How To Spend A Day in Bangkok

“Behind a bend… the entire town of Bangkok appeared in sight. I do not believe that there is a sight in the world more magnificent or more striking; this Asiatic Venice…”

Ludovic Marquis de Beauvoir

As the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok is one swarming, electrified, confused hub. No matter where you are, there’s always something going on, and it can be difficult to know what to do if you only have 24 hours in this introduction to Southeast Asia that has been described as an “attack on the senses”.

10am

Embrace Heights

Bangkok isn’t a city that has an iconic skyline like Paris or New York, but that’s not to say it’s not worth the climb. If you’re especially motivated (unlike me), then I would recommend setting your alarm for 6am to catch a breathtaking Thai sunrise. Or, alternatively, if you’re like me and jet-lagged out of your mind, sunset does the trick as well 👌

11am

Practice Your Bartering Skills

Make like the tourists and catch a tuk-tuk to weave through the zig-zagging streets of Bangkok. Although the tuk-tuks here aren’t as crazy as they are in Cambodia, it’s nevertheless an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

There isn’t a set price for a tuk-tuk ride, and you will be expected to barter with the operator to determine a price. As someone who hates being assertive with a passion, I had been dreading this ever since I set foot off the plane. For the most part it went without a hitch, but I’m not going to lie; being a young and unaccompanied white woman in the middle of Bangkok definitely draws attention to yourself, and there were many times tuk-tuk operators tried to take advantage of me. When I rejected the exceedingly high price one requested, he gestured towards my wallet and made a rude comment about me being a rich white tourist. I tried to explain to him that I don’t just carry around wads of cash in my pocket, but it was no use. In times like those, you just have to walk away and trust in the fact that there is always going to be someone else just down the road who will take you where you want to go without trying to scam you of all your money.

3pm

Recline with the Buddha

There’s countless places you can wile away hours of your time in Bangkok, but if you’re looking for somewhere cultural, I would highly recommend paying a visit to Wat Pho. Located by the river in the Old City, Wat Pho – or Temple of the Reclining Buddha – used to be the first public university in Thailand with specialities in religion, science and literature.

As it’s name suggests, Wat Pho features the gold-plated reclining Buddha that measures a whopping 15 metres tall and 46 metres long. 46 metres! I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. Also be sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees; it is a sign of respect in Thailand not to expose skin in these areas whilst in sacred places.

8pm

Explore the Asiatique

Just a nifty ten-minute (and free!) boat ride down the river from Saphan Taksin BTS station lies the Asiatique. This riverfront bazaar is the ultimate night fusion market. There are more restaurants and shops than you can count, with different live performances on offer to entertain you every night. If you’re looking for some retail therapy, then you’ve come to the right place; with over 1,500 boutiques selling everything you can imagine – and for prices that seem too good to be true – you’ll be shopped out before long. Even if you’re not the biggest spender, it’s certainly an experience to simply meander through the warehouse and take in all the sights.

Don’t forget to buy a ticket for the ferris wheel to see some stunning views of Bangkok lit up at night, and if you’re looking for something a little bit quirky, why not book in a session at the fish spa? Wallow in a small tank whilst flesh-eating fish nibble at your toes for an eccentric Thai experience. If your excuse not to do this is that you’re too ticklish, then don’t worry – if I can stick it out for 15 minutes, then so can you!

11pm

Expand Your Palate

If an evening at the Asiatique hasn’t exhausted you, then finish off your day by dropping by some street food stalls on the way home. After all, who doesn’t a love a sneaky midnight snack? Thai street food is dotted all over Bangkok, and vendors operate well into the night. I’ve had some of the most succulent fresh fruit I’ve ever from these stalls, including fruit with names I can’t even pronounce.

If you’re feeling adventurous (or still adrenalised from the fish spa), then this is the best place to expand your palate and try some bugs. Yes, you heard me right: bugs. Grasshoppers, beetles, worms, crickets… you name it. Oh, and don’t worry – they’re seasoned.

If all this talk about eating bugs has whet your appetite, then don’t forget to check out 5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (And 5 Foods That Won’t). Also, feel free to give my Thailand Vlog a watch if you need some more convincing on how incredible this city is.

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The Number One Thing To Do In Siem Reap That’s NOT Angkor Wat

Don’t get me wrong; Angkor Wat is unbelievable. But if traveling has taught me anything, it is that if you really want to experience a place, you’ve got to go behind the scenes. And for our time in Siem Reap, that meant…

Quad-bike riding.

Yes, you read that right. Dirty, smelly quad-bike riding.

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Arriving in Cambodia earlier that afternoon, I hadn’t known what to expect from the country. Having traveled around Thailand and Vietnam for the previous three weeks, I had borrowed ideas from the more rural provinces and improvised somewhat, but there were still a lot of blank spaces left to my imagination. As we drove from the airport to our hotel, it quickly became apparent that Siem Reap — a resort town in northwestern Cambodia — was no Bangkok. Siem Reap was rustic and relaxed; a breath of fresh air after the commotion of it’s Southeast Asian siblings.

