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First Impressions Of Bustling Bangkok

by Meg · 42 comments

When Tony and I first started our RTW trip, we enjoyed writing up our “first impressions” articles on each city we visited…. Well, that didn’t last beyond Buenos Aires.  Caught up in the madness of travel, having so many other great things we wanted to write about, and just plain forgetting, we fell off the wagon of that article series pretty darn fast.

But then I travelled to Bangkok.

Southeast Asia always seemed so far in the distance of our RTW trip.  But here I was 7 months into our trip on a plane from Berlin to Bangkok.

On the plane to Bangkok, my mind was racing.  I had never been to Asia and had no idea what to expect.  The little tidbits that I did know about Bangkok came from watching episodes of Anthony Bourdain and The Hangover 2… Accurate or not, I was a little intimidated.  For me, Asia seemed like a complete sensory overload.

So what were my first impressions? How did my first four days in Asia (in the bustling hub of Bangkok) play out?


I was definitely right on Bangkok being a sensory overload.  At almost every twist and turn, there’s a street vendor selling random oddities (I have seen some weird foods to say the least!), tuk tuk drivers harassing you to ride with them, people driving like maniacs (you swear sometimes they are actually trying to hit you)… It’s pure chaos.

And you know what?

I kind of liked it.

Warning: Bangkok locals are known for ripping off tourists… Tuk tuk drivers, cab drivers, and random lurkers outside tourist sites are infamous for this. Don’t trust any of them that say the site you want to see is closed for the day…

Wat Pho Temple

Just be sure to do you research in advance so you know where to go (and what you should be paying) when you are out sightseeing.


Drink lots of water to combat the heat!

Prepare to get sweaty.

Bangkok is humid as hell and as hot as the Caribbean.  I learned quickly here that there is no point in taking a shower during the morning or daytime, because you are just going to need one 10 minutes later.

The only way to combat the heat is to pick lodging with air conditioning, drink lots of water, and consume plenty of yummy fresh fruit shakes throughout the day!

A smoothie a day keeps the humidity at bay… sort of.


Delicious Massaman Curry

Oh. My. Lord. The food here is good.

In fact, it’s mind blowing.

I have always been a fan of Thai food, but I now know that what I have been subjected to over the past 27 years has been “American Thai food.” You simply can’t compare it to the real deal.  And in Bangkok, the real deal typically costs only $1 USD per entrée.

Bangkok has an incredible street food scene, where you can eat anything from fried crickets to delicious pad thai.

However, if you have a little extra cash to spend, many people recommend checking out the legendary rooftop dining and bar scene for some great views of the city with your food & drinks.

Note: For all you non-adventurous eaters, Bangkok is good at catering to its tourists, so there is plenty of Western food options scattered throughout the city as well.


I’ll admit it.  Tony and I are an old married couple.

We are not big partiers and are completely content with our date nights spent at home (or in our hotel) watching TV shows and going to bed at the wee hour of 10PM.

But for those of you that like a big night on the town, Bangkok delivers. We stayed in a quiet neighborhood nearby the famous backpackers’ Mecca of Khaosan Road.

Insanity on Khaosan Road 

On a couple occasions, we ventured over to this crazy street to “people watch” and can vouch for the city’s lively nightlife.  Whether you fancy hardcore clubbing, a fruity cocktail at a beach shack-style bar playing live music, or a lady boy club, Bangkok has you covered.

We only spent 4 days in Bangkok, so I know my opinion on the city is limited… but I loved what I saw! 

Tony and I have since ventured to the remote island of Koh Mak and will be spending roughly three weeks here before our month-long house sitting job on the island of Ko Samui.  The island vibe in Thailand is much different from the madness of Bangkok.

While I loved Bangkok, I could get used to everyday life on the beach.

Your turn:  Have you ever been to Bangkok?  Love it or hate it? Please share below in the comments section.

