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I didn’t write much about Bangkok during our stay there, but not because I had a struggling relationship with this city. Quite the opposite. You ask Alex, and he’ll tell you Bangkok definitely wasn’t his favorite place, but I genuinely liked it.
Sure, it’s loud and smelly, not so pretty and definitely not as charming as Chiang Mai, but exploring it with kids is easy thanks to the skytrain, there are big, green parks, nice coffee shops and restaurants, vegetarian options, lots of family cafes that allowed me to work, and (bonus!) there is salsa literally every night somewhere in the city. I wasn’t sad to leave and to move on to Vietnam, but I could have stayed longer.
The biggest downside?
Air quality. This is where we first came in touch with a harsh reality: good air quality is not something everybody can take for granted like we do in Europe. Here in Bangkok is where we started wearing masks, because the AQI (Air Quality Index) was almost always over 150, when it should be between 0 and 50 to be healthy.
We downloaded an app where we could track the AQI (it’s called AirVisual) and after extensive research to understand what the right masks are, we picked a brand called StyleSEAL and started wearing our masks whenever we were outside.
Practical tips for visiting Bangkok
Withdrawing money in Bangkok
Every ATM will charge you a fee of 220 baht, so I recommend you withdraw as much as you can at once as soon as you arrive to Thailand.
Drinking water in Bangkok
Like in the majority of South East Asia—except for Singapore so far—tap water is off limits. You shouldn’t drink it, and I also wouldn’t recommend using it to cook: after the first week in Thailand, though, we all started using it to brush our teeth (except for Emily who didn’t know how to spit yet), and we were all fine.
In the majority of condos, you can find a water dispenser, so instead of buying lots and lots of 1,5L water bottles, which is not very eco-friendly, buy a big one and keep refilling it (also cheaper).
Getting around in Bangkok
You can get a Grab pretty much anywhere (although it usually takes forever because of traffic), but the most convenient way of getting around in Bangkok is by Skytrain: the blue BTS line will take you pretty much anywhere you need to visit, and it’s the public transport we used the most.
To make it easier, on the first day go to a ticket booth at any BTS station (Bangkok Skytrain Station), and buy a Rabbit Card: it’ll cost 100 baht plus a recharge of rides (I bought 15 rides the first time, and 25 the second time, and I finished all of them in three weeks, because I went salsa a lot ;-)). Kids under 90cm don’t pay, and for children over 90cm you can buy a Rabbit Card Junior (that offers slightly cheaper fares).
Where to stay in Bangkok
We always prefer to stay slightly off the touristic areas to experience a little bit more of authenticity, but we will always try and pick a place as close as possible to the most convenient public transport.
In Bangkok, that is the blue line of the skytrain, so we decided to stay at the Ideo Verve Condo right in front of the On Nut skytrain station: being so close to the train made everything a lot easier with the kids, and being slightly further away from the centre made it a little bit less expensive.
(By the way, we always stay in Airbnb as we find it the safest option. If you don’t have an account yet, you can sign up using this link to get 25€ off your first booking).
Best way to go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (and viceversa)
If you have to go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or viceversa and are wondering how to do out, wonder no more: the sleeper train is definitely the best, most convenient way. Yes, even with kids!
Buy the tickets a lot in advance: we left it about three weeks before, and all the private cabins were taken, so we traveled second class, in the “corridor”—it’s not private, but as we bought four seats we had a whole “little section” for ourselves, which worked out well. The only thing I didn’t like in the second class is that they never turned off the lights, so I struggled sleeping (the kids slept just fine, though).
If you’re indecisive if to take a sleeper train with (small) kids, please know that they’ll love it, it’ll be an experience in itself, and you’ll save on one hotel night ;-) But don’t forget sweaters, it’s really cold in there!
Family cafes (with play area or similar) in Bangkok
Little Pea Kids Commons
The Commons is a stunning shopping mall and building (it won design awards for two consecutive years), and Little Pea Kids is on the 2nd floor, called Play Yard.
