In an earlier blogpost I told you all about the amazing, boutique hotel we stayed. Today I offer you a 4 day itinerary to explore one of the most visited cities in the world.
DAY 1 Cycling in Bangkok
1 of the top activities is a bike ride through Bangkok. We booked a trip with Co van Kessel. This adventurous Dutchman traveled to Bangkok a long time ago and was the first to organise cycling tours in Bangkok. Co died a few years ago, but he left a thriving business behind.
Co van Kessel offers 4 different bike tours. The Co Classical lasts 3 hours and takes you through the narrow alleys of Chinatown and through the much quieter Thonburi, on the other side of the river.
For the die-hards there is a trip of no less than 9 hours 'Co All Day' Luckily you are not on a bike saddle all the time, but you also make a trip with a longtail boat, you travel a bit with a slow train and with the ultra modern skytrain.
We chose the 5 hour bike / boat tour. The speedboat of our hotel dropped us near the office of Co van Kessel. We were introduced to our guides Cola and Dow and got some brief instructions before we left.
The tour started in Chinatown, one of the busiest districts in Bangkok. The tour toos us through narrow alleys where you could not even get through with a tuk tuk. We saw how daily life goes on here. Sometimes it seems as if you are passing an open sewer and a few meters further the smell of the local street food makes your mouth water.
After a while we stopped at a Chinese temple in the middle of Chinatown. The guide took us inside and told us about the different religions. Then we lighted a stick and made a wish.
A little later we cycled through Yaowarat, one of the busiest streets in Bangkok. It is the day before Chinese New Year, so the Chinese are busy with the final preparations for this big party.
The next stop brought us to a temple with a gigantic buddha. Meanwhile, we are in the outskirts of Bangkok and it is time for a thrilling ride on a longtail boat. We took the bikes with us on the boat and left for a super fast trip over the klong (narrow waterways). On the banks of the river you wirness Thai life on the countryside. Here you can see Bangkok from former times, a floating city with stilt houses and huts on rafts. Unbelievable that you end up in such a totally different world in such a short time.
After a last bit of cycling we arrived at a local restaurant where our group enjoyed a delicious buffet. Our youngest was happy because they served his favourite dish, rice with omelette. My husband loved the delicious, spicy soup and the chicken and peanuts in a tasty sauce was to die for. The vegetables they serve are also mouth-watering. After this enjoyable meal we cycled and sailed back to the office of Co van Kessel in an hour.
If I can recommend only 1 activity in Bangkok it’s this bike/boat tour. It shows yo uso many different aspects of Bangkok in only a few hours
DAY 2 Shopping in Bangkok
After the strenuous day of yesterday, it is time for something completely different. Shopping in Bangkok. In the modern part of town you will find one shopping center next to another. Of course I had made some homework beforehand and selected the following shopping centers:
- Central Embassy: for lovers of Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, ... For us mainly window shopping.
- Central World: the largest shopping center in Bangkok. Here you will find something for everyone. In the middle of the ground floor is a kind of Chinese market with all kinds of delicacies.
- Erawan: no big brands, but still very expensive. On the sidewalk of this shopping center are all kinds of food stalls and a few tables and stools. They serve delicious Pad Thai with large shrimps, super juicy chicken patties, grilled octopus and freshly squeezed smoothies. McDonalds is sitting next to Erawan. For us a no go (especially on holiday), but our kids were very happy. Win win, they enjoyed their Big Mac while we tried all that tasty street food.
Bangkok is not the place for bargains.
In Bangkok, shopping malls are often popular meeting places. Most malls have a separate floor with restaurants and bars and they serve super food.
After shopping, our next stop was the highlight of the trip for our youngest son. He had seen a video about a Unicorn Cafe at home on Facebook. Since it was just too far away, we took a taxi. 1 hour and a huge traffic jam later we arrived at the Unicorn Cafe. Our eldest son and hubby almost got a stroke. They really did not want to be seen here. Judge yourself!
If you have kids who love unicorns, it is really worth it. The drinks are extremely sweet and you get headaches from the bright pink colors, but it is a special experience. You can even rent a unicorn onesie to get in the mood.
