HGAT Guide to Bangkok

Thailand
by HGAT | 27/01/2017
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GETTING THERE

Getting to Bangkok entails a 11.5 hour direct flight from Heathrow via British Airways and Thai Airways. As we were stopping over in Dubai for a few days on the way back, it made sense for us to fly by Emirates which involved a 2 hour stopover on the way there, so altogether a 14-hour journey from LHR to BKK.

WHERE TO STAY

Landing in Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), it took us 35 minutes and a 500BH uber ride to get to the St Regis located on Ratchadamri Road. Thankfully, the check-in was swift and within no time at all, our butler showed to our room where she had organised a birthday surprise for me: balloons, flowers, cakes, the works! Oh, I loved this place already.

St Regis Room
St Regis Room
St Regis Bangkok Red Velvet Cake
St Regis Red Velvet

We had booked the Grand Deluxe room where they had a view over the city skyline and the Royal Sports Club.

St Regis Bangkok Bedroom
St Regis Bed
St Regis Bangkok Bathroom
St Regis Bathroom with a view!

The breakfast buffet was vast, halal (woo!), and even better was the beautiful view. The buffet was well-equipped with fresh juices, pastries, fruits, and hot foods.

St Regis breakfast
Freshly Baked Croissants
St Regis Bangkok
View from St Regis Breakfast Room

The St. Regis was a lovely hotel and we really enjoyed our stay there. The staff were very accommodating and were happy to lend a helping hand regarding directions, tourist stops, and restaurant bookings. The only caveat was that it was located quite far away from some of the main attractions, but the direct hotel access to the BTS made it easier for us to get around.

St Regis Bangkok Lobby
St Regis Bangkok Lobby

WHAT TO SEE

One of the must-dos in Bangkok (well, Thailand generally), is to visit their outstanding temples that are dotted around the city. Every temple is unique and so beautifully detailed that you’ll most certainly be in awe. 

Military Defence Building bangkok
Military Defence Building Bangkok
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Just outside the Grand Palace

Our first stop was the Grand Palace in which the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is also located. I suggest making this your first stop as it closes at 2:30pm. We paid a fee of 500BH each and were given access to the temple, palace, and the small museums inside the complex.

One of the court rooms at the Grand Palace
One of the court rooms at the Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is the most popular attraction in Bangkok, and where the King, royal government, and his court resided until 1925.

Wat Phat Kraew
Wat Phra Kraew

Wat Phra Kaew is known to be the most important and sacred temple in Thailand, and is home to the Emerald Buddha statue.

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We then did a short walk over to Wat Pho which is home to the glorious reclining (and largest) Buddha in Bangkok – a whopping 46m long and 15m high. The entrance fee is 100Bh per person.

Reclining Buddha Wat Pho
Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

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On the second day,  we decided to visit the famous floating market of Bangkok known as Damnoen Sadauak. The market is located about an hour from the city so we hired a taxi driver for the day to take us there and back.

Unfortunately for us, the taxi driver did not have our best interests at heart, and took us to a boat company which charged us a whopping 2500BH per person for a tour around the floating market. Unsure what the usual price was, yet relieved to have found a place that didn’t have the longest wait, we hesitantly paid up and got on the boat. Turns out that it actually costs 2000BH PER BOAT; we had been ripped off by more than double the amount!

Damnoen Floating Market
Damnoen Floating Market

Despite BW being conned, the floating market was an amazing experience! Your rower will take you down a body of water where you are surrounded by numerous stalls lined up alongside the water edge, and also cute little old ladies selling you goods from their boats. Well, they’re cute until they grab a metal pole and drag you towards them, but there is such a vast array of ornaments, magnets, rugs, etc, you won’t leave empty handed!

Damnoen Sadauak
One of the many vendors

Other things to check out if you have enough time is the Wat Arun Temple, Wat Traimit Temple, a sunset cruise down Chaopraya river, a Thai cooking class, try catch a Muay Thai fight, and definitely look into getting a Thai massage!

WHAT TO EAT

The first thing everyone says to you when you ask about food in Bangkok is “street food”. It’s cheap, delicious, and there is so much variety that you’ll never have the same thing twice. What they don’t tell you is that the hunt for halal street food is beyond tedious, and what we thought would be an easy task became frustrating very quickly.

Nevertheless, we made the most of the being in Bangkok and headed down to Chinatown , locally known as Yaorawat, where they are notorious for their outstanding seafood street food stalls.

