I’m currently traveling through Southeast Asia and am quick to tell anyone who will listen why Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in the world. Still, there are many things I wish I’d known before my first visit to the Land of Smiles last year. So, I created a list of ten do’s and don’ts when traveling to Bangkok. I hope these tips and tricks will help make your visit to the City of Angels as incredible as the people and food of this stunning country.
Don’t Flush. Being able to flush toilet paper seems like a basic function of a toilet. However, in Bangkok, the septic system just can’t handle it. From dive bar to five-star hotels you’ll see signs that say “Please Don’t Flush”. So instead of wiping and flushing, you wash, wipe and toss. You will see a “bum gun” or bidet next to the toilet. Use that to wash yourself, then dry yourself with TP before tossing it in the trash bin in your stall. In some cases, there won’t even be toilet paper in the stall. There may be a roll outside the stall or you may have to BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper). I’m not going to lie, this process can take some getting used to and even I make the mistake of flushing on occasion.
Do Learn a Few Thai Words. One of the easiest ways to show respect while traveling in a different country is to learn the language. I’m not suggesting you become fluent, but learning simple phrases like “Hello”, “Thank You” and “Goodbye” will take less than ten minutes and the locals will more than likely appreciate the effort. There are plenty of language apps to choose from, but my favorite is Learn Thai. It’s free, user-friendly and lets you choose what you want to learn. From greetings and numbers to dates and times.
Don’t be surprised by the Dogs, Cats, Roaches, and Rats. As of 2009, there were over 300,000 stray dogs in Bangkok alone. You generally can’t walk down a street without seeing a stray dog or cat. And the urge to save every single one of them is real but unrealistic. But there are great organizations like PAWS Bangkok which has been providing veterinary health services, adoption programs and responsible pet ownership education in Bangkok since 2012.
Do Shop the Night Markets. There are tourist traps and then there are Night Markets. Night Markets are a must-see for travelers and locals alike. My favorite is the biggest in the world, Chatuchak. From food and fashion to furniture and jewelry, Chatuchak has it all. Only open on the weekend, Chatuchak Market is best at night. My first visit I made the mistake of going during the day and within an hour was running for cover and air-con because of the blistering Bangkok heat. When I ventured back after the sun went down, I saw that all of the locals (read: cool kids) wait until after dark to head here. Also, note that on Sunday in the same location is the JJ Market which is more like a flea market compared to Chatuchak where you can buy new items.
Shopping JJ Market
Don’t Buy Buddhas. Upon entering the country, you may see signs that say “It’s Wrong to use Buddha as Decoration or Tattoo”. As a Buddhist country, there is nothing more sacred than Buddha and nothing more disrespectful than tourists trivializing the religion. There are ways to learn about the culture and country while remaining respectful without purchasing items with Buddha on them. Keep reading to find out how.
Photo via 5000’s.org
Do Visit All the Wats (Temples) you can. Especially Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha) and Wat Arun. The Reclining Buddha is one of the grandest temples you’ll visit simply due to the size of the golden glistening Buddha. The property is also home to 1000 Buddha statues, 91 stunning Stupas and the first massage school in Thailand. To visit Wat Phra Kaew you actually have to visit the Grand Palace. So it’s almost like a two for one! Along with the Emerald Buddha which is surprisingly small, you’ll be wowed by the incredible intricate Chedis which stretch as high as the eye can see. Wat Arun glitters at night, so taking a river cruise at night is essential to enjoying this temple’s beauty.
The Grand Palace
Don’t use Uber get Grab. I wish I’d known to download Grab before I left the US. Grab is the cool, new and more affordable alternative to Uber. The best thing is you can pay with cash or a card.
Do Eat the Street Food. Don’t get me wrong, you should always beware of dodgy looking restaurants and food vendors. However, Bangkok is the street food capital of the world and you’ll be missing out on some incredible eats if you only dine at places with a table and a chair. My advice, go where the locals go. If there is a long line, it’s probably fine!
Pork on a Stick
Don’t Get into a Taxi or Tuk Tuk without checking Rome2Rio. I’ve read many posts that say you must insist that your Taxi or Tuk Tuk driver turn on the meter. But that’s easier said and notoriously hard to do. So instead, educate yourself. I use Rome2Rio to gauge how much my ride SHOULD cost then I use that knowledge to haggle and get the best price I can.
Do your Homework before you arrive. I can’t count how many times I’ve met a traveler unaware that Thailand’s King of 70 years recently passed away. Due to the King’s death, many things around the country have been canceled. Many clubs have been closed and there were times that loud music and alcohol were not allowed. The Full Moon Party was canceled in October and trust me, I get it. What’s better than dancing and doing drugs for days on a beach in Thailand? Not much! On the other hand, what’s more devastating than the person you considered a father passing? Nothing. So do your research, but most importantly, be respectful.
King’s Candlelight Vigil at JJ Market