How to Spend Three Days in Bangkok

By Nomadic Matt | Published February 7th, 2011

a water fall in khao sok park, thailandLocated in southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park has always held my imagination. It’s consistently rated one of the best parks in Thailand with amazing trekking, camping, limestone karsts, cooling rivers, and a beautiful lake. Since I first came to Thailand, I’ve been trying to visit Khao Sok, but for one reason or another, I’ve never able to make it.

But this time, I used my visiting friends and my job as “tour guide” as the excuse I needed to finally push myself to this park. And I’m glad I did. I’ve been to many wonderful national parks in Thailand, but this is one of the best.

I spent three days surrounded by dense jungle, animals, and cooling jungle air. The highlight of my trip was the daylong jungle trek I took. Starting out late in the morning (9:30), my friends and I met our guide, bought our park entrance tickets, and drove to the far end of the park. Instead of doubling back on the main trail, we would explore another trail, hike 400 meters to see some giant flowers, head towards a waterfall, eat lunch, and then walk back to the main park entrance.

It all seemed easy enough. I envisioned a well-worn trail and a mildly strenuous day hike. We were doing 11 km in the jungle, so it wouldn’t be a cake walk, but I didn’t anticipate that this trek would be much of a challenge, especially since the last half was on the park’s main road.

I was wrong.

Very wrong.

This hike was stressful, challenging, leech-infested, and exhilarating all at the same time. It started out easy enough. We hiked 400 meters to visit giant parasitic flowers. Attaching themselves to vines, the flowers sap the life from the vines to grow. After nine months, they blossom, spray their seed throughout the jungle, and die within four days. But when they’re in bloom, the flowers are a sight to see.

red flower that kills vines

The hike to the top wasn’t very tough. The trail was well worn, had amazing vistas from which to view the surrounding jungles, and I didn’t break much of a sweat. On the way up, we caught sight of a troop of gibbons making their way through the treetops. Gibbons in Khao Sok are rare to see and it was quite amazing to see them, especially since I love monkeys. Unfortunately, they moved too quickly to be photographed. By the time I clicked my camera, they’d moved on, so instead of fruitlessly trying to capture a photo, I just watched them in their glory. When we got to the top, our guide told us we would hike down to the waterfall. I assumed he meant we would be heading down another trail.

Again, I was wrong.

Our trail had opened up at the top of the waterfall, and our guide looked at us. “OK, we’ll eat lunch, but first we have to get down. It will be no problem. We have ropes, and I go first.”

pool at the base of the waterfall

My friends and I looked at each other hesitantly. To get to the base of the waterfall, we were going to have to embrace our inner Indiana Jones and rappel down the side. As you may know, heights make me extremely uncomfortable so I opted to go down last as I worked up the courage to never look down.

However, we didn’t encounter too many steep drop offs, and soon I was vying to the lead the way. We rappelled down ropes. When there was no rope to guide us, we scaled the rocky sides of the waterfall, holding on to vines as we made our way down to the base.

Looking out over a waterfall in Khao Sok

But the waterfall wasn’t the worst of it. After lunch, we had to hike downriver, which entailed following the river. Sounds pretty simple, right? Walking along a riverbed is easy. Not here. There was no trail or easy path. Sometimes we had to walk on large, wet rocks, climb up the narrow embankment, or scale down vines again when the river became impassable.

And the leeches only made it worse. By the time I walked out of Khao Sok, I had taken seven leeches off my legs, and a few even found their way onto my arms. Luckily, unlike the leeches in northern Thailand, most of these leeches were small and easy to grab off. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t notice one until the end, which by then had enlarged so much it left a scar on his foot.

Hiking through the riverbed in Khao Sok

After the river and subsequent leech removal (cue The Life Aquatic jokes), we were in the home stretch—it was now an easy walk through a bamboo forest back to the park entrance. On our way out of the park we were given a farewell by another troop of monkeys. These weren’t gibbons and I forget their proper name, but they jumped around for a while, playing in the trees and giving us one last exciting thing to remember. When all was said and done, our hike had lasted a little over eight hours. Back at my guesthouse, I took the hottest shower of my life, scrubbed myself clean, and collapsed on my bed.

Waterfall in Khao Sok Park

Though tiring, this jungle trek was my most exciting hike in recent memory. I left Khao Sok with a sense of rawness. Here the lack of people and trails let you feel as if you’re exploring the jungle for the first time. I love the moments when you travel that make you feel like you’ve unearthed a hidden gem. As though you’ve found a long-forgotten place. That may not be the case, but that sense of wonderment, adventure, and exploration are what drive me on my travels.

And in Khao Sok, it was just me, the jungle, and that sense of adventure.

But I could have done without the leeches.