Chinatown Bangkok
Chinatown Bangkok

As you walk down the busy street, you’ll come across an intersection where there are a crowd of people queuing up on both sides. One side for the red stall, Lek & Rut, and one side for the green, T&K Seafood. We ended up going for Lek & Rut, and this definitely was the type of street-food experience I was looking for: a no-frill, delicious meal whilst people-watching from the roadside.

Garlic Fried Fish w/ Rice from Lek & Rut
Garlic Fried Fish w/ Rice from Lek & Rut

A good-sized fish that had been fried with garlic and chilli to give an irresistibly crunchy skin and flavourful bite. It was a simple, straightforward dish but I couldn’t believe just how good the fish was. It was fresh, flaky, and the accompanying dressing made with garlic, chilli, lemongrass, and lime, was an outstanding dipping accompaniment. The house chilli sauces varied in heat and were great for also dunking the fish into.

Prawns Lek & Rut
Prawns from Lek & Rut

Unfortunately, we had made this a quick meal so did not order more, but make sure you opt for the grilled prawns, steamed fish, and tom yum soup to really get a feel of how good the food is.

Lek & Rut Seafood
Lek & Rut Fresh Seafood

If you’re on the hunt for authentic Thai but don’t fancy going completely street, there are many small local cafes found around the city, particularly near the temples, that serve up great food. I’m not sure how tourist-trapping they are, but we generally tried to avoid the numerous Italian-Thai fusions and found a cute Thai cafe next to the Wat Pho temple.

Prawns with Basil, Chilli, and Garlic
Stir-fried Prawns with Basil, Chilli, and Garlic

I opted for the prawns with chilli, garlic, and holy basil, but cooked to a medium spicy as I wasn’t ready to destroy my tastebuds just yet. Simple yet ridiculously good, but beware of those cheeky mini Thai chillies!

Thai Green Vegetable Curry
Thai Green Vegetable Curry

BW ordered the vegetarian green curry which had cubes of tofu cooked in, and I believe you not, he stated this was the best Thai green curry he had eaten. The total bill for this meal came to 170BHS so approximately £4.50, including drinks!

Thai Iced Coffee
Thai Iced Coffee is a MUST order!

I was under the impression that there would be a lot of halal options in Bangkok, and there are, but they aren’t obvious and require some research. As I mentioned earlier, finding halal street food stalls amongst other vendors is quite difficult and asking about “halal” or even “Muslim” will be met with a blank stare. But don’t you worry, I’ve done the hard work for you and have found several halal eateries that are listed below.

If you want to get a feel of the street food, head over to Ramakhamheang where there is a high population of Muslims. The night market, which runs from 5pm onwards, and the surrounding streets have up to 100 halal street food vendors so you will be spoilt for choice with the likes of buryani, noodle soups, and chicken hotdogs!

You will also find various clusters of halal eateries located in certain areas around the city. One location that came up frequently in recommendations was Little Arabia on Sukhumvit Soi 3; a stretch of halal Middle Eastern eateries, shisha, and numerous little shops selling ornaments and clothes. Another similar suggestion for halal food was Little India a.k.a Phahurat Market, and is just a short walk from Chinatown.

It is also worth asking beforehand if your hotel serves halal meat and if not, would they be able to do so for the duration of your visit. We were pleasantly surprised to find that not only do the St Regis serve halal, but many of the high-end hotels around the city have halal meat on their premises with certification readily available. Of course, I made the most of the halal options at breakfast.

Breakfast St Regis
Halal Breakfast at St Regis

For those looking for somewhere a little fancy or maybe celebrating a special occasion, that other half of yours will definitely be thanking you later at night 😉 with two of the top 50 restaurants in the world to chose from located in Bangkok, and both are halal. The first is Gaggan (no 27. and Asia’s no1), a modern Indian establishment, that has outstanding reviews but sadly, was fully booked until March. And Nahm (no. 37), a classic Thai restaurant, where I was able to snag a booking for dinner – it seemed like a great meal but you’ll have to read about it tomorrow!

Nahm beef with chilli basil cumin garlic
Wagyu with Holy Basil, Chillies, and Cumin Leaves from Nahm

And of course, you can’t not have a dessert whilst you’re out there.

Mango with Sticky Rice
Mango with Sticky Rice

Mango and sticky rice is an absolute MUST. Deliciously delectable mango chunks served with a sticky rice that has been cooked with sweet coconut milk, and then drizzled in a coconut cream – this was something I’ll always remember from my trip.

