unicorn cafe

10 fun things to do in Bangkok

These are my super awesome travel tips for fun things to do in Bangkok. These, like my thoughts, are in no particular order. Enjoy!

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1.       Take the public transit system; bus, Tuk Tuk's & the Skytrain!

 

It’s exhilarating, mildly dangerous but overall efficient and fun. The US could take some pointers from foreign public transit systems. Once you get used to it, it’s a very easy system to navigate but at first glance it can seem a little daunting.

 

The buses are numbered (obviously) and the bus stops are labelled with the bus numbers that you pick up. Bus stops are located all over the city so you’re never far from one and there’s always at least one person on the bus who knows English well enough to translate for you. Just make sure you're holding on when they round a corner, at times it does seem like they're trying to kill you!

#wedidntdie

#wedidntdie

 

Tuk-tuks are the main transportation system in Thailand, and before we got here we read from a ton of different travel sites warning us to be on the lookout. However, John and I took 2 tuk-tuks and both of them were really cool and helped us around the city. They were also honest and transparent with us, letting us know they would get free gas if they took us to a suit shop. (The suits shops are actually kind of cool and custom make suits special for you. They show you the different suits, you pick the style, the fabric, the number of buttons, the cut on the collar, etc.)

 

2.       Temples; duhh!

 

There are so many to choose from and it would take a couple days to properly explore all of the ones in and around the city. My favorite temple in Bangkok was at Wat Pho, Phra Mondop, the unique green architecture stuck out right away and spoke to me. There were faces in the design that reminded me of Green Man (Celtic mythology) and the symbolic structures along the roof top were hands reaching up into the sky (instead of dragons or another type of animal). It had a very different look than the other temples and had a mystery all on its own.

Metal claws at Phra Mondop

Metal claws at Phra Mondop

 

Wat Arun is a beautiful wide spread temple that we approached by sea (riverboat); they are currently restoring it so it's surrounded by bamboo scaffolding, which adds a new dimension to its already spectacular build. Wat Arun is where I had the opportunity to be blessed by a Buddhist monk, so it holds a very special place in my heart.

 

3.       Khoa San Road; known as the famous backpacking district.

 

It’s loud, overwhelming, busy with drunk foreigners, but it wouldn’t be Bangkok without it. You can buy anything on Khoa San Road from eating a wide array of bugs, to getting tattooed, to purchasing all sorts of handmade crafts (ninja pants galore!!). It’s like Las Vegas on crack, fun to visit and say you were there & laugh with other travelers who have also been there.

 

4.       Take a Longboat ride, not a long boat ride! ha!

 

The boats are also decorated with beautiful bright fresh flowers from the flower district. They’re all stringed together, different colors and hues, from yellows, pinks to blues. You feel like you’re on a little party barge jumping from wave to wave. You can see so much of the city from the boats that go up and down Chao Phraya River. Poor neighborhoods with houses more or less under water and then stunning views of the temples that you can’t get from being on land. We were able to see the feets of the Sitting Buddha from the sea (again, river).

Long boats and their pretty tassels

Long boats and their pretty tassels

 

The long boats are really exciting because the captains (if you want to call them that) are fun and they interact with you and the surroundings! Ours pulled up to people offering us beers and treats (also on boats!) and pointed out a gila monster! Natives call these creatures crocodiles (I’m not 100% positive if they are gila monsters but I know they’re definitely not crocodiles). They’re long and serpent-like with longer arms and legs than crocs have, and my favorite part, a blue tongue. Oh, and they climb, so they’re definitely not crocodiles.

 

5.      Eat something weird; dooo itttt.

 

Of course Thailand has the most delicious Thai food (especifically my favorite, curry pad thai!) that you’ve ever eaten, but the opportunity to eat something really weird is only steps away. John, his brother and I all ate bugs, crickets (I think) soaked in soy sauce. As Nate put it “it could have been way worse.” There are bigger bugs available to nom on like cockroaches, scorpions and tarantulas, but those are terrifying. Mostly the spiders. Because wtf? What if it’s fangs get caught in your tongue? Now what?

