How to make the most of a holiday in Thailand’s bustling capital city.
Plan your itinerary
Make sure you have an idea of which areas you want to visit before you go. For example, Bangkok is massive and a short trip will only let you do so much. Choose an area you are most interested in, and plan your stay accordingly.
Choose a hotel in a suitable area
Find a centrally located hotel with easy access to the city’s attractions. This is the best way to explore the city. Pick busy Sukhumvit if you are interested in shopping, nightlife and contemporary design.
Or alternatively staying close to the river gives you easy to the city’s cultural highlights like the reclining Buddha and Wat Arun.
Choose your budget.
Are you a backpacker? Bangkok has dozens of affordable hostels, and they tend to be in the slightly more interesting, gritty parts of the city. On the other hand, hotels along Sukumvit of course have better connections to the transport links. You get much more for your money out of the centre, and these areas come with the city’s most affordable places to eat. A luxury hotel will be comfortable but will put you at a distance from other travellers and can be isolating. Then again, staying in a dorm means less privacy and comfort.
How much do you want to do?
A day trip with careful planning can include, a visit to the royal palace in the morning, A floating island in the afternoon, then dinner and a show or clubbing in the evening, but you won’t have the energy to do that every day.
Are you here for the red light shows?
Then avoid certain areas and choose a place to stay with access to cheaper hotels, massage and go-go bars, such as Silom.
If you are on a family trip, think about the places which are suitable for children. Bangkok has parks, zoos, and resorts where children can play happily.
Take the time to learn the beginner phrases in Thai, making it easier to get around and be understood.
Earlier this year, Low-cost airline Scoot announced that they would start flying to Bangkok direct from Gatwick, the first time that the carrier has made such a long-haul flight leaving from a London airport.
You can now fly to Thailand from the South Terminal, avoiding the chaos, delays and stress of a journey from Heathrow.
I was very happy when I found a one-way ticket with this airline for the price of £407.
Scoot was established as the budget arm of the prestige airline Singapore Airlines and I was intrigued by the idea of a no-frills alternative to SAG. My experience was mostly positive with a few caveats.
This is one of the last scheduled departures from Gatwick, with only TAP (Portugal’s flagship) and Wizz Air making flights after this. So no wonder that the airport was mostly closed in terms of shops and bars by the time most people were checking in. Tip: buy something in advance unless you want to eat the really terrible food that is on offer at this time.
Flight departure time: 23.05
There is currently one weekly flight; depending on how popular the route is there may be more. For now, it’s clearly a service that is going to be well-used.
I managed to avoid standing around in the queue at check-in by finding a stand that was open at the terminal at 6pm. They were happy to print my boarding pass. I needn’t have worried about loading any luggage as the weight was under the max weight of 10kg.
Come half past nine, and most people were still queuing for check-in. A downside of a budegt airline that charges extra for checked luggage means most people were taking their luggage on board, also causing more queues to go through security and boarding the plane.
We queued up at the gate, where we we intructed rather rudely that we had to wear a mask, these weren’t employees of the airline but airport ground staff. There was a wait until everyone had their passports checked and then we were ready to board.
With people taking most of their luggage with them , there was a buildup of passengers waiting in the gangway, looking to stash their luggage anywhere they could. Staff were busy with boarding staff , so there was only so much they could do to help. Meanwhile, I took my seat in 13C and I was starting to wonder if the plane would ever leave.
The boarding process
The seat itself was fairly standard in terms of legroom but the headrest was not particularly pronounced and was hard to lean back in. It took an hour for the plane to be fully loaded and every one boarded.
In terms of inflight entertainment, you’re strictly limited to what you bring with you. In economy, you won’t have any screen. Suffice to say that if you want to browse the net, you need to pay them for that, even charging your mobile comes with a charge, no pun intended.
In all honesty, I wasn’t too disappointed by that, I was looking to get off to sleep soon after the plane reached cruising altitude. On the other hand, I could see my passenger feel that he was having to pay a lot in extras for using the wifi, charging his phone and then paying for a meal on board and drinks.
The flight was catered by it’s charming all Asian cabin crew, and most of the food is chosen when you make your booking. I was offered my food at midnight when they brought the trolley through, but then they gave me the option to have it during the second meal service ,this was an easy decision as I had already eaten a few hours before. The next morning, I was given my diner and I have to say it was really tasty and better than any of the options avialble on similar budget airlines.
Next I ordered coffee, which sadly was offered in a cheap poly-cup with no branding, as if to make up for this, they gave me a box of tiny but delicious cookies. Then when I clumsily set the cup on the floor, leaking most of the contents, I was given a replacement cup. Any snacks you buy can be paid for by cash or card. To be honest, I don’t think you can do this with BA. And even if you get change in SGD, its satisfiying to be able to use the leftover notes in your wallet .
