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Today’s post is so fun- this Bangkok City Guide, written by the ever-fabulous Adrianna from CrafterHours, is part of our family travel guides series. If you like to travel with kids, be sure to check out our city guides (and stay tuned- we have some great tours lined up this year).
Hi! My name is Adrianna and I blog over at Crafterhours. I had the awesome experience of living in Bangkok for 3 years with 3 kids (one was born there!). I’m here to share a short list of fun activities to do if you find yourself killing time in Bangkok with kids. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Bangkok as a vacation destination with kids, but you might have a few days there on your way to a beautiful Thai island or northern city.A couple caveats though- Bangkok is not necessarily as cheap as perception leads us to believe, and for about 90% of the year it’s too hot to enjoy anything outside. The best time to go is December – February, when the highs are closer to 80 F instead of 95 F and humidity might be lower. If that’s not possible, June – August are the next best months. March – May is the time when the Bangkok temperature exceeds the surface temperature of the sun, and August – November is rainy season. If you go during rainy season, it generally doesn’t rain all day, so just plan on an indoor afternoon activity. My number one recommendation is buying and studying the Nancy Chandler map before you go. You’ll probably never find a more informative and fun map. It covers a wide view of downtown Bangkok, with detailed sections for Chinatown, Sukhumvit area, and Chatuchak market.
This a great place to take a picnic and hang out for the morning. Bikes are available to explore the park for under a dollar, and some of the bikes have child seats attached. There’s a large lake where you can sit and enjoy a snack or rent a boat, and plenty of space for the kids to run around. There is also a playground and a butterfly garden to explore. Also nearby is Queen Sirikit park, which also has lots of green space, a playground, and tall shady trees to get out of the heat.
If you’re going to Rot Fai Park, I suggest making a day of it and also going to Chatuchak Market, which is adjacent to the park. Chatuchak (pronounced Chat uh chuk) is one of the largest markets in Asia, and is only fully opened on the weekends. It can be a busy place on a Saturday, so get there as close to opening as possible (10 am). Chatuchak is definitely not a stroller friendly place unless you stick to the outer streets and don’t venture into the tighter halls of vendor stalls. At Chatuchak you can find everything from military camo to seamstress’ dress forms, knock-off Breitling watches to live animals. I hesitate to name something you can NOT buy at Chatuchak, but the main categories are clothing, shoes, jewelry, bags, houseware, pottery, artwork, furniture, craft supplies, and souvenirs. Make sure you visit the food vendors for some coconut ice cream, thai sweet tea, and a fried sliced potato on a stick! Chatuchak is centered around JJ Mall, where you can find many of the same items you’ll find in the market, at slightly higher prices. If it’s too hot or rainy, it might be worth the small premium to have air conditioning. If at any time you need to escape, the perimeter of Chatuchak is lined with taxis and has a BTS station (Mo Chit).
Funarium, Kidzania, and Siam Ocean World
Before living in Asia, I traveled all over Europe with kids. I know that there are days when you just need to let your kids be kids, even if you’re not experiencing any of the local culture. If you have hotel fever or the weather isn’t cooperating, these are a few places for guaranteed kid fun (just expect to pay western prices)! The Funarium is your standard indoor play place, and the cafe has surprisingly delicious food for adults. Bring socks or buy them there for $1. Kidzania is one of those simulated towns where kids can perform lots of jobs for all kinds of professions and earn “money”. Everything is kid sized, but there are plenty of cafes and benches for the parents. Adults aren’t allowed in the buildings where kids perform their jobs, so just keep that in mind. I recommend it for around ages 6 and up. There is a baby and toddler play area to keep the little ones entertained while big siblings get to work. It’s located in the upper floors of the Central World Mall. Siam Ocean World is an indoor aquarium located in the basement of the glitzy Siam Paragon Mall. It’s pricey, but incredibly well done. One level up is a huge food court and a gourmet market.
Zoos and Waterparks
Bangkok does have the Dusit Zoo. It’s not super impressive, but then again, kids are easy to impress! A much better zoo is Safari World, which is about a 45 minute drive out of Bangkok, but well worth the drive It has a traditional zoo, dolphin and elephant shows, and a small drive-through safari area, where you can drive within feet of loose tigers. Siam Park City is an amusement park and waterpark also about 45 minutes outside of the city. If it’s too hot, you can pay for only the waterpark, which is really well done and family-friendly. The wave pool is the largest in the world! Closer to the city are Fantasia Lagoon and Flow Rider, which both feature water parks on top of buildings. In fact, many hotels in Bangkok have really fancy pool areas on the roof, so look into booking one of those so the kids can cool off while the parents enjoy a cold drink and a great view!
