On my last trip to Thailand, I spent way too much time in Bangkok. Let me preface this by saying, I am not a city girl at all and Bangkok is the definition of metropolitan. It’s too busy, a little bit smelly, and very loud. However, like every city, it has its charms, the people for one. Bangkok natives are filled with life, laughter and a fun amount of cynicism. As you begin to interact with locals you get a sense of who is from Bangkok and who is there seasonally to work. A lot of Thai people from the countryside come to Bangkok to make money to support families back home.
Tourism is so ingrained into Bangkok’s society, after intentional observation, you begin to understand the rules of the city and its operations. For instance, the way the tour guides, taxi/tuk-tuk drivers and merchants interact. You can tell there’s an agreement between them and if you pay enough attention you can also tell when a Thai person knows something being told to a tourist is absolutely ridiculous but can’t say as to not break the accord. The best part is, they don’t look at you curiously, not even when traveling in a group with 3 other black women. The four of us have become accustomed to staring, whispering and blatant questions/comments when traveling together but not in Thailand.
Anyway, you and I both know there are a million and one websites about things to do or favorite places to go in Bangkok. This list is a bit different, it’s more so a tips/guideline to prepare you for your time in Bangkok. If you’ve already been, leave a comment below and let me know what I’ve missed.
Do ride a Tuk Tuk. It may look uncomfortable especially if you’re traveling with a group of 3 or more. FYI, the 4 of us squeezed into one. Not only is it cheaper but it’s so much fun. It’s a great way to feel the hustle and bustle of the city and get perfect views of everyday Thai city life. In Bangkok, the Tuk Tuk is iconic. It isn’t the most comfortable ride for long distance but anywhere less than 30 minutes away, it’s a go for me.
Even though I say yes to tuk-tuk’s don’t be a fool about it. Do make sure you negotiate before you enter the tuk-tuk; same with a taxi. Ask the driver how far somewhere is, better yet if you have access to your phone, google the distance. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to get duped aka overcharged.
Do rent a scooter. Ok so I have to admit, I wouldn’t dare rent a scooter/motorbike in a busy city like Bangkok, but during my last trip, I spent some time on some of the smaller islands off of mainland Thailand: Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The laid-back island life was a perfect place for me to try driving a motorbike for the first time. It was so much fun getting lost, and figuring out my way around the island. Itis the best way to feel like a local. As a precaution, always take pics and document all issues, scratches, dents before getting on the bike. The last thing you want is to be asked to pay for something you didn’t destroy, I’m saying this from experience.
Now, this may seem obvious, but Do say yes to street Food. Every single bone in your body might tell you to think twice about eating the raw shrimp that’s been sitting out for hours in a stall in 85-degree weather but, when in Thailand… That shrimp will be thrown into a pot of the best Thai spices, noodles, and if you’re lucky, a fried egg. You’ll be fine. Let go of all apprehensions and fears of food poisoning and devour that street food. It is amazing and surprisingly not as prone* to E. coli as some 5-star restaurants in the states. Just try it.
*Not a researched statement. I’m just saying I didn’t get sick lol.
Do eat breakfast with the locals. This is kind of like #4. Find an alleyway with chairs and tables, a little cart with a menu where everything is under 100 Baht and I can assure you, more than likely this is where the locals get a quick bite. Forget the coffee shops and hotel restaurants. Heck, you’re even better off heading into the 711, there’s one on every corner and get one of the refrigerator ham and cheese sandwiches and a coffee. Both for under 50 Baht. The cashier will heat it up for you in one of their toasters, trust me, it’s perfection when you’re on the move.
If you’re visiting one of the bigger cities, especially Bangkok, do yourself a favor and take a few days to visit one of the smaller islands off of the mainland. My best time in Thailand was spent between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Flights were cheap under $100, it’s like having a vacation within a vacation.
Do exchange your money at the airport as soon as you land in Thailand. There are no fees at the airport exchange counters vs. the ones you will find in abundance on the street.
Do use larger bills that you get from ATM and currency exchange counters for larger fee items, like longer taxi rides, or hotel deposits. Definitely break larger bills before going to the market or buying local items on the street. Not only does it give you more buying power, but it also ensures you don’t leave a local with a larger bill that they may not be able to break costing them, future customers.
Do spend a day visiting some of the temples. There are over 30,000 temples in Thailand, some more exquisite than others. If you happen to be in Bangkok, check out the reclining Buddha, or the Grand Palace or the Golden Buddha. Be prepared for large crowds. Make sure to wear clothing that covers your knees and your shoulders.
Laugh like no one is watching. I mean this wholeheartedly. Bangkok is a lively city with amazing food and beautifully dynamic culture. Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle and I promise you’ll fall madly in love with Thai people and their love for the city in the East, that never sleeps.