Thailand was never in our 2020 plan. We decided we would dedicate the year to exploring our country, India. Just like my first-ever abroad trip, Thailand was a result of one of Pramod’s surprises.
As things turned out to be, we kick-started the year doing what we love – travel. It was a short and sweet trip. The idea was to make full use of the free visa on arrival Thailand was offering to a few nationalities including Indians. Since it was going to be a budget trip, Pramod booked only cabin-baggage flights. We were going just for three nights and four days, so we thought it was the best time to backpack and that meant, we would avoid paying for the check-in baggage.
Thailand is the 50th largest country by total area, so you can imagine how much it has on offer. From mountains, beaches, architectural beauties to pretty streets, Thailand is a gem for backpackers.
With so little time in hand and so much to explore, we restricted our trip to just Bangkok and Pattaya. We did that reluctantly as we had no other choice. We made Bangkok our base and took a day trip to Pattaya. We chose to do this despite receiving better reviews about Pattaya than the capital city. After making our hotel booking, this thought struck us – why did we take a room in Bangkok and not Pattaya? We just left the thought there and continued planning for the trip but with zero expectations about Bangkok.
It was for the very first time when there was no excitement in the lead up to the trip. It was as if, we already had made up our minds that we would not enjoy Bangkok.
Our terrible experience at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport further played with our minds. At least I was already regretting the trip. Flashbacks from our previous vacations (Sri Lanka, Maldives and Malaysia) kept hitting me and I was like,’ why did we even pick Thailand, forget Bangkok?’
Fast forward four days – I HAD NEVER BEEN SO SAD LEAVING A CITY! These capital and bold letters will express my strong feelings about Bangkok in a better way. The city has taught me an important lesson – don’t judge a place by what others say, go explore and make your own assessment. This could be a vital tip in the long-run for any traveller.
Before the trip, I was told Pattaya is prettier than Bangkok because of its beaches and natural beauty, while Bangkok is just about the party streets and is also dirty. Well, that’s not quite true. Bangkok is one of the cleanest cities we have seen so far. You will hardly hear any honking (unlike Pattaya). Our hotel was in the crazy party street – Khao San Road – and you know what the best thing about it is? When you wake up the next morning, the street is spick and span. Everything is fresh and new the next day – this, after the parties go on till 3 or 4 AM or even beyond that.
Yes, Pattaya has the advantage of offering you the beach life, but in general, we found Pattaya’s roads and streets to be ordinary. Bangkok clearly won in the case of being the more attractive of the two, at least for us. It was way more reasonable with better connectivity.
Once again before a trip, we did a thorough research and made an itinerary. We got some decent feedback on Instagram about the places we chose to visit in Thailand. The best comment came from a friend – “You have shown me absolutely the other side of Bangkok than what I have seen in other people’s travel guide.” That really made my day!
Here we bring you our hits, flops and misses from Bangkok and Pattaya:
Asiatique Waterfront (Ferris wheel), Bangkok
We kicked-off our first evening by taking a ride in the gigantic Ferris wheel situated at Asiatique, the River Front. It offers stunning views of Bangkok city and the Chao Phraya River. You are given a cabin of yours as you just sit back and enjoy the aerial view. After the ride, you can go around the rest of the place. Bangkok is known for its night market and Asiatique is like a more organised night market that allows you to experience shopping in a mall and a night bazaar on the same premises.
It has several boutiques, fancy restaurants and loads of street-food joints. Plus, it is also one of the stops of the famous Chao Phraya River’s dinner cruises.
While it was my first Ferris wheel experience, Pramod had experienced it in Hong Kong a few years ago. “Hong Kong was a lot better in terms of the views I had got,” claimed Pramod. For a first-timer, I was not disappointed.
Ferris Wheel’s price per adult: THB 400
Asiatique’s timings: Mon-Sun, 4 PM to 12 AM
Thai Massage at Khao San Road, Bangkok
I will keep this short: Just don’t return from Thailand without taking a Thai massage. Pramod got a back massage and I enjoyed a half an hour’s foot massage. The room was so peaceful with an amazing fragrance. There is a fun way to get a massage too. There are several outdoor massage setups in Khao San Road and the street adjacent to it, Soi Rambutteri.
We saw so many people enjoy a foot massage, with a beer in their hand, as they admired the well lit and lively surroundings. It was a shame we did not experience that.
For half an hour massage, we paid THB 180 per person.
Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun is easily one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok and a major landmark of the city. It sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Its unique design puts it apart from the city’s other temples. It is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and as it stands majestically over the waters makes the view even better.
You need to take a ferry to reach Wat Arun. The ferry stop is situated in the lane, right opposite to Wat Pho (Wat in Thai means temple). They charge you 3 THB. Several blog posts and articles state that women need to keep their shoulders and knees covered and choose their clothes accordingly. However, that is not true. There are no such restrictions at Wat Arun. We had even read that footwear is not allowed inside the temple. That’s not true as well.
