Two years ago around this time I was returning home from trips to China and Taiwan vowing not to return to Asia for at least 10 years. At the time I was ill-prepared for the drastic shift in culture and lifestyle; so subsequently I spent my last 3 days in a Taipei hotel room watching Netflix. Although I appreciated and enjoyed many of the experiences I had in both countries, my overall experience was riddled with conflict.
Despite my hesitancy to return to Asia, I discovered a few friends were interested in visiting Thailand and Bali so I decided to give it another shot. The two weeks I spent traveling across Thailand made for some of the best moments of my life. Accompanied by my travel wife and fellow Black Girls Being cohost, Sophia, I boarded my private jet (run by Air Bow Wow) making stops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
The first leg of my journey brought me to Bangkok, Thailand, where I had 48 hours to tear the theoretical club up. In this time I visited The Grand Palace, The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok, The Chatuchak Market, and several other notable tourist staples. I experienced some of the best Bangkok has to offer within my short window. Here are my top 10 things I learned in Bangkok and a few tips for those interested in visiting.
1. If you are not down with Buddha please do not rep his set.
Before you can even properly clear customs, signs are displayed throughout the airport explaining the religious significance of Buddha and discouraging tourist from buying products or getting tattoos of Buddha for ornamental purposes. Basically, if you're not Buddhist and you're caught with his head hanging out of the wrong side of your back pocket, expect to get checked (where yo grandma, aunty, and mamma stay at). I'm not saying I don't have a Buddha head at home sitting on my dresser, I'm just saying I didn't buy it in Thailand and at the time of purchase I was completely unaware that it's so vehemently discouraged.
2. If you're visiting during the summer months be prepared to sweat.
The dripping sweat everyone on my Instagram mistook for a glow is just the result of walking one Bangkok block in May. If you were irresponsible and didn't check the local climate like myself, just make sure to pack airy and light clothing while still being conscious of the need to cover shoulders/thighs at the temples. Also booking a place with a pool is a must.
3. The Chatuchak Market is one of the best outdoor markets in the world.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good traditional market. I spent several hours roaming around Chatuchak Weekend Market eating traditional Thai food, negotiating with merchants, and buying clothes I don't have any type of room for in my luggage. The market is only open on the weekends and can get really busy in the afternoon so I suggest arriving in the morning. Here you can purchase traditional goods from several different Asian nations and cultures; without the guilt of supporting a company like Urban Outfitters that exploits and appropriates cultures for financial gain. :)
4. Street food and street fruit are an essential part of the Bangkok experience.
As someone with a weak stomach and immune system please trust me when I say, let live and eat. Although I'm a very picky eater at home, while abroad I try my best to experiment with everything a country has to offer, including the food. I know you've heard horror stories about street food but honestly what doesn't kill you (if you have good health insurance) will make you stronger. Side note: hate to be that black person, but I ate watermelon at least twice a day in Thailand and I've never had fruit taste so delicious.
5. The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok is strange but promising.
As soon as I entered Bangkok's Museum of Contemporary Arts I instantly recognized its resemblance to The Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Aside from the first three floors feeling like a strange outlet mall, once you reach the top floors the appeal of the museum reveals itself. I spent less than two hours wondering around highly impressed by the unique use of texture and detail. One instillation taught me that sex workers in Thailand like to do this freaky shit with their hands because they said sex is just for making babies or whatever.
6. The night life is centered around sex tourism, but you didn't hear that from me.
I didn't go out because I'm an old grandma and it was past my bed time, but my travel wife Sophia did and what she reported back settled my FOMO. Sophia went to a popular lounge with two of her friends and was accosted by a man she would describe as a pimp who prompted them to join him in his fun. Sophia didn't want to pay for no booty, so she declined. This is not the only story I've heard about the prevalence of sex tourism in Bangkok. I'm not saying this to discourage anyone from going out. The next time I visit I will definitely make an effort to go out, but I'm not paying for no booty either.
7. Airbnb is low key illegal but high key not really.
When I arrived to my Airbnb a large sign greeted me in the building lobby that stated, "weekend and short-term rentals are illegal, violators will be subject to criminal charges." Because Sophia and I are reckless (and our Airbnb host gave us the heads up because she's a real one) we were well prepared for this sort of display. Upon investigating further it appears that Thailand's government has been working diligently over the past few years to prevent the use of Airbnb and Uber in the country. Although the legality of Airbnb is still unclear (even to its local citizens) the website still boast thousands of listings in Thailand and I did not have any issues during my stay.
8. You must dress like you have parents that care about you when visiting temples.
On my first visit to a Buddhist temple, I learned very quickly that all women are required to cover pretty much everything Sophia and I had out in order to enter (even though all the men and monks had their shoulders and knees out). Because I packed a bag that weighs the size of a small human I was prepared for pretty much every condition and occasion, but for those of you who pack light make sure to bring something you'd feel comfortable wearing to the cookout at your mamma's Baptist church. The security guards will check you at the door.
9. The Grand Palace definitely lives up to the hype.
Although there are several palaces and temples sprawled throughout the city, The Grand Palace is by far the most beautiful and impressive. I'm not saying I'm a gold digger, but if gold is what you want gold is what you'll get upon visiting. The vibrant colors, rich textures, and unique prints makes the palace the perfect backdrop for some Instagram flex-worthy photos.
10. 48 hours in Bangkok is plenty of time to adequately explore the city.
I find that many people enjoy their time in Thailand so much that they always plan to come back (me being one of them). Because Bangkok is the main port of entry, if you plan to visit Thailand more than once, 48 hours in Bangkok for your first trip is more than enough time to explore the area. Granted another day in the city couldn't hurt, however I honestly don't feel like I missed out on much.