Travel in Thailand Stickman’s Bangkok Tour
I like it when friends come and visit me in Bangkok. Not only is it great to catch up with them and show them around but they can bring me all of the goodies that I miss from home. From time to time, friends are just passing through Bangkok very briefly and I may only have 24 hours, sometimes less, to show them around. If you do not know your way around, Bangkok can appear to be one big giant, dirty, drab and grey city, just as you can see in the picture here. But if you know where to go, you can have a lot of fun. This is the little tour that I take them on.
The beauty about this tour is that you can start it anywhere that the skytrain goes to. So, make your way to the nearest skytrain station and once you get there, you have to find the easiest way to get to Saphan Taksin station. If you are on the Silom line, this is easy, just get on the train that says that it is going to Saphan Taksin and get off there. If you get on the skytrain on the Sukhumvit line, you will have to make your way to Siam station and once there, will have to change on to the train going to Saphan Taksin. All pretty easy really.
As you make your way around the sky train you will get a nice elevated view of the city, a city that looks far better from the comfort of the sky train than it does from ground level. In the area around and just after Sala Daeng station, you will be going past the commercial district of the city and will see some of the tallest and flashest buildings in the Thai capital, many of them with the banners denoting that they house the Thai office of international banks and multinationals.
When you arrive at Saphan Taksin station, you need to exit and walk towards the river. You should notice that there are two small piers there and one, just to your left a little, should have a sign saying Chao Praya Express Boat. That is the boat that you want to take. But, do not go to the pier yet… You should notice that you are underneath a bridge and a little to your right is a flight of stairs. Walk up the few short flights of stairs and walk across the bridge. From the bridge you can get a nice view up the river, looking roughly in a northerly direction. You can get a nice angle from here if you want to photograph all of the big hotels on the edge of the river, as below. You can walk across the bridge to the other side and go down the stairs at the other side. Walk to the bottom of them and you should see a small boat. This boat just goes backwards and forwards across the river at 3 baht per person. Take the boat across to the other side, back to where you were. Once you have got off this boat, you want to go to the Chao Praya Express Boat pier that will be just a little over to your right.
Now, it is important to note that you want to take a boat that is heading from left to right, i.e. towards all those big hotels that you can see over on the right. As an option, you can take a boat heading down river, that is right to left. There are just three stops down to the end of the river. If you decide to take this option, just get on another boat heading back up the river. You can get some nice river photos if you go down this way. The fare to the end of the line is just a few baht.
When you get on the boat, tell the ticket seller that you want to go to Ta Dien and the fare should be 10 baht. As you head up the river, you will get an excellent view of many of Bangkok's, and indeed the world's, finest hotels. On the right, and not looking nearly impressive from the outside as one may expect from it's reputation is the Oriental Hotel. On the same side of the river and in the immediate vicinity are the Sheraton and The Shangri-La. Directly opposite the Oriental Hotel is the recently built Peninsula Hotel. As you go further up the river, you will start to see more of the old city with several Buddhist temples on either side of river. The ever impressive Wat Arun, or in English, The Temple Of Dawn is an impressive site on the western side of the river. This temple is the marker to tell you that you are almost at the port where you should get off, Ta Dien.
When you have got off at Ta Dien, you simply have to walk about ten metres and get on to the cross river ferry that will take you over the river to Wat Arun. There are various points up and down the river where you can take a ferry that just runs backwards and forwards and the fare costs all of 3 baht.
Once you make it over to the other side, you can have a look around Wat Arun, pictured here. It's only 20 baht to get in but that is still too much given that Thais get in for less than that. In all truth and honesty, this temple looks better from the other side of the river and is largely unremarkable up close but as it is so cheap to get over the river, it's worthwhile looking at it. There are a lot of scam artists in the area around here selling the usual junk at the usual inflated for foreigners prices. You also get the obligatory souvenir sellers, the ice-cream sellers, the Coke at crazy price sellers etc. This can be a nice place to sit and relax and enjoy watching life on the river. Beware of the cut out boards with pictures of traditional Thai costumes painted on them and a hole for you to put your head through so your picture can be taken "wearing a traditional Thai costume". In the bottom corner, most inconspicuously placed, it says 40B meaning the cost for a photo is 40 baht (for Thais it's free). This really is a scam so don't bother taking pictures here unless you are willing to pay the 40 baht.
