Bangkok: the city where all sites, smells, sounds, and tastes of Thailand are rolled up into one metropolitan capital. Where old meets new, sweet meets sour, and dizzying motorbikes meet cars on the heavily congested streets. Bangkok is the kind of place where you can experience a lot at once: Ornate temples, red light districts, street markets, food options at every price point, and shopping galore. There is a bustling nightlife scene, and skyscrapers that light up the night and bring about excitement in a city that doesn’t sleep. With all that is uniquely Bangkok, the most logical way to experience all its rousing glory, is with none other than a local Thailand tour guide.
TakeMeTour: Your Personal Bangkok Tour Guide
While I am no stranger to Thailand, this was my first time in Bangkok and there is no better way to experience a new city than with a local. My mission was to explore all that is uniquely Bangkok, so after browsing the variety of tours offered by TakeMeTour, I reserved one with a local expert to experience the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating, the Maeklong Railway Market, and to dine at an authentic seafood market restaurant- the local way. The tour began in the morning, when our local guide Nui picked me and my husband up from our hotel, and although there a couple different floating markets in Bangkok, Nui drove us just outside the city to where the only weekday floating market operates. Nui was an excellent driver, her car was comfortable, and on our way to the market she entertained us with some facts and history of Bangkok and Thai people. She was as sweet as can be and an excellent guide. We felt as though we were spending the day with a friend because of how personable and comfortable she made us feel, which truly made our experience all the better.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
At the floating market, with our trusted guide to lead us, we got on our private motorized gondola and rode through the busy canal as we browsed the many stalls of souvenirs, street food, clothing, handmade crafts, and artwork. Merchants grazed passed us selling fresh fruit, grilled meats, cold beverages, and other snacks directly from their boats, where many merchants were cooking and crafting directly within. With our senses now overloaded with sights and smells, our appetite began to kick in, so by the recommendation of our guide we stopped by a merchant boat selling fresh-made coconut ice cream. Dished in a coconut shell and garnished with a flower, this treat was honestly the best tasting coconut ice cream I’ve ever had, and a welcome refresher in the humid Thailand heat.
In the middle of our floating market tour, we stopped off at a souvenir shop which house a coconut farm in the back where our guide Nui gave us a brief introduction of how to make coconut sugar. We were able to sample the freshly-made warm coconut sugar morsels and with their slight coconut flavor, the sugar clusters tasted like a dessert all on their own. Our local guide did not let us astray when showing us the hidden local highlights, but the challenge was not over because at this point the day was only getting started.
After floating through the rest of the market, Nui took us to the best insider location and vantage point for taking photos of the canals, before heading off to the next destination. She then drove us to the next part of our tour: Maeklong Railway Market. Though now backtracking in our route, Nui noted that most tour groups start with the Railway Market first and then hit the Floating Market. By going opposite the flow, we beat the tourist rush and could enjoy the sites without the massive crowds.
Maeklong Railway “Umbrella” Market
The Maeklong Railway Market is a busy street market upon an actual railroad track where a train passes through several times a day. Every time the train is about to pass, the vendors fold back their umbrellas (which is where the nickname “Umbrella Market” comes from) and move their merchandise off the tracks as market patrons whip out their phones in anticipation of the train passing. As we waited for the train, we stopped in a coffee kiosk in the market for mango sticky rice and Thai iced tea — a must when visiting Thailand. The train passing was exciting, and having to get up to remove the tables and chairs on the tracks to let the train pass through though cumbersome in theory, was part of the experience and fun. After we watched the train chug through the market, the vendors unfolded their umbrellas and put back their items only to remove them again the next time the train passed. It is truly a unique Bangkok site to experience. As we continued through the market, Nui showed us the best places to sample bamboo sticky rice, exotic fruit, and other treats. There was no reason to fall victim to tourist traps, as she led us to only the best vendors and handled all our transactions.
The last part of our tour concluded with an authentic, Local Table meal. Away from the busy streets of the city, we found ourselves in a tranquil Thai restaurant on the Chao Phraya River in Ratchaburi, an area famous for its fresh seafood. With our guide, we shared a feast of fresh fish and local Thai vegetable dishes as we exchanged stories and talked about the customs and eating habits of Thai people. I was fascinated to learn that people in Thailand eat many small meals a day, but often skip dinner unless dining out with friends. On the walls of the restaurant were large paintings of Thai royalty, so we got to learn a little bit about the monarchy of Thailand as well. Although we weren’t so far away from Bangkok, we felt as though we were transported to the Thai countryside and really enjoyed the slower pace. The food was outstanding, and our guide and the restaurant were extremely accommodating toward our dietary preferences, and could accommodate practically any dietary need. After a leisurely lunch, our guide Nui drove us safely back to our hotel, where we were left with tips and recommendations for the rest of our trip, and the best souvenir of all: a digital file of tons of candid photos she took of us throughout the day.
