Here's a trip report on how I spent one day in Bangkok with a Tuk Tuk hop on hop off service I wish I'd known about!
I attended a conference in Bangkok earlier this month and only had a day to spare for some sightseeing before flying home. I did some research beforehand on Tripadvisor and got quite a bit of useful information. While I was searching for suggestions on what to do, I noticed a lot of people were looking for similar info on “what to do if you have one day in Bangkok,” so I thought I’d share my experience. This is going to be a rather long and detailed one day trip report. For those of you who don’t have time to read through everything, I summarized the nitty-gritty details you should know in the short summary. For those who enjoy reading small details, you can skip to the full report below.
SHORT SUMMARY on suggested itinerary for one day in (Old Town) Bangkok:
Morning - Visit Grand Palace, Marble Temple (if you’re into architecture, if not, skip it) and the Giant Swing at Wat Suthat.
Lunch near the Giant Swing (lots of good local restaurants)
Afternoon – Visit Golden Mount at Wat Saket, Loha Prasat and then Wat Pho. Get an hour of the famous Thai massage at Wat Pho (you deserve this after a long day!)
Evening – watch sunset and dinner at Above Riva or Sala Rattanakosin (I splurged a little at Above Riva since it was my last night in Bangkok, it was worth every penny!)
Now, if you’d like to get a Tuk Tuk experience, I recommend buying a day pass with Tuk Tuk Hop (it’s a hop on hop off service but instead of a bus you get a Tuk Tuk!) This type of service is just what Bangkok needs, it allows tourists to enjoy Tuk Tuk experience without the hassle of fare negotiation and the fear of getting ripped off. To use this service, you need to download the Tuk Tuk Hop app and purchase the day pass through it. The app has a really good map of major attractions (and restaurant suggestion), so even if you don’t end up using their service, it’s a pretty useful app to have. See the full report for my experience with this hop on hop off service.
FULL VERSION -- for those who enjoy reading small details
I stayed at a hotel near Victory Monument, so I took the skytrain to Taksin station then hopped on the Chaopraya tourist boat to Tha Maharaj (closest pier to the Grand Palace). The staff at the ticket booth handed me a brochure for a Tuk Tuk hop on hop off service, which basically offered a day pass for unlimited Tuk Tuk ride around Old Town Bangkok for ~400 Baht. First I wasn’t sure if this was a scam, but the fact that you need an app to call a Tuk Tuk made me feel like I should give it a try. So I downloaded the Tuk Tuk Hop app and bought the day pass. The download took a few minutes because the local 3G service wasn’t very fast. Would have been better to download this ahead of time on a hotel wifi, had I known about this service the night before.
After I got off the boat, I walked over to the Grand Palace -- unfortunately it was closed to the public that day, so I just strolled around and admired it from outside. Even with the things I could see from outside, the Palace seemed to live up to its name. The atmosphere was quite interesting, I saw tons of Thai people lining up to pay respect to their King. There were also lots of volunteers handing out free food and drink, I even got in line to get a free iced tea as the sun was starting to get really warm. I spent about half an hour walking around that area. The Ministry of Defense right across from the Grand Palace is also very beautiful.
Next on my plan was the Marble Temple, which was quite far from the Palace. Since the heat was starting to get to me, I decided to use the Tuk Tuk Hop app to call a Tuk Tuk. After I chose the pick-up and drop-off spots, the app assigned a driver and said s/he would be there in 5 minutes. The app showed my location on the map as well as the pick-up spot, so it wasn’t too hard to navigate myself there. The driver showed up a few minutes after I got there, he smiled and said hi but didn’t say much afterwards. I assumed he knew where I was going since I saw him checking his phone. The Tuk Tuk ride was much more enjoyable than I expected as the driver took me through narrow streets and alleys and I got to see the small houses in the area.
