Bangkok (pronounced ban-kok) is the political and economic center and the capital city of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is a sprawling metropolis along the Chao Phraya river dotted by majestic temples and religious landmarks making it the cultural and spiritual heartland of the predominantly Buddhist country and is locally know as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Krung Thep.
Although the city is very popular among Western tourists, getting there is not as accessible for budget conscious Pinoys as compared to Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia, perhaps due to limited and expensive flights. So far, only Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are the local carriers that serve this route at relatively higher rates, which at times are comparable to rates to Seoul or Osaka. On the other hand, those who set their eyes on Angkor Wat either fly directly to Siem Reap or via Saigon/Ho Chi Minh.
This however did not stop us from making our way through our tight budget (#travelgoals). We patiently waited for another Cebu Pacific #seatsale months earlier and good enough, we scored tickets for a little less than Php 4,000 round-trip for two. So a week before our anniversary, we headed to NAIA straight from our respective workplaces for our midnight trip.
Equipped with a city map and a train guide, we started our DIY day tour with a very convenient train ride on Bangkok BTS going to the Chao Phraya river, our jump-off to the key temples and palaces of the kingdom.
WHAT TO SEE
A few meters walk from the train station is the terminal of the traditional boats that ply this waterway for hundreds of years. Chao Phraya plays an important and historical role in the development of modern day Bangkok and Thailand itself. So it is a must to try this mode of transport when in the city. A few minutes later, we disembarked at Tha Thien Pier. From here, a boat ferried us from one side of the river to the other for only 3 baht. From across the river, we can already see the stunning Wat Arun.
Also known as the Temple of Dawn, this beautiful pyramidal temple dominates the landscape along the river and stands out among the city’s temples. Standing at about 70 feet, Wat Arun is decorated with intricate colorful glass/tiles and porcelain. Entrance to the temple is 100 baht and is open daily from 08:30 to 17:30. It is best to visit the temple complex early in the morning to avoid thick crowds and during sunset until night time when it is illuminated.
Situated across the river is Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Bangkok’s largest temple contains an enormous, gold-plated reclining Buddha figure that is 46 metres (151 ft) long. The feet alone measure 3 metres (10 ft) in size.
Adjacent to Wat Pho is a vast complex of temples and palaces that house the The Grand Palace. Built in 1782, the palace complex serves as the traditional and ceremonial residence of the king of Thailand, making it the most important temple and most popular landmarks.
A trip to Thailand would not be complete without visiting this spectacular complex which also houses what is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country, Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which depicts an image of Buddha in meditation.
The property is open daily from 08:30am to 3:30pm and a ticket costs 500 baht. Please take note that a strict dress code is being implemented inside the Palace. Revealing clothes and bare feet are not allowed inside. However, there are available stalls offering some clothing cover right near the entrance.
Bangkok is also known for its many shopping venues. Check out the cheap and great finds at Pratunam market and MBK Center for bargain prices before completing your day with an authentic traditional Thai food in almost every corner.
The main gateway to Bangkok is through the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced as sù.wān.ná.pʰūːm) or the new Bangkok International Airport. The other entry point is via the old Don Mueang International Airport, which serves budget carriers such as Air Asia, Nok Air, etc. Getting to Bangkok from Manila is now very much accessible and affordable. Two flights are being maintained by Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines daily. To fit to our schedules, we took the night flight for more than two hours. We arrived at Suvarnabhumi at about 1AM (Bangkok Time) and conveniently took the airport taxi going to our hotel. A faster and cheaper option would be to take from/to the airport is through the Airport Trains which could bring your to/fro downtown Bangkok in less than 30 minutes.
There are various modes of transport to take when touring the city. Depending on your budget and convenience, the city offers an efficient system of elevated and subway trains, the traditional taxi and water taxi, and buses. However, given the problematic traffic situation around Bangkok, it is best to take the trains. The local rickshaw called tuk-tuk is also popular among tourists, however, please be careful for notorious touts and scam-drivers around the city.
WHERE TO STAY
Bangkok is a backpacker’s haven, hence, accommodations are really not a problem when in the city. It is just a matter of choosing the most suitable to one’s itinerary and, of course, budget. In our case, we did search for cheaper backpacker options along Khao San Road, however, we decided for a hostel which is near the train station, hence, we booked at Matchbox Bangkok Hostel around Sukhumvit area via Agoda.com.
Matchbox Bangkok Hostel Rates: $19.23 (PHP 867.00 via Agoda) 12/17 Soi Sukhumvit 33, Sukhumvit Road, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110 M: +66 91-959-4644 T: +66 2-259-0340 F: +66 2-259-0341 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Centara Watergate Pavillion Hotel Bangkok Rates: $110 (PHP 5,000 via Agoda) 567 Ratchaprarop Road, Makkasan, Pratunam, Bangkok Phone: +66 (0) 2625 1234 Fax: +66 (0) 2625 1235
Trivia: Bangkok’s full ceremonial name is listed in the Guinness Book of World Record as the longest name of a place:
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
Which translates to as:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.