It became my office during our stay in Bangkok, and I couldn’t recommend it more:
- They have a FREE play area (not common in Bangkok) with a selection of toys, lots of books, and their super Wonderwall (such a cool concept!), where children can play while parents enjoy a coffee;
- Their menu is healthy, and the food they serve is delicious, almost gourmet!
- Last but not least, they offer a drop-in service: you leave your children in a play room (with lots of toys, and trained staff who will do activities with them!), and you can either stay and work or head out for some shopping at the mall or a coffee/meal in a more grown-up place.
Fees are 200THB/hour per child the first hour, and 100THB/hour per child for following hours. Needless to say, Oliver and Emily loved it, and asked me to go back over and over again.
This is a cute cafe near On Nut BTS station with nice food, a lovely garden, and the main attraction for the kids: B5 the rabbit! The owners are lovely, and gave us lots of tips on where to go and what to do during our stay in BKK (they even have a travel booklet hand made by them for their clients!).
Mari Go Round
This place is really cute, well curated, and the food is OK (not great, but good enough that I didn’t have to go find another place for lunch). I spent a whole, very relaxing day here with the kids, and worked uninterrupted for many hours. I totally recommend it.
Better Moon Cafe
If you want to visit the street food market in On Nut, I’d highly recommend coming here: it’s an eco-friendly cafe, and they let you borrow plates and forks so you don’t need to use single-use plastic at the market.
As for us, we came here a lot to have lunch, as the kids loved the food, the little corner where they could sit and draw, and the waitresses who always took the time to play with them (thanks!).
Our favorite soft play areas in Bangkok
If you’re looking for an easy way to tire up the kids after a sightseeing session, a soft play area is what you need (if you pay 3 hours, the hour is cheaper, so plan accordingly). It’s also great if you need to do some shopping, because these soft-play areas are usually in malls: simply alternate with your partner (you can’t leave the kids on their own), and voilat!
ALWAYS bring your own socks or you’ll have to buy them there.
Playmondo at Central World (Chit Lom station), 2nd floor
- Clean, beautiful, versatile, I… ehm, THE KIDS loved this play area ;-)
- There's a cafe, but the food is not great. For a quick lunch or early dinner, opt for a pizza upstairs at Pizzaiola by Massilia
- Near Playmondo there's a little kid clothing shop called Once Upon a Time (all made in Thailand) where we found very cute dresses for Emily.
Kidzoona at Gateway Mall (Ekkamai station), 4th floor
- Big, clean, lots of different activities.
- There are animations and music games throughout the day (Oliver and Emily are not into it, so they just kept playing).
What to see in Bangkok with kids
We actually didn’t do much sightseeing in Bangkok, mostly around it. But we definitely have our highlights:
Don’t miss the kid library at Lumpini Park!
To be honest, Lumpini park is disappointing (Benchasiri Park is smaller, but a lot nicer), and the playground is nothing special, but it’s worth going with kids just to see monitor lizards wandering free around the park, and you definitely shouldn’t miss the library, which has one of the most beautiful kid areas I’ve ever seen!
Closed on Mondays.
The flower market and The HUGE reclining Buddha
I’d definitely recommend making your way to the flower market: it’s full of contrasts (for even more contrast, sit down for an ice-cream at the lovely Farm to Table Organic Cafe), and walking down the little alleys covered in flowers will be like stepping into another world. To get here, take the new Bangkok metro and get off at the Sanam Chai Station which is especially beautiful.
Walking distance from here, you’ll find the famous Reclining Buddha, which is definitely worth a visit: no matter how big you think it is, it’ll be bigger! And the Giant Buddha is not the only attraction, the temple in itself is stunning, too: go around 5pm to experience it both in the daylight and when they turn on the lights at night.
The Snake Farm
I couldn’t recommend this place more for kids (thank you, Mush!). The Snake Farm is definitely something you won’t find on many travel guides: it’s a shame, because it’s so worth a visit!
The farm is part of the Red Cross centre, it’s 95 years old, and it’s the second biggest snake farm in the world! The work they do here is also very important: they study snakes, extract their venom, and create antivenin for the deadliest snake species on earth.
If you go, don’t miss the “snake handling” presentation, where they teach you to recognise different snakes in the wilderness (it can save your life!).
