The first leg of my trip was Bangkok for two nights. I then went on to Siem Reap, Cambodia, which was a quick (1.5 hr) flight on the way to my final destination, Krabi. If you’re been following my blog, you know that I always recommend hitting up two close-by destinations per a trip to maximize those vacation days. I love a city/beach combo, but this trip was even better- city/historic landmark/beach combo. Subscribe to my blog to get the full itinerary.
Let’s start with Bangkok:
🗝 Tip: You will see signs everywhere stating that Buddha is a religion/religious deity and not an emblem to put on a shirt or trinket for your souvenir. You will also see signs stating that making fun of their king is punishable with prison time. Thailand is a conservative culture. Keep this in mind as you pack for your trip and enjoy your time in their country.
1- Check out the Beautiful Bangkok Temples by the River
You can’t visit Thailand without visiting a temple. Buddhism is a huge part of the culture so they’re everywhere, and they’re beautiful. Visiting a temple was at the top of my list, but I didn’t want to spend too much of my day doing it since I had so little time. I chose to visit just two temples: Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). After lots of research, they are both gorgeous and right next to each other. The Grand Palace is in-between the two. There’s nothing to do other than walk by the Palace, but since it’s on the way, you might as well. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) looked the most picturesque to be honest, but it’s under construction until 2018. Although you can still visit it, I didnt think it was worth it to cross the river. Wat Pho is also one of the original schools of the traditional Thai Massage. If you have time, book a Thai massage there. Note: The massage is done in a public/communal place, and it involves your masseuse stretching your body into pretzel like positions, it’s amazing!
🗝 Tip: As of Feb 2017, there is a strict dress code at all temples. Women must have their shoulders and knees covered. So you must have at least a short sleeve shirt (no cap sleeves) and a skirt that goes past your knees or long pants. Men must wear at least short sleeves and must wear long pants (no crop pants). They check at every entrance, and if you aren’t dressed properly, you will be required to wear their loaner clothes to enter. The issue is that there are not that many loaner outfits so you might have to wait a long time to get in.
2- Shop & Eat at a Thai Mega Mall
Thai mega malls are a giant complex of shops, fun and food. It’s like going to the carnival. The sheer number & types of stores is astounding. In addition, there are tons of unbelievable restaurants and bar mixed with arcades, movie theaters and in one case, a trampoline park (EmQuartier below). I loved Central Embassy for their food selection. They have my favorite restaurant, Din Tai Fung- a soup dumpling chain from Taiwan and an amazing grocery store/food court in the basement. They have dozens of food carts set up selling street food and more traditional dishes at larger stalls all mixed in with a large international grocery store.
Emquartier was another awesome mega mall. They have beautiful greenery throughout and even a garden terrace. I took my mango sticky rice (from point #4) to go and ate it there.
3- Watch the Sunset from the Stunning Rooftop in the Hangover 2
The best rooftop bars in the world are in Bangkok. I always thought the rooftop from Hangover 2 – Sky Bar– looked stunning so I was excited to check it out. Sky bar is located in the Lebua at State Tower hotel. They have several floors and sections of stunning alfresco dining and bars. Sky Bar is what you saw in the Hangover 2 movie, but check out the others as well, like Distil, which is one floor up on 64. I highly recommend going right before sunset. The views are great and so are the drinks, but they are very pricey for Thai standards. You are required to buy a drink to stay at any of their bars to prevent people from coming just to take photos.
🗝 Tip: It gets very crowded and can be hard to take photos. Sky Bar opens at 6pm, but there is a bar on a lower floor that opens earlier (I can’t remember the name). I went to that bar for a drink first, so that I could be one of the first ones into Sky Bar. This is the only way to take photos without a crazy crowd.
4- Eat the Best Mango Sticky Rice in the World
I have a huge sweet tooth, and my favorite dessert is mango sticky rice (Khao Niew Ma Muang in Thai). It’s a traditional Thai dessert that consists of sliced mangos paired with coconut flavored sticky rice. Sweet and simple. The most highly touted mango sticky rice in Bangkok is from Maevaree. Maevaree is a small fruit stand in Thonglor that sells their famous tri-colored mango sticky rice. A family has been making this famous rice for over 70 years. They use rice from Chang Rai and coconut milk from Koi Samui (supposedly the creamiest in the world). The best part is the fresh mango. The mangos they use are so juicy and sweet. Their mango sticky rice is available from 6am-11pm, and the tri-colored one costs 130 THB.
What I found interesting about the MSR in Thailand was how different it was from any that I’ve tried in the US. I’ve always felt that Asian food is a mastery of balance. So many complex flavors (& textures) balanced in one dish. MSR in Thailand consists of sweet mango, salty sticky rice and an almost sweet & sour coconut sauce with crunchy, crispy rice on top. In the US, the sweet rice and sweet mango is drizzled with a sweet, condensed milk-like sauce. Definitely try the Thai version if you can.
🗝 Tip: Take the BTS to the Thong Lo station. Use Exit 3 and go left around the corner. The stand is on the left. It’s just a stand so everything is take away only.
5- Ride Free Boats Along the River as You Hotel Bar Hop
The river runs right through Bangkok so the views from the water are spectacular. There are several different taxi boats, dinner cruises and tour boats you can ride, but a trick hopping a free ride is to ride one of the 5-star hotel shuttle boats. Several hotels along the river like the Siam, the Peninsula and the Mandarin Oriental offer free shuttle boats stopping at select destinations along the river. Each hotel has amazing river view restaurants so I recommend a hotel bar crawl along the river. The Mandarin and the Peninsula shuttle runs very frequently but the Siam is approximately once an hour and by appt only, so have your hotel call them ahead of time to book.