Updated November 2019
Bangkok is a vibrant fabulous city which is often the starting point for many travelers to see Asia.
And if you are on your way to Europe, Bangkok is also a great city for a three-day stopover.
All you need to decide now is whether to stay in the modern area of the city or Khao San district. Khao san is popular with backpackers, but it’s also one of the older areas of Bangkok.
If you choose to stay in Khao San, your challenge is getting to Khao San district. There is no direct train, so it’s either taxi, shuttle or bus.
How to get the Local Bus from Bangkok Don Mueang airport to Khao San District
We decided to take the local bus from outside the Don Mueang airport, but first, we had to find where the bus stop was.
Fortunately, we had worked out a route before we landed. So here it is.
Turn right as you exit the airport terminal and look ahead for the walkway that goes over the highway.
Enter the next building and take the stairs up to the overhead walkway. Then take the stairs immediately to your left, down to the bus stop.
Do not cross over the road, as the bus stop is on the same side as the airport terminal.
Take No. 59 bus and have your cash ready. About 25 Bhat for a bus with no air-conditioning.
Ask the bus driver to stop at the Democracy Monument, the destination stop for Khao San.
Three Days exploring Khao San in Bangkok
Khao San is well known as the backpacker’s destination of choice because of:
- budget accommodation
- street food
- a pumping nightlife
The streets are busy all day and all night with the sidewalks full of vendors selling all sorts of items from food, clothing, even watches.
Food always seems to be on the streets of Khao San, but an alternative from the heat is a restaurant. We found a northeast Thailand restaurant called Tam Laii. Their food was spicy and sour with some tasty sauces.
And the Pad Thai encased in an egg had a great flavor as well as their fish cakes.
The guys in the restaurant are courteous and make a great coffee too.
Plenty of Street Vendors in Khao San
Be adventurous and try food from street vendors like:
- Banana rice and coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves
- Egg and coconut filled crepes the size of a pikelet with a meringue center
- Fried pork tasty skewers
- Pineapple twists
- Spicy curries
Where Not to Stay in Khao San, Bangkok
We found our hotel Villa Cha Cha quite easily, the entrance area looked nice with an inviting swimming pool and restaurant.
However, when we got to the room, it was definitely budget.
We had read glowing reviews but when we arrived we found the rooms were tired, basic and noisy. The view from the window was of buildings overlooking Rambuttri Street.
However, it was cheap and the bed was comfortable. But two nights was enough and we decided to move.
Stay at Full House Khaosan Hostel
While strolling along that night for dinner, we noticed a sign saying “Villa Cha Cha?”
Now we were confused so we had to investigate.
It turns out there are two hotels with the same name, one new, one old which explained the reviews.
Oh well, they did offer us to stay but we had already settled on Full House Khaosan Hostel.
Experiencing the Nightlife of Khao San and Rambuttri
The night on the streets of Khao San and Rambuttri are transformed into food markets and the selection was amazing.
Everything from the usual dumplings, curries, noodles and rice to deep-fried insects, other bugs, spiders and scorpions!
We settled for some Thai food cooked in front of us.
But Terry did try the grasshoppers later with dire consequences. At least we got to see the Grand Palace first.
Visit the Grand Palace, Bangkok
The next morning we headed to the Grand Palace walking the 2.5km from Khao San.
Your ticket to the Grand Palace has entry to three main attractions:
- The Grand Palace
- The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- The Throne Halls
All we could say was “Wow.” There were so many breathtaking buildings, temples, shrines, and statues in the palace complex. It had us in awe.
But first, the photoshoot for Terry
A Chinese lady bumped into Terry and when she looked up at him, she was mesmerized.
Next thing, Terry was having his photo taken. This then led to the rest of the nine ladies each wanting an individual photo with Terry until finally he was requested for the group photo.
Now, the photoshoot is over, we need to look at all these stunning buildings and shrines.
The Mint Museum exhibits is where you’ll see so many jewels and gold items. We also found exhibits to learn the history of the Kings of Thailand. And a bonus, the building has air conditioning.
Take the Ferry to Wang Lang Market
If you want to get away from the crowds, take a ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River.
The Wang Lang Market is a local market so not a lot of Europeans to be seen.
We ate at the restaurant Som Tam Sida as suggested by Mark Wien’s blog Migrationology.
Before leaving New Zealand, we watched a lot of YouTube videos on Mark’s food guides of what and where to eat.
Luckily Mark had written the restaurant name in Thai so the locals helped us get the right place. Som Tam Sida dishes were flavorsome and yum Thanks, Mark.
Enjoy Sunset at Phra Sumen Fort
Phra Sumen Fort on the river bank is a busy place for locals playing sport, exercising and jugglers practicing.
With views along the river, you’ll see plenty of boats moving people within the city.
Across the road from the Phra Sumen Fort, we picked a Halal restaurant from the Migrationology blog. We tried a new dish Roti Mataba, a Roti stuffed with fish and herbs. And the fish curry was fabulous as well.
As no alcohol is served we opted for fruit juice, Maura’s “Butterly Pea” a blue flower – interesting!
Take a Canal Cruise in Bangkok
A highlight of Bangkok for us was the canal cruise on the old waterways.
