Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world: in the year 2016 alone, Thailand saw some 32.6 million visitors visiting their country. The appeal of Thailand has stretched far and wide: the country is most known for its hospitality, hence the moniker ‘Land of Smiles’. May it be Thailand’s Buddhist culture and temples, colorful nightlife, extensive shopping or amazing beaches, there is always something for you!
Good news to Cebu travelers: there are now direct flights four times a week CEB-BKK via Philippine Airlines 4x a week. Just like most countries in the ASEAN region, Thailand does not require Filipinos to have a tourist visa to visit.
Thailand is an easy four-hour plane ride away from the Philippines so there is certainly no excuse for you to miss Thailand–even a trip over the weekend is possible!
This article recommends an easy, three-day tour in Bangkok, Thailand and seeing the essentials on what the country has to offer.
Day 1: Go temple hopping around town
Thailand is a buddhist country with 95% of their population practicing buddhism, hence you can see Buddhist temples all over the city. The first day we decided to immerse ourselves with Thailand’s culture and religion and learn a thing or two about the Buddhist practice.
Most if not all of our stops for Day 1 have a strict dress code: don’t dress inappropriately, cover your arms, shoulders and legs. Most tourist attractions have a booth nearby to rent clothes to cover you up properly.
Do not make too much noise and don’t be too rowdy when visiting the temples to show your respects to those praying in the temple.
- Temple of the Golden Buddha
Wat Traimit or the Temple of the Golden Buddha houses the largest solid gold Buddha statue in the world. The 15-ft. Buddha statue is 83% solid gold, weighing 5.5 tons.
The story goes that the gold statue was covered with clay and plaster by the Thai monks several hundred years before in an attempt to hide it from the invading Burmese army. It remained hidden for two centuries until during the relocation of the statue in 1955, part of the clay chipped off and the gold underneath was revealed.
The Wat Traimit temple where the Golden Buddha resides is modest, by Thai standards–it may be small, but it is still just as impressive with its intricate design and architecture and definitely a must-visit for any first time visitor in Thailand.
- Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho Temple
Next stop is the Wat Pho, the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok. Wat Pho is a large temple complex with lots to see and do. If you have time, you can get a walking guide who can share more interesting stories and information about the temple.
What Wat Pho is most famous for is the large Reclining Buddha statue–it’s 46 meters long and 15 meters high with the whole statue covered in gold leaf.
The Reclining Buddha is a sight to behold, but it is certainly worth taking a look at the rest of the complex. Take lots of photos, take a leisurely walk, and learn a thing or two about Thai’s culture and history. You can even get a traditional Thai massage here.
- Option: Grand Palace
Although not in our itinerary, the Grand Palace is something you need to see while in Bangkok. So if you are given free time, I recommend you check this place out.
The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s most famous tourist landmark, it was built in the 1700s and was home to the Thai King and Royal court for centuries.
Like other landmarks we visited, there is a dress code for visitors.
At the Grand Palace you can find the Temple of Emerald Buddha, a buddha statue made of jade (not emerald).
- PM: Dinner by the river
In the evening, it was arranged to have our dinner by the riverside. The dinner was filling with amazing seafood and a great view of the river. We were able to see plenty of river cruises of all shapes and sizes–and was even lucky enough to catch a wonderful fireworks display. Thank you Sea Wheel for the memorable dinner!
The group decided to retreat early because we have an early start the next day.
Day 2: Floating markets and cultural shows
- AM: Damnoen Saduak floating market
The second day, we decided to visit Damnoen Saduak floating market, which is two-hour bus ride away from the capital. It is open from 6:30AM to 11AM only, thus we had to wake up early to make it to the market.
Thailand has tons of floating markets and have been a major port of commerce for centuries, when the waterways was the main means of transportation and economic activity. Nowadays, you can still find floating markets around Southeast and South Asia, e.g. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.
Riverside shopping is a unique experience in itself, hence I would like to talk more about our Floating market experience in a separate article. There are plenty of local goods you can buy here, but be warned: these floating markets operate mainly as a tourist attraction, which means they do business at tourist prices. Please haggle and start with 50% off their asking price!
While there, I opted to invest in the culinary experience by purchasing some pure coconut sugar, coconut ice cream and coconut pancakes. Thai food doesn’t use cream, dairy or cheese, but instead they use coconut milk, coconut curry and coconut sugar instead–in Thailand, they use coconut in everything!
I also enjoyed having some popular street food: Thailand’s green mango and guavas with salt and chili.
(Left: Guava with chili. Right: Coconut pancakes)
You also see some artworks, woodworks, Thai silk, clothes, accessories and other souvenirs for sale.
I was surprised to find some savvy businessmen who let tourists take photos with a tarsier and albino python for a fee. In Bohol, we are not even allowed to touch our precious tarsiers. I am wary about these kinds of tourist ventures–while it is tempting to get photos with these exotic animals, we should do our best to be responsible tourists… tarsiers are endangered animals and being exploited for tourism and trade. Tarsiers are nocturnal animals and especially are highly sensitive to sunlight, noise and physical contact. In fact, high stress can turn the tarsiers suicidal; with reported incidents of tarsiers jumping to their deaths. So please, take care of these freakishly adorable primates!
Anyway… the markets close at noontime, we decided to head back to the city. After lunch, some opted to do more shopping, while I decided to relax and take it easy for the cultural show at night.