You can also go to a pier on the Chao Praya River and rent a private boat tour of the main river and the surrounding canals. Your guide will take you down water “streets” lined with Thai stilt houses, where you can see locals using the canal for everything from transportation to bathing. It’s a great look at authentic Thai life, and you’ll stay nice and cool zipping down the water with a tarp overhead. Ask your hotel for the best pier for renting private boats, and haggle with the boat driver so you’re not spending more than 2500 baht.
For a really fun and memorable evening meal, head up to the 77th floor of the iconic Bayoke Tower (the tallest building in Thailand, it usually has a BMW banner on it) for the international buffet. The display and amount of food is entertainment in itself, but they also have live entertainment from traditional Thai dancers. At the end of the meal, head up to the revolving deck for a 360 degree view of Bangkok! You’ll need to make reservations and pay for admittance.
If you have older kids, approximately 8 and up, you might want to take the very fun and unusual cooking class, Cooking with Poo. This is one of the main attractions in Bangkok, and for good reason! Khun (Miss) Poo has a huge personality and you will love touring the market and learning to cook Thai food with her. Just book well in advance!
Free and low cost entertainment
Bangkok has a surprising amount of green areas if you just want to relax and let the kids run. Just avoid them during the hot hours of the day! After 5 pm is usually best. If you have girls, take them for a mani/pedi and tinsel highlights for their hair, for about $10. For $10 you can also feed a family of five on street food, and it can be surprisingly delicious. Look for the sweet sticky pork on a stick, served with a bag of sticky rice. Picky eaters will love it, and it’s not spicy! Catch a short ride in a tuk tuk (took took) for a fun zip through the streets of Bangkok! If the weather’s not cooperating or you need evening entertainment, catch a kids’ movie at one of the super glam Thai movie theaters (Central World has a great one!). They are surprisingly cheap! At the end of a long day, even kids will enjoy a foot massage at one of the drop-in massage places that line the touristy streets. Expect to pay about $5 for a half hour. If the kids need a snack, drop in at one of the approximately billion 7/11 stores and grab some Pocky Sticks or chocolate-filled Koalas!
If you want to spend the day outside of Bangkok, my number one suggestion is Flight of the Gibbons. A bus will transport you from a downtown hotel to a zipline course through the forest. There’s no strict age restriction, but keep in mind that your kids will be strapped into harnesses and zipline alone up to 300 meters. Depending on their personality, I’d recommend this for ages 7 and up. If you have smaller children, you might enjoy visiting Ayutthaya instead. Ayutthaya was once the capitol of Thailand and the largest city in the world! Now it has the remains of centuries-old buildings and temples, and you can see the iconic tree that grew around a buddha head. You can also ride elephants there if that’s a goal for your Bangkok trip.
Some helpful tips-
Taxis are extremely cheap, no more than $5 around the city. If you want to drive somewhere out of town, have your hotel book one for you. It’ll be more expensive, but city taxi drivers don’t like to drive very far. When you hail a taxi, he’ll roll down the window and you’ll shout your destination to him. IF he approves you, then you can get in the taxi. Tipping isn’t required anywhere in Thailand, but it’s become expected of foreigners. Rounding up to the nearest 100 baht is plenty.
Make use of the BTS. It’s cheap, easy to navigate, and you’ll avoid the constant traffic.
Thais love kids. Especially foreign kids. Children will often be your “golden ticket” in Bangkok if you need help with anything. But prepare yourself and your children to have their photo taken by and with people.
Just like in the word “Thailand”, “th” is always pronounced with a hard “t” sound. This can be helpful when asking for directions or giving directions to a taxi driver.
“Mai ped” means “not spicy”. Use this phrase when ordering food for kids, and probably even yourself. Thai spicy is not the same as American Thai spicy!
When visiting the Grand Palace or any of the many famous Wats (temples), you will be required to cover your shoulders and legs. I recommend using a shawl provided by the Wat instead of carrying one around, or worse, wearing pants. You will not want to wear long pants ever in Bangkok, no matter what time of year! The shawls are usually free for borrowing, or very inexpensive.
If you go during rainy season, bring an umbrella EVERYWHERE! It may be sunny with nary a cloud in the sky when you leave your hotel, but an hour later you’ll find yourself in a deluge with the rain seemingly coming up from the ground. Flip flops and Crocs are acceptable to just about any place you go, especially any place with kids, and they are highly recommended.
In the event that you need to see a doctor or go to an emergency room, head to Bumrungrad hospital. It is rated as one of the top hospitals in the world (I gave birth there – my best delivery experience!) They are very friendly to westerners and speak English. If you don’t have valid health insurance, don’t sweat it. Your bill will probably be less than $100. For reference, one of my kids had to stay there for 3 days of hospitalization and the total cost was $1400, without insurance. An injury or illness in Bangkok would be unfortunate, but it will not bankrupt you!