Coconut Ice Cream Thai
Thai Coconut Ice Cream

One I got from the old ladies at the floating market. Coconut ice-cream made using the milk from the coconut, and had been topped with a green pandan sticky rice, red beans, and crunchy peanuts. Another Thai staple that cannot be missed.

Fresh pomegranate juice
Fresh Pomegranate Juice
Thai Coconut Water
Humongous Coconut Water for 10BHS !

If you’re looking for something healthier, there are plenty of fruit street stalls dotted around Bangkok serving up fresh juices, fruit bags, and gigantic coconut waters.

Duriyan Chinatown
Duriyan Chinatown

And for those brave eaters, the infamous duryani out there is fantastic; creamy, mild, and doesn’t smell at all. A little hesitant to try it at first, BW finally caved into my peer pressure and was pleasantly surprised!

Alas, our short trip to Bangkok came to an end. Perhaps we could have stayed a couple more days to really explore what this vibrant, buzzing city has to offer, but I feel we had a good taster of the Big Mango. Plus, this was just the beginning of our fun Thai adventure and I cannot wait to tell you guys about our next stop, Chiang Mai, so stay tuned!

TIPS FOR BKK 

  • Book your trip at least three months in advance to make the most of their early-bird specials. We got 20-40% off all our hotels in Thailand.
  • The BTS is incredibly easy and cheap (from 15BH per person) to use, which is great for when you want to avoid the heavy traffic at rush hour.
  • If possible, I would avoid the Christmas period as hotel prices are inflated and the crowds are big!
  • Be sure to haggle when shopping; they’re happy to drop the price up to 40% off.
  • Take a photocopy of your passport with you to any landmark you visit as the security is high and will want to see a form of id.
  • Wear respectable clothing when visiting the temples. Men will have to wear long shorts and t-shirts, whilst women cannot show their shoulders or knees. You can rent a cover-up at the temple if need be. Also wear easy slip-on shoes are advisable as you will have to take them off when entering the temple.
  • Make sure your hotel gives you a card with directions to the hotel in Thai when you leave their premises. This will avoid any confusion when catching a taxi or tuk-tuk back.
  • Research the prices of attractions beforehand so you do not get ripped off like we did, or alternatively go with a tour group.

HOTELS in BKK 

—> St, Regis – 5* – Halal food available
—> Shangri La –  5* – Halal food available
—> Grand Sukhumvit – 5* – Halal food available in this hotel and is located near Bangkok’s Arab Quarter
—> Al Meroz – 4* – Very halal friendly hotel with no alcohol on their premises and segregated leisure facilities.
–> Nuovo City Hotel – 3*- Halal food available.

MOSQUES in BKK

–> Darul Aman
–> Bangkok Mosque
–> Tonson Mosque
–> Haroon Mosque

FOOD AREAS/MARKETS in BKK

–> Little India – Phahurat Market – Halal Indian food
–> Chinatown – Yaorawat – Great for seafood
–> Little Arabia – Soi 3 – Good for Middle Eastern and shisha
–> Petchaburi Road – Soi 7 – Plenty of halal street food stalls to be found here
–> Ramakhamheang – – Lots of halal street food stalls
–> MBK International Food Court – 444 Thanon Phaya Thai – Several halal eateries over here
–> Chaktuchak Weekend Market – Chatuchak – Halal stalls available

NON HALAL in BKK 

–>Lek & Rut – Yaorawat (Chinatown) – £ – Great for seafood
–> T & K Seafood – Yaorawat (Chinatown) – £ – Good for seafood
–> The Commons –  335 Soi Thonglor 17 – ££ – Various western cuisines and really cool place to hang out
–> L’Atelier Joel Robuchon – £££ – MahaNakhon CUBE – French Fusion
–> Zuma – £££ – St Regis hotel – Japanese

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    • Kulsum
    • 13/02/2017
    Reply

    Loved this post, my friend and I stayed at the St Regis too and loved it- we too got ripped off by a driver we booked for the day, he drove us an hour out of Bangkok to pay the 2500 entrance for the floating market and we got stuck in traffic on the way back, essentially lost 6 hours in total when all we wanted was to just go to the smaller central floating market within Bangkok. We found this guy literally right opposite the hotel though.

    • Hekena
    • 27/03/2018
    Reply

    This blog has helped so much, thank you! I’m going to bangkok next month and while I don’t mind eating veggie when there my partner couldn’t think of anything worse lol! We will defo be taking your advice on the halal food places and check out Little Arabia and Little India!

      • HGAT
      • 28/03/2018
      Reply

      Aw enjoy Bangkok! I’m dying to go back!!

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