So you have finally touched down in Suvarnabhumi (aka Bangkok International Airport). Your flight was long, possibly over 30hrs if you are coming from the US East Coast and you are exhausted. Fight the temptation to hit the pillow, get out of your hotel and enjoy the city! Whether you are headed South to the islands, or North for some peaceful nature and temple hoping, you must do these five things in Bangkok first.
Khao San Road
Even if you are not a backpacker, you have to check Khao San Road. The sheer madness of it all is worth it. It is loud, dirty, and packed with crazy, drunk people from all corners of the planet. Work your way through the street shops selling tourist nick knacks, and head for one of the sidewalk bars for a well deserved, ice-cold Chang beer. When you get hungry from fighting off pushy vendors, get a pad thai from one of the stalls. Don’t be fooled by the paper plate – this is one of the best places in Bangkok to have this staple dish.
Visit Wat Pho
For a little culture, grab a tuk-tuk and head for Wat Pho – Bangkok’s largest and oldest Buddhist temple, famous for the massive, gold-plated Reclining Buddha statue (at 151ft long and over 15ft high it’s indeed impressive) it houses. This is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage at the adjoining massage school. Note: when visiting this or any temple in Thailand, make sure to follow the dress code: no shorts for the guys and no short skirts or bare shoulders for the ladies.
See a Live Thai Boxing Fight
Speaking of culture, few things are as deeply ingrained in Thai culture as Muay Thai. Apart for the fact that the fighters wear gloves and boxing shorts, this ultra violent martial art has little to do with boxing in the West. Vicious kicks, knees and elbow strikes are used along with traditional boxing punches to decimate one’s opponent. Locals follow the sport religiously and once you see a live fight you’ll know why. It’s a thrilling experience. The best place to see a fight in Bangkok is Ratchadamnoen Stadium (close to the Royal Palace and Chao Phraya river). Fights start at 6pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends and cost between 200 and 1000 baht depending where you want to sit. For $30 (1000 baht), I will take ringside please!
Party with the Locals
The nightlife options in Bangkok are endless. However, if you are only in town for a couple of nights, you got to see how the locals get down. There is no better place to do just that than Slim & Flix Club on Royal City Avenue (RCA). This massive venue is actually 3 clubs in one, each offering a different sound experience: Slim is all about the latest hip-hop and R&B, Flix blasts house and trance but for the real Thai experience, head to the live lounge where Thai bands cover everything from modern pop to and classic rock. The crowd is young and trendy and believe me, Thai people know how to party!
Chill out in Lumphini Park
If you had one of those Bangkok nights that ends at dawn the following day, consider stopping by Lumphini park on your way back to your hotel. Watching some tai chi as the sun rises is the perfect way wind down before crashing in the soft bed of your luxury hotel. Of course, the park makes an equally pleasant destination to relax during the day in between bouts of heavy duty shopping and sightseeing.