Nomming on bugs  

Nomming on bugs  

 

6.       Stay in a hostel; make new friends.

 

Hotels are super cheap in Thailand so it’s very easy to get a great room for a cheap price, but the experience of a hostel with other backpackers and travelers is the real prize. John and I stayed at Canale Hostel, which was amazing and I would highly recommend it. It’s centrally located right on the canal, not far from Khoa San Road, and all the other fun neighborhoods. It’s very Encinitas-esque, being mildly hipster-y, with wood finish and sparkly lights on the ceiling upstairs. The beds are built into the walls and there are curtains for privacy, also… it’s air conditioned! I met a German lady named Karen who has been to 104 countries thanks to her sales job and 3months vacation per year (damn you US!) She had great travel tips and helped me and John fine tune our Vietnam adventure. “Kay,” the guy that worked at our hostel is Thai but works to travel in such faraway places, like Chicago! He was extremely helpful in planning the more northern adventures we’re about to take part in. You meet so many interesting people that have been to such awesome places but it’s the cozy familiarity of the hostel that brings out the helpful traveler friend.

 

7.       Get your hurr did (hair for those who don't understand me sometimes) 

 

I watched a girl get her hair dreaded faster than I’ve seen anything hair-related being done. Thai people are fast, efficient and do such an amazing job. You can get dread, cornrows, braids with extenders or adding an extra fun splash of color. Now that you’ve been to Bangkok your life is a little bit different from those around you and this is a great temporary change to symbolize this rite of passage. For the people leery of getting something permanent like a tattoo or piercing, this is easy and removable.

 

8.       Thai massage; also duhh!

 

Thailand is where Thai massage, or it’s other name, “lazy man’s yoga,” originated. Thai masseuses rub you and gently pull you into yoga poses so you achieve all the goodness and stretchiness of yoga AND a massage without having to go through the trouble of moving your own muscles. Thai people are tiny but they’re so strong and fierce! I got an amazing Thai massage that worked out every muscle of my sore backpacking-carrying body.

 

9.       Get lost! Honestly!

'This looks pretty, let's go this way.' 

'This looks pretty, let's go this way.' 

 

Bangkok is amazingly fun and I found it pretty safe, extremely friendly and easy to get around. Everyone was super kind; and in the event that we were lost, we were easily guided from an English speaking Thai person AND there are maps all around the city. Getting lost pushes you outside your comfort zone (if you weren’t already out of it) and gives you the opportunity to learn a little about yourself. Do you stay calm under the pressure of not knowing where you’re going? Are you okay with giving up control? Can you handle wandering off into the distance of an unfamiliar place? What crazy experiences could be waiting for you to be out of your mind and in the natural flow!? John and I got lost leaving Wat Pho and ended up experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime-occasion of watching the King of Thailand’s body being moved! (seriously! He died in October!) We didn’t even know that was going on and happened to stumble upon it! Getting lost opens you up to new experiences and perspectives! Live a little!

 

10.  Go to Unicorn Café; okay this one is realllyyyy biased I will admit.

 

The other recommendations are pretty objective, super fun things that ground you into the weird culture of Bangkok, this one is more subjective because I have an extremeeeeee love of this fantastical horned creature and you should too!

Unicorn café is in the city area of Bangkok, down a little alley (like most cool places are in Bangkok). You can tell right as your rounding the corner because the sign is rainbow tie dye. You walk in and are immediately blasted off to the most magical spectacular land full of rainbows and clouds and unicorns. Unicorn wallpaper greets you while big pink and purple couches are buttoned together with large sparkly buttons. Unicorn stuffed animals are lined up all along the couches so you can have a tea party with a few of your horned friends and most everything on the menu is unicorn treats!! Rainbow Rolls and Glitter Shakes and even a Unicorn Tower (basically crepes, milkshakes and ice cream!)

Culinary cuteness overload at Unicorn Café 

Culinary cuteness overload at Unicorn Café 

I hope you were, at the very least, entertained by my 10 fun things to do in Bangkok. I hope you have an amazing journey! 🦄🦄🦄

Endless staircases at Wat Arun

Endless staircases at Wat Arun

Bangkok

Telephone wires hang like spaghetti noodles all across Bangkok, the aromas of food range from delicious to absolutely foul and if you have your mouth open at the wrong moment you can catch all sorts of tastes from the street vendors that line the roads. Tuk tuks and taxis drive slowly by yelling and grabbing your attention, ripping you out of your daydreams to ask if you want a ride. We seldom take tuk tuks because that's the only true sketchy thing we heard about Bangkok (well besides the red light district).