About 15-20 minutes later, he dropped me off right at the entrance to the Marble Temple and tried to make some sorta hand gesture to let me know that this would also be a pick-up spot for my next trip. I spent about an hour here, Iove love love the architecture of this temple! It was also much more quiet and much less crowded than the Grand Palace area (and also Wat Pho area where I visited later on that day), so I got to admire all those beautiful details in peace. If architecture is your thing, this is the one place you shouldn’t miss! It’s Bangkok’s hidden gem.
After the Marble Temple, I hopped to Wat Suthat (where the Giant Swing was). Again, I used the app to call the Tuk Tuk. This time the wait was a bit longer about ten minutes or so, I noticed there was slightly more traffic towards midday. It was about lunch time, I didn’t have anything planned, so I just went to one of the recommended restaurants in the Tuk Tuk Hop app. It was a small local family-run restaurant nearby the Giant Swing. The food turned out to be pretty good, indeed they served one of the best Satay I’ve ever had, much better than what I can find here in the Bay Area! After lunch, I took some nice shots of the Giant Swing and visited Wat Suthat for about 15 minutes. After seeing the Marble Temple, Wat Suthat was sorta okay. I wouldn’t spend too much time here. To be honest, the best view of this temple is from the street outside where you get the view of the main church with the red Giant Swing.
Next on my list was the Golden Mount, which wasn’t too far from the Swing so I decided to walk there. Let me tell you, the Golden Mount at Wat Saket is a must-visit! Do not miss this! True, it felt like a million steps to get to the top with Bangkok heat but the view was well worth it! Unfortunately, this is not for the handicapped or old folks as there was no lift to the top. One thing about visiting this in the afternoon was that it was pretty hot. If you could squeeze this in the morning (esp if you don’t plan to visit the Marble Temple), I would suggest doing so. It would make climbing up those steps a lot more pleasant.
My final destination was Wat Pho. I noticed that traffic was getting much worse than in the morning, but I decided against walking because it was too hot (and really humid compared to what I'm used to). I called another Tuk Tuk and while I was walking to the pickup point, I treated myself a fresh coconut juice from the street (cost less than a buck!) For a minute, I was worried about getting sick from the ice, but what the heck. It was so good and so refreshing. Fresh coconut juice (on the street) is a must try! On the way to Wat Pho, not only did I get to experience infamous Bangkok traffic during rush hours, but I also had a little adventure on the Tuk Tuk when the driver decided to lane split and started going between traffic. At first I was a little bit scared but he seemed to know what he was doing. Apparently, other Tuk Tuks did the same thing, so I figured this was their “normal” way of driving. I was pretty impressed with his skill and how he managed to get ahead of all those cars, definitely a fun story to tell friends and families back at home!
Despite the traffic, it didn't take very long to get to Wat Pho (kudos to the Tuk Tuk driver!) The Reclining Buddha just took my breath away, the size of the Buddha alone completely blew my mind. Never seen anything like this before. I spent about 40 minutes walking around and then it was time for the massage I’d been looking forward to all day. My masseuse greeted me with some fresh jasmine water. She was very professional and very polite, always asking if the pressure was right. It was an hour of heaven after a long day of walking. A perfect end to my day. Well, not quite, after the massage I headed over to the hotel restaurant nearby called Above Riva (recommended by Tripadvisor) for a fancy dinner and awesome sunset view of Wat Arun. Couldn't think of a better way to wrap up my Bangkok trip!
Sorry if the report was too long but I had such an amazing day hopping around Bangkok. Very impressed with the Tuk Tuk Hop service. I'm glad I gave it a try and I wish I had known about it earlier. Reading and hearing about other people getting ripped off by Tuk Tuk, I was mentally prepared to be a victim (I suck at negotiating and have a tendency to cave haha!). Anyway, I’d recommend this service if you wanna try riding Tuk Tuk in Bangkok! I think they have a website, you can just google Tuk Tuk Hop.
One last thing I learned was that the mourning period for the King is quite long (up to a year), so if you're traveling there within the next few months and would like to be respectful to their culture, bring some gray scale outfit. Hope this review is helpful to people who only have one day to spend in Bangkok like me!