- PM: Siam Niramit Cultural Show
In the evening we came to see Thailand’s famous Siam Niramit show. Let me just get straight to the point. I highly recommend everyone to see this!!!
At first, I didn’t expect much when the tour guide said we were seeing a ‘cultural show’–I just expected watching performers do traditional dances; nothing high production and nothing unusual. I was more excited about the fact that there was a buffet dinner included before the event.
Of course, buffet dinner was good, there was a good selection of both Thai and International cuisine.
Afterwards, we went in and saw a replica of a Thai village–complete with two real elephants who greeted us the moment we went in. There were also some pre-show entertainment while waiting for showtime.
30 minutes before the 8PM showtime, theatre doors opened and we were ushered into the theater. As soon as I got in the theater, I realized that it was going to be a wonderful high-production theater performance. The theater was impressive itself: a 2,000 seating capacity and a massive stage. This is going to be something!
And indeed it was: the Siam Niramit Cultural show was a whole new experience in itself. With more than 150 performers and 500 costumers to bring to life Thailand’s culture and history, Siam Niramit is one of the world’s biggest stage productions to date. It was a colorful and rich theatrical show that featured real elephants and animals, amazing sound effects, flying performers, extravagant stage design, and impressive sound score. We were transported back in time, to different places, and even to the other world of heaven and hell.
By the way, you are not allowed to take photos or videos during the show. Those who brought cameras are asked to deposit before coming in the theatre and collect it after the show.
This show is definitely something I would recommend to everyone to get to know the real heart and soul of Siam. The performance is something I would remember fondly for a long time; and if given the chance I would watch it again and again.
Day 3: Shopping and nightlife
Day 3 will be about indulgences: shopping and nightlife!
- AM: Shopping centers, night and weekend markets
Thailand shopping is amazing, definitely one of my favorite destinations especially when it comes to shopping for clothes.
When it comes to great shopping with plenty of choices and the best prices, I highly recommend going to three: MBK, Platinum and Siam Paragon. Night markets and weekend markets are also popular, such as the Chatuchak market.Amazing souvenirs include fruit soaps–the bestseller is the mango soap, but they also offer different fruits–the oddest scent being the durian soap!
You can also purchase all kinds of ‘haplas‘ or ‘tiger balm’–something that will definitely bring out the tita in you.
Also, my tour group is currently obsessed with the Snail White Whipp Soap, which is purportedly Kris Aquino’s skin secret as of the moment…
Other items you might want to get, in no particular order: fruit snacks, underwear (they’re very well-fitting!), harem pants and coconut oil and products.
- PM: Nightlife!!!
I can’t leave without a sample of Bangkok nightlife. I was curious about what Bangkok offers at night, as Thai nightlife is world-famous; almost notorious. The reputation of Bangkok was solidified by ‘Hangover 2’.
I’ve heard all the rumors about ping pong girls, razor blade girls, twins, lady boys… although I also heard from locals that the best, most insane party experience was not in Bangkok but in Pattaya.
My two guides gave me two options: Soi Cowboy or Khao san?
I knew some friends who lived and worked in Bangkok, so they decided to show me around. (Thank you, Marc and Mar!)
Funny thing: the last time I saw these two, I was Mark’s college student and Mar’s thesis defense panelist. Now they’re teaching me where to drink and party!
Of course I’ve heard about Soi Cowboy and its numerous go-go bars. However, we wanted a more chill and less extreme night, so we opted for Khao San. Khao San road is best described by ‘The Beach’–‘the center of the backpacking universe’. In this 1-km road you can find countless hostels, guesthouses, cafes, bars, shops and stalls that cater to the young crowd of backpackers, college students on their leap year, struggling artists and hipsters coming from all over the world (mostly from the west). I could see their eyes wide and curious; ready to share their stories on the road, ready to listen to yours.
It was fun to see all the youthful energy, drinking Chang or Beer Lao, and seeing peddlers sell all kinds of wares: from scorpion-on-a-stick to laughing gas.
One thing you need to know: the current Thai military government has been discouraging nightlife, establishing a curfew for bars to close at 2AM. If you’re expecting the stuff you’ve seen on Hollywood, you might get disappointed. The current government has made intentions to create a cleaner city–the once bustling roads full of roadside street food sellers and alcohol peddlers that would appear after midnight have disappeared. Military men start arriving at 1:30AM and bars had to close shop by 2AM. Knowing this, plan accordingly and start the partying early!
Our accommodations were also arranged by Grand Holidays and Sea Wheel, and we stayed at the four-star Century Park Hotel.
Century Park Hotel is located in the Victory Monument area, close to central Bangkok. Century Park Hotel is a great choice as it is easily accessible to shopping and tourist areas. The hotel is a 30-min ride away from the international airport, and you can easily get around the Victory Monument BTS Skytrain.
Hotel amenities include fitness center, pool, bar/lounge, airport transfers, and more. Check out their happy hour specials from 5PM-8PM. The room includes a free breakfast buffet for two.
Left: Poolside, Right: View from the hotel
So that’s the recommended itinerary for the essential Bangkok experience! Our Bangkok Package was organized by Grand Holidays Travels and Tours, our sponsor for the trip. You can book the tour with them and make it easy and hassle-free.
If you’re gutsy, you can also choose to DIY–but make sure you read my ” to Expect in Bangkok” article before you attempt to do it yourself.
Have fun and Enjoy Thailand!