By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

Bangkok is the world’s hottest city

We’re out of the frying pan and into the fire as we fly from Oman into Bangkok, Thailand – officially the hottest city in the world. With year-round mean air temperatures of 28°C (82°F), we’re lucky to be in Bangkok during the ‘cool and dry’ season between November and February.

Arriving into Suvarnabhumi Airport at 7:25 AM, we make our way into central Bangkok using the Airport Link (SARL). Our hotel is the Shangri-Hotel (Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu) on the banks of Bangkok’s river, the Chao Phraya. The temptation after that long flight from Oman on arriving in our room is to dump the luggage and collapse straight into bed, but….must….resist!

Only being in Bangkok for two days and after an overnight flight from Oman means there’s lots to do, but little energy to do it, so our local guide Anna, who’s lived in Bangkok for two years, has promised to let us take it easy – but that doesn’t mean we can slack off!

After jumping straight into the shower and putting on some long-sleeved clothing made of light fabric, we’re off to the Oriental Pier.

11 AM: A River Ferry to the Grand Palace

Outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is the Oriental Pier, and that’s where we meet up with Anna. She has planned an easy day for us today, and promises a relaxing surprise this afternoon.

We catch the Chao Phraya Express ferry from the Oriental Pier for a quick trip up the Chao Phraya river, part of the navigation toolkit of any Bangkok local.

We disembark at the Tha Tien Cross River Ferry Pier, and from here it’s a quick walk to one of Bangkok’s biggest tourist attractions, the Grand Palace.

It becomes clear why we wore long-sleeved clothing and pants at the entrance to the Grand Palace. As a holy and important site to the Thais, there are people at the entrance checking your dress and ensuring that it meets their standards for respectfulness. Although you can hire clothes, it’s really better to dress appropriately to begin with. In this video, journalist Lauren Bercarich explains all.

The Grand Palace isn’t just one, but rather a complex of buildings, and has been the residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782, and is still in use as a royal residence and as a ceremonial site. The beautiful and intricate architecture is entrancing and it takes several hours for us to complete a tour. We linger particularly at the Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the famous and significant Emerald Buddha. Only Thailand’s King is allowed near the Emerald Buddha, ceremonially changing the Buddha’s robes throughout the year.

Wat Mahathat, Bangkok, Thailand

“wat mahathat bangkok”, a photo by telmo32, CC License

2 PM: Wat Po and the Origins of Thai Massage

After visiting the site of the Emerald Buddha, we arrive outside the Wat Po temple.

It’s full name is the Wat Phra Chetuphon, and is well known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Inside is an enormous reclining Buddha, roughly 40 metres long and covered in gold leaf. That alone is impressive but with a smile Anna turns to tells us more about Wat Po.

And what a surprise! It turns out that Wat Po is considered the origin of Thai massage – and is, in fact, a functioning Thai massage school, the country’s most prestigious. This is too good an opportunity to pass up and for the rest of the afternoon, we experience the best in Thai massage and relaxation at the site where it all began.

Thailand Tips – What is a Wat?

A typical Thai Wat, which is loosely translated as monastery or temple, has an enclosing wall that divides it from the secular world. Find out more here.

Sunset over Wat Arun.

Sunset over Wat Arun. Photo by Mark Fischer, CC License

6 PM: Night Markets

We’re early for dinner by Thai standards, but it’s been a long day and we want to fit in a quick tour of the markets before we finally collapse. We head up to the Suan Lum night markets by motorbike taxis because, in Anna’s words

“The best tip I would give is to use the motorbike taxis – the guys on street corners with orange vests on. That’s if you’re game- they’re much quicker in the horrendous congestion of Bkk (Bangkok)! You can bargain a little because they’ll give you a tourist price at first, but they’re cheap anyway. And they’re way better than tuktuks, because they won’t take you to the tailor or shop that is giving them fuel vouchers in exchange for customers”

At the night markets, we load up on accessible street-style food in a big open courtyard, listening to local live entertainment.

Goodnight Bangkok!

That’s it for our first day in Bangkok. Smiling and serene from our massages and with our bellies as full as Buddha’s from the night market, we fall asleep in minutes.

TukTuk, Bangkok, Thailand

“Go Baby, Go Go”, a photo by lynhdan, CC License

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Don’t disrespect the monarch! Lengthy prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy.
  • Keep your fluid intake up! According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the world’s hottest city. Located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is sunny at any time of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F). So make sure you have plenty of fluid throughout the day.
  • Bangkok has many public transport options, including the BTS Skytrain, the underground metro line MRT, Bangkok buses, river boats, and the famous tuktuks. Find out more at TransportBangkok.
  • Locals refer to Bangkok as Bkk.
  • Did we mention that it’s hot in Bangkok? Drink water, silly!

Have you been to Bangkok? What did you love? What did we miss? Tell us in the comments!

UPDATE FEB 2013:

Mark Fisher (who took this amazing sunset photo that we used above) was kind enough to update us that the Suan Lum Night Markets have closed down. As an alternative, he says;

[although it is father out] the Train Market (Tarad Rot Fa) in Bangkok is very interesting and could be worth adding to you itinerary.