Two weeks ago I set out to travel in a slightly different style then I’m used to. More culture, less beach…more local experiences, less fiction books and margaritas. What a week it was! I was lucky enough to be invited by the Tourism of Thailand board with bloggers from around the world to experience the North-East side of Thailand and the local traditions, beauty, iconic destinations and people that come with it. We travelled from Bangkok to Khon Kaen to Roi Et and finally, Ubon Ratchahani. There is so much to write about that I am going to break it down into the individual destinations and favourite parts of my trip, starting with Bangkok. Let’s dive in!
Quite honestly, Bangkok was a destination I had received mixed reviews about and so wasn’t sure what to expect. A short and breezy 6 hour flight from Dubai with Sai from The Sand Gypsy and we had arrived, greeted by our welcoming local Thai guide. It’s safe to say we had the best guides in Thailand throughout the trip – I will be sharing their personal details below as I’ve already checked and know they can be booked upon request.
A little about the Hotel
SO Sofitel Bangkok was hotel stay numero uno, a captivating 45 minute drive from the airport. Driving in Bangkok isn’t so much of an orderly ordeal as more of a cat-and-mouse style race to see who can squeeze into the smallest spaces to gain a few yards. Certainly one way to get the adrenaline pumping from a night flight!
I’ve stayed in some stunning hotels but SO Sofitel was up there with the best of city destinations. Designed by Christian Lacroix, it combines authentic Thai influences with minimalistic Asian charm – a real winner. Rooms are uniquely divided into the 4 senses; metal, wood, earth and water and you can stay in the one that feels most akin to you. Personally, I’d opt for either wood or metal. By far the stand out part of the hotel are the views and the food, a combination that tends to makes me quite a happy traveller! It looks out onto Lumpini Park (Bangkok’s Central Park), where you’ll catch hundreds of keen runners whilst enjoying your morning coffee. The food caters to all cultures – the choice is actually rather impressive – and the perfect introduction to a week of authentic and delicious Thai cuisine. The beautiful infinity pool boasts views over the city and the rooftop terrace for evening cocktails is a must.
Venice of the East – Boat tour through the klongs of Thonburi
Well rested, our first full day in Bangkok started with a scenic tour along the canals. A boat ride isn’t typically my first port of call but after this experience, that will soon change. It’s a fantastic way to see a city, capturing it away from the hustle and bustle of tourists similar to us.
The local people rely heavily on these waterways for transport and many of the surrounding houses have their small boats ready for dispatching fresh catches and making their way through the city, all cheek by jowl to one another. You’ll see numerous temples, cheery children waving as you pass, giant local reptiles (and dead ones in the river if you’re like us!) and a real insight into local life. The boat can also dock at numerous locations, with the popular one being Wat po, the Buddhist temple complex and home to the 15m high reclining Buddha which was our next stop.
Wat Po – home of the Reclining Buddha
Set on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Po is one of the oldest and largest temples in the country. It used to be one of the first public Universities in Thailand, specialising in science and literature as well as teaching local Thai massage. Entry is a reasonable 100 THB and it’s open from 8am to 6.30pm, but expect it to be busy and make sure you come suitably dressed with shoulders and knees covered. Many of the areas will require you to remove your shoes so keep an eye out on what others are doing!
Walking through the bustling streets near the temple is an experience in itself, with quaint shops and street-side ‘restaurants’ serving kebab-style food off the grill. The temple is stunning, seeped with history and beauty and definitely worth a visit. After the tour, we went into the massage rooms for our choice of a 45 minute foot or full body massage – let’s just say you can tell it used to be a hot spot for teaching traditional Thai massage … I drifted off once or twice.
For lunch, we stopped at a place called Eat Sight Story, a pretty setting overlooking the riverbanks with both indoor and outdoor seating. Admittedly, the food wasn’t the best in Bangkok but in fairness to them, we were a table of 20, all with different dietary requirements so they did a stellar job given the circumstances. I would be interested in going back as a smaller group.
Just to point out that it’s not the easiest restaurant to find as it’s down a back alley somewhere close to the temple so try to get directions beforehand.
I unfortunately missed one of our dinners in Bangkok but I was told the food was impressive so worth having a look; R HAAN Wisdom Thai Cuisine.
I did however manage to experience dinner at Park Society at the SO Sofitel. Indoors, but sky high on the terrace with impeccable food to match the stunning views. This was one of my favourite dinners during the entire week. One dish you absolutely must try is “East Meets West” – an impeccable play on the classic lobster bisque.
In many ways Bangkok turned out to be the opposite to what I thought it would be. It had charm and charisma, and whilst my experience was only with 1 hotel – a welcome and surprising degree of sophistication.
It’s a gateway into the diverse world of Thailand and I really would recommend staying there for a few nights, whichever side of Thailand you are traveling to next. I hope you enjoyed this post and please comment below with any thoughts or questions you have!
The second part of our trip will up very soon so make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter for instant post updates.
Names: Roy and Dang