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Our time in Bangkok was very limited. We only had a half-day to actually explore the city, before our 4pm flight to Phuket. Fortunately, we found a private, guided tour through WithLocals to visit the famous temples and markets of Bangkok. We booked the tour to be sure we would see all of the best stuff in our limited timeframe. Our tour guide, Artty did such a great job showing us around and keeping us laughing all day!Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit
After a full day touring Ayutthaya and learning about Bangkok’s early days, we were excited to visit the city itself! Before heading out, we grabbed some breakfast at our hotel (the ALoft Bangkok Sukhumvit). Their breakfast buffet is incredible! The hotel itself is pretty sweet too, with a swanky, modern feel and a rooftop pool. It’s an insane value at only 3,000 SPG points per night!!
After breakfast, we walked two blocks to the MTR station to catch the train to Hua Lamphong Station. The train system is very simple to figure out. After a couple minutes, we arrived to meet Artty. We got to the meeting point a few minutes early, and he was already there waiting for us with a huge smile! Artty is a super-fun tour guide with a very upbeat, energetic attitude. He knew we had limited time, so he kept the pace quick to make sure we saw everything we could! As we walked to the first tour stop, he was already laughing and telling jokes.
First on the itinerary was a visit to Wat Traimit, the home of the giant golden Buddha. The wat itself is beautiful, with white outer walls and golden rooftop spires. We removed our shoes as we walked inside to view the enormous, solid-gold Buddha statue. Artty told us that an accident actually led to this golden Buddha’s discovery! Originally believed to be a regular, plaster statue, this Buddha sat un-noticed for years. However, when someone tried to move it, it fell and cracked, revealing gold underneath the plaster. Weighing in at 5.5 tons, the statue is worth approximately $250 MILLION, at today’s price of gold!!
Leaving the wat, we crossed a few streets and arrived in the heart of Chinatown. As we walked, Artty explained the odd food items we saw for sale. The two craziest food items we saw were shark fins and birds nests (two for $1,500!) Yeeeeahh… no idea… We passed many seafood merchants, fruit stands, and a very popular soup restaurant. I would have sampled some things, but I was still full from breakfast.
Next, we walked through the street market district of Chinatown. I can only describe this as the most crowded, hectic, narrow, random flea market that I’ve ever seen. We walked down a few narrow alleyways, lined on both sides with bustling shops. In Chinatown, you can find just about anything you could want… clothes, handbags, fragrances, toys, hats, electronics, shoes, luggage, souvenirs, etc. The whole area was absolutely packed with people from around the world and buzzing with energy.
Pak Klong Talad – Flower & Fruit Market
The next stop on our tour brought us to Pak Klong Talad Market, the most famous flower market in Bangkok. This flower and produce market has been open 24-hours per day for the past 60 years! We strolled through the brightly-colored bouquets of all kinds of flowers, and we watched as workers created their arrangements. As we passed by the fruit stands, Artty would pick up a few samples for us to taste. The smells, tastes, and colors of this market really make it memorable… we even met a friendly cat!
Temples Along the River
We hopped onto a local passenger boat to cross the Chao Phraya River and visit some temples along the west side of the river. The first one we saw was a very old, partially-burned Chinese shrine, with bats living inside. Next, we walked to Wat Kalayanamit to perform a fortune telling ritual and ring the giant bell. After that, we walked through an active monastery to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), an ornately tiled temple. Artty told us that some of the decorative tiles on the temple came from broken porcelain on vessels arriving from China.
After Wat Arun, we took a boat back across the river to Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Here, the main attraction is a 46-meter long statue of a Buddha in the reclining pose. We took some pictures with the statue and explored the complex for a while. Artty also explained that Wat Pho is the home of Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced at the temple.
Tuk-Tuk & Boat Ride
We really wanted to ride in a tuk-tuk during our visit to Bangkok, but we heard drivers can be untrustworthy. Artty found a tuk-tuk for us, and he stopped the driver from overcharging us! He negotiated the price down and even scolded the driver for trying to charge tourists too much… Awesome! The ride was fun, as we wound through the busy streets to the commuter boat ramp.
Hopping out of the tuk-tuk, we climbed onto a local commuter boat to navigate the canals, back to the train station. From the boat, we could catch a glimpse of how people lived along the water. Many of the houses seemed to be built from whatever items could be salvaged nearby. When we arrived at the train station, Artty made sure we found our train before saying goodbye and wishing us well on our travels.
We had a great time running around Bangkok’s markets and temples with Artty. He gave us a perfect sampling of the local transportation and a glimpse into what life is like outside of the tourist areas. Whether you have a few days or a few hours to explore Bangkok, I highly recommend booking one of the tours offered by WithLocals. Make sure you request Artty for your Best of Bangkok Tour! If you sign up through our link, you can save 30 Euros on your first WithLocals tour!!
This post is part of our Around-the-World Series.