Footnote: during our visit there were no children but only a few (slightly disturbed) adults.
The way back was a crazy ride in a tuk tuk.
DAY 3 en 4 Temples and Palaces in Bangkok
If you want to visit all the temples of Bangkok, you will need a few weeks. As it was extremely hot during our visit (36°C) visiting 2 to 3 temples a day is enough. I love to share my favourite temples with you..
Top 5 Temples in Bangkok
This Buddhist temple with the 46 meters long and 13 meters high lying Buddha is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Bangkok. The temples full name is Wat Phra Chetuphon and it is the oldest and largest temple in the city. In the main bot (temple) is a small bronze statue of a meditating Buddha. The well-known Buddha is located in the largest outbuilding. The sculpture is made of gypsum and brick and gilded with gold. The feet of the reclining Buddha are decorated with 108 lakhshanas. Those lakhshanas symbolize the happiness-giving characteristics of the true Buddha. During our visit, they were just restoring the feet. In this temple complex you will also find the best massage school in the city.
Did you know that Buddha can not be used as decoration? This is indicated at all shops that sell Buddha statues.
Next to Wat Pho is the royal palace. It is completely surrounded by walls. Unlike many other temples, men also have to wear long trousers here. No sarongs are distributed. My husband bought a wide pair of trousers just across the street for a few euros. On the domain you will of course find the palace, the former residence of King Rama I up to V. Today it only serves to receive royal guests and to hold ceremonies. On the other side of the domain is the temple with the emerald Buddha. Don’t expect too much because the emerald Buddha is really small.
Access to the domain is free, but to get into the temple you have to pay.
Legend of the Emerald Buddha
In 1434, the chedi of Wat Phra Kaeo was struck by lightning, leaving a plaster image exposed. There was a green image underneath the plaster. When the king of Chiang Mai heard this, he sent an elephant army to pick up the statue. The elephant who had to carry the sculpture, however, refused to walk to Chiang Mai; That was seen as a sign and so another road was taken. In 1552 the statue was brought to Laos. It was not until 1778 that it returned to Thailand. There it was initially placed in Wat Arun. In 1785 it was brought to the temple on the domain of the royal palace.
This Buddhist temple complex lies on the other side of the river and is named after the god of dawn. For less than 50 cents you take the ferry to cross the river. The legend says that this temple from the 18th century was built for the Emerald Buddha. In the middle of the complex there is 1 large pagoda (prang) of almost 80 meters high and with a diameter of 234 meters. Around it there are 4 smaller pagodas. They are all decorated with pieces of porcelain and built following the Khmer architecture. The style of this temple is unique in Thailand. At night the temple looks like a fairytale.
Wat Saket (Golden Mountain)
dates from the 18th century and is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. The temple is on a mountain and you can climb the temple up to the golden roof. The first Golden Mountain, by the way, collapsed. Rama V rebuilt him. Until 1960, with the arrival of the skyscrapers, this was the highest point of the city. The temple used to serve as a crematorium. The poor were eaten by vultures and dogs. Scary!
Wat Benchamabophit (Marble temple)
Deze tempel , in de wijk Dusit, is gebouwd met Italiaans marmer. Deze tempel is minder bekend en het is er niet zo druk, maar ik vond het één van de mooiste van Bangkok. Sinds 2005 staat hij op de Unesco Werelderfgoedlijst. De as van koning Chulalongkorn ligt hier begraven. This temple, located in the Dusit district, is made of Italian marble.. It is less known and it is not that busy. According to me it’s one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok. It was built in 1899 and the Thai name means 'the temple of the fifth king'. The ashes of King Chulalongkorn are buried here. The temple has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 2005.
In the neighbourhood of Bangkok are many other fun things to do. We visited the Train Market, a Floating Market and finaly... The Bridge on the River Kwai. The bridge was on my husbands bucketlist since childhood. You can read all about it in this Day Trip from Bangkok. Ofcourse Thailand has so much more to offer. We will soon return to discover more during a two weeks trip to Thailand.
If you wan to read more, here's another Bangkok Tour Guide.
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Where you in Bangkok? What was your favourite thing to do? Share it with us below..