My friend Jhen and I had been yearning to visit Thailand for almost two years now but the airfare wasn’t cooperating with our pockets. But as the saying goes, patience is a virtue. We waited patiently and by a stroke of luck, Cebu Pacific offered an exciting promo fare. Thailand was included in the list and right away we booked our two-way flight. Gripping with excitement and motivation, we set out to explore the so-called “The Land of Smiles.”
Thailand is bordered by Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Laos that’s why you can also explore anyone one of them when you visit the country. Its capital is Bangkok and is headed by a king who is also the Head of State. They have been governed by a constitutional monarchy since 1932. Its religion is Buddhism where 95 percent of Thais are Buddhists.
Some Fun Facts
- Insects are eaten as a delicacy in Thailand
- The national flower is orchid
- Muay Thai is the national sport
- First capital is Sukhotai
- Phuket is the largest island
- Thailand is the only nation in Southeast Asia to avoid colonization by western or European powers
Where to stay
There are a lot of affordable hotels in Bangkok. You may book through Agoda or Booking.com. For the backpacker and budget traveler like me, you may find cheap hotels located in Khao San Road, which is considered the most historical area in Bangkok. This is said to be the backpacking central of Bangkok. Bars and restaurants are much alive at night. There are also stalls at the edge of the road selling street foods like barbeque and exotic ones too!
You may opt to stay in Silom, Bangkok’s Central Business District. It is littered with malls, high rise buildings, bustling market stalls and has a vibrant nightlife too.
Fortunately, we will be staying at Julie’s condo unit in Bangkok. She is Jhen’s best-friend since their high school days. I was excited to meet her in person as we became friends only on Facebook.
There are two airports that serve Bangkok: the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). We chose Cebu Pacific as it landed in Suvarnabhumi, the nearest airport to where we will stay. Our flight was 12:05 am and we reached Bangkok at almost 4:00 am.
The Bangkok Airport Link
We chose to ride the Bangkok Airport Link from the airport than to hail a taxi because the latter was quite expensive. Airport Link is the fastest and convenient transport option in getting in and out of Bangkok. It connects Suvarnabhumi International Airport and downtown Bangkok. Tickets may be purchased as single trip tokens or pre-paid Smart Passes.
Since we are visitors only, we bought a single-trip token in the Automatic Token Dispensers. It accepts both coins and bills. It was easy to use. We inserted the bill upon selecting the destination and number of passengers. In a few seconds, the token was dispensed from the machine. Tokens can be purchased from the token booth too.
The entrance to the Airport Rail Link service is on the First Floor.
Operating Hours: 6:00 am till midnight.
4G Pocket Wi-Fi and 3G/4G data sim cards in Thailand can be purchased at the airport or through Klook (much cheaper and for pick-up in the airport too). I bought AIS 4G Sim Card at the airport @ 219 Baht inclusive of 50 Baht call credits, unlimited data for seven days, and can be shared up to three persons. AIS is the main provider in the country. The internet connection in Thailand is fast and can be used anywhere in the city. Other Sim cards in Bangkok are Dtac Tourist SIM and True Move H.
Thai is the official language of Thailand. Their words are long and we could not understand even a bit. There were times we used sign languages so we can understand them. English is not widely spoken except for some known tourist spots. Some speak little English others do not. But do not worry, they are kind people and are willing to answer your questions when searching for the place you will visit.
We have memorized one Thai word which is “khàawp khun” (pronounced as kaponkan), “thank you” in English. We used this many times during our Thailand trip.
Means of Transportation
Thailand has efficient public transportation that’s why getting around the city is easy. Just like in Hong Kong they have a varied mode of transportation and luckily we had tried most of them (except for Tuktuk).
* BTS Skytrain – this overground railway system is fast and efficient. It will bring you to many tourist attractions around the city. But beware of their rush hour, where workers and employees tend to pack early morning or late in the afternoon. This railway system comprised of the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line.
We boarded the train coming from Pratunam and headed to Chatuchak Market. It was almost 6:00 pm and the train was packed. If you are used in Manila being squeezed, chances are, you will find your ride a bit annoying.
* Tuk Tuks - are the famous three-wheel vehicle in Thailand that you will see in every corner of the city. And since this is the iconic tourist vehicle of Thailand, the fare is much higher compared to the usual taxi. A short distance will cover around 100 Baht so we skipped riding Tuk Tuks. We were warned to be cautious dealing with the drivers as most of them (not all) are involved in scams. But for a memorable Thai experience, I suggest you try it and take a photo with it.
* Songthaew - are small pick-up trucks with two rows of seats at the back. Just for the experience, Jhen and I tried this as it was cheap (10 Baht only). Songthaews circles the inner city. When we reached our destination, we pressed the buzzer and when it stopped we hopped out from the vehicle and paid the driver.
* Taxi – this vehicle is very common in every country. I opted to ride a taxi if I’m lost or my feet are already aching from a lot of walking. But here in Thailand, Grab taxi is already common and since we are three, we hailed a Grab taxi in getting to some of our desired destinations to visit.
