Barmy Bangkok!

This was our first trip to Bangkok and it was a manic but very fun trip and there is plenty to see and do!


Bangkok Must Sees

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by dkm1981 on March 16, 2013

Bangkok really is a crazy city that has so much culture, fascinating architecture and fabulous sites. You could spend a lifetime here and no see everything, but since most people have a couple of days in the city, here are some of the things that I think you have to see . . .

1. Grand Palace

Grand Palace is a very aptly named sprawling complex of fabulous buildings and temples that definitely warrant a least a half day visit. It isn't cheap to get in (compared to other things in Thailand) at around £12 per person, but it is an expenses worth spending. The centre piece is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (which is actually made of jade - you can find out more inside), which is very impressive. I have to admit, I'm not big on religious buildings but the interior of this one is packed full of fascinating features. There are lots of other buildings in the complex, but more of them are best enjoyed from the outside, where you can get some amazing pictures. The place is so big that even though it is busy, you don't really feel crowded at any point. Also bear in mind that it is a religious building so you will have to abide by the rules and cover your shoulders and knees and don't wear anything skintight or see-through.

2. Wat Arun

Wat Arun is one of the most familiar sights in Bangkok and it is the one that tends to dominate postcards and other souvenirs from the city. It is very well preserved and well worth a visit if you are in the area, even if temples are not really your things, because it is an impressive building and offers splendid views. The building is fantastic and gets even more so the closer you get, with lovely detailed frescos and layers upon layers of intricate stone work. It is nicknamed the temple of the dawn because it is the first place to catch the morning light. To be honest I thought it was going to be more colourful than it is; from a distance it actually looks fairly grey. But that is deceptive because when you get up close it is very colourful. Almost like a mosaic, there are hundreds of coloured tiles up and down the temple that add to the ornate look.You can’t go into the temple itself, but walking around it is cool enough. You can however climb up the outside of it, which was one of the best things about it. You may think my choice of word (climb) was a strange one, but that is indeed what you need to do. There are stairs alright, but Western health and safety laws do not apply here, and they are some of the steepest stairs I have ever seen! I am what they call ‘vertically challenged’ and so I had to literally cling to the hand rails to haul myself up. It takes it out of you, that’s for sure, but the effort is so worth it because the views are spectacular. The temple costs 30 Baht for foreigners to enter; it is free for Thai nationals, but it seems to be visited by tourists in the most part.

3. Dining Under the Stars

Bangkok, like most major cities, is full of skyscrapers. The difference here is that you can wine and dine at the top of a few of them under the stars. The first option is the Sky Bar at Sirrocco which featured in the film Th Hangover. Another option is Vertigo Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree. Neither are cheap and you'll have to book in advance (bear in mind that the residents of the hotels that they are both in get preference over 'outsiders'), but the food is good and the views are obviously spectacular. Worth treating yourself if you have anything left in the budget.

4. Fishy Fun

Siam Ocean World is located in the shopping district of Bangkok on the lower floor of the Siam shopping mall. It’s not the cheapest place to get into, especially when you compare it to the prices of other attractions in Bangkok, but it is worth a visit if you have a spare afternoon and you are all templed out. The price reflects which parts of the attraction you want to see and take part in. You can do things like diving with the sharks in the huge tanks and back room tours. We opted for one of the more basic packages which cost about £20 per person and included entry to the aquarium, a drink and some popcorn, a back room tour, a boat ride and film showing, which we thought was quite good value for money.The aquarium is split into different zones, which makes it easy to explore. When you get your tickets, you get a pretty good map which shows you the zones and the location of the extra features as well as giving details about feeding times in the various areas. Overall I thought the aquarium was very good. It is well maintained and there are lots of informative displays. It is well designed and a lot of fun for adults and children alike and, even though it is quite expensive, I would say it is worth the money.

5. Kao San Road

This is the back packers destination and it is manic to say the least. it is full of restaurants and bars where you can get a cheap bite to eat or a cocktail and watch the world go by. You can also buy pretty much anything you want (and lots of stuff that you don't). It is the place to go if you want knock off gear, fake IDs, ping pong shows and some deep fried scorpions. It may sound like hell, but it is one of those places that you at least have to visit just see how manic the city can be.

There are hundreds of other things to see and do in Bangkok, but doing these will certainly give you chance to see a bit of everything that makes the city great.

All Style and Not Much Substance?

