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It’s been a while since we’ve all last travelled, hasn’t it? The last time I left the tiny island of Singapore was at the start of 2020, when a group of friends and I headed to Phuket. Who would have thought that we would lose nearly 2.5 years of our youth & travel experiences to a pandemic and border closures?
But alas, as borders slowly reopened and Singaporean healthcare workers were finally permitted to travel (after far too long), my mum and I booked our plane tickets to Bangkok for a well-deserved vacation.
From sightseeing, to budget shopping & vintage/hipster stores, to cat cafes & snake farms, our 5D4N Bangkok trip in end-May had it all, so read on to find out how to max out on unique experiences on your Bangkok holiday!
|Day 1//Thu||SG ✈️ BKK|
🚕🛍️ Siam Premium Outlets Bangkok
🚆 Airport Rail Link (directly to the heart of the city)
🏨 Check in @ Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square
🍽️ nice two Meat u (K-BBQ) @ centralwOrld
|Day 2//Fri||🚤 Chao Phraya Tourist Boat|
🛕 Wat Arun
🍰 After You Dessert Café @ Tha Maharaj
🛖 Amulet Market
🛍️🏭 Warehouse 30
🛍️ MBK Center
🍽️ Secret Chamber @ MBK
|Day 3//Sat||🍽️ Thanee Khao Moo Daeng Roasted & BBQ Pork Rice|
🛍️🍽️ Chatuchak Weekend Market
🐱 Caturday Cat Cafe
🛍️ Platinum Fashion Mall
|Day 4//Sun||🐍 Snake Farm (Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute)|
🍽️ Jaedang Samyan
🛍️ Siam Paragon
💆🏻♀️ Lek Massage
🛍️ Siam Center
🛍️ Lido Connect + hipster stores + street flea market
|Day 5//Mon||🍽️ Chester’s Grill|
🛍️ Siam Discovery
🛍️ Siam Square One
🚆 Airport Rail Link
BKK ✈️ SG
Current COVID travel requirements for Thailand + Klook discounts
Expensive pre-departure testing (PDT) and extra COVID tests on arrival – no thanks. We chose Thailand as our destination for this short getaway as their COVID travel requirements were minimal. No testing was required when flying in or out of both Bangkok and Singapore, and we only needed to apply for the Thailand Pass.
The Thailand Pass is required for all travellers (both nationals and foreigners) entering Thailand, and must be applied for a few days prior to flying, as it takes 2-3 days to approve. For fully-vaccinated travellers, you’ll have to upload proof of vaccination (for Singaporeans, you can obtain this from notarise.gov) and proof of travel insurance with adequate COVID coverage.
Your Thailand Pass will be sent via email and contains a QR code, which we were required to present at a checkpoint shortly after disembarking from the plane (soft or hard copies are both accepted). Immigration was an absolute breeze, and as efficient as I recall it being pre-COVID!
When we went in end-May, mask-wearing was still compulsory both indoors & outdoors, although not strictly enforced. According to Thai news sites, these rules may be eased by mid-June, so hopefully you won’t have to suffer while wearing a mask under the sweltering heat the way we did!
Getting to and from the airport + Accommodation
In case you didn’t know, Bangkok has terrible traffic congestion in the city central. A taxi/car ride from BKK Airport to the city takes about 50-60 minutes (or longer if you’re driving during rush hour), whereas taking the Airport Rail Link is a cool 26 minute ride, and it comes with a lovely view of the city to boot.
We flew SIA/Singapore Airlines to Bangkok, a pleasant 2.5h journey (the actual flight time was under 2h). We arrived at 8.30am, but our hotel check-in time was 2pm, so we decided to kill some time by visiting the Siam Premium Outlets, which was a quick 15-minute cab ride from the airport. At the airport taxi stand, we were assigned a cab and had 0 waiting time; cab fares are now metered as well, so our total fare came up to under ฿200 (~$8 SGD), including the ฿50 airport surcharge.
Boasting over 140 stores and various food options, we managed to spend about 4 hours there having brunch and window shopping. The discounts were not particularly great and we left pretty much empty-handed. We cabbed back to the airport, then hopped onto the Airport Rail Link, riding the full line to Phaya Thai, then transferring to the city BTS/train line to Siam station.
We booked the Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square for approximately ฿10000 (SGD$100/night) and were given a free upgrade to one of their newly-renovated deluxe rooms! The location was outstanding – it’s right next to the BTS station, Siam Square One & opposite huge malls like Siam Paragon/Centre/Discovery, with other major malls (MBK/CentralwOrld) being a 10-minute walk away.
1-day Chao Phraya river-hopping itinerary
On our previous trips to Bangkok, we’d never explored the sights along the iconic river, but this time, since we had so many days, we decided to venture out! The jetty for the tourist boat was easily accessible (Saphan Taksin BTS), a 15-minute train ride from where we stayed.