The cabin crew
The staff are all quite young, and as I said before, exlcusivley Asian . I don’t mind this, to be honest it’s more authentic like this. The women in particular were beautiful, let’s not pretend that this doesn’t make a difference , it really does. I can forgive low level of entertainment if the staff are young, attractive and like their job. Staff on board were either Japanese, or Chinese, or perhaps from Singapore. But all were more than able to speak English to passengers.
The flight was a long and difficlut journey based on the length, the lack of comfort in the seat, and the fact that I was sat near small children. I can’t blame the airline for that last one, although it would be great if they could seat children a distance from most other passengers who just want to admire the ladies doing their work, stare out the window or make witty conversation. I would use Scoot for short flights, but going all the way to BKK in one long haul was a bit too much, especially in my crappy economy seat. Still, I arrived at my landing on time, and there were no other carriers making the same journey for a similar price. So there you have it. if you think you can withstand the lack of comfort, give Scoot a try for your next Thailand trip.
There are a lot of restaurants that can serve THAI FOOD, but most of it is kind of a watered down approach. I mean, I ate in Busaba about ten years ago when it was one of the first THAI Chains, and it was nothing special, but maybe if you’ve never been to Thailand, you’d enjoy it.
A lot of food in Thailand is eaten by roadsides, because the weather is so hot, people crowd around plastic tables and sit around for hours drinking and piling tables high with plates and bowls. Even when it comes to street food, you can get some really amazing food from vendors selling pork broths and skewers. Usually, it’s just one dish that they have been cooking for years and years.
Now you can find some good Thai food if you go to Giggling Squid , but if you want something that is reminiscent of the food they actually eat in Thailand, you can go to a wonderful Surrey restaurant. Chim’s avoids the cliched image of Thai restaurants, there are no plastic buddhas or elephant sculptures. It’s just a bare restaurant with minimal design, but everything has been carefully set up for you to really experience Thai food in it’s totality.
The first thing you notice when you get the menu is how varied the food is. Most people are familiar with Pad THAI and curries. And if you want them, you can get them here. I first tasted their food when I odered their Massaman curry over the grim lockdown period. It came studded with tender pieces of sweet potato that I at first ssumed to be lumps of fat. The curry had been simmered for hours to create a velvety smooth broth.
When I came to eat last Saturday, I was looking for the kind of food I wouldn’t be able to make at home.
A common idea about Thai food is that it is very spicy, but many of the dishes here are more subtle. Take the Isaan sausage, which is fermented and served with peanuts. It’s not fatty but it was still juicy, and it turned on its head the idea that sausages are cheaply made and processed.
I ordered Tofu Larb, because in the right hands it can be excellent. Rather than the overused Thai basil, it came with fresh mint, and red onions – a deliciously summery salad. I remembered that larb is a popular dish in some parts of northern Thailand and I meant to ask why they had used tofu instead of beef or pork, but I forgot to ask the server. After this healthy opener, I needed something richer to follow it. I ordered deep fried squid, because you have to order at least one seafood dish when eating Thai food. The squid came in some insanely sweet tamarind marinade that nearly broke out of the batter, but was awesome anyway. And I think this one had some grapefruit segments in, maybe because they couldn’t get any pomelo (it is a challenge to find the correct ingredients). By this point I was buzzing from the Italian chardonnay and the huge array of flavours, but I wanted more.
After reading the list of curries available, I was most interested in the Hinlay from Burma. It came in a blue china bowl decorated with roasted peanuts and fronds of coriander; I inhaled the fragrance of fish sauce and turmeric and my heart pounded in anticipation.
The curry itself was gloriously thick, but what stood out were the slices of caramelised plantain that studded the dish. Beside it I had a bowl of virgin white coconut rice that I used to soak up the curry…. One glass of Singha beer on draft and that was me done, in just under two hours I had tasted the real heart of thai cuisine and I had only tried a small section of the menu. I was going to have to return.
In the end, I went back two more times. Like a film that you re-watch to get more meaning, I wanted to see what else the kitchens could offer, and it turned out there were more surprises. Street food often means food that is drunk with alcohol, so I wanted to try one of their cocktails.
Tamarind Whisky sour put a spin on the classic and made an excellent accompaniment to my deep fried tofu. But on the third visit, I was most taken with the Thai Tea-rimasu. Not enough people appreciate how good Thai tea can be. Redder than Chinese tea, it’s often drunk in sweetened form with condensed milk and sugar. But here, they use it’s bright flavour in a truly brilliant dish that is in many ways nicer than a standard tiramasu dessert.
If you go to Chim’s, you get the sense of dishes that have evolved over time. But it’s nothing serious or boring, like a dish that people are too scared to adapt. The basic ingredients may not change, but each time you try the dishes you will get something new from them.