Where to take your guests in Bangkok
(published first in Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style Magazine)
by Mandy Smith
It’s exciting, but it’s a small dilemma: Your family is traveling from abroad to see you in Bangkok, and they assume you to know the best places to visit like the back of your hand. It’s sweet to be considered an expert—but maybe you’re not, really—and the pressure is on. What will you do? Where will you take them? Here are 12 suggestions, in no particular order, to help you appear to be the tourism aficionado your guests suspect you are.
1 The Ancient City
Perfect for history fans and appropriate for a family day trip.
$$ Where else can you see all 77 provinces of Thailand in just a few hours? The beautifully manicured grounds of The Ancient City sprawl across 320 acres mimicking the land-scape of Thailand. You’ll see miniature replicas of Thailand’s greatest architectural landmarks as you bike or ride through the park. Take a guided tour or simply spend the day meandering at your own pace to discover more than 110 traditional Thai monuments, temples, pavilions, shrines and buildings in a geographically correct arrangement. Highlights include the floating market and the recreated ancient ruins, where you can climb hundreds of stairs to enjoy breathtaking views when you reach the top!Tip: Bicycle rental is available for those craving adventure. If you have elderly grandparents or small children in tow, you can hire a golf cart to drive.Getting there: Less than an hour from downtown Bangkok. Taxi or private car is your easiest route. Or take the BTS to On Nut and catch a cab for the last 30 minutes.
296⁄1 Sukhumvit Road, Bangpoo, Samut Prakan 10280
2 Night Bike Tour with Co Van Kessel
Great excursion for fit young adults or teens.
$$ A three-hour bike excursion may leave you sore the next morning, but fatigued muscles are worth the view of sights you’d never normally see in hectic Bangkok. As the sun sets, experienced bike guides lead small groups off the beaten path and onto the backstreets of Bangkok’s working-class nightlife. Explore nar-row neighborhoods. Dodge weary vendors pushing carts home from work. Follow the trail along the Chao Phraya waterways reflecting the sparkle and shine of the bustling city, and pass by the illuminated Grand Palace. Conclude the tour with a walk through the night flower mar-ket, where throngs of wholesalers prepare for the next day. The exotic blooms are sold for a fraction of the price you’d pay at the local florist.Tip: Hydrate before this one. And consider wearing padded bike shorts!Getting there: Tours depart from Chinatown and explore the Thonburi area. See covankessel.com to book.
3 Snake Farm at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute
Not for the faint of heart, but boys tend to love this outing
$ This outing is not for you if you go weak in the knees at the sight of scales. But, since Thailand is home to 60 different species of snakes, it’s not a bad idea to know your stuff. Based inside the Red Cross, the primary purpose of the farm is to create antidotes against snakebites. Morning exhibitions allow you to see milking of snake venom, which scientists use to treat potentially lethal bites. Enjoy a walk through terrariums and en-closures where you can get close—almost too close!—to cobras and chrysopelea. In the afternoon, there is a snake showcase of a wide range of reptiles professionally and carefully handled. Wrap up the day with the option to hold a 12-foot python, if you’re so inclined.Tip: We suggest taking a backseat in the tiny amphitheater for the snake show. It’s not necessary to be in the front row for this kind of performance!Getting there: The Snake Farm is adjacent to Lumpini Park (Silom).
4 Fantasia Lagoon
$$ This newly refurbished waterpark perched atop a shopping mall is relatively unknown to the expat community and substantially cheaper than Siam Waterpark and the like. Beat the heat with refreshing water play only a short drive from the city. Fantasia Lagoon boasts a massive splash pad for the little swimmers in your bunch, and the more daring can run off steam by climbing up thrilling slides and squealing their way down. Mom and dad, meanwhile, can float around the lazy river on inflatable tubes. The adjoining mall has a plethora of food options and indoor activities when you’re waterlogged and ready for some air conditioning.Tip: Bring sunscreen and your own towels. You will be required wear a swim cap; bring your own or rent one at the park.Getting There: The Mall Bangkae, 275 Moo 1, Petchkasem Rd. Phasicharoen Bangkok 10600
5 Longtail Boat Tour on the Chao Phraya
Good family outing, if there are enough adults to help kids on and off swaying platforms.
$$ Here’s a chance to put your negoti-ating skills to good use: You’ll need to agree upon a price with a private long tail boat driver before board-ing the ship and seeing the sights of the river. They may try to charge you per person, but it is not impossi-ble to get a group aboard at upwards of 1,500 THB total for an hour tour. Not your typical river cruise, a long-tail ride will give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of those who live on the Chao Phraya with makeshift homes built on stilts over the water, wom-en doing their laundry in the river and young boys fishing for dinner. Veering off the main waterway into the narrow and bustling khlongs, this is an opportunity to witness a way of life unfamiliar to many foreigners.
Tip: Pack your camera and your hand sanitizer.
Getting There: Departs from Saphan Taksin at the Chao Phraya River
Appropriate family outing or a fun adults-only evening
Free. Skip the night markets and choose a classier option for souvenir shopping with your guests from out-of-town. Dozens of industrial pavilions make up this boutique style night market with twinkle lights illuminating the pathways and hundreds of stalls to browse and scores of vendors with whom to barter. Catch the free boat shuttle from Saphan Taksin BTS sta-tion to Asiatique at sunset. Dine at any number of mid-range bars and restaurants and take a ride on the en-closed Ferris wheel with a spectacu-lar view of the river and city lights at night. Shop ‘til you drop, then relax with a 10-minute fish foot spa for a truly Thai treat.Tip: The market is open from 5:00 pm to midnight.
Getting There: Asiatique is a short boat ride from Saphan Taksin BTS