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by dkm1981 on February 22, 2013

Vertigo and Moon Bar is a restaurant and cocktail bar on the top floor of the Banyan Tree hotel in Bangkok where we had a meal during our recent trip to the city. The restaurant is completely open air so you are dining under the stars on the 65th floor of the hotel, which is lovely and obviously gives excellent views over the city.

I would strongly recommend booking in advance because the restaurant is very popular. This is especially true if you are not staying at the hotel because the booking system seems to be more restrictive if you are not a resident. We actually booked the day before by visiting the hotel and were able to get a table at 9pm the following day. If you know that you want to go and when, it’s probably better to book in advance, which you can do quite easily through their website (www.banyantree.com).

There is a direct lift to the restaurant that doesn’t stop anywhere on the way up which is good because otherwise it would take an absolute age to get up there. It is worth bearing in mind that the lift doesn’t actually go all the way up to the restaurant and there are a couple of flights of stairs that you will have to walk up. It’s actually a nice way to get up if you can manage it because there is an excellent photo opportunity on the way past.

Even if you get a later booking like we did, you can go and a have a drink in the bar before you table is ready, which is very pleasant and a nice way to start the evening. We got there about half an early with the intention of doing this, but our table was ready straight away.

There is not much lighting in the restaurant, presumably to make the most of the open air views. As a result it is very dark and you even get little torches so that you can read your menu. I actually really liked this and thought it added to the atmosphere. It was light enough that you could see you food obviously but the torches were much needed for menu reading.

The food was pretty good. I had lobster bisque to start that was absolutely delicious. It comes in a bowl which has a big piece of lobster in and they pour the soup over the top, which was a nice touch. I had the chicken for main course, which was again very good. It was beautifully presented with mixed baby vegetables. My husband had pork medallions which were perfectly seasoned and cooked. For dessert, I had a summer berry millefeuille, which I loved. I’m not normally one for pastry and cream but it was lovely and light. My husband had the tiramisu, which was nice but slightly odd in that it came in a cosmopolitan glass – to be honest I think it was probably more style than substance. To accompany, my husband had a couple of local beers and I had one of their signature cocktails which was absolutely delicious, if a little pricy.

The service was good but not great to be honest. I think the idea is right but the execution is not quite there. The idea is that it is fine dining but I don’t think they have quite got it right. There are an awful lot of staff and they don’t seem to know what each other is doing and it seems a bit disorganised. We had different people take our order, bring our drinks, bring our starter, bring our meal, bring our dessert and so on. We actually wanted more drinks but didn’t get any because no one came over and asked us, which I think is down to the fact that no one person was actually serving us. I also noticed that they had this policy of making sure that both of our plates were laid down at the same time and to do this they had two people serve each course, which was all well and good until there weren’t two people available at the same time. As a result our main courses were sat on the pass for at least five minutes before they were brought to us. In fact the whole meal took about an hour and three quarters, which is an awfully long time for two people to get three courses. We weren’t overly concerned because we enjoyed the break between courses, but I think the standard of service was lacking.

The price was very high, especially when you compare it to prices of other places in Bangkok and in the Far East in general. We paid £176 for three courses and a couple of drinks (I think it was two beers and two cocktails) which is very high. I think that it probably wasn’t worth it to be honest. The food was very nice but I couldn’t help think that I had been to other places where the food was as good but the bill was an eighth of the price.

Overall I would say that Vertigo is a nice place to go if you want to put on your best frock and enjoy fantastic views, but only if you have a couple of hundred pounds to burn.
Vertigo Bar
Banyan Tree Hotel
Bangkok, Thailand
+66 (2) 679 1200

Oceanic!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dkm1981 on February 16, 2013

Siam Ocean World is located in the shopping district of Bangkok on the lower floor of the Siam shopping mall. It’s not the cheapest place to get into, especially when you compare it to the prices of other attractions in Bangkok, but it is worth a visit if you have a spare afternoon and you are all templed out.

There are various different entry prices depending on what package you want. The price reflects which parts of the attraction you want to see and take part in. You can do things like diving with the sharks in the huge tanks and back room tours. We opted for one of the more basic packages which cost about £20 per person and included entry to the aquarium, a drink and some popcorn, a back room tour, a boat ride and film showing, which we thought was quite good value for money.

The aquarium is split into different zones, which makes it easy to explore. When you get your tickets, you get a pretty good map which shows you the zones and the location of the extra features as well as giving details about feeding times in the various areas.

