I spent a week in Bangkok before moving onto Phuket. Bangkok was my first destination and arrival point into Southeast Asia. Over the week, I compiled a list of tips to see Bangkok in luxury while taking in the culture & avoiding scams. This is easier said than done!
Overall, I had a wonderful time in Thailand. I was there during the start of Monsoon season, which was actually quite nice as I enjoy the rain. My itinerary was a bit fluid with the exception of one vital resource – Internet access! I work remotely full time while traveling and having fast LTE access on my Verizon iPhone and strong WiFi at hotels is vital to me. Of course, I go to experience local culture, cuisine, stay in luxury and enjoy talking with the people who live in my chosen destination. Avoiding scams is paramount too. This photo below is of my “work station/desk/table/eating area”!
I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok hotel, a lovely spot with a terrific table to eat and work on, fantastic accommodations and a very nice, friendly club. I stayed on points, my favorite way to stay in hotels. My review of the hotel is in another post!
From Bangkok I made my way to Phuket by air and then cut that trip short, leaving to go to Singapore before flying back to the United States. You can read about why I left here if you like.
A few things you will notice right away in Bangkok and about the Thai people. They are very quiet. Despite intense traffic (worse than NYC), no one honks. Ever. People are polite. They appreciate kind gestures and will return the favor.
Tips to see Bangkok in Luxury While Taking in the Culture & Avoiding Scams
It sounds like an easy enough goal… take in the culture, stay in a nice hotel and avoid scams. This is essentially my travel list everywhere I have the opportunity to travel to. The last part, avoiding scams, wasn’t so easy in Bangkok. Taking in the local culture was a bit more difficult too due to the language barrier. While I’ve studied many languages, Thai hasn’t been on my list. Although you will quickly pick up a few words. Check out this Yahoo site which has a few to learn easily. Locals usually appreciate if you can say a few words in their native language and Thailand is no different.
Part 1.. Luxury
My first goal was luxury. The hotel was phenomenal, which I will write about in another post. That was easily done. Uber is not so prevalent in Thailand, but Grab is the alternative and works very well. I recommend downloading the app before you go. If your hotel offers an option to have someone pick you up at the airport, walk you through customs and take you to the hotel, I recommend doing it. For 3000BAHT, I was able to quickly move through customs, have my luggage handled after flying 22 hours, and get right to my comfortable bed. Email the concierge ahead of time to see if they offer the service.
This was the driver I had from the airport into the hotel.
Avoiding Illness in Thailand
To help avoid issues while traveling, I did get vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid and got up to date Tetanus vaccinations. I also had antibiotics with me in case of stomach issues that lasted beyond two days, recommended by my doctor. I recommend you discuss these issues with your physician before heading out. All the luxury in the world is useless if you spend your time over the porcelain throne.
Part 2.. Taking in the Culture
Taking in the culture goes beyond just seeing local or tourist sites, but involves spending time talking with the people in the local region. I found doing this in Thailand more difficult than in other places due to the intense language barrier. I used my Google Translate app to ask questions and try to talk politics, but locals didn’t show much interest in doing so. This was very different than my trips to the Middle East, where people are happy and eager to talk shop. I ended up going to most of the Buddhist temples, talking with the few locals who wanted to engage and taking in the fascinating shopping.. which as it turns out, is a locals activity also. Although it isn’t quite as “local” as I would have liked.
Part 3.. Avoiding Scams
When walking into the Temples, you will find and run into endless cams. From Tuk Tuk drivers that want to take you to jewelry districts instead of your stated destination to dozens of locals telling you that the Temple is closed for a special holiday and they can take you somewhere else fun (a gem shop or a tailor), scams are endless. My recommendation is to just say no and walk away. The hotel concierge said that if any Tuk Tuk driver is willing to drive you for less than 200 BAHT, he is being paid by a gem dealer and avoid him. Another scam which my travel partner fell victim to was handing a money exchange company $200US, only to be given the equivalent of $100US in Thai BAHT. He didn’t notice at first, but when he went to pay for things he realized he had been cheated out of $100US. My companion went back to the exchange who said that he had only been given $100US. The clerk clearly pocketed the other $100. Lesson learned.. count your money. He’s relatively inexperienced in international travel and wasn’t really paying attention.
Things to Do in Bangkok
There are a lot of things to do in Bangkok to see Bangkok in Luxury While Taking in the Culture and Avoiding Scams.
- Shopping, regardless of whether local markets or luxury designers like Chanel and Prada are your flavor. Local markets and shops will bargain, but the shop owners like to have the last word. Let them – walk away and they’ll often make you a final, better deal which you can accept. I started at one third of the price they were asking and usually ended up about half of their original asking price. The designer shopping in and around the Hyatt hotel is superb, so if you like to shop at these types of places, bring your piggy bank.
- Massage! Who doesn’t come to Thailand for massage? Here is the thing though. I am a massage junkie. Thai massage is mostly performed by unskilled, untrained workers. While you’ll pay about $6-10 US for an hour massage, it’s a $6-$10 massage in my opinion. Every day (of a two week stay) that I was in Thailand I indulged in Thai massage, and only one was a decent one. The spas, albeit far more pricey, were no better. If you want a quick press of the back (and possibly the spine and other areas that shouldn’t be worked on), this may be your thing.
- Temples.. and lots of them! Bangkok has some incredible temples that you should take a day to see. The hotel concierge was right when he said you can see Bangkok sites in a day. While I had booked a week, I left after 5 days and would recommend 3-4 days. If anyone tells you that a temple is closed, completely ignore them. It is a scam!
Overall, while I enjoyed being there, Bangkok is not on my list of places to return to. For me, this was a one-time trip as an upscale traveler. I much prefer Singapore and look forward to exploring Hong Kong soon. You can see Bangkok in luxury while taking in the culture & avoiding scams but it’s not as easy to do in other countries in my opinion.