We've taken the sky train all around the city to see the different architecture of the different neighborhoods. Like china, high rises exist next door to dilapidated housing in which the jungle has began to reclaim. Trees and vines sprout of the roofs and windows of houses. 

Gila monster? Tiny Dinosaur? 

Gila monster? Tiny Dinosaur? 

Yesterday we took a longboat ride down the river and saw a number of amazing temples lining the river. We saw a Gila monster sunning himself along the cement holding wall. Cat fish came close to jumping out of the water, mouths open asking for food. People fish and gaze at the river as they do in all cultures; water holds the answers of all wandering minds. 

The long boat we were on was lined with fresh flowers from the flower district we passed on the way to wat pho yesterday.

Longboat ride  

Longboat ride  

We saw quite a few temples from the river and the amazing artistic architecture they flaunt. The finest details, always being restored with much respect and much care.

The restoration of Wat Arun

The restoration of Wat Arun

We saw the Sitting Biddha, Reclining Buddha Standing Buddha, Sleepy Buddha etc. Okay, so I'm joking about the last one but there were quite a few different buddhas we got to see. All huge. All beautiful. All unique.

Standing Buddha  

Standing Buddha  

Reclining Buddha Feets

Reclining Buddha Feets

Reclaiming Buddha was my favorite one because of his feets. All sorts of magical symbols done in abalone!

The Jess abides, and dresses appropriately. Photo by John Perez 

The Jess abides, and dresses appropriately. Photo by John Perez 

Due to my inappropriate style of dress (it was hot?!) I got to wear an amazing lime green bathrobe when I entered The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, but I was not alone as most foreign girls also got to sport this for cool style.

 

My favorite temple was at Wat Pho because it had hands on the ends of the roof reaching up into the sky and also Green Man-Esque faces. 

Favorite temple at Wat Pho

Favorite temple at Wat Pho

I got blessed by a Buddhist monk at WatArun  which was an incredible opportunity that I am so grateful to have.

Khoa san road is the very popular backpackers dostrict that was a little overwhelming. In china we were the only foreigners, in khoa san there are only foreigners. It's very much like Mexico or Peru in the sense that there are all these markets open and people shoving their products in your face, that coupled with the huge amount of drunk foreigners makes it a little too much, however, I did eat a bug so that was fun. (It mostly tasted like the soy sauce it was soaked in.)

Jess & Nate nomming on a bug. Photo by John perez  

Jess & Nate nomming on a bug. Photo by John perez  

 

At night something really magical happened. We were leaving Wat Pho trying to find a bus (the public transportation is a must!! it's so fun and scary and awesome and exciting!) ...And there were all Thai people dressed in black - and by all Thai people I mean every Thai person in Bangkok - we couldn't really figure out what was happening but about after 2 miles of walking along the road and not being able to find a bus a little Thai army dude told us to sit down at this crosswalk because the KING was being moved!!!!!!

For those who don't know, King Bhumibol Adulyadej  of Thailand died in October and the Thai people loved him very much. This was a really big deal because he reigned for 70 years. So last night we literally sat in the streets with all the Thai people watcheing his body being moved. After being extremely humbled that we were able to witness this incredibly unique experience we kept wandering in search for a bus, my feet were about to give up. 2 miles later, still walking, another little army dude called us over and told us the princess was coming. I asked 'should we sit?' Feeling good I knew the appropriate thing to do and he shook his head, pointed onward and said 'no, walk very quickly!' So we ran to the end of the road and sat and patiently waiting for her to pass. It was awesome. 

Today I got to check off a huuuuge bucket list item as I went and experienced the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok, and it was every bit of magical you'd expect! Everything is unicorn-something. Glitter drinks, magic burgers, and delicious treats! We had some fantastical drinks and rainbow crepes that were super sugary so I might have diabetes, but it was so worth it!

My magical feast at the Unicorn Cafe

My magical feast at the Unicorn Cafe

Tonight is our last night in Bangkok and we board a bus tomorrow for Cambodia. Angkor Wat here we come! Thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts! 💕🦄

Scampering off to the next adventure! Photo by John Perez  

Scampering off to the next adventure! Photo by John Perez