Logistics

  • You can get to the park via Surant Thani or Phuket. Most hotels will offer you private transportation for 2,000 baht, though you can hire a taxi from either place for around 1,500 baht. If you’re with a group of four, this can be a good deal as it’s much quicker and far easier.
  • If you go by public bus, the minibus is 250 baht each way from Surant Thani town and 300 Baht from Phuket. It will drop you off on the main road leading up to the park. You’ll have to walk the rest of the way.
  • The park entrance fee is 200 baht—100 if you’re a student.
  • Hiring a guide from one of the tour operators or guest houses (very recommended due to the lack of marked trails) costs 1,000 baht per person and comes with lunch.
  • There’s only one ATM in town.
  • You can find cheap guest houses for 300 baht per night with very basic accommodation and cold showers. Rooms get better at around 600 baht per night and luxurious at around 1,400 baht per night.

comments 55 Comments

Floating market looks great! Interesting!

Good article. Although actually, the floating market is the last thing on this list I would go see. It isn’t any good anymore, it is just a huge touristy mess. I’d stick with the floating markets outside Bangkok.

I also just posted an article at BootsnAll about three Bangkok itineraries for under $10.

charles

Excellent itinerary Mat, but as mentioned by Shelley, I would definitely skip the floating market. It is a totally a tourist trap. I would rather suggest to visit Chinatown, go people watching at Kao Sarn Road and take a foot or Thai massage along the way.
One other interesting option, not far from Kao Sarn, is to visit the Golden Mount. The view is amazing from the top.
By the way, Lumpini Night Market is closed now ( to my chagrin)!

NomadicMatt

Chinatown! How did I forget Chinatown! I love eating there. Good call! I will have to add that to my itinerary.

I know the night market was open a few months ago. Is it now finally closed and moved?

Patrick

Nice web site Matt i,am going to Bangkok for my first ever visit ,i hope somtime in the next few months,tell me how do you find a good guide to show me the sites,or do i just find a nice lady.It dose sound a very interesting City with the sites & smells that go with it ,just how i like it i,am not a beach bum i like to see hows the world ticks.

Javanesse Lady

Hi, i will be in Bangkok in 25 March – 27 March 2014 (First Time). 3 days!! (Backpacker Trip)
i will be arriving at 11 am. I dont know where to stay (best for backpacker) and how to get there from Suvarnabhumi airport. Please tell me the references of cheap hostel or dorm.
and I try to go to Maddam Tussaud, when its best to go there?

Thank you!!

APL
Jakarta.

NomadicMatt

I walked away from the tourists and crossed a few bridges and found it to be a lot better!

I loved Bangkok from the first moment I arrived. i don’t understand why some people don’t like it. For me, there are a lot of things to do. I was there three days and was not able to see everything I wanted.

I never really thought I would want to travel to Bangkok, but these photos and tips have me intrigued! Thanks for the post.

Great post! Would love to go to Thailand someday soon!

The first time I watched Muay Thai I was underwhelmed, maybe because the weight class (like 48 kg) was smaller than me (and I’m small. and female).
I always recommend Jim Thompson’s House to middle-agers, too. ;)

What a great list! I will definitely use this list when family and friends visit. You might want to remove the Suan Lum Night Bazaar from your suggestions, though. I can see the Bazaar from my condo, and I can confidently report that it is nothing but abandoned buildings and a growing pile of rubble, which is too bad.

regina

When did you research this?? The market Suan Lum has been closed for a quite a while…………

Ironically enough I went to BKK fully expecting to hate it for the reasons you mentioned. As it turns out, I instantly fell in love with the city and spent about two more weeks there than I originally anticipated. Fantastic outline of three days of activities though.

NomadicMatt

Thanks everyone for the update on the night market. Things in Bangkok can happen fast and the last time I was there, the night market was still open. I took it out and replaced it with Chinatown.

Great insights into the city. Definitely will help me frame my expectations better when I finally make it over there.

Great blog post! You definitely covered all of my favourite places to visit in Bangkok

Jim

Hated Bangkok when there 12 years ago. Just about asphixiated with car fumes. Cops on point duty with masks and gas cylinders.
Been thru many times since but never a stopove.
Hopefully you guys will convince me they’ve cleaned the air up enough to actually want to spend time there after reading and seeing all the neat photos.

NomadicMatt

The air is a bit cleaner than it was 12 years ago….but just a bit!

Hey, we’re staying on Soi 11, just arrived back in Bangkok and have never stayed in Sukhimvit. Looking forward to being in the cool spot for a change:)

NomadicMatt

Are you staying at the Suk 11 guesthouse? I love that place. Make sure you go to Cheap Charlies for drinks! I love that place.

Good ideas. My first stop is Bangkok next month and I’ll definitely use this article for ideas.

Great article, very helpful and useful. I was just looking travel blogs and i am lucky. After 2 weeks i fly with my wife to Bangkok! I just print now this article. I have small guide without pay ….:)

Floating market is nice to visit if it is your time visiting Bangkok. But Chatuchak Weekend Market is my all-time favorable.