* Boat – I was glad that we tried the two boat services that operate in Bangkok. These are the popular Chao Phraya Express Boat and Khlong Saen Saep Boat Express. The former stops to many famous landmarks and one is in Wat Arun and the other runs through the city’s commercial districts.
* Bus – there are a variety of different bus classes with different rates in Bangkok. They have buses that transport to long-distance cities and popular attractions. We tried an ordinary bus on our first day which cheaply costs around 8 Baht only. It was fun to ride the bus while looking in the city scenery.
The standard voltage in Thailand is 220 volts and the frequency is 50Hz. Plugs A (two flat parallel pins), B (two parallel pins and a grounding pin), and C (two round pins) are used in the country. But most of the receptacles in Thailand use the two-prong round sockets or flat sockets. Just to make sure, I always bring my universal plug to avoid having a problem in charging my gadgets.
Thailand has three seasons. These are rainy (mid-May to mid-October), summer (mid-February until mid-May), and winter (mid-October until mid-February). It is best to visit Thailand in summer preferably in the month of April to enjoy the scenery and in time for the country’s Songkran, the New Year’s national holiday.
Thailand Baht is the currency in Thailand. We only exchange 1,000 Baht at the airport so we can buy a Sim Card and for our transportation fare in the Bangkok Airport Link. We were advised that we can get a higher conversion rate in SuperRich money changer. As of our visit, the current buying rate is .60 Baht for every 1 Philippine peso.
Start of our happy and exciting trip
Travel time from the Airport to the fifth station, Ramkhamhaeng Station took us around fifteen minutes only. Fare is 30 Baht. When we hopped out of the train, it was nearing morning. I excitedly glimpsed at the buildings, the highways, and at the sun that slowly rising up to the horizon.
Later Julie fetched us and was warmly welcomed to her condo unit after boarding a Grab taxi. Her unit is moderately small but clean and homey. We rested a bit, changed to comfortable wears, and we head off to our first-day city tour.
Thailand is known for its delicious food to eat, stunning temples, royal palaces, and interesting traditions. Other than that, they have plenty of exciting and interesting tourist spots to visit which include recreational parks, museums, galleries, floating markets, and night markets. To spice up our Thailand trip, we devoted one day to a city tour.
Here are the delightful places we explored.
Lumpini Park is composed of 57 hectares (142 acres) and one of the largest green parks in Bangkok. It is a multi-purpose park that provides many activities to the residents and tourists. When we got inside and saw the man-made lake I saw its resemblance to the Burnham Park in Baguio City. But this park is much bigger and expect to be exposed to the scorching heat of the sun.
The park is a favorite spot for jogging, aerobics sessions, tai chi for the elders, biking, and picnic. It has also a children’s playground, a basketball court, and a paddleboat at the lake. We did not embark on any activities as we have limited time only. We just walked at the open paths that lead to many exciting spots like the beautiful lush gardens, picnic areas, bird area, and the serene lake.
We were surprised to see a big monitor lizard sneaked out from the water. It crawled slowly on the grass. Then we saw another three freely roaming in the grass.
Lumpini Park is close to Lumphini and Si Lom Stations on the MRT Blue Line. By BTS Sky Train, the nearest station is the Sala Daeng Station on Silom Line.
Address: Rama IV Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Opening Hours: Daily from 4.30 am to 9:00 pm
Jim Thomson House & Museum
This museum houses the art collection of an American businessman and Architect James H.W. Thomson who initiated the Thai silk industry in Thailand. James Thomson bought the house from its former owner and it was completed in 1959.
The visitors should pay first at the entrance gate and will choose a guided tour that can speak in Chinese, Thai, French, Japanese, or English. The guided tour will bring the group inside the house and will tell about the life of Jim Thomson and the rich history of Thailand’s Past.
The museum displays antiques, Thai furniture, ornamental plants and flowers, Chinese painted potteries, Buddha images, and other ancient paintings.
Address: 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok
Tel: (662) 216-7368
Opening hours: everyday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Entrance fee: 200 baht (Visitors under 22 years old-100 baht / Children under 10 years old: free when accompanied by an adult)
- No reservation required
- Open every day including public holidays
- Guided tours are available daily
Nearest BTS Skytrain station is National Stadium.
It was getting hotter and hotter as it was nearing noontime. And since we are all famished, we took a Grab taxi and headed to MBK Center for lunch.
MBC Center is a large 8-storey shopping mall in Bangkok where you can find charming boutiques, fashion outlets, restaurants, coffee shops, food courts, gadget and mobile stores, supermarket and entertainment area. There are at least 2,000 shops selling clothes, handbags, shoes, furniture, fashion accessories, mobile phones, and a lot more.
MBK Center can be reached through taxi or the Skytrain and alight at National Stadium Station. There is a direct walkway linking the station and the mall.
