When planning six weeks in Asia, my partner and I quickly agreed that Thailand was somewhere we wanted to spend a lot time. One of my advisors in college was an expert in Thai Administrative Law and would go every year, so I had heard a lot about it. While I don’t celebrate Christmas, we did figure that spending it on a beach would be nice. So our initial plan had us in Bangkok for five days before flying off to Ko Samui. We quickly discovered that if we wanted to fly there rather than taking a full day to travel overland and sea, we would need to cut that down to three.
So while I didn’t spend a lot of time in Bangkok, the three days there taught me some things that may be helpful to friends traveling there soon for WordCamp Asia. I’m going to refer to prices in Thai Baht. Right now, it’s about 1 USD to 33 Baht or 1 Euro to 36 Baht.
Arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport – Cash/Sim Card/Taxi
There is some free wifi in the airport. I used the .@ AirportTrueFreeWiFi network. After you make it through passport control, you’ll be in the baggage collection area. There are going to be some ATMs and currency exchange spots while you potentially wait for a bag. You will absolutely want cash while you are here, you can’t fully experience Bangkok on credit cards alone.
Getting a sim card is super easy in the airport. I got TrueMove and it was 999 Baht for a month of unlimited everything. You don’t need unlimited, but I found it nice to not need to worry about connecting to wifi everywhere I went. You will need a local Thai number for things like Grab (Like Uber/Lyft), so even if you just do a cheap. You will need to hand over your phone and passport to get the sim card.
When you want to get to the city, it’s super easy to get a taxi. Just head downstairs to level 1 and outside. You will queue up and then use a screen to get a taxi lane. Walk to your lane and you are on your way. You will need cash for the taxi. You will also need to pay for the tolls. You’ll need to give cash to the driver so they can pay the toll. They may not give you change after the first toll and will instead wait till all the tolls are done. It was about 400 baht for me to get to my hotel, but I would have 1000 baht on hand just to be safe.
Chang, Singha, and Leo are all very prevalent (and very good) Asian lagers. It’s very common to get 620 ml bottles which is just shy of 21oz. You can get bottles in stores for around 50 baht and restaurants/carts for closer to 100 baht.
Craft beer is available, but it is much more expensive. Many beers were in the 350-400 baht range. Some were absolutely spectacular but many were run-of-the-mill and not that special.
Tai Soon Tung was a beer bar that we enjoyed. They had a number of quality taps and bottles and cans. In addition to local and regional beer, lots of good American and European options as well.
Beer sales are from between 11 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to midnight. That means no grocery store/7-11 runs in the middle of the day to get things for later on.
Mitr Brewery is a place we heard lots of folks talk about and wish we had been able to make our way out there.
Restaurants are fine, but a lot of the great food you will find is at carts. Jay Fai is the Michelin stared cart, but there is plenty of great food around her. If you like seafood, I hope you get to try a Crab Omelet. I encourage you to share dishes and go to multiple carts so you can try many things.
My favorite Pad Thai was at Pad Thai Mae Am. It sort of looks like a couple of carts at the edge of a garage, but the food is incredible. Save some room for sticky rice with mango.
A couple of things I got from carts to be on the lookout for: Spicy Seafood Salad, Fried Chicken, Fruit, and Omelets. You will need cash for carts. Tipping is not customary.
It’s legal, heck I would say it feels more legal than anywhere I have ever visited. You will be able to walk into many bars and buy a joint or buy some flowers. Expect to see lots and lots of flower and a very little edibles and vapes.
You can choose to drink tap water at your own risk, but bottled water is cheap. At 7-11 (and there may be more 7-11s in Bangkok than Starbucks in NYC), you can get 500ml bottles for 7-15 baht. Not all food carts have beverages, so carrying a bottle of water around with you may come in handy when going out to eat.
With my limited time, I didn’t get to sightsee as much as I would have liked, but I did really enjoy Wat Pho. It is 200 Baht to enter and you will need to be dressed respectfully (covered from knees to shoulders). You will also need to take your shoes off to go inside the temples, so you may want to wear shoes that are easy to take on/off.
If I had more time, the Museum of Contemporary Art was high on my list to visit. I also wish I made it to The Pips Cafe, but I’m a fountain pen nerd.
Words to Know
I don’t really know Thai and found that I was able to get around with English, but I still would encourage you to learn a few words. Thank You is “Kapuh Khun” and either Ka or Khra if you are female or male. Hello is Sawadknee, though it is also common to do a wai in which you put your hands together 🙏🏻 with fingers at nose level and do a slight bow.
Have fun and enjoy your time in Bangkok. Hopefully, these Bangkok travel tips help you get the most out of WordCamp Asia 2023.
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