Breakfast at Oriental Hotel
We began our first day with a treat – breakfast on the terrace of the beautiful Oriental Hotel, overlooking the Chao Phraya River. Not only was the food delicious, it was a great place to watch life on the river.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
From the Oriental Hotel we caught a ferry to the beautiful Wat Arun temple. Located on the west bank of the river, it is a relatively small temple precinct. The steep spire is decorated with colourful pieces of porcelain and glass. We were able to climb the spire and were rewarded with lovely views. The Ordination Hall is also worth a visit.
Chatuchak Market From Wat Arun we took a ferry back to the east side of the river, then travelled by tuk tuk and Skytrain to the Chatuchak Weekend Market – said to be the biggest weekend markets in the world! We spent about an hour wandering the lanes and narrow aisles of the market. It is a colourful and enjoyable market to visit.
Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House After visiting the market, we caught the Skytrain to Mo Chit station then walked a short distance to Jim Thompson’s House – a highlight of our visit to Bangkok. Jim Thompson is best known for establishing the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. To see the house, visitors must take a guided tour (entrance fee of 150 Baht includes tour of the house). We thought the tour was very good and we weren’t rushed through. After the tour, take time to look at the beautiful Jim Thompson silk shop.
Jim Thompson Thai Restaurant We loved the restaurant in the grounds of the Jim Thompson’s House Museum. We had drinks and a delicious meal at the beautifully decorated restaurant.
On our second day in Bangkok we took a half-day tour to see some well-known markets outside of the city – highly recommended. We booked with Thai Happy Taxi Tours (www.thaihappytaxi.com) and our driver was a gorgeous man called Noom. While Noom didn’t speak much English, we managed just fine. He was an excellent driver and a happy, agreeable person.
Leaving our accommodation at 7.15am, we firstly drove out to the Maeklong Railway Market – it was wonderful. We were in time for the 8.30am train to come through – don’t miss this experience. This is an authentic food market with all kinds of interesting wares on offer – it is literally on the train tracks. As the train approached, stallholders pulled their awnings and stalls back from the tracks, and we all stood as far back as possible as the train crept along the tracks inches from us.
We then drove on to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets where we rented a longboat with a driver. We really enjoyed this experience too however it appears to be just for the tourists.
We returned to our accommodation at lunchtime.
Day 2 – Afternoon: Bangkok – Wat Pho, Baiyoke Sky Hotel & Silom
Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho Temple
In the afternoon, we took a long tail boat (800 Baht) from a nearby jetty to Wat Pho – a must-see temple complex – the oldest in Bangkok. From the pier it was a short walk to Wat Pho where we paid an entry fee of 100 Baht per person. A guide approached us and offered to take us on a half-hour guided tour of the temple– it was well worth doing. The tour was so informative. We learnt about Thai birthdays and their meanings, we learnt about Thai culture and religion, and we saw the highlights of the temple including the Reclining Buddha.
Baiyoke Sky Hotel From Wat Pho we took a taxi to Baiyoke Sky Hotel (one of the highest buildings in Bangkok) where we visited the Rooftop Bar on the 83rd floor – the views are fabulous.
Silom After about an hour at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel we took another taxi to the area known as Silom to have dinner. During the day this is a corporate district but at night there are restaurants, bars, shops, etc. This is where the infamous Patpong Road is located.
We had dinner at the Roadhouse Barbecue restaurant, an American style restaurant serving grills and ribs. Very quick service and the food was good.
We took the Skytrain back to Sathorn Jetty and from there we took the little ferry across to the other side of the river to our apartment.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Kanachanaburi – Bridge on the River Kwai
Bridge over the River Kwai
Again with Noom from Thai Happy Taxi Tours – we had a big day out to Kanachanaburi to visit:
Kanchanburi War Cemetery – the largest of the three cemeteries on the Thai-Burma Railway. It is located near the site of the former Kanburi Prisoner of War Camp and commemorates more than 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch casualties who lost their lives building the railway.
Death Railway Museum – a small and very interesting museum opposite the Kanchanburi War Cemetery that tells the story of the railway through photographs, videos and displays – it is well worth visiting. The museum is also a good place for lunch as the coffee shop/café is very clean and serves a selection of sandwiches, burgers and light Thai meals. The coffee shop overlooks the beautiful cemetery.
Chungkai War Cemetery – graves of more than 1,400 Commonwealth and over 300 Dutch soldiers who died during construction of the Thai-Burma Railway.
Bridge on the River Kwai
Erawan Falls – a 7-tiered waterfall where you can walk between each level, basically walking up the whole way. We went up to level 4 but started to pour rain and it was very hot and we were running short of time. It was 200 Baht per person to enter NP
Hell’s Pass Museum (closed at 4pm and we were too late)
Long drive back – 3 hours to Bangkok
Our advice regarding this day trip would be to decide on visiting either Erawan Falls or Hell’s Pass Museum – there is not really enough time to do both.
Back in Bangkok Noom dropped us off at the Shangri-la Hotel where we had an excellent dinner (we ordered a la carte as the buffet was A$73 per person), then walked back over the bridge to our accommodation – about a 10 minute walk.
Day 4 – Day Trip to Royal Palace & Ancient Capital of Ayutthaya
Bang Pa In Royal Palace
On our last day in Bangkok we took another wonderful day trip with Noom from Thai Happy Taxi Tours. We chose to do the Ayutthaya Tour 1 – The World Heritage Ayutthaya Ancient Capital.
Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital for over 400 years and dates back to 1350. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are magnificent monuments, temples and ruins to explore.
We met Noom in the foyer of our accommodation at 8am. It was just over an hour’s drive to our first stop – the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. The Palace was the summer residence of the Thai royal family (the Residence is still used today by the royal family).
At the entrance to the palace grounds, we bought our tickets from the ‘Foreigners’ window (entry 100 Baht per person) and, as it was so hot, we rented a golf buggy (400Baht for one hour and 100 Baht for every hour after that) to tour the palace grounds. The grounds are very pretty – gardens, lakes and bridges – it is all very photogenic.
We were able to go inside three very interesting buildings:
Residence of the Royal Family
Little pavilion on the lake
We spent about 1.5 hours at Bang Pa-In Royal Palace and can highly recommend a visit.
From the palace it is about a 20-minute drive to the historic area of Ayutthaya. There is much to see here.
Wat Chai Watthana Ram
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol (Monastery of Auspicious Victory)
Wat Phra Mahathat (an important Buddhist temple)
Wat Phra Si Saphet and the Wang Luang (Royal Palace)
Viharn Phra Monghol Bopit – large, seated Buddha image (under restoration during our visit)
Wat Lokkayasutharan – massive outdoor reclining Buddha
Wat Chai Watthana Ram – magnificent temple ruins (our favourite)
In between visiting these beautiful locations, Noom took us for lunch at the Baan Ice Guesthouse. The food was delicious and the menu was in English (with photographs!).
After a wonderful time visiting the sites of Ayutthaya Historical Park, we arrived back in Bangkok at about 4.30pm, had a quick freshen up at our hotel, before Noom drove us to the airport for our 7pm flight out.
A word of warning: give yourself plenty of time to travel to the airport. We left our hotel (in downtown Bangkok) at 6pm and it took 1.5 hours to drive to the airport! The traffic was terrible.
Bangkok – A Great Stopover
We can highly recommend a few days in Bangkok. While there waaccs much to see in the city itself, the day trips out of Bangkok were a highlight.