It has been almost two months since I arrived in Thailand and in this short amount of time I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to explore and visit different parts of Bangkok and Thailand and also experience the culture of the locals. In this post I want to share with you my favorite things I have encountered in this wonderful city.
1. Go to temples
Thailand is a Buddhist country where more than 90% of the population actively participates in the religion. This is reflected in the country and society, as there are temples everywhere you go. Be it a simple temple or a big important one, all of them are stunning and beautiful. Apart from basking in the beauty of the architecture, visiting temples gives you the chance to observe and learn about a big part of Thai peoples’ day-to-day cultural practice.
As an exchange student I have time to explore many different temples, but my top picks are the famous Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). All of them are within walking distance in the area referred to as the Old City, where my host campus is located. These temples are the perfect place to experience and learn about Buddhism in Thailand.
2. Visit the local markets
There are markets and sellers everywhere in Thailand. When I go outside of my apartment, in just five minutes I run into a small market. Local markets are a great place to see how people interact with each other and to see what people buy and how they buy it. I also find it very interesting how vendors change what they sell with each upcoming holiday. For example, there is a lady that usually sells fruit but when Valentine’s Day came around she changed everything in her shop to small Valentine’s Day gifts.
Big markets usually have a wide variety of things for sale but there are also markets that specialize in just one product. The most famous markets in Thailand are the floating markets, flower markets, and the immense weekend market called Chatuchak Market. It’s important to bargain in these markets since prices are hiked up for foreign travelers, but in local and small markets remember that people make a living of what they sell and everything in Thailand is incredibly cheap enough.
3. Enjoy the huge variety of food
Thailand is a foodie paradise. The food is amazing with rich flavors, aromas, and ingredients that I have never seen in the United States. Bangkok, being the capital and an important trade port, has food from all of the regions of Thailand and different parts of Southeast Asia. You can eat something new every day!
Food is a very important part of Thai society. It is more common to ask you if you have eaten than “how are you.” Explore the dishes and street food and don’t be intimidated by the unusual cuisine or you will miss out on the amazing food Bangkok has to offer. Try the known dishes such as Pad Thai but also venture and try things you can’t pronounce.
4. Go to festivals and cultural activities going on in the city
Like any other big city, there are activities, festivals, and concerts happening almost every day in Bangkok. And the best thing is that a lot of them are free to attend. Universities also have many activities for students and even if sometimes they are in Thai and you can’t understand anything that is being said, it is fun to immerse yourself in the culture. I take advantage of social media to know what is happening around my area.
5. Walk around and get lost
I think that there is no better way to know a city than to start walking around and get lost. In the winding city of Bangkok, any foreigner is bound to get lost at least once, so embrace it. Get off the beaten path and walk around smiling at everyone you happen to cross by. It makes my day every time. I love walking around my campus, my neighborhood, and the little side streets of Bangkok. It helps me relax and when I find something magical it makes me think how grateful and blessed I am to be able to study abroad.