Bangkok, a bustling city of 14+ million people, is one of the major hubs when it comes to air travel in Southeast Asia. Perhaps correspondingly, it seems to be a city that is less expensive to fly out of compared to other cities in Asia (we’ve noticed this trend with Shanghai as well). So what does that mean if you’re flying out of another Asian city, like say Tokyo? When searching airfare, start your search as you normally would. If you find that you’ll be making a connection through a city like Bangkok go back to the drawing board and replug in two separate flights (ex: City of origin to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Destination). This trick won’t always equate to cost savings, but we have found that it can potentially save hundreds of $$$ and sometimes even lead to a better/more comfortable transfer. Although we have slept in airports before, we do not recommend it, as many lounges close for a period of time during the wee hours and airport seats can be uncomfortable as well as a touch chilly (we’re lookin’ at you Macau).
Between our trip to Thailand in December 2017 and several other connecting flights, we’ve actually been able to spend a decent amount of time in the Bangkok (ironically, this city never made our original travel list and well, we kinda dig it now). Thus, we thought we would share our top 5 favorite things to do with the kiddos in Bangkok! We hope that whether you’re planning a trip to Thailand or just stopping for a long-layover that you’ll find the list useful!
5. Explore the Grand Palace
Interested in indulging in a bit of history? The Grand Palace is a must see, but takes the number 5 slot on our list due to it’s massive size (it’s 2.35 million square feet!) and beautiful golden spires. Originally built in 1782, the palace was completed by King Rama I. In addition to the architecture, it is famous for its Jade Buddha, which is indeed a sight to behold.
Why is it last on the list? First, it is the busiest tourist attraction in the city, so you will most likely be visiting with a few hundred of your closest friends + their accompanying umbrellas. Umbrellas? Well, the lack of shade combined with the sunlight reflecting off the building itself makes for an incredibly hot spot. If you haven’t read about it yet, Bangkok is scorching hot nearly all year long. We’re talkin’ mid-90s with New Orleans type humidity in December. So perhaps if you visit, go early, wear sunscreen, drink lots of water, and don’t try to see it all – just pick and choose. Its nice to be able to take breaks between stops to cool off, let your kiddos recharge, and maybe even take a mid-day swim at your hotel pool. Ladies, pack something to follow the dress code, too. This means no shorts (knees need to be covered) or sleeveless tops, hence the shawl with the sundress…did I mention it was HOT?
- Hours: Daily, 0830 – 1630 (ticket office closes at 1530)
- 500 bhat/Adult (a bit pricey if you ask us), Children are free
- Audio Guides are available for an additional 200bhat or you can hire an official guide to take you around. Overall, we prefer to read up on sites prior to visiting and then to explore on our own as our kids like to keep it moving, but to each his own!
4. Eat at Michelin Star Raan Jay Fai
A few weeks before our latest adventure to the city, we were flipping through Netflix and came across the show, “Street Eats.” As you might guess from the name, it’s a show about some of the most delicious street food in the world brought to you by the same folks that did “Chef’s Table.” Of course after traveling around Southeast Asia for the past couple years we couldn’t ignore what gold this mini-series might hold, so we did what any curious family would do and dove right in. The very first episode couldn’t have been more perfect as it featured non other than: Bangkok! Raan Jay Fai, originally a street food hawker, now has a restaurant complete with Michelin Star. Needless to say the restaurant quickly moved up our list of places to visit.
Flash forward to our visit… as we strolled up to the restaurant, you could see Jay Fai cooking off to the side of the restaurant with her giant goggles and flames. WOW!! This was actually happening! And then, we made our way to the hostess stand…only to read the sign “Fully Booked Whole Night.” Yup, apparently the restaurant now takes reservations and is no longer a walk up sort of gig (*Insert devastated face here*). We walked away after watching the chef herself for a bit cooking up delicious concoctions. Kicking myself a bit for not making a reservation earlier, but then again we had just heard of her, so couldn’t be too upset I suppose. Anyway, now you know, the secret is out thanks to Netflix, so make a reservation as soon as you know you’ll be in Bangkok!
If you’re curious, we walked next door to Tim Mansion Poshtel for dinner instead (the kids and Dom were starving!). It was pretty good, but I’m sure didn’t hold a candle to Raan Jai Fai. Details for Tim’s Place are below just in case you (like us) need a backup, although we thought the food/drinks were a bit overpriced for what they were. Additionally a couple doors down from Tim’s there are a small bunch of street food vendors setup some with some wicked long lines. Just depends on what you’re in the mood for and whether your littles need a guaranteed place to sit for a bit. But if you make it to Raan Jai Fai could you do us a solid a let us know about your experience?
Raan Jai Fai:
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 1400 – 2400
- Admission: Entrees between 800-1500 bhat
- Reservations: 092-724 9633 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Mansion Poshtel:
- Hours: Nowhere to be found, sorry! To be fair, I would only use this place as a last resort if your plans at Jai Fai fall through.