The Chao Praya River is one of the most interesting places in Bangkok and there is always something going on with long tail boats zooming foreign tourists around, barges transporting cargo up and down and the police boats hunting for wayward Khao Sarn Road backpackers who may have found a nice spot on side of the river to have a toke on cheap Thai weed. If you know anything about engines, you will notice that a lot of the long tail boats have old car engines running them, ranging from the ever popular 1600 twin cam Toyota engine to a few American V8s.
After you have finished wandering around and presumably photographing Wat Arun, it is time to head back across the river. Once you get back over there, walk right through the pier building and you should come out into a small side street with a lot of tuktuk drivers who will try to convince you to allow them to take you somewhere – walk past them and about another 50 or so metres and you are at an intersection where you can see a street right in front of you and two large compounds with white walls on either side. Here you have Wat Po on the right and the Grand Palace on the left. These are two of the most impressive and famous temples in Thailand. It's up to you which one you visit (or you can see both) but I personally prefer Wat Po as it is less crowded, costs only 20 baht to get in as opposed to 200+ for The Grand Palace – and t houses the impressive reclining Buddha. The style of architecture in the two temples is fairly similar so I will stick my neck out and say that unless you are a big fan of Thai Buddhist temples, seeing one is enough. So, go for a wander around either of the temples.
After you have seen the temples, you can abort the tour and head to wherever by taxi (or any other means) or continue with the tour. If you decide to continue, you can now head up towards Sanam Luang, a big, somewhat nothing park where Thais often go at the weekend and then on to Khao Sarn Road, the backpackers domain of Bangkok. Or, if this does not appeal, you can just return to where you came from. Depending on the time of year, you may want to walk up to Sanam Luang. This big park attracts lots of Thais to the many fortune tellers, tarot card readers and so forth at the weekend. Even the poorer Thais can be seen throwing silly money at these impostors to hear some sort of positive words about their future. Sunday is the best day in this area, particularly from November to February when the weather is best.
You need to head to the main road, Sanam Chai Road, and this then leads on to Rachadarmnoen Road. As you walk along Rachadarmnoen Road, Sanam Luang, the large park will be on your left. You need to follow this road for about 1.5 km which can be hard going in the hot season as you are now heading for the Golden Mount, aka Wat Saket.
Walking along Rachadarmnoen Road, you will see a huge monument at a large roundabout. This is Democracy Monument. Don't ask me what it represent as I'm not entirely sure… You need to cross the road at sometime so that you are on the opposite side of the road to McDonalds which is very close to the monument. Walk another few hundred metres and you will see the Golden Mount. This under rated tourist attraction is a strange sort of Thai temple set on a hill that allows really good views of the old part of Bangkok. Go for a wander around, take some photos and enjoy yourself. Once you have finished there, you want to wander back down and on to the main road. You should see that the main road goes over a bridge. Under this bridge is a canal and there is a canal boat stop there. This particular stop is the last one on the line so you do not have to worry about getting on the wrong boat as there is only one to get on. Get on the boat and ask to go to Central World Plaza. The journey shouldn't take much more than 12 minutes and you will get to see some interesting places along the journey including the houses of people who live right alongside the canal – some are flash while others are less than desirable but they are all interesting. Twelve or so minutes later and the boat will make it back to Central World Plaza, the large shopping centre right in the centre of Bangkok. From here you can get a bus or a cab to anywhere. I hope you enjoyed Stickman's Tour Of Bangkok. Depending on what options you take, the whole tour will take about 4-5 hours.
Having had the good fortune to do a lot of travelling in my life, I can compare the Thai holiday experience with that of many other countries and I can confidently say that of all of the places that I have been to, no where compares with Thailand for such a range of great diverse destinations. Sure, Thailand is now very heavily touristed and for those wanting to explore somewhere new where no white man has ever shown his face, Thailand may not be the ideal destination for you. Despite rising prices, particularly in the places that tourists go, Thailand remains very affordable and is still a lot cheaper than any Western country. And if you speak some Thai and manage to avoid being scammed, you can do things super cheap if you so desire. While Thailand may still be considered a developing country, in some parts of the country, especially the heavily touristed areas, the infrastructure really is not that much different to some Western countries. Everything is sort of good enough, if you know what I mean! If you do make this wonderful country your choice for your next holiday, I am sure you will not be disappointed. Go along with an open mind and you'll have a great time.
And don't forget the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market which is in Rachaburi province, about 100 km southwest of the capital and well within reach for a day trip, or even a half day trip. You can read more about a trip to the Thailand Floating Market here.