So you arrive in Bangkok airport, yay! And you’ve had a restful 12 hour flight, ready to hit the ground running, yay! If you’ve got a long layover, it’s easy enough to get in and out of Bangkok to have some food and see some sites, luggage free.
I had read beforehand about a luggage storage at the airport for 100BHT (which is like £2) but couldn’t locate it so asked at Information and they sent me to the right place. The price is per bag, no matter what the size so try to consolidate as much as possible if your storing things.
Once you’ve dropped your stuff and maybe freshened up classily in the bathroom, follow signs for Airlink. This is one of the public transportation options which will get you into the city. Token machines are located at the entrance (and in English), you simply input where you want to go and it will calculate the price (from end to end was 45BHT so stupidly cheap).
I took the BRT airlink train (it’s handy to remember BRT to tell taxi drivers or ask for directions to the nearest station) to Itsaraphap and switched to the MRT train to get to Wat Arun in the western part of the city. Again the fare was quite cheap but if you’re taking more than three rides, it’s worth a day pass. Both the BRT and MRT give you fob tokens, you tap on the way in and drop the token on the way out. They aren’t very big so keep track of it!
On my agenda were some of the big sites including Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn, Wat Pho for the Reclining Buddha, and the Grand Palace. Starting at Wat Arun, it should’ve been a short walk from the station and there were some signs buuuut I got a little lost. Nothing to be worried about but you wind up in neighborhoods and small streets ha.
Eventually I made it though! And promptly had to put leggings on because the dress I thought was appropriate still showed me knees so had to cover up before they would sell me the 50BHT ticket. To be fair, I’m quite tall and I did see some women in flowy skirts where you could still see their knees but generally, need to have shoulders and knees covered.
From Wat Arun, there’s a ferry which will take you back across the river as Wat Pho is not far, as the crow flies. It took me some time to find the right dock as within the Wat compound, there are a number of boat tour companies. For the ferry only, you must exit the compound, it’s dock 4 but I couldn’t see any numbers exempt 1! The ferry is just 4BHT, definitely worth asking where it is if you can’t find it.
Next up: Wat Pho for the Reclining Buddha but there’s so much more to see than the Buddha. I had kept my leggings on so was allowed straight in here. They have water stations where you can refill your water bottles or with your ticket, you get a voucher for a bottle of water as well. The entrance is 200BHT and while their ticket office doesn’t give change, the ticket machine does. You frequently take off your shoes here so maybe leave the lace ups at home and opt for something easy to take off. I had read your toes must be covered but didn’t find this to be the case in the end.
On the map, the Grand Palace looks to be right next to the temple. Which technically it is. But it’s also surrounded by a giant wall and the visitor entrance is actually on the full opposite side of the compound. In direct sun, this felt like crossing the Sahara but it’s still just an easy 10 minute walk along a sidewalk and walled compound. There will be loads of vendors along the way offering to sell you appropriate clothes (I had removed the leggings at this point for comfort) or tours. The ticket is 500BHT which is what they were offering on the street but decided against it. Fun fact: your entrance ticket also includes a return shuttle trip to a museum of culture. I didn’t end up doing this but good to know to allow more time for this adventure!
There is quite a lot to take in at the Grand Palace as well so by the end, I was starving and luckily had read about a pad Thai restaurant that Meagan Markle recommended in an interview from years ago. I think I saw a clip on Instagram and that’s about it, I couldn’t even say which publication it was in. While I found the steeet it was on, I couldn’t actually find the restaurant because there were a few and they all had names in Thai. Ultimately, I went to a restaurant (which again, couldn’t tell you the name of….) where there seemed to be a number of business people on a lunch break and an English menu. It was definitely a win!
After lunch, I really didn’t have much on my agenda left so meandered to Khao San market. My friend says this street is famous from possibly the only Leonardo DiCaprio movie I haven’t seen, “The Beach”. It looks like it would be crazy fun at night but even in the day, there were lots of people hanging out in the bars watching football. So I took a little break (finally got some WiFi) and had a couple beers to enjoy the fact that I was here!
On my little WiFi break, I looked up other points of interest, deciding to go to Jim Thompson’s House to honor the American-Thai connection. This site was also quite near a BRT station to get back to the airport on time. To get to the house though, I took a bus blindly not knowing the cost. As with the train, it depends on the destination. There is a ticket person separate from the driver who asked me where I was going and collected my fare of 17BHT (I had read that it would be 10-15). You can get on any door, it seems, the ticket warden will come to you!
So all in all, it’s easy to check off some of the big sites in Bangkok in 12 hours without stressing about making your return flight. Since my flight landed at 6am, I was at the sites for when they opened around 8-8:30am and thus beat some of the crowds and could chill at lunch time. You probably can get some more sites in or some shopping as well but I opted for the slow and steady route and allowed time at the airport to recheck my bag (if you book separate flights, you have to recheck and security) but domestic security was very easy and quick.