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Lindsay August 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm

My first impressions of Bangkok were that I hated it. However, I was only there for a hours here and there in transit to other places in Thailand and Cambodia. Once I finally got to spend some time in the city (only 5 days), I fell in love! Your first impression were pretty much exactly like my second impressions. It is definitely a sensory overload, constantly. And the night life, while I am beyond my wild partying days, is certainly interesting and crazy no matter what day it is. And the Islands…well, if I could just move there and visit Bangkok every now and then, I would be a happy girl.

Meg August 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

Thanks Lindsay! I am glad you finally got to spend some time there. Even though we only spent 4 days there, I feel like we barely saw any of the city… There is just so much going on! And yes, the nightlife seems insane… But I prefer to be on the outside looking in!

We are on the island of Koh Mak now and then Ko Samui… Pure heaven!

Megan August 23, 2012 at 2:41 am

lindsay only enjoyed bangkok b/c she was there with me 😉 just kidding.

Meg August 23, 2012 at 3:31 am

Haha obviously…. Now Tony and I just need to coordinate a trip somewhere with you and Andre!

Megan August 23, 2012 at 3:32 am

yes yall do :) as soon as i find a job here in norway and can save a little money im up for anything anywhere.

Noah & Anne August 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Can’t wait to visit and try all of the food — well, maybe not _all_….

It will also be a nice change from Cusco, where the temperature has not gotten over 70F in the 6 weeks since we got here… Right now, we could use some heat!

Meg August 17, 2012 at 7:33 am

The food in Bangkok is marvelous! Some of the stuff they sell on the street looks suspect, but I imagine it probably tastes delicious. We are going back there for two nights in a couple weeks and I might be a little more adventurous with my street foods this time around!

I hope the weather in Cusco gets better for you! We loved it there. However, I read your most recent article and cringed at the picture of the everyday breakfast of pan, marmalade, and butter… oh the memories! My advice: Go treat yourself to a full American breakfast at Jack’s Cafe!

Joscelyn August 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

i went there many years ago, but i remember it was BUSTLING! not as crazy as you see in China and Vietnam, but definitely busy. i just remember there being so much color and ornate details on random things like gates and hulls of boats. the thai letters even appear ornate on signs. i remember the palaces peeking over the fences or climbing shrubery. my favorite thing was the floating market (just didn’t look too hard at the water) and the variety of vegetables and fruits and again the colors – fabrics, and little handmade jewel-toned or wooden goods. i remember sounds of traffic and street musicians, and haggling street vendors… did i remember correctly??

Meg August 17, 2012 at 8:20 am

I love everything about this post Joscelyn! Your memory is spot on.

The Thai letters alone were insane! They all seem so intricate… I kept wondering if people in Thailand write in Thai as fast as we write in English. Each letters is so detailed it seems inpossible!

And yes, the colors are all so bright, especially the palaces. I found myself trying to hop up and down as we were passing each palace wall so I could get a glimpse of what was beyond it.

The floating market is only operated during the weekends and Tony and I were only there Monday-Friday so we never got to see it (tear!), but I hear it is the #1 thing to do in Bangkok. We did however venture to a local market, and we had a blast perusing the stands and eating at the food stalls with all the locals.

The streets are pure chaotic, and you swear there are no traffic laws the way people drive!

The street vendors definitely haggle haha…. And wooden trinkets that play music were always being sold.

Great memory :-)

Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 August 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

You know I love the city in a completely chaotic, delicious food, attack on my senses sort of way!

Keep posting about the food and I’ll keep salivating over the thought of the spicy goodness :)

I’m interested to hear about your time on the islands… we went to much more touristed islands and didnt love it (ofcourse the beaches were beautiful), but I wish we had gotten off the track a bit and visited one of the smaller islands like you are doing!

Meg August 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Yeah Bangkok took me by surprise because I normally hate chaotic cities… Bangkok has a little charm to it though! Although, I think all the delicious spicy food was the winning ticket to my heart. I love it when a meal is a workout… It’s not good unless you sweat, am I right?!