I bought tickets for the Chao Phraya Hop-On-Hop-Off Tourist Boat and got a discount of nearly half the actual price (with promo codes), but the tickets can also be bought at the jetty itself! If you don’t have a Klook account yet and want SGD$5 off your first booking, be sure to sign up via my referral link. 🙂
As the name suggests, this boat lets you hop on/off, and runs every 30 minutes. We kept a close eye on the time and showed up at each jetty about 5-10 minutes ahead of schedule, because we found that the boats usually came & left earlier. There were plenty of seats both below and above deck, and it was extremely breezy and relaxing!
Our first stop was the famous Buddhist temple Wat Arun, famous for its architecture and intricate carvings. It was cloudless and sunny when we reached there in the morning (over 30°C), so we finished exploring the temple grounds and hopped back on the boat after 1 hour.
We stopped at Tha Maharaj for brunch, a cozy riverside mall with many air-conditioned food outlets, but not much actual shopping. We then wandered to the Amulet Market, a small covered market adjacent to The Maharaj, to admire various carvings, antique statues & hand-carved amulets. I bought a bunch of unique souvenirs (coins & trinkets), including a metal tortoise paperweight for my friend!
Our next stop was Warehouse 30, a refurbished warehouse filled with art galleries, vintage stores and cafes (I’d recommend skipping this place unless you’re into these). It was not directly accessible by the tourist boat, but we hopped off at ICONSIAM and took the free ICONSIAM ferry (which runs every 15 mins) to the opposite side of the river and walked for 10 minutes!
We returned to the absolutely grandiose ICONSIAM for a much-needed respite from the heat, enjoying our lunch at SOOKSIAM, an indoor ‘floating market’, a themed area replete with actual sampans in an indoor pool, market-like stalls (with better sanitation), and an insane variety of street food. The mall was massive, but had a lot of similar brands/stores as Singapore malls, so we finished exploring the place in 2.5 hours.
The last stop on our boat-hopping experience was Asiatique: The Riverfront, a large open-air mall with restaurants, live music, and a smattering of stores. Unfortunately, what used to be a vibrant waterfront spot had been hit very hard by COVID, and most stores were shuttered, with only some restaurants remaining open. We finished exploring the ghost town within 15 minutes, walked along the boardwalk for a while, then headed back to the jetty.
나이스투미츄 nice two Meat u Thailand
(multiple outlets, we visited the centralwOrld branch – walking distance from Siam BTS)
It may seem ironic to eat Korean BBQ in Thailand, but I made a beeline for this place as it also offered marinated crab (간장게장/ganjang-gejang)! For K-newbies, this dish features raw crab marinated in soy sauce + crab roe (best enjoyed with rice), and is usually very expensive outside of Korea, but was affordable at this restaurant!
We ordered a platter of the crab, as well as a full BBQ set, and the total came up to around ฿2500, or SGD$100, around half the price we would have paid in Singapore.
Our favourite part about nice two Meat u is that the staff do all the cooking (and they do it very well btw) and are very attentive, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the food!
After You Dessert Café
(multiple outlets, we visited the Tha Maharaj branch – accessible by various Chao Phraya boats)
We had a refreshing watermelon bingsu & cheddar french toast topped with ice cream at the famous After You Dessert Café, which has branches in most major malls in Bangkok (we spotted it in almost every mall we visited).
Boasting an extensive menu with classic bingsu flavours, generously-portioned french toast, lava cakes and other desserts, you’ll definitely want to save stomach space for these goodies!
Thanee Khao Moo Daeng Roasted & BBQ Pork Rice
(a 5-minute walk from Ari BTS)
This extremely affordable mom-and-pop restaurant is the perfect place to fuel up and have a homely breakfast. It’s located along the main road, just 5 minutes away from Ari BTS, so we decided to stop by as we were headed down that line to Chatuchak Market later that morning.
We had rice with char siew (BBQ pork) and shared a large serving of roast pork. Thai roast pork is slightly different from its Chinese counterpart, with the skin having a far more satisfying crunch and a different seasoning style.
(multiple outlets, usually in the food courts of major malls)
This chain, purportedly in Bangkok’s 2019 Michelin Guide, is famous for its delicious Moo Ping (Thai pork skewers). We had a delicious platter of Moo Ping, roast pork, chicken & glutinous rice, as well as a side of Thai fishcake & rice noodles.
If you think KFC is the best chicken fast-food joint around, you’ve probably never tried Jollibee or Chester’s Grill. It was quite possibly the best, juiciest and most tender grilled chicken I had ever eaten, and they even had fried sea bass, which was surprisingly flaky & delicious! The dishes come with rice and the usual side of coleslaw, and it was a popular spot among locals; I’d highly recommend trying it.