- Admission (obviously menu prices vary, but we’ve listed a few items below so you have a general idea):
- Smoothies: 60 bhat/each
- Large Chang Beer: 100 bhat/each
- Calimari: 150 bhat
- Thai Coconut Soup with chicken: 100 bhat
- Green Curry Soup with chicken: 100 bhat
3. Visit a Floating Market
There is no denying that when you visit southeast Asia visiting a floating market needs to make the experience list. It’s just one of those iconic things you read about and although they’re a bit touristy (some more than others) “touristy” doesn’t always mean “bad.” You read me? Although we like to get off the beaten path a good bit missing out on all “tourist” places would equate to missing out on some of our most favorite travel experiences (Vietnam’s Halong Bay is a great example!).
There are numerous floating markets in the Bangkok area to pick from, and despite traveling through Bangkok multiple times, we can’t give our take on all of them. However, we can tell you why we picked to visit Taling Chan!
Taling Chan is a bit more off the heavily traveled tourist path, as more visitors tend to venture to Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa. This makes for a somewhat less crowded atmosphere with prices sometimes being a smidge better, too. Additionally, it’s located close to the center of Bangkok (~12km) making it very accessible. So, if you’re looking for the experience of a floating market, but not willing to have it eat up a lot of time this is a nice spot to pick.
The market is small and very manageable, so it won’t take you long to navigate from one end to the other (read: don’t budget too much time for this stop). As you meander through the market you’ll pass various stalls selling all sorts of delicious, colorful, and inexpensive food (I think our whole family filled up for the equivalent of $10 USD), as well as a variety of souvenirs. After you pass through the main walkway, there is a gathering of small traditional wooden boats floating in the water loaded down with produce and sellers waiting to fix you up something delicious. So yes, come hungry and be prepared to indulge in #allthestreetfood while listening to traditional Thai music!
- Hours: Saturday and Sunday 0800 – 1700
- Admission: Free
2. Enjoy the Evening at Ratchada Train Night Market
Night markets and Southeast Asia…the two just kinda go together. Ratchada, albeit a bit crowded, is one of our absolute favorites in Thailand (maybe runner up to Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Market). So many street food options, so many vendors, and some killer views to boot! So grab yourself a Chang beer and enjoy the market place by strolling through both pop-up and permanent vendors. When the crowd becomes a bit too strong for your comfort (or heck, if your just over being jostled about) head into the parking garage. That’s right, take the stairs up to level 4c and cash in on some great overhead views of the place!
Ratchada Night Market:
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 1730 – 0100
1. Visit Wat Arun & Wat Pho (+ snag a Thai Massage!)
Yup, I realize this is cheating because we are shoving three things into one, buuuuuttt they are in very close proximity (especially if you take the ferry between the two). Temples in Bangkok are historically significant as well as absolutely stunning! Start at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) exploring the beautiful courtyard and intricate towers and then take the ferry across the Chao Phraya River (towards the Wat Pho side). Dating back to 1782, the temple is universally known as one of the more beautiful temples in Thailand. It is one of only six highest class Thai Royal Temples, and is correspondingly one of Thailands most referred temples.
The ferry “terminal” is only a few steps from the temple entrance, and the fare is cchhhheeeeaaappp, so why not? There will be a person right before you board the ferry who you pay and then off you go. Not complicated at all. The ferry will literally just cross the river and dock on the opposite side. Here disembark and you’re basically at Wat Pho.
Wat Pho wasn’t nearly as busy as the Grand Palace, but it certainly isn’t a “hidden gem,” so don’t expect to be exploring on your own here. If you’re interested in getting a massage (they have what has been referred to as the “Harvard of Thai Massage Schools”), we recommend swinging by and putting your name on the list as soon as you get through the gates. Then taking the wait time to visit the reclining Buddha (15 metres tall, & 46 metres long!) and beautiful surrounding courtyard. Be prepared to take off your shoes before entering, and make sure to keep those pesky shoulders and knees covered.
Swing back by a bit later and grab that 30 minute Thai Massage for 260 Bhat (~$8usd). You won’t regret it! While you’re out exploring the grounds of the 250 year old temple (which was renovated in ’82) take the time to go through all the little pockets and seek out all of the details. We loved how both temples were so intricate!
Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn):
- Hours: 0800 – 1800 (last ticket sold at 1745)
- Admission: 100 baht
Ferry across the Chao Phraya River (towards the Wat Pho side):
- Hours: Not posted anywhere, but we would assume about sunrise to sunset. There were a good amount of locals as well as tourists using the ferry.
- Admission: 4 bhat/person (she only charged us for 3 people, so not sure if kids were half price or what), you pay right before boarding the boat.
- Hours: 0800 – 1200
- Admission: 100 baht/Adult, Free/Children
- Guides are available at the entrance for hire for ~200 – 400 baht. This is usually negotiable depending on how many people are in your group and how strong your bargaining skills are. We opted to wander around on our own.
Of course you should also try to hop aboard a tuk-tuk as well while you’re here, but we figured that you probably wouldn’t be able to resist the urge and would do it anyway hence why it didn’t make the “top 5.” Have fun with the drivers and make sure to bargain hard! Head on over to our One Day in Bangkok write-up for tips on how to negotiate (with a smile of course)!
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