Entry ticket: THB 50 per adult
Timings: Mon-Sun, 8 AM to 5.30 PM
Khao San Road and Soi Rambutteri, Bangkok
These are the names of party streets of Bangkok that are situated at a walkable distance from one another. If we had a great time in Bangkok, it’s solely because of these streets. By party streets, don’t get a wild or a gross picture in mind. I had never felt so safe in a crowded place before. It was super jam-packed but there was a sense of safety. There were enough officers patrolling around the streets. Nobody bothered one another. Our hotel was located in the middle of Khao San Road. While many questioned about the location in concern, we have no regrets.
In fact, we would suggest you do the same as well if you want to cut off from the outside world for a couple of days and just soak in Bangkok’s positive vibes. We saw all age groups in those streets. From toddlers in prams to young children vacationing with their parents to couples spending some quality time to families that had super cool grandparents – yes, we experienced a city full of life.
When you feel like escaping the noisy Khao San Road, you can always walk to Soi Rambutteri. It was easily the most beautiful street I have ever been to. As you walk further, the ferry lights and the decorations just get better and the street gets prettier. In this street, you can actually have a proper conversation, unlike the Khao San Road. There are SO MANY small bars and cafes in both the streets. I kept count and we ended up going to 11 of them! There are several stalls and shops for souvenirs shopping as well.
Sanctuary of Truth, Pattaya
I had finished watching the third season of Spanish crime series, Money Heist just a few weeks before our Bangkok trip. In one of the episodes, two main characters (Tokyo and Professor) met each other at Sanctuary of Truth and right there I had made up my mind to visit it.
Carved entirely in teak wood (without any metal nails), Sanctuary of Truth is easily the most iconic structure in Pattaya. It is believed to be a hybrid of a temple and a castle that is dedicated to philosophy, art, culture and faith, without being tied to a single religion.
The magnificent structure, overlooking the Naklua Sea in North Pattaya, is a gem for photography lovers.
Entry ticket: THB 500 per adult
Timings: Mon-Sun, 8 AM to 6 PM
Silverlake Vineyard, Pattaya
If you ask me my highlight of the whole trip, then that would be a tie between Soi Rambutteri/Khao San Road and Pattaya’s Silverlake Vineyard. We landed in the vineyard majorly for one reason – my obsession for windmills and as soon as I saw there was a place in Pattaya that had pretty mills, I convinced Pramod to take me there. Like every time, he agreed.
It was a task getting there considering the poor connectivity in Pattaya and expensive cab fares.
Considering Pattaya is a coastal area, the weather in the afternoon was pretty humid and hot. But, as we got closer to our destination, the weather got better. If you want to experience the European countryside in Pattaya, just head to Silverlake. A variety of grapes are grown from which white, red and rosé wines are produced. You are given a tour of the vineyard in a cute electric tram. It stops at four points, where you are given 10 minutes to click pictures.
The place is incredibly beautiful. We visited it in the evening and saw the place soak in the wonderful colours of the sunset. We will never forget the views of the vineyard with the wooded hills, a large lake and the 130m-tall golden Buddha image of Buddha Mountain on the backdrop. The European-style buildings, fountain, classic statues, windmills and colorful flower gardens make Silverlake a must-visit for a pleasant experience.
Entry ticket: THB 180 per adult and THB 140 per child (includes one free bottle of 25% Grape Juice) or THB 250 per adult (includes two glasses of wine tasting and one free bottle of 25% Grape Juice)
We ended our Pattaya’s day trip by spending our evening at the famous walking street. If you are aware of your surroundings and are alert, then we don’t think you must hesitate to visit such places. After this trip, we have realised how much people exaggerate about things. You must definitely visit it for the vibe.
By flops, we only mean in terms of money. In this category, I have included only one place.
King Power Mahanakhon, Bangkok
Bangkok’s second tallest building, Mahanakhon sure has become a great attraction among tourists in the city. It offers to you spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of the city and also gives you a chance to walk on one of the world’s largest glass floors. There are two levels: 74 and 75th floor which are the observation decks and 78th floor – the rooftop which has the glass floor.
The experience was great but certainly not worth THB 880 per adult. We wouldn’t have a flop section here if they at least included a welcome drink from their stunning rooftop bar in the price we paid.
Here is the list of places we wanted to visit but couldn’t for whatsoever reasons.
Bangkok: Neon Night Market, Chatuchak weekend market, Wat Pho, China Town and a dinner cruise on Chao Phraya River.
Pattaya: Koh Larn (Coral Island) and floating market.
To find out more about our Thailand trip, click here