When thinking of the best cruise destinations in the world, Bangkok may not immediately come to mind. But cruising to Bangkok with Azamara is another matter. In fact, we’d say it’s a downright ideal way to visit this fascinating, frenetic, foodie mecca.
Most cruise ships call on the port of Laen Chabang, about two hours from Bangkok. But Azamara’s boutique cruise ships get guests closer, docking in the heart of the city at Klong Toey Port along the Chao Phraya River.
Azamara spends more time in port than other cruise lines, too. When we call on Bangkok we stay for two, even three days. In fact, our upcoming 2018 World Journey voyage features two overnights in Bangkok.
Guests will have all the delights of Bangkok at their fingertips through carefully curated onshore experiences. And at the end of the night, they’ll return home to their luxury boutique hotel – the Azamara Journey.
How should guests of the 2018 World Journey (or anyone traveling to the city, for that matter) spend their time in Bangkok? These are five things visitors simply must do.
1. Food, Glorious Food.
Bangkok is famous for its food. Thailand is on our list of the world’s best destinations for street food, and at the center of foodie culture is the capital city.
You’ll find the most authentic Thai cuisine outdoors. Street-side stalls and open-air markets serve delicious meals that are fresh, quick, and cheap. Here’s a quick guide to Bangkok’s foodie havens:
This is Bangkok’s Old Town and one of the city’s best neighborhoods for sightseeing and food. Amongst the glittering temples, you’ll find classic Thai eateries and street vendors frying noodles in steel woks over charcoal. Perhaps the most famous of all is Thip Samai, a small restaurant often touted as having the best Pad Thai in Bangkok. Also in Old Bangkok is Raan Jay Fai, renowned for their Drunken Noodles. Even Martha Stewart is a fan!
Otherwise known as Chinatown, this neighborhood is a must-see for visiting foodies. Yaowarat is considered the birthplace of street food in Thailand. It comes alive after sunset, with most stalls staying open late into the night. Look for satay here (skewered and grilled meat served with peanut sauce) and seafood like crab, turtle, shrimp, squid, mussels, and whole fish.
The “Yellow Bridge” neighborhood is popular with locals and less crowded than popular Chinatown. If you’re a true foodie looking to stray from the beaten path, Saphan Lueng is for you. Try Thai-style rice porridge called khao thom, boiled blood cockles (a type of clam) in chili dipping sauce, and aharn tham sung (made-to-order) noodles.
Pathumwan and Sukhumvit
Pathumwan is close to the famous Siam Paragon Shopping Centre (one of the most Instagrammed places in the world) in the heart of Bangkok. Nearby, the Sukhumvit neighborhood has become a popular home base for expats. Sightseeing in these neighborhoods is sparse, but shopping, dining, and nightlife are plentiful. You’ll find trendy and globally inspired fusion eateries here – including renowned fried chicken at popular lunch spot Soi Polo.
Bangkok’s financial district is chock full of roadside stalls serving up quick, delicious lunches to hungry office workers. Look for stalls offering lesser-known Northern Thai dishes like papaya salad, curried egg noodles called khao soy, and grilled, sliced chicken, pork, and catfish. At night, head to one of the area’s upmarket rooftop restaurants for a more lavish dining experience.
2. Experience Bangkok’s incredible nightlife.
If you haven’t seen Bangkok at night, you haven’t seen Bangkok at all.
Just imagine cruising along the Chao Phraya River at sunset, admiring the glittering temples along its banks. “Majestic” is the word that comes to mind. Or picture yourself relaxing on a rooftop patio, sipping a cocktail under the moonlight.
Then there are Bangkok’s night markets. Spicy hot noodles are best slurped in the cooler evening weather, preferably along with a cold beer. Night markets aren’t just about food, either. There’s ample opportunity for shopping – though bartering might lead you to work up an appetite. The Patpong Night Market, Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) Night Market, Siam Square Night Market, and Talat Rot Fai Ratchada Market are all popular options for bargain-hunters, or travelers simply wishing to observe an integral part of Thai life.