Sigh. I love Bangkok. Heart strings pulled.

top picks from your list:

Chinatown– best food
Lumpini Park– great yoga can be found there
Riverboat tours– crazy cool water neighborhoods

NomadicMatt

I took a Thai class when I first moved there for a months and then I just practiced as often as I could. Cab drivers are really great at helping you!

an9el

Cool… I have at least an idea where to go to on my visit next month. I will be staying at Jasmine Resort Hotel which is infront of the BTS station. Are the things to see you suggested here closer to my place? I am travelling alone for relaxing. Just want to be away from work stress =) for few days. And I choose BKK this time. Last month was in Kuala Lumpur and I had a great time on my visit. Hope BKK will also be a good deal. I love sight seeing,eating and shopping more not really much with a nightlife because Been There Done That. I am already past with it.

Great post… I lived in Phuket for 17 years and loved it. Six month ago, we decided to move to Bangkok and following the many past business trips I did in the past, this was going to be a horrible new life and I was seriously depressed. Of course everyone told me how great this was going to be, but I didn’t believe them. Guess what! after 2 months only i loved it! Bangkok is a treasure trove for a blogger, photographer and explorer, even beyond the classic place. I started a new blog about it called krungthep101 if you want to see some of the surprising places we discovered.

akbar keshani

we will visit thiland in 14days from now this is our second time i am with my family thanks for your informations .iranian people go to bangkok and pattaya a lot there are few flights from Tehran to thialand every day.isfahan is my city in iran .

Matthew

Just came back from Bangkok and I absolutely loved it!

I kept wondering what the ‘unique cultural thing’ happens at 6pm happens at Siam BTS station. We waited inside the station at 6pm but disappointingly, nothing happened. We even asked a local what would happen at 6pm but he didn’t know haha. A day later we were walking in Lumphini Park when we saw it happening! It was fun to see it happening when even those who are not sure what’s happening will also follow suit due to peer pressure haha.

We spend alot of our time walking and taking all types of public transports that were on offer including the trains, Chao Phraya boats, khlong boats in those smelly rivers, buses, and tuk-tuks. Didn’t manage the motorcycle taxi though. It allowed us to enjoy the local life. The locals are very helpful with directions and when we weren’t sure which route to take, they always go all out to help even to the extend of walking us to the right bus stop!

The photo of the temple under the subject ‘temple’, is that the temple near Ratchadamnoen road? Near the democracy monument? Do you know the name? It was quite beautiful at night. As for the floating market, we skipped the one at Damnoen Samduak and went for Taling Chan instead. Smaller but 95% of the shoppers were local. Watching a movie is a good experience but IMHO a bit pricey, with the exception of Lido with movie tickets at only THB100. You can certainly get almost anything at Chatuchak and the market is so BIG you get lost if you don’t move around systematically haha. Stuff were cheap! We had an Aaron Frankel’s map to guide us around haha. Soi cowboy was fun to visit and observe but wouldn’t take part in anything here for fear of being ripped off.

Apart from the usual places, we also took the trouble to visit unusual places like the Siriraj Medical Museum and the Phallic shrine. These places are hidden away and you have to look harder to find it haha.

All in all I loved Bangkok alot and there is more to it than just the normal cliche tourtist attractions. :)

The last time I went to Bangkok, I had just 4 hours to spend in the city and I spent them by taking the metro and strolling in the Nana Plaza. This post of yours will help me plan my next trip to the city in December :)

I was on Bangkok last years but only a few days for works, that’s not nice. Thus I just got a chance to MBK centre and Thai Tower. I wish I’ve got more time … :(

Tan

Thank you for sharing !!! Good information and you left out enough to allow me to explore. Exactly what I was looking for as I want more than just shopping and temples!! :)

Thanks for this info, i so much love this information age that i grew up in, coz as a child i remember my dad buying all tourist guides and zillion other books before travelling to any place for doing all the research & talking to everyone who has been there.. Its so easy now with travelers sharing experiences online.. Am all excited for a Thailand trip :)

Abbie

Hi matt, this list of things to do is really helpful. I’m going to Bangkok for a week in June with my mum. One thing that’s playing on my mind is she is allegic to peanuts… Highly allergic. We’d love to test out and experience the local cuisine. From your experiences can you advise if most/all authentic Thai foods are cooked with peanuts/peanut oils…? I have a feeling we’ll be stuck eating in the very westernised hotel restaurants for our trip. Also staying in Phuket for a week but that’ll be more cocktails and massages rather than food and shopping trip :)

Nicole Gonzalez from Costa Rica,America

Hi, thank you for the information. Im going to Bangkok next Monday, just for a week. This will be my first time at Bangkok and I am really excited. I cant wait to get there!!
I was just wondering somethings, besides chatuchak weekend market, what is the name or location of another great night market?
How do transportation works there? I can move most of the time by the skyline?

