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My Picks For What Every First Time Visitor MUST Eat, See & Do In Bangkok

Posted: September 25, 2019

If you’re planning your first ever trip to Bangkok and are confused as to what to do and what to eat, where to go, here is a first hand experience of a trip to Bangkok!

Do you remember this television food series aired not so long ago, covering  street food stories across South-east Asia?

I couldn’t get over the one that featured a quaint floating market in Thailand. The one, where, on a rainy day in Bangkok, seated inside a long-tail boat, a boat lady makes authentic Pad Thai noodles for the show hostess. And then she goes on to devour them!

That drool-worthy sight inspired my sister and I to such an extent that we put Bangkok on our bucket list. Our sole purpose being to have the exact same experience! For years, we dreamt of that experience till this year, when we finally made it happen!

Like with every first-time visitor, there was plenty of planning to do. Planning a first-time trip to an unfamiliar city isn’t really easy; no amount of research, reviews or even personal recommendations give you the exact details. There are things we wished we knew beforehand but there also are things we learnt only through experience.

For this very purpose, for all first-time visitors to Bangkok, I’ve put together a list of all the ‘must-do’s,’ through our experience of Bangkok.

Must- knows

Best place to stay

We stayed in a hotel close to a BTS Skytrain station. This was done for a quick, easy access to the local transport that helped us save time and make most of the holiday. Moreover, Bangkok has a reputation of traffic jams and this needs to be factored in too (particularly while booking a taxi to the airport)

The BTS Skytrain- people queued up in a single file!

Best local transport

BTS Skytrain

Skytrains are relatively cheap, clean, fast and efficient. Buying train passes was a bit confusing. But Bangkok is surprisingly easy to navigate once you know the basics.

We do have a suggestion: Always carry a map.

How to make a payment

It was surprising to learn that major credit cards are only accepted in major hotels and restaurants. Smaller businesses like markets or food courts, counters for train/boat tickets, etc only accepted cash.

The must eat/drinks

Pad Thai noodles

You will find this all-time favourite street food, wherever you go. The rice noodles are usually accompanied with your choice of protein- shrimps, chicken or tofu, along with an egg.

Saltiness of the fish sauce, the tartness of the tamarind paste mixed with the sweetness of the palm sugar and a dash of lime juice makes all this irresistible.

Don’t even think of leaving Thailand without trying out their national dish.

Pad Thai noodles

Thai Sea-food rice

With its soft, silky, fluffy texture and a fragrant aroma- the jasmine rice with fresh squids, mussels and prawns has by far, been the best ever seafood rice we ever tasted!

It was so good that we actually wondered, ‘Should we ask for the recipe?!

Thai seafood rice

Place we had it– A Thai restaurant at Bangkok airport.

Mussel omelette

We were tempted to try out the mussel omelette because ‘a sizzling dish’ which a fellow customer ordered, looked really good. This extremely greasy but exceptionally tasty omelette with mussels was oh-so-good!

Mussel omelette at MBK mall

Bangkok mule (named thus, as it gives a kick!)

The only reason we tried this cocktail was because we were in an adventurous mood. I must admit I didn’t quite enjoy the taste, but this chilled cocktail, served in a copper mug is definitely for all cocktail lovers, on a mission to find the best cocktails.

Place to find it– Siam Discovery mall

Sticky rice and mango pudding

We came across Thailand’s iconic must-have dessert everywhere we went- restaurants, food courts, street stalls. As the name suggests, the rice was sticky, squishy. It was drenched  in coconut cream sauce.

I don’t know whether it was the rice or the sauce but it had a somewhat strange, salty kind of taste to it- needed a bit of getting used to.

The topping of toasted sesame seeds along with bites of sweet, succulent slices of tender Thai mango, made this dessert so delicious that we had it twice, on the same day!

At MBK mall

Thai coconut ice-cream

You will find it everywhere in Bangkok. If you want the best experience please go to Chatuchak Weekend Market. A famous stall there sells utterly delicious, creamy coconut ice cream, on a small cart which is fairly hygienic.

They serve the ice-cream in half a coconut husk with generous scrapings of the flesh of coconut. You get to choose and serve yourself the toppings-glutinous rice, peanuts, coconut jelly, sweet corn, rose syrup, and red bean paste.

Thai ice-cream sticks

We found this ice-cream shop on our way to see the Grand Palace. The display of ice-creams looked so pretty that we had to stop and grab one!

They had the fruit sorbet (made with fresh/ frozen fruit) and gelato ice-cream sticks. Some were creatively decorated like work of art. There were many flavours to choose from, and it took a while to pick one.

At Stickhouse

Takoh

Takoh

Takoh (it’s very different from a taco!) is one of the most amazing desserts I’ve ever had! It’s made out of tapioca flour, thick coconut cream, coconut pulp and sugar-mixed together and steamed to form a delicate, delicious coconut cream jelly, wrapped and served in Pandan leaves.

In addition to the coconut cream jelly there are other yummy layers like white/black sticky rice, taro (yam), water chestnut, tapioca pearls, rose jelly, corn, red beans.