The first zone is the Weird and Wonderful, which was pretty funky. It includes giant crabs, obscure looking fish and some really bizarre looking sea worm things. It is a very aptly named zone and is a unusual and interesting introduction to an aquarium. There are lots of big cylindrical tanks in the centre of the room which means that you can see all the way round through the rocks and things. The room is fairly big and the displays aren’t too packed in so there is plenty of room to wander around even if it is busy. The tanks all have a few of each creature in so you aren’t looking for a needle in a haystack, but they aren’t overcrowded either.

The Deep Reef zone is exactly that and it is a huge tank that features a massive coral reef. There are chairs in front of the tank which we used to full effect because we were pretty mesmerised. The idea of the tank is that it shows you the different fish and creatures that you’d find at each level in a real reef. There are some pretty huge eels and we were particularly drawn to a massive grumpy looking blue fish.

The Living Ocean is where you take a boat trip on a glass bottomed boat which is pretty tame but gives you a good look at the rays and sharks below. There was a queue for this attraction, but there are two boats operating and they hols about eight people each, so it doesn’t take too long. You get to wear fetching life jackets too!

The Rain Forest zone is a nice one and very well designed. There are lots of huge trees, albeit artificial, and sounds of the rainforest playing which adds to the atmosphere. Many of the tanks contain huge toads and poisonous frogs. The exhibits here are all freshwater creatures and there are some pretty obscure ones. My absolute favourite was the random spread eagled black frog that seemed to be suspended in the water!

The Rocky Shore was one of my favourites because this is where the penguins are. Again there is a seating area in front of the huge tank and it is a great place to sit and watch the funny little penguins going about their business. There is also a little area where there are crabs and star fish that you can touch, which is fun if you have the nerve.

Next is the Open Ocean, which is apparently Asia’s largest panoramic oceanarium. Here there is a fairly impressive selection of sharks and rays of all sizes and it is lined with box seats so you can have a sit down and really feel like you are lost in the ocean.

The last zone is ‘Jellies’. I am seriously afraid of jellyfish so this really wasn’t my favourite part at all. Aside from that, I didn’t really get this zone because it is supposed to be a ‘theatrical display of light and musical symphony’ but I thought it fell a bit flat to be honest. There was a huge squashy sofa in the middle of the LED lit room and you are supposed to sit and feel at peace. This was my least favourite part of the aquarium and not just because I don’t like jelly fish!

Overall I thought the aquarium was very good. It is well maintained and there are lots of informative displays. It is well designed and a lot of fun for adults and children alike and, even though it is quite expensive, I would say it is worth the money.
Siam Ocean World
B1-B2, Siam Paragon
Bangkok, Thailand, 10330
+66 (2) 687 2000

Wonderful Wat

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by dkm1981 on February 16, 2013

Wat Arun is one of the most familiar sights in Bangkok and it is the one that tends to dominate postcards and other souvenirs from the city. It is very well preserved and well worth a visit if you are in the area, even if temples are not really your things, because it is an impressive building and offers splendid views.

The best way to get to the temple is by water taxi on the Chao Phrya river. We got it from the central pier, which is where the skytrain station is. There are a number of different taxis you can get. The locals use the orange taxi which is only 15 Baht per person (about 30p), although these ones aren’t as frequent or as relaxing as the blue tourist boats which are 40 Baht per person (about 80p). The blue ones are a lot less busy and have a guide who talks about the other attractions along the river banks on the way. Both taxis drop you off at the opposite side of the river from the temple so you’ll need to get the cross river taxi which costs three Baht per person (about 6p!) and are very regular.

Wat is the name used for a collection of religious temples that is generally surrounded by a small wall with a number of gateway way entrances. The temples are, as you would imagine, very ornate and Wat Arun is no exception. The building is fantastic and gets even more so the closer you get, with lovely detailed frescos and layers upon layers of intricate stone work. It is nicknamed the temple of the dawn because it is the first place to catch the morning light. To be honest I thought it was going to be more colourful than it is; from a distance it actually looks fairly grey. But that is deceptive because when you get up close it is very colourful. Almost like a mosaic, there are hundreds of coloured tiles up and down the temple that add to the ornate look.

You can’t go into the temple itself, but walking around it is cool enough. I’m not sure what they could put inside it to make the inside as impressive as the outside. You can however climb up the outside of it, which was one of the best things about it. You may think my choice of word (climb) was a strange one, but that is indeed what you need to do. There are stairs alright, but Western health and safety laws do not apply here, and they are some of the steepest stairs I have ever seen! I am what they call ‘vertically challenged’ and so I had to literally cling to the hand rails to haul myself up. It takes it out of you, that’s for sure, but the effort is so worth it because the views are spectacular. You can see the golden temples of the Royal Palace across the water and we spent ages just watching the traffic on the river below.