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Cambodia also saw a friendly return of the tuk-tuk. We had farewelled the tuk-tuk culture in Thailand earlier in the journey, and had been less than satisfied with the cyclo experience of Vietnam. We were picked up in a tuk-tuk from our hotel and arrived at the Quad Adventure base five minutes later with wind-swept hair and knuckles whitened around the edges of our seats. If I had thought Vietnamese traffic got the adrenaline pumping, then I was in for a surprise.

You know something is going to be good when the first thing you do is sign a form stating that the company is not to be held responsible in the event of any injury acquired as a result of the activity. After signing our liabilities away, my travel companion Poppy and I were each assigned a guide to teach us how to operate our quad bikes. Having spent a considerable amount of time on farms as a child, the controls felt natural to me. After donning a motorbike helmet and face mask to scare away any potential Insta-worthy snaps, we were unleashed into the countryside of Siem Reap.

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With our guide in the lead on a motorbike and Poppy bringing up the rear, we were off! My butt three feet off the seat as we bounced over potholes and puddles, we streaked along the red pathway out of the township and into the provinces. The village life was an experience in itself; you’d pass open shacks furnished with the bare necessities, and yet the inhabitants would be sitting there, playing on an iPhone. It was the most bizarre, juxtaposed thing.

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And then there’s the temples. I’m not talking about the commercialised temples you’ll queue behind a hundred other tourists to see in Thailand. I’m talking about the quietly resplendent works of art you’ll find nestled in thickets in the Siem Reap countryside. Their  modest nature drew me to them, and I found myself wanting to learn more about their history. Unfortunately, my burning questions went unanswered. That’s the difference between a quad bike guide and a tour guide; the former is merely concerned with getting you from point A to B.

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The Siem Reap locals were one of the unexpected focal points of the trip – especially the children. On every leg of our journey, kids would be running alongside us, waving fanatically as we passed. Every time you waved back, their faces split into enormous, gleeful smiles. At one point, Poppy strayed from the track and I had to pull over and wait while our guide circled back to find her again. I amused myself with a posse of kids who ran over and decided to make friends. Their English wasn’t perfect and my Khmer was non-existent (to demonstrate the embarrassing extent of my knowledge, let me confess that I just had to google what the official language spoken in Cambodia is called), but we still managed to introduce ourselves.

Between them, the temples and the cattle – seriously, if I had a dollar (or Cambodian riel) for every time I stopped to take a picture of a cow, I could probably afford to take the quad bike tour all over again – I was falling in love with this lesser-known side to Siem Reap.

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Last but not least… the sunset.

Now, there’s a reason why the tagline for The Ginger Passports is ‘honest travel blogging’. I don’t want to propagate any illusions here. When we embarked on this tour where experiencing a highly-acclaimed Cambodian sunset was the anticipated highlight, I had my expectations. I imagined psychedelic hues painted across a sun-kissed sky like something out of a Baz Luhrmann film… but alas, was disappointed. Maybe I take our gorgeous New Zealand sunsets for granted, but the close of day in Siem Reap – or at least the one we experienced – fell slightly short of it’s mark.

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Expectations aside, when we finally pulled back into the Quad Adventure base an hour and a half later with aching backsides and stiff knuckles, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. Or the red dirt from every crack and crevasse in our bodies. But that’s another story.

4 Tips for the Quintessential Quad Bike Experience

  • Only go as fast as you find comfortable. In saying that, don’t sit on your guide’s tail the whole way. Don’t insist on passing them either; it’s not a race to the finish line! It is remarkably easy to take a wrong turn (see Poppy), and your guide knows what is a safe yet adrenalised pace.
  • Don’t wear your Sunday best. It will get caked in red dust, and you are not going to receive any sympathy when you complain that your $100 boutique top now needs dry-cleaned.
  • Don’t feel like you have to wear the visor on the helmet or the face mask. Both are purely designed to shield you from any unwanted dust on the road, but depending on factors such as the weather and/or traffic, this may not be an issue. Aside from the fact that the face mask makes you look as though you are entering a quarantined area, you’ll probably find them redundant. I personally found the visor to impair my vision, and tolerated the little dust that there was so that I could see clearly.
  • Be prepared. If you intend to bring a camera, make sure you have somewhere to store it when you need both hands on the handlebars. I had to get creative when I realised I had no pockets to keep my camera in when I got on the bike; and believe me, it’s not a pretty sight to have to fish it out the front of your pants when your guide offers to take a photo of you *insert eye-roll emoji here*

Stay tuned for my upcoming Cambodia vlog, which will showcase footage from the quad biking experience. To ensure you don’t miss out, follow The Ginger Passports to get email notifications when new posts are published. Or alternatively, subscribe to my Youtube Channel to receive updates when new videos are uploaded. I’ll see you there!

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