I enjoy traveling like a tourist about as much as I enjoy standstill traffic on the 405 in LA. Instead I prefer to get a local view of the communities that I visit. I live for off-the-beaten-path travel, the kind of experiences where I am able to immerse myself in a culture. My goal when traveling is to find unique places that other tourists aren't bothering to visit.
Bangkok is full of so many activities. It is very much an Asian city, but with so many tourists and such a large expat community that it can be difficult to find places that aren’t filled with westerners.
Below, I am sharing some of the best ways to get off-the-beaten-path to have a unique experience while visiting Bangkok!
Learn The Basics
Every traveler should start off their trip with a bit of knowledge and history of the country they are visiting. I’m not one for tourist activities, but I do love museums that can help me have a better appreciation for the place I am visiting.
Starting at the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall will help provide an understanding for the history of Thailand and the Royal family. The people of Thailand have great admiration for their late King, and by taking a look into what he has accomplished for the country, it becomes apparent why he was so loved and admired. By visiting the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall first, the knowledge you gain will help serve you in understanding Thailand throughout your trip.
Get Up (or Stay Up) for Sunrise
Catching the sunrise at the Avani Riverside hotel on the West side of the river was an incredible way to start my day, despite jet-lag. The rooftop pool is the perfect place to start the day as the sun come up over the city. If you plan to visit Wat Pho or the Grand Palace, you should be waking up early to be the first one in the door to avoid crowds anyway, making this a perfect activity before heading over to beat the crowds.
Street Food Tour
Bangkok is all about street food. Navigating the abundance of street food can be fun and exciting on your own, but it’s often hit or miss if you don’t know the area. If you only have one chance to get it right, you may want to enlist the experts at Bangkok Food Tours. They will take you on a late-night food tour that will be sure to please your tastebuds. You will be riding around town in your very own tuk-tuk and in true Cinderella fashion, your tuk-tuk will have you back to your hotel by midnight before it turns back into a pumpkin!
Temples By Night
One thing that I learned on my most recent trip to Bangkok, is that many of the temples, such as Wat Pho, are open at night. You can’t go in to see the Reclining Buddha, but you will be able to enjoy the rest of Wat Pho’s beauty, sans tourists. A guard may follow you around to make sure that you aren’t causing trouble, but it is completely allowed!
If you really want to get off the beaten path and see something tourists never see, head to the airplane graveyard. The Airplane Graveyard is perfect for those who have a sense of adventure and interest in abandon places. I really wanted to check it out on my last trip, but time was cut short. Luckily my friend Clint went on his own and filled me in on all the details.
For details and instructions on how to get in, check out Clint’s post about his visit there by clicking this link.
Massage school at Wat Pho
Yes, you should get a Thai massage while you are in Bangkok, but why not take it one step further and learn the art of Thai massage? Thai massage was invented at Wat Pho, so you can be sure that you are having a truly authentic learning experience. Massage instruction at Wat Pho Traditional Thai Massage School is especially great for couples looking for a unique experience. During the class you and your partner (or you and an instructor if you decide to go solo) will take turns practicing a series of Thai massage techniques on each other.
Get Lost Exploring Chinatown
I find a great sense of fulfillment anytime that I can get off the beaten path and travel to a part of a city with few tourists and more locals.
Although the main strip of Chinatown is a popular attraction, the rest of Chinatown remains very much unexplored. There are pillow makers, noodle makers, and local places to stop for a Thai Tea or Thai coffee. The winding roads will be sure to get you lost, so if you are the type of traveler who is directionally-challenged, you may need a tour. Contact Hivesters for expert tours around the area.
Skip the Skyrise Bars
Thanks to The Hangover II, the rooftop bars of many sky rise hotels are the “place to be”, which means they cater to, you guessed it, tourists.
For a bit more of a local spot, head to Sala's rooftop for a perfect nighttime view of the Temple of Dawn and Wat Pho. The drinks and appetizers are good, but the view and lack of crowds are the best reason to go.
Blind Perception Massage
There is nothing creative about getting a Thai massage while in Thailand, unless you know where to go to have a unique experience. Down a back alley and through a narrow passage leads you upstairs to Blind Perception Massage.
You can generally find a standard Thai massage studio within a stone’s throw of any location you stand in Bangkok; why not try something a little extraordinary. The masseuses are visually impaired giving them a heightened sense of touch, the pinpoint accuracy and intuitive massage techniques make for an amazing experience. At very reasonable prices, the massage is worth every Baht.
No matter how you decide to spend your time in Bangkok, be sure to try a few of these tips for finding ways to interact with locals and have a unique experience during your visit!