More About Our Thailand Tour Guide & TakeMeTour
TakeMeTour offers tours all over Thailand led by Thai guides so you can experience Thailand through the eyes of a local. On the website, you can browse tours of all kinds from cultural, to food tours, nightlife experiences, and more. They only offer ethical experiences (i.e. no elephant riding) and offer tours for all budgets. All TakeMeTour guides go through a rigorous screening process as safety is their upmost priority. TakeMeTour handles all the logistics for you including attraction tickets, transportation, and even provide you with a Thai SIM card, so all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy Thailand with your own personal local guide.
dtac SIM Card
When booking your TakeMeTour, there is an option to add on a dtac SIM card which you can pick up when you land at the Bangkok airport’s Happy Tourist kiosk. Dtac is the number one best selling SIM card for tourists and has many affordable options for call, text, and data depending on the duration of your stay.
Getting to Bangkok: Fly AirAsia
AirAsia offers both international and domestic flights to various cities in Thailand and all throughout Asia. They offer many flight options to and from Bangkok throughout the day, and are great for taking flights to other Thai cities, such as Bangkok to Chiang Mai. They are a reliable, comfortable (leather seats!) and affordable option when traveling to, from, or around Thailand or Asia.
Where to Stay in Bangkok: Affordable Luxury at the Novotel Sukhumvit 4 / Ibis Styles hotel
The Novotel Sukhumvit 4 and ibis Styles are two hotels in one building. I had the pleasure of staying at the modern and luxurious Novotel and had an exceptionally comfortable stay. Boasting speculation views of the Bangkok skyline, the rooms in Novotel are equipped with top amenities such as smart pillows, USB ports, and a full range of luxurious toiletries. A full buffet spread of western and Thai dishes were included in my stay, located on the stylish and modern lobby floor restaurant called Food Exchange, where all day dining is also offered. The hotel itself is located in a trendy Central Business District surrounded by shopping, nightlife, cultural attractions, and a variety of Thai and international restaurants. It is conveniently a 5 minute walk away from the BTS Skytrain Stations, and complimentary shuttle service is also provided by the hotel to the stations.
The ibis Styles accommodations located in the same building on floors 7 – 12 offer a more budget-friendly alternative to the modern luxury of Novotel. The ibis Style lobby adjacent to Novotel’s offers a perfect introduction to the ibis Style’s aesthetic: sleek, street art-inspired with motifs pulled from the surrounding city of Bangkok. The rooms are no less the aesthetic. Though smaller and less amenity-equipped than its counterpart Novotel, the rooms in ibis are ultra-sleek and compactly built. It is the perfection option for those looking for modern comfort at an economical price. With the ibis Styles room rate, there is also an option to add on a continental breakfast at ibis Styles’ street-food inspired restaurant StrEATs, which provides even more amazing views of the surrounding city.
The building amenities found at Novotel ibis Styles are not to be overlooked. A brand new state of the art gym, sky garden, and a touch screen in the lobby that offers recommendations for places to eat and things to do with maximum efficiency are a few.
However, the biggest selling point of the hotel in my opinion, is RedSquare, the hotel’s roof top bar and infinity pool. Located on the 25th floor, the rooftop offers exhilarating panoramic views of the exhilarating Bangkok skyline. Take a dip in the pool overlooking all of Bangkok or enjoy a sunset cocktail from an impressive menu of curated vodkas from around the world, house-infused with local ingredients like herbs, spices, and fruits. The Mojito Sky is my personal favorite– a refreshing cucumber melon mojito made with infused Sky Vodka. A bar menu is also available with western favorites such as pizza, quesadillas, and sliders for when that yearning for comfort food hits after too much pad thai. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, RedSquare is definitely worth a visit. The bar is open to the public in the evenings and even offers events with DJs playing music late into the night. If you’re looking for a comfortable, stylish, ultra modern luxury accommodations for less in the heart of cosmopolitan Bangkok, Novotel / ibis Styles is the two-in-one hotel for you.