We had the boat to ourselves and the 71year old driver was in fine form.
The cruise started by traveling through two locks with our driver pointing out places of interest, Iguanas and monitor lizards.
Our driver was awesome as he drove at a slow pace ride for photos and to avoid the swells of the boats zooming past.
We were amazed at how many canals there were in Bangkok.
Tourists are still vulnerable
Be aware of the price charged for a cruise.
The day before we were quoted 600 Baht each for a canal cruise but on the morning of the cruise were told 1000 Baht. this was from the same vendor.
So, we tried a vendor at the entrance of the ferry terminal and paid 600 Baht each plus given a bottle of water. And we had the boat to ourselves.
What to See and Eat in Chinatown Bangkok
If you are up for a walk to Chinatown from Khao San, maybe take a tuk-tuk instead.
We took a route along the canal was 5.5km which turned out to be local residences and tarpaulin shops. Very interesting but most of the owners a little surprised to see us.
But we reached our place of interest, Golden Mount in Chinatown.
The view of the city from here was fantastic even if a little cloudy with heat and smog. It was 35 degrees Celcius.
And Chinatown has more shrines and temples. It has the familiar stores selling everything you may need. And it has delicious food.
Food choices in Chinatown, allow you to pick and eat. Like picking up small delicious pork buns. Melt in the mouth dumplings. Durian and Mango pastry cookies too.
With tummies full, we hailed a tuk-tuk for the ride back to the Khao San Road.
Tourists are still vulnerable
Make sure you organize the price upfront of a tuk-tuk. Or if you do hail a taxi, ensure the meter is turned on.
You may just find the taxi is cheaper than a tuk-tuk.
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Visit Wat Pho Royal Monastery and Temple
Wat Pho is a royal monastery and temple of the reclining Buddha with pagodas of the Kings.
Having a guide for Wat Pho helped us absorb so much about the temple.
We learned about the different Buddha images and colors for each day. If you know the day you are born, you learn your Buddha and its meaning.
Wat Pho is also known worldwide as the first massage school with courses in the art of Thai massage. Certified masseurs can then offer their services to the public.
Spend a Day in Ayutthaya: Day Trip from Bangkok
Ayutthaya is about 80km north of Bangkok.
It was a former capital from 1350 to 1767 of an area that covers most of modern Thailand. And in the mid-1700s its population was said to be around 1 million making it the most populous city in the world at the time.
Ayutthaya was invaded in 1767 by Burma and the population of the city fled to other parts of Thailand.
It left Ayutthaya abandoned to be ransacked.
How to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
Take the train from Hua Lamphong train station to Ayutthaya.
A second class ticket costs about 65 Baht which is significantly better than a third-class ticket costing 15 Baht.
If you take an early train at 7 am, it’s easier to get a seat and avoid the main heat of the day. Don’t expect airconditioning as ceiling fans are the only way to stay cool.
The trip can take longer than the scheduled 1.25 hours. It’s more likely closer to two hours when you pull into Ayutthaya station.
Then take the Ferry across the river for about 5 Baht.
How to see the Sights of Ayutthaya
The main things to see at Ayutthaya are within an island area surrounded by three rivers. So to see Ayutthaya you have three options:
- Rent a bike for 50-100 Baht per day
- Hire a tuk-tuk for 300 Baht per hour
- Book an air-conditioned taxi for 500 Baht per hour
We decided it would be more fun to cycle, and went in search of a bike rental place.
It wasn’t hard to find one and we soon were on our way with a map in hand.
However, we would later agree that cycling for hours in temperatures close to 40degrees Celcius, was silly. A tuk-tuk would have been a better option.
See the Temple Ruins of Ayutthaya
The ancient structures with their tall prangs (spires) rising above the trees enthralled us. To think how old these temples were was quite mind-boggling. That civilization had built these huge structures hundreds of years ago.
1. Wat Ratchanaburi
2. Wat Phra Ram
3. Wat Phra Si Sanphet
4. Buddha Wat Lokayasutharam
5. Golden Buddha inside Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
6. Wat Chaiwatthanarm across the Chao Phraya River
Getting Back to Bangkok from Ayutthaya
After an incredible day of insane temperatures, we finally made it back to drop off our bikes. Hot, dehydrated and perspiring we were ready for an easy trip back to Bangkok.
We book an air-conditioned van back to Bangkok rather than the train as it would be a quicker trip. Unfortunately, the drop off point was 6km from our hotel. Thankfully we hailed a metered taxi for 60 Baht.
The day was truly worthwhile as Ayutthaya for its incredible history and ancient architectural skills. Now, time for a beer and a shower.
Incredible Three Days in Bangkok
Spending three days in Bangkok is a cultural experience of ancient history and food. Considering our expectations weren’t high. Nearly everyone we had spoken to didn’t have anything positive to say about this amazing city.
Staying in the historic Khao San of Bangkok is a food center haven with a nightlife that never seems to end.
And when you’ve had enough food experiences, you have palaces, pagodas, shrines, temples, canals, and markets to explore. Every day brings something new and different.
Bangkok for a stopover to Europe or New Zealand is a gateway to an Asian experience.