Alexandra August 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Why am I not surprised that you found the fruit shakes so quickly! I miss the bags of cut up watermelon and pineapple for 10Baht. Did you try green papaya salad for me yet?

Meg August 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Yeah fruit shakes are my new favorite thing… I love that they are just straight up fruit with no dairy or sugar added! And yes, I tried Papaya salad the other night per your recommendation. It was life changing! soooo good

Steph August 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm


Meg August 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Oh they are coming! I think an entire article on the Thai food is in order :-)

Bethany ~ twoOregonians August 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

That Massaman Curry looks AMAZING. Now I’m so stinking hungry for Thail food…

I’m glad to read about your first impressions. I feel a few of the same nerves – landing in Bangkok next month will be my first experience in Asia, and I’m not sure what to make of all the rumors. Glad to hear you and Tony enjoyed your time and then made it out to the beaches. Can’t wait to see more!

Meg August 20, 2012 at 2:27 am

Yeah the food in Bangkok is unbelievable… Especially if you enjoy spicy food. Just because it is so crazy, I feel like Bangkok is a place you either love or hate so I will be curious to see if you and Ted like it. How long are you there for?

Bethany ~ twoOregonians August 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm

We’re still deciding, actually. We fly in on the 22nd, and I’m not sure how soon we’ll head out. We depart from Bangkok, too, so there will always be time later on… I’ll be curious to see if we like it, too 😉

Vicky August 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Cannot wait for Thailand!! We leave for our backpacking trip in less than a month (eeek) starting out in Japan but eventually we’ll make our way to Thailand and I am SO EXCITED for the food! I love to cook, especially anything with Asian flavors (lemongrasss, ginger, red curry paste, coconut milk – I’m there) so I can’t wait to eat all the different authentic Thai dishes for once!

Meg August 21, 2012 at 12:23 am

I am so jealous you get to visit Japan! Just watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episodes on Japan is reason enough to visit!

The food in Thailand is pretty awesome. Plus, they really don’t use dairy or wheat, so you feel like you are being somewhat healthier when you pig out on all the yummy Thai dishes! 😉

Keep us posted on your travels to Japan – So excited to see how your 2-year RTW goes!

Vicky August 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

I have not yet set Anthony Bourdains No Reservations on Japan but it may be a good way to get really excited for the trip right before we leave! Though Japan is super expensive and doesn’t really go along with our whole budget backpacker theme we figured that who knows when we’ll make it over to that corner of the world again so since we’ll be in the area why not splurge and start off the trip with uber efficient and modern Japan! Hopefully we won’t regret this!
I am so excited for the food in Thailand! With everything I’ve been reading about how dairy is essentially bad for you (casein not properly broken down bv the human body) I am looking forward to dairy free Asian meals!

Meg August 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Wtaching all the re-runs of Anthony Bourdain is all Tony and I did the month leading up to our RTW. We wanted to go to Japan, but it definitely didn’t fit our budget… I guess there is always next time! We started our trip in Santiago, Chile and definitely went over our intended budget. It takes awhile to get into the budget backpacker lifestyle, so some splurges in the beginning is perfectly normal!

Thailand is wonderful – you will love it! And since I have been separated from dairy for going on 2 weeks now, I am starting to think that I am slightly lactose intolerant. Who woulda thunk? But I will always sacrifice my health for a good bowl of ice cream and some high quality cheese every now and then 😉

Vicky September 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

Oh since we are starting in Japan we seem to be starting in splurge central! We are trying to find couch surfers though to at least lower our accommodation costs but Dave has contacted over 50 people already and all have declined so far! Keeping our fingers crossed still! I have definitely heard of people going off dairy or gluten products for a little while and starting to notice that they feel a lot better, so even if it;s not a full blown allergy it could be a slight intolerance! Haha and yes high quality cheeses are the BEST!

Meg September 6, 2012 at 12:36 am

Let us know if you have any luck with couch surfing. We found that its harder for couples to find places as opposed to singles doing couch surfing. We just use Airbnb and Roomorama to find apartment rentals in the places we travel to. We this cheaper for two people than hostels, where you pay per person as opposed to paying for just one room.