Whether you like coconut or not, you will fall in love with Takoh.

Lookchups

At first, Lookchups appear like dainty models of plastic fruit. These delightfully cute sweets made out of Mung bean paste mixed with coconut milk, are soft and chewy, with a subtle taste of real fruit.

They are shaped and coloured into all kinds of bright little fruits or vegetables.

We loved them. They make a great sweet treat to take home for kids.

Lukchups

How to buy your food

 In food markets

Cash is accepted by all vendors.

In food courts of malls

Payment is usually not accepted at the stalls.  First go to the cash desk, buy a cash card. With this card, go back to the food stalls, select your food, give your card to the vendor, and collect your food.

Any unused value can/has to be redeemed on the same day at the cash desk.

Must-see

Grand palace

Miss seeing this stunning sight, and you will definitely regret it! It looks straight out of a fairytale! We’ve never marvelled at architecture as beautiful as this one before.

The entrance fees are quite steep but the grand palace is truly grand- it lives up to its name. Despite the big crowd, the palace had a peaceful and spiritual feel to it.

Before you go

To avoid long queues, ensure that you buy tickets online so once you reach there, you get fast tracked.

And let me warn you, it gets really hot there! We were well-equipped with hats, scarf, sunglasses and umbrella and it still felt inadequate.

How to plan

The Grand palace and temples like Wat Arun (another impressive sight, tickets can be purchased on reaching there) and Wat Pho (which we unfortunately skipped as we were exhausted) are all located within close proximity of each other.

If you are up to it, plan on visiting them on the same day, followed by a relaxing evening at Asiatique (an open air mall and night market, close-by)

At Wat Arun

Best way to see all famous sights

The hop-on hop-off boat. It’s very convenient plus you also get free Wi-Fi on the boat.

Must-go

If you love shopping and have one weekend in Bangkok, there is one place you simply must go to– the Chatuchak Weekend Market (or the J. J market) It has over 15,000 stalls where you can buy everything that your heart desires, and literally shop till you drop down to your knees!

There are aisles and aisles of  clothing, beautiful accessories (bags, purses, pouches, jewellery, sunglasses, shoes etc) handicrafts, ceramics, furniture, antiques, pretty souvenirs, fake branded perfumes (they are good by the way) street food, cool refreshing drinks (it’s unbearably hot there, you will need it).

What’s more is that there even are pets for sale along with their accessories, and much much more..

Alright, I am not going to spoil your fun- brush-up your bargaining skills and go there with a plan.

Even if you don’t love shopping or are on a tight budget, I suggest you still go there, have fun window shopping. You will not be disappointed.

It was impossible for us to cover even half of Chatuchak market so until the next time.

Best time to go

The mornings to avoid the crowd and sweating buckets in the hot sun.

Be careful

You can easily get lost in the maze of the market. Stay together. Take a map.

Must avoid

The floating market!

We expected to see a traditional floating market with vendors selling fruits and vegetables- to get an insight into a bygone way of life. It was nothing (and nowhere) like the original market we see on T.V.

What it was, was taking you around in a long-tail boat, making you buy over-priced souvenirs and street food. Definitely not worth the price of the tour or the waking up and going all the way! Took us two hours each way. We could have gone to Pattaya and back!

Anyways, we wanted to do it for the experience. It was disappointing yes, but we took it for what it is.

Must experience

Sook Siam indoor floating market

Our discovery of Sook Siam, was mere serendipity. This is the place to taste authentic and hygienic Thai street food (scrumptious local snacks, sweet treats, seafood ). It is the place to get an indoor floating market experience.

Fresh orange juice

What to know

Make sure to go on an empty stomach to stuff in and indulge in as much as you can. What a pity, we went there right after lunch.

We still enjoyed sampling bits of sambal, shrimp pastes with Thai crackers, dried fish snacks, sweet/ tangy sweets (the tamarind, jaggery sweets were the best)

Though we weren’t hungry, we still bought a satay stick and then had to force it down! We so desperately wanted the Egg Wrap Pad Thai, the sea food stew and the Thai crepes, but we had to walk away as we were so full! However, we did buy the Lookchups and Takohs, that we later shared in the hotel room.

Thai crepes

Takohs!

The must-buys

Bags of dried Thai fruit- papaya, mango, coconut, dragon-fruit, kiwi, pineapple etc and the intricately crafted fruit/flower-shaped soaps – they are inexpensive, have a lovely fruity/flowery fragrance.

I bought the mango soap and it smells exactly like a mango. Keep them on your Chatuchak shopping list. They make for great souvenirs for family/friends.

Ok. So, I’ve come to the end of this list. I really hope it comes useful to you for your Bangkok trip someday. If it does, it will make me very happy!

As for those who’ve been to Bangkok already, please let me what we’ve missed because I am certainly not done with Bangkok.

I want to go back there again someday, and ‘demolish’ all the to-die-for Thai desserts, one after another (and sorry but next time I am not sharing my Takoh!).

But I will most definitely share my list of must-have Thai desserts with you!

Picture credits: Pexels

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