Hope to listen from you soon,
Thanks.

Great itinerary but where’s all the eating ;) Floating market will always be contentious. I wouldn’t recommend the Damnoen Saduak (possibly Amphawa) but there are some newer less touristy and cliched markets a short taxi from Bangkok centre. Taling Chan worth a visit (as here http://bit.ly/19AEcj9). I would also swap Sukhumvit 11 (slightly depressing expat scene) for the more local and youthful RCA area. Also Lumpini Park swapped for the smaller better kept Benjakiti Park (next to Phrom Phong BTS station). I’m slightly bias towards Sukhumvit.
I think Bangkok isn’t a hit with travellers because of the touristic aspects of the main sites and being forced to visit them in extreme heats. Also many travellers just like to shun the popular, well travelled destinations.
If you cover the main Bangkok attractions on the first visit then a return to Bangkok is so much better. No obligations, just relax, enjoy local life and eat amazing food.

mimah

I will be in bangkok and arrived at 11pm, what do you suggest? Sleep at the airport or just book a cheap hotel with airport pick up? Any suggestions please.

There is so much to see in Bangkok, but this article is a good starter for people on their first visit. The Chaophrya tourist boat is a great way to see the sights along the river and for $3 you can hop on and hop off all day, until you are tired. Or at least that is what they told me.

Amphawa floating market is about an hour out of Bangkok, it is a weekend market starting from 3pm to late. It is well worth booking into a little homestay place for about 1400 Baht on the riverside and experiencing the early morning. There are heaps of temples to visit and the place is less touristy than Damnoen Saduak, or at least the tourists are more Thais than foreigners.
One thing I really liked was the evening boat ride along the klongs to see the fireflies in the trees.

Gigi

What’s the best hotel to stay? Not too expensive

ThanhTran

Thank you!!
I really enjoyed your article. And it would be very useful for my next vacation!!!

Aaron

Headed to BKK to teach english in first week of November. Any advice for safe reliable temporary housing upon arrival is appreciated. Never been there before and need a place to stay for 2 to 3 weeks until I find work at a school.
Thank you.
Regards,
Aaron

Roj

Will be in BKK from Oct 1 – 5, can’t wait to do the things you had on the list! Thanks!

Stanley

Don’t miss Silom at night which is not mentioned here.

Is not there “Walking Street” in Bangkok? Or its name “Soi Cowboy”? I’ve been 3 times in Thailand, but I’ve never been directly inside a center of Bangkok. As I know there are 2 “Walking Street” in Pattay and in Bangkok. So, maybe “Soi Cowboy” – it is only part of Bangkok’s “Walking Street”. Am I wrong?

Dave

What is this cultural even that happens at 6pm? I have been to Bangkok twice, took the BTS a lot during rush hour and never encountered what you are talking about. But, I’m curious!

NomadicMatt

You’ve never noticed how everyone stops when they play the national anthem?

Stanley

Really ? Bangkok is my 2nd hometown and I never notice that. You mean the national anthem is played at the BTS at 6 pm ?

NomadicMatt

Yup! It was when I lived there and still was playing when I was there in 2012.

Stanley

You missed to mention CentralWorld, my largest and favourite shopping mall in Siam Square, walking distance from Siam Paragon. Another interesting new mall is Terminal 21 at Asoke Station, Sukhimvit Road, where every levels and toilets are different in design.

nana

Yay! Now, I’m feeling excited. I want May to come soon. I’ll be saving money na for this. How much do you think I’ll be spending per day on the average? For me to have an idea on how much I should bring with me. Thank you! Thank you! :)

Ninja1k

Great blog and great insight! My wife and I are visiting BKK for the seventh time and we are importers from North America. Another great shopping experience would Pratunam for the cheapest clothes and across the street at Pantip Plaza is an gamers wet dream from bootleg DVDs to high end electronics! Soi cowboy is OK but Nana Plaza is not as touristy and a little more back alley!

Thank you so much for all these tips! My husband and I are just starting to play a 3 week trip for this coming winter and this has been so helpful! Can’t wait!

Gregory Judd

Matt,
My wife and I want to travel to Thailand for about 10 days in Sept. 2014. My wife is NOT adventurous in terms of finding housing when we get there and free lancing BUT if there is an itinerary she would do the trip. Could you plan a medium trip speed for the two of us. Age 60 but very healthy. Can walk distances but wife wants some pool/seaside time. Dont like exclusive resort living but a couple nights isnt a big problem. Will be happy to find own airline tickets. Just need an itinerary from someone with experience. If you are in the country would love to meet you every couple of days and certainly pay for your insights. Let me know asap. Greg

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