Address: 444 Phayathai Road, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Operating Hours: Daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Hachiban Ramen at MBK Center
After strolling around at the MBK Center we had our lunch at Hachiban Noodles, a Japanese restaurant that serves hot and delicious noodles at a cheap price. Their kitchen was half-open so while waiting, the customers may watch the busy chefs cook the food.
I ordered one of their highlights, Paiton Chasyumen Ramen at 100 Baht. It was served a little bit late. What is so unique about this food is that instead of the classic topping fish cake with the design of Naruto (or Narutomaki), it was number 8. We’ve learned that Hachiban means 8 in Japanese. The only downside here is that the lady servers were not fluent in English so we had a hard time communicating with them. We did not bother asking them about our order but munched our ramen happily. It’s good that it was delicious!
Every temple in Thailand has its own unique feature. Golden Mount in Wat Saket has a gleaming gold chedi seated in an 80-meter tall man-made hill. It was built during the reign of King Rama III. In getting to the top, one has to climb the 300 steps that encircle the chedi. We started the tour from the water garden then passed the rows of prayer bells, gongs, benches, ornamental plants, and beautiful flowers until we reached the main hall.
The main hall is where Buddha images and other relics can be found. It is a must to observe silence and to give respect to the devotees kneeling at the center of the temple who gave offerings and praying.
We climbed the narrow stairway leading to the rooftop. We were rewarded with the panoramic view of the city and the peaceful sound of the chiming bells.
A visit to the Golden Mount was onset to the many temples we will explore in Thailand.
We hailed a Grab taxi in getting here.
The nearest BTS Skytrain is National Stadium (about 2.5 km). The nearest MRT Station is Hua Lamphong (2.3 km)
Address: Boripat Road, Khwaeng Ban Bat, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Open: Daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: 50 Baht
Boat ride to Khlong Sean Seap Boat
Our next stop coming from the Golden Mount is in Pratunam. We embarked on a boat trip coming Phanfa Leelard Terminal (The Golden Mount Line) via the Khlong Saen Seap service. This is a water bus that has been in operation since 1990 on the Saen Saep through the city’s commercial districts.
The boat was big that it can carry 40 to 50 passengers. It has safety provisions so there’s nothing to be scared during the ride. It may not be that clean and elegant as the other country I’ve tried, nonetheless, I was happy for the experience as I saw the other side of Thailand during the long ride. The conductor collected our fares and pulled down the plastic sheets to prevent the passengers from getting wet.
Operating hours: 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm daily on weekdays / 5:30 pm to 7:00 on weekends
Boat fare: 8-20 baht
Before we indulge in buying cheap clothes and souvenir goodies in Pratunam and in Chatuchak Market, we went to SuperRich to exchange our Philippine pesos to Thailand Baht. This money changer that began in operation in 1965 is the biggest money exchange chain in Thailand. It has 22 branches that offer good exchange rates.
One of the reasons why tourists flock to Bangkok is to shop. And one of the famous areas for shopping is in Pratunam. Here you may find shopping centers and department stores such as Big C Supercenter, Centralworld, City Complex Pratunam, Shibuya 19, and Platinum Fashion Mall. They offer a vast array of clothes, bags, fabrics, shoes, accessories, souvenir items, and a lot more.
Since there are shopping centers offering a cheap price, shoppers tend to buy in bulk to sell them to their stores. In Manila, there are many clothes and shoes for sale coming from Bangkok.
I’m not a shopaholic but it was nice to drop by at Pratunam to get inside shopping centers for cheap buys. We also went to Pratunam Market which is open 24 hours, just to take a glimpse and later headed to Chatuchak Weekend Market for the last hurray!
This is walking distance to Khlong Kaen Saep pier.
The nearest BTS Skytrain is Chitlom Station.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The best and lowest prices a market can offer in Thailand are in Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest “open-air market” in the world. If offers a wide array of various goods from food, clothes, bags, souvenir items, flowers, shoes, and a lot more.
Since this is famous for tourists, it tends to get crowded. When we got there, it was packed by people. But since we were used to this kind of market in Divisoria and Baclaran, we were able to buy all we want at affordable prices.
We end our shopping attack by drinking milk tea by To Die For. We were entertained by how the service crew prepared the milk tea with a bit of fire show. Haha! We ordered their best seller Creme Brulee for 79 Baht. Well, it was deliciously sweet, I love munching its pearl.
Nearest BTS Skytrain station is Mo Chit Station, take Exit 1
Address: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Open: Friday: 6:00 pm till midnight, Saturday and Sunday-9:00 am to 6:00 pm
No Entrance Fee
End of the Day
Jhen and I had only a few hours of sleep coming from our airplane trip but hastily went off to our exciting first-day city getaway. It may be a tiring day, but for a traveler like me who always appreciates every place I’ve been, our Day One was a worthy and well-spent tour. I was so grateful for this opportunity to see and feel Thailand. It may be hot as it was a tropical country like the Philippines, but we did not mind the weather especially when we started to see the famous city attractions.
Tomorrow we will visit Ayutthaya to see its captivating old-world charm.
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