Vicky September 6, 2012 at 9:58 am

Will definitely let you know – so far no luck! For how many night at least do you stay in a place when booking through Airbnb and Roomorama? Do you find places to stay there if it’s just for one night -or is it easier to just with a hostel if it’s not an extended multiple night stay?

Stephanie - The Travel Chica August 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

I don’t know if I could deal with the chaos, but I would love some of that food and those pretty views.

Meg August 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Yeah… I think the food actually saved the whole chaotic mess side of Bangkok. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have liked the city. But what is not to love about a city that serves up delicious Pad Thai on the street for $1 a plate?!

Carlo August 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I love Bangkok! Its one of those places that you either love, or love to hate in my opinion. While in Asia last summer, through one thing or another I ended up in Bangkok no less than 5 times and stayed a combined total of 15 days there.
For me, its got all you mentioned above. But I can see why some folk hate it there.
Thankfully I don’t have that issue :)

Great website guys. 😉

Meg August 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm

We heard that India is also a place that people either love or hate because of the noise, dirtiness, chaos, etc.

Tony and I always though we would fall into the “hate” category, so we decided to skip visiting India during our RTW. But after visiting Bangkok and loving it’s insanity, I may have to reconsider India!

Callie August 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

Yay, it’s great to read some first impressions. Berlin to Bangkok must have been quite the change!

Meg August 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Oh it was. Berlin was such a lovely city and seemed very chill and livable… Out of all the cities we traveled to, it was the city we felt the most home in. Bangkok had the EXACT opposite effect, but I loved it all the same!

Megan August 23, 2012 at 2:40 am

haha…oh bangkok. there are so many things a person can say about that city but really just saying the name says it all.

im glad you enjoyed the city from the start. personally, it took me FOUR times there before i fell in love with it. when i was there the first time i knew i thought it was okay, but almost too much for me (and i stayed out of the city a bit in lumphini area) coming from quiet scandinavia. my goal was to just stay a day or two and end up back there but i stayed 5 and i still have no idea why. so secretly something in me was intrigued by the place :)

cant wait to see more on your thoughts on the city or just in SE asia in general soon!

Meg August 23, 2012 at 3:39 am

Thanks Megan! Yeah it was pretty overwhelming for me too and totally not in synch with my laid back style… but for me, the amazing food saved it and I was only there a few days. I am not sure how much I would like spending long term there!

Adam September 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

I fell in love with Bangkok right off the bat as well: http://travelsofadam.com/2011/03/first-impressions-of-bangkok/

Meg October 19, 2012 at 4:49 am

If someone described Bangkok to me, I would probably hate it, but experiencing it with my own eyes (ears, nose, taste buds!) made me fall weirdly in love!

Rikki October 19, 2012 at 4:06 am

Loved your impressions of Bangkok! I was wondering if you would recommend your hotel and provide the name. We leave in a week for Bangkok and I’m so nervous/excited!

Meg October 19, 2012 at 4:53 am

Thanks Rikki! Not sure what your budget is like but we were on a budget and stayed in a very affordable hostel that we actually loved (I think it was like $11 USD per person/night for a private room). It was on a quiet street within walking distance of great sights and Khaosan Road, had clean rooms with A/C, a friendly staff, WiFi, and a decent breakfast. It was Sam Sen Sam Place. Here’s the link:


Rikki October 19, 2012 at 5:35 am

Hi Meg,

That sounds perfect! We’re on a pretty strict budget but don’t want to stay in the party area of Koh San Road. Being close by but out of the way is exactly what we’re hoping to find.

Can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures!

Meg October 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

Glad I could help Rikki! If you’re in the area, also check out May Kaidee’s Vegetarian restaurant right down the street. We are not veggies ourselves but the food there is so darn good! Must try the Spring Rolls (non-fried were our favorites) and the Mango Sticky Rice… And any of the curries!

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