There’s loads of shopping to be done in Bangkok, no matter your budget and style. For Singaporeans, the larger malls are very reminiscent of those in Orchard Road and may not be worth spending as much time in, since the prices are similar.
Apart from ICONSIAM & Lido Connect, we visited mostly the same malls as during our 2018 Bangkok trip, which I reviewed (with pics) in an old blogpost linked here!
(free ferry from ICONSIAM, followed by a 10-min walk)
Horse Unit is an eclectic vintage store nestled between art galleries in Warehouse 30, selling authentic memorabilia from as far back as the 1930s. Anything and everything vintage was found here – we spotted wartime medals & soldiers’ duffel bags, old lanterns, to retro furniture, highway signages & even canned water from 1940 war rations!
For regular hipsters, there were racks of vintage-inspired clothing, and various handmade items, crystals & candles on sale as well! I enjoyed browsing the items, but left empty-handed as some of the vintage items looked a bit too grubby to go in my suitcase, and others were far too bulky or fragile to be brought home. 😦
(there’s a free ferry to ICONSIAM from BTS Saphan Taksin Exit 2, or take the Sky Train to Charoennakorn station for a direct link to the mall)
Much like every glitzy mega mall, ICONSIAM had popular chain & department stores (H&M, Takashimaya, Apple), luxury brands, many restaurants, and a store dedicated to products made by local artisans. We didn’t get up to much shopping since the stores are pretty similar to what we’d find back in Singapore, but if you’re a bona fide shopaholic, you might end up spending half a day here.
The restaurants, cafes & bars on the higher floors provided a stunning view of the city and overlooked the river; I imagine it would have been even more beautiful at night!
Lido Connect + lifestyle stores in the Siam area
On a Sunday evening, we stumbled upon this hidden gem when exploring the area around our hotel. There was a massive group of sneakerheads buying & selling limited edition Nikes at a crowded fair teeming with youths. The complex (a former cinema) had industrial-style decor and contained a few restaurants, cafes and cute shops selling stickers/postcards/artsy merchandise.
The streets surrounding Lido Connect also had various lifestyle stores selling Y2K clothes, stickers & bags (Daddy and the Muscle Academy) or vintage clothes & quirky accessories (FRANK!GARCON).
A lively weekend festival was ongoing when we were there, so the area was crowded with cosplayers, food trucks, flea markets operating out of the back of trucks, and lots of pop-up clothing booths!
For animal lovers, 2 highly accessible and must-visit spots in central Bangkok are the Caturday Cat Cafe and Bangkok QSMI Snake Farm.
Caturday Cat Cafe
(a 30-second walk from Ratchathewi BTS Station Exit 2, 1 stop away from Siam BTS)
Cat people rejoice, because what’s better than enjoying a meal & refreshing soda in the midst of 20-odd cats? From regular tabbies to smoosh-faced Persian cats* & even 1 massive Norwegian forest cat, you’ll be in cat heaven at this cat cafe.
*For the record, I don’t support the breeding of smoosh-faced/skeletally-deformed cats as they have significant health problems and may have a poor quality of life; but thankfully the cats at this cafe seemed well-loved
The entry cost ฿200 each (can be used to offset food/drinks), and we were only allowed to stay for an hour as it was extremely crowded when we went on a Saturday afternoon. We didn’t have to wait when we reached in the early afternoon, but an hour-long queue formed outside shortly after we entered.
The cats were very chill and would gladly plop themselves on your table or hide underneath for naps, and it was very calming to just watch them snooze while filling up my entire camera roll with more cat pictures.
Snake Farm (Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute)
(a 15 minute walk from Sala Daeng BTS Station, 2 stops from Siam BTS)
Run by the Thai Red Cross, this professionally-run snake farm is a great place for children or reptile-enthusiasts like myself. Comprising both indoor & outdoor reptariums, a museum, and an amphitheatre for daily snake handling shows, you could easily spend 2-3 hours exploring the place and learning all about snakes!
On weekdays, there’s even a daily snake milking show, where a trained handler demonstrates how to milk snake venom, which is made into anti-venom at the nearby hospital and used across Thailand (which has an unfortunately high number of venomous snakes).
Overall, we had a jam-packed vacation and managed to visit a bunch of places we’d never visited during our past trips; hopefully you’ll like my recommendations and check out a few of these hidden gems for yourself too!
Be sure to follow my Insta or like my Facebook page to stay up to date with my latest adventures, day-to-day doctoring and life updates. I’ll be going on a 2-3 month travel adventure once July rolls around, so stay tuned.
P.S. This blog is my passion project and self-funded, so if you enjoy my writing and want to contribute some spare change towards my annual WordPress Premium plan, why not make a little donation here? 🙂
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If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, doctoring, psychology, random musings), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series
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