Just so you know, if you come here by public transport, you’ll have to take the green line of the Skytrain, and then walk for about 10 minutes.
Venom Extraction: Monday to Friday 11am.Snake handling: Monday to Friday 2.30pm, weekends and holidays 11am.
Bangkok in November: Loi Krathong Festival
We stayed in Bangkok in November, and on top of being a perfect month to visit, we could join the celebrations of the Loi Krathong festival, where everybody heads to a river or a lake to release their Krathongs (beautiful lotus-shaped “boats”) in the water to wash away their sins and pay respects to the goddess of the river for good luck.
We celebrated it in the Benchasiri Park, bought our materials at the market to make our Krathong from scratch (there are special stands on the morning of the festival, or you can also buy your already-made Krathong at the entrance of the park), and we simply loved this little tradition (for more info, this is a great post).
Day trip from Bangkok: Wat Bang Kung + Mae Klong railway market + Amphawa floating market
We knew we wanted to see the famous railway market and a typical Thai floating market, so we decided to combine them into a day trip.
We chose this Klook private day tour.
Wat Bang Kung Temple
Wat Bang Kung is definitely one of the most peculiar and memorable temples we visited in Thailand: the big banyan tree that surrounds it has become an actual part of it and its big roots are most likely the reason why this very old temple still stands.
This tiny temple also witnessed the training of thousands of villagers to become soldiers, which is why you’ll see statues of fighters everywhere.
Curious things we learnt from our guide:
- The Thai Buddha statues are all made with precious materials and then covered in concrete: over time, the concrete runs off and the statue reveals its “true colours”.
- Each different position of the statues represents a phase of Buddha’s life: the statues are pretty much like the Buddha’s life photos.
- You always have to burn three incense sticks at Buddhist temples, for good luck.
Mae Klong railway market
The railway market experience in Mae Klong was almost surreal, and probably still to date one of the most memorable experiences in Thailand. In our tour we experienced the railway market from the ground AND from the train!
The guide wanted to stay near a cafe as she was worried about the kids, but we asked to go right in the middle of the market for the authentic experience (which I highly recommend!).
Curious things we learnt from our guide:
- The market was there before the railway, so when the railway was built, people just refused to change their market spot, and adapted.
- Today, 7 times a day, at the sound of a whistle, they quickly move all their stands and products to let the train pass… and it literally passes a few cm from the stand and your nose!
Amphawa Floating Market
We were worried about taking the kids to two markets in one day, but it turned out great! We chose the floating market in Amphawa instead of the closer one in Bangkok or the most famous one in Damnoen Saduak, because we always prefer less touristic places. And we scored!
We had dinner on a boat, tried the best coconut ice-cream in the whole Thailand (or so it tasted!), and in the evening we hopped on a boat for a tour of the canals at sunset, all the way to see the fireflies on the trees at night (it felt like Christmas!).
Weekend trip from Bangkok: Koh Kood island
We knew we wanted to experience the island life while in Thailand, but as always, we didn’t want to be surrounded by tourists, which is why we went about 350km from Bangkok to the island of Koh Kut (also spelt Koh Kood).
We woke up the kids, dressed them, and left Bangkok at 3.30am with one backpack. We took a 30-min taxi, a 5-hour bus on bumpy roads past rice fields, small villages, monks on moppets, and stray dogs in the middle of the road; an unidentified vehicle that they called “shuttle”; a 45-min ferry, and 2 Song Taews.
Yes, it did take about 10 hours to get to our hotel, but it was so worth it: Koh Kut really is one of the last remaining virgin islands in Thailand, and our hotel A La Koh Kood is paradise on earth. I’ll just say: we had booked two nights, but we ended up staying a whole week!
We relaxed, enjoyed the 30-degree, crystal-clear sea water, snorkelled, played with crabs, ate fish that came fresh every morning straight from the fisherman’s boat, and forgot about the world for a little while. We needed it.
If you have any questions about Bangkok with kids (or without) don’t hesitate to write it down here in the comments. If you want to see more photos and videos from the places in this post, look for Bangkok in my highlighted stories non Instagram.