3. Temples, statues, and palaces – oh my!
Though Bangkok’s city skyline may not rival those of cities like Hong Kong or Shanghai, the city’s architecture is certainly worth exploring.
The Grand Palace is perhaps the most iconic landmark in Bangkok. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and is still used for official events.
Thailand is 95% Buddhist and Bangkok is home to hundreds of temples – known as wáts. Even for visitors who are not religious, visiting some of the grandest and most beautiful sites will be a moving experience.
Be sure to dress appropriately, with legs and shoulders covered, or risk being denied entry. Here’s a quick guide to five of Bangkok’s most famous temples:
Wát Phra Kaew
Built within the grounds of the Grand Palace, “The Temple of the Emerald Buddha” is the city’s most important and most visited temple. The titular Emerald Buddha is only 66cm tall and sits high above worshippers in a stunning shrine. It’s carved into a solid piece of jade and is draped in monastic robes indicating the season.
“The Temple of the Reclining Buddha” is conveniently located next door to the Grand Palace. The gold-leafed reclining Buddha statue is the largest in Bangkok and a sight to behold at 15 meters high, 43 meters long. The vast grounds of Wát Pho are also home to the largest collection of Buddha images in all of Thailand and a renowned Thai massage school.
Though Wát Phra Kaew may be Bangkok’s most important temple, Wát Arun is the most iconic. “The Temple of Dawn” is located along the Chao Phraya river, opposite the Grand Palace, and can be accessed by ferry. Its name, however, is misleading – the temple is most photogenic at sunset.
This temple is a royal temple of the first grade, one of only ten in Bangkok. It’s most famous for the large red swing at its entrance. Easily visited in addition to the Grand Palace and Wát Pho, it’s worth a stop to see the incredible wall murals.
“The Temple of the Golden Buddha” is located in Bangkok’s Chinatown and can be easily visited prior to checking out the neighborhood’s great cuisine. The temple’s main attraction is a 3 meter tall, 5.5 tonne solid gold Buddha statue.
With so much to see in Bangkok, time is of the essence! Riding in a Tuk-Tuk (a three-wheeled taxi) is a quintessential Thailand experience and a great way to sightsee with speed.
4. Explore the city’s waterways.
Did you know that Bangkok is known as “The Venice of the East”? The city is crisscrossed by canals, known as khlongs. Some have been paved over to allow for roads, but many still exist and are well worth exploring via long tail boat or river taxi.
Chances are, you’ve seen photos of Bangkok’s beautiful floating markets. Visiting one is a bucket-list item for most travelers. Several can be found in the heart of Bangkok. Damnoen Saduak is perhaps the area’s most famous (and thus, most touristy) floating market. Though picturesque, it’s an hour’s drive from the city. Talin Chan, though smaller and not as photogenic, is much closer to Bangkok’s downtown. Tha Kha is widely regarded as being the area’s most traditional Thai floating market, though it is only open on weekends.
In Bangkok’s Thonburi district is one of the best places to explore canals, as it’s on the more residential side of the Chao Phraya River. Here you’ll find the Royal Barges Museum and its ornate barges. Each barge is carved from teak and painted in bright hues of red, blue, and gold. They are fully operational and used for royal processions.
5. Take an overnight journey to Angkor Wat.
From Bangkok, it’s possible to take an overnight journey to Angkor Wat. What an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience!
This temple complex in Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world and a UNESCO Heritage Site. The temple is famous for its intricate details and astonishing grandeur. There are more than 3,000 apsaras, or nymphs, carved into its walls. What’s even more astounding is that each one is unique.
Who says a cruise can only take you to coastal communities? Overnight adventures like this trip to Angkor Wat are what make Azamara voyages – and especially the 2018 World Journey – special.
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