EXCLUSIVE: A Bangkok, Thailand Travel Guide, According To Bela Padilla
Ask her about where to go, what to do, and who to see in the Thai capital and she'll be the best tour guide you could ever ask for.
In case you didn't know, Bela Padilla holds two Southeast Asian cities closest to her heart; she's been shuffling between Manila and Bangkok since she was a tiny tot, often to visit her father who lives in the neighboring country.
"My dad’s been living and working in Bangkok for more than 20 years, so the first time I flew to Bangkok was when I was four years old, and then every year after that. My first flight alone was to go to Bangkok at a young age, and my dad was waiting for me at the arrival area," she recalls with fondness.
From the Suvarnabhumi Airport alone, Bela has formed some of her best travel memories on her Thailand-bound trips. Like the city it opens up to, it's changed in countless ways, reflecting the progress and dynamism that awaits the curious traveler.
The 27-year-old doesn't hold back her praises of her go-to holiday home, and is quick to offer advice for anyone hoping to explore it for the first, second, or even third time. We're taking her word for it; she has explored Bangkok in more ways than she can count, familiarizing herself with its enclaves hidden to the uninitiated, as well as its boldest destinations that can't be missed.
Without further ado, this is Bangkok, according to Bela:
Where to stay: Siam Kempinski Hotel
This hotel is ideal for those headed to Bangkok to take it easy. Bela herself has checked in the the five-star retreat on most of her visits as it's conducive to long, unrestrained conversations and meetups. Considering that she spends most of her time in Bangkok to catch up with her dad, it's easy to imagine the laidback atmosphere this getaway has.
When to go: April or November
Bela's favorite time to go to Bangkok is in April as she times it with the Songkran Festival, a colorful celebration that many Thai people consider to be their New Year's Eve counterpart. For those who prefer to visit during the cooler months, November is her recommendation; not only is the weather more pleasant, but the nearing holiday season means more shopping and dining options all over the city.
Where to go and what to see: Markets, temples, and a mix of open air and air-conditioned shopping hotspots
Despite having visited Bangkok on numerous occasions, Bela is glad to still be discovering new things about the city.
She narrates, "This time, I asked my friend, Rona, to go with me and I was surprised with the amount of places we got to visit! Rona loves going to temples and she found a few that were near our area so we went to those, and of course the Chatuchak market."
"We also tried the floating market (I recommend this to people who [don't easily get] queasy; its actually very fun). We walked along Sukhumvit Road a lot of times, and tried the local dishes as much as we could. For shopping, my go-to places have always been the Siam Paragon and Siam Center malls; they’re also connected on certain floors, so it’s really convenient," she adds.
And the Huntsman Pub at Landmark Hotel, according to Bela, is a really special place for people who love nostalgic encounters and a bit of history in their travels.
"When you get to swing by the Huntsman Pub at Landmark Hotel, the band that plays has been playing there for 20 years. Enjoy their music and tell them I said hello," Bela quips.
What to love most about Bangkok: Continuous progress
Aside from enjoying the trip she's currently on, Bela also makes observations and comparisons to previous ones. And what she learns every time she does always manages to impress her; Bangkok is a place that always evolves and progresses, making it feel as though it's a totally new destination with every trip, even to those who know the city like the palm of their hands.
"I’m also amazed at how much Bangkok has changed in terms of progress. Seeing it grow as I have over the years makes me happy for them and wish the same for our home, Metro Manila. The number of tourists walking around casually there have tripled since I was a kid," she explains.
What experiences to be open to: Cultural exchanges—and tuktuk rides, of course
Although booking a Grab is the much more convenient way to get around the city, Bela says that it's certainly a must to experience a tuktuk ride at least once, especially for first-time visitors.
But more than the touristy things to enjoy in Bangkok, what's most important is to appreciate Thai culture and take the time to understand their traditions and values. Immersion is key to really falling in love with a city in meaningful ways.
"Be open to new experiences. Eat what they eat, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Allow yourself to splurge on a few tuktuk rides... but use apps to get around. Respect their culture. Visit temples, and wear appropriate clothing when doing so. Take lots of photos, everything in Bangkok is popping with color! Walk and look around," Bela advises.
For more travel inspiration, check out scenes for Bela's most recent trip to Bangkok below! She worked with photography booking app SweetEscape to document both the new activities she got to experience and the spots she got to explore this time around.
Photos from @bela @ronaofiana and courtesy of SweetEscape