Sanphet which was the royal palace, and stopped by the biggest Buddha I have ever seen laying on its side.
The Ayuthaya floating markets are also a fun thing to do in the town. It doesn’t have the hectic vibe of the markets in Bangkok so you can relax and explore peacefully.
Overall Bangkok was an interesting place and it is inevitable that you will spend some time here on your visit to Thailand. The constant hassling from various vendors does get tiring but the food and history make up for it. It is a crazy city so we felt that Ayuthaya added a nice balance to any trip to Bangkok. I travelled with my friend Sophie and we liked to stay in private (usually air-conditioned rooms). Even with this added luxury it was cheap, you’re looking at NZ$60 (US$40) per day while in Bangkok (if you stay at cheap guesthouses).
Editor’s Note: Visited Thailand in 2012, updated in 2017.