On the way out of the temple there is a little market type thing that is packed with souvenirs and silks where you can barter for an absolute bargain. It is actually a good place to brush up your bartering skills before you jump into the huge and frenetic markets of central Bangkok!

The temple costs 30 Baht for foreigners to enter; it is free for Thai nationals, but it seems to be visited by tourists in the most part. You need to consider what you are wearing before you visit, as you do with most temples. Ladies must have their shoulders and knees covered and skin tight trousers are not permitted unless you have a knee length shirt or dress over the top. You can borrow a shawl to cover your shoulders at the entrance for a small deposit. Men need to wear trousers that go at least below the knee and a t-shirt is acceptable.

I would absolutely recommend a visit to Wat Arun, you can get some great photographs and views and is a great example of temple architecture.
Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun)
Thai Wang Road
Bangkok, Thailand

Great Bargain Stay!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by dkm1981 on February 15, 2013

We stayed for three nights in the Bangkok Loft Inn and the stay was comfortable and fantastic value for money. The staff were very welcoming and helpful and I would have no hesitation in recommending it if you are visiting Bangkok.

We were picked up from the airport by a hotel driver and this was included in the price of the stay. They have an offer on their website that you get a free pick up if you stay three or more nights which, considering the price of a stay at the hotel, is exceptional value. We weren't sure if we'd qualify for this as we didn't book the hotel directly, but we emailed them anyway and it didn't matter, which we thought was great. The driver was waiting exactly where he said he would be and it was great not to have to try and manoeuvre our way to the hotel in a taxi after a long overnight flight.

The hotel is across the river from the city centre, but this for us was what made it even better because we were slap bang in the centre of all the noise and chaos, but we were close enough that we could get into it pretty quickly. The hotel is only a few minutes walk from the nearest skytrain station, even at a very gentle stroll. The skytrain takes you to the river side and on into the city centre shopping area for about 50p so is really convenient as well as being cheap and quick.

When we arrived, it was early in the morning and we were pretty sure that we'd have to pay extra to check into our room early, but we were allowed to check in three hours early without extra charge which was excellent.

The rooms were very pleasant, nothing exceptional, but very comfortable and just what we needed for a couple of nights' stay in a city where you spend most of you time outside of your hotel. The double beds were soft and large. The shower was hot and powerful. There was also ample wardrobe and drawer space as well as a dressing table and side table and chairs to make a nice sitting area. There were lots of things that we were surprised to see included since we paid so little, but were much appreciated - such as a safe, hairdryer and lots of little toiletries.

The staff are very nice and probably the star of the show to be honest. We didn't need too much from them, but when we did they were very helpful with advice on things like directions, local restaurants, making bookings and dress codes for temples and so on. They greeted us with a wave and made us feel very welcome without being overbearing, which we loved.

Breakfast is included in the price of a night's stay and you need to order the hot food that you wanted the night before. You can choose from American style breakfast, prawn or chicken salad or Thai style breakfast. I can recommend the pork and rice; if you can get past the weirdness of having that for breakfast, it really is delicious.

There are a few other amenities in the hotel has such as a media lounge which includes a couple of free to use computers. There are vending machines around the hotel selling chocolate bars and drinks and the like, which was really convenient for us, although you do get free bottled water in the room. The other big plus about the hotel was that there is free wifi throughout and the reception is pretty good even in the bedrooms on the higher floors.

The only negative I can think of about the hotel is that it is on a busy main road so there is a lot of noise from there throughout the day. It wasn't a problem for me because I sleep like the dead, but even my light sleeper of a husband had no problems sleeping. If you think it might be a problem for you, it might be worth asking for one of the rooms at the back of the hotel where it is much quieter.

We paid £26 per night for the hotel, booking through a hotel search site. For the hotel alone, it was fantastic value, but when you throw in all the extras we got, such as airport pick up and breakfast, it was obviously even better. The only reason for the low price that I can think of is the location, but that really wasn't a problem for us, in fact we preferred it. To be honest, Bangkok is a fairly big city and so no hotel is near to everything and some travelling around is necessary but the fact that this one has a skytrain station nearby probably gives it the edge over others.

Overall I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel to everyone!
Bangkok Loft Inn
55 Somdet Phra Chao Taksin Rd.
Bangkok, Thailand, 10600

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