Child friendly Bangkok

The honest truth? It would have been far easier writing a post about how unchild friendly Bangkok is. But hey, what would life be without a challenge, right?

Our kids are pretty much like every other kid out there. They are six and nine years old, and seem to be interested in seeing something different (but not for too long), trying strange foods (as long as they don’t have to finish it), shopping (strictly items for themselves of course, and preferably football related, and why do they never get tired of trying on sunglasses goddamit…), animals (any shape or size), riding weird vehicles (a tuk tuk ride always put huge smiles on their faces) and last but not least, they like their ice cream. The bigger the better.

Thrown in at the deep end in Bangkok’s maze of over crowded pavements, crazy traffic and concrete avenues, I felt that our four day stopover would prove a huge challenge. There are only so many Buddhas and temples you can see before the kids start complaining. This caused for alternative thinking, and this is how we not only survived, but somehow managed to get Mattis and Siena to love Bangkok!

1. Covering Buddhas with gold leaf

Bangkok is full of beautiful Buddhist temples, but Wat Pho sort of takes the biscuit. Its 43,5 meter long reclined, golden Buddha is as popular with the Thai themselves as with us tourists. The kids loved this place. Not just because the Buddha is a fascinating sight in its own right, but also because the whole site is embalmed in a mystic and serene atmosphere. Best of all? You can buy golden leaf in a little stall, and place them on many of the smaller Buddha statues scattered around the temple area.

Location: Maharat Rd

 

 

2. Fish tank pedicure

  

Khao San Rd. is an exciting place for adults and children alike. Find out more about this weird and wonderful stretch of road in our previous post here. The fish tanks caught our kids’ attention immediately, and it took our son approximately one nano second to kick his shoes off once we gave him the go ahead. First time around we paid 4 euros for fifteen minutes. Second time around, two weeks later, we haggled it down to 2 euros.

Location: Khao San Rd.

3. Feeding the turtles

Wat Prayoon is a surprise of a place, not far from the Memorial Bridge. In fact it’s another temple with lots of little shrines scattered around. However, the biggest draw here is no doubt the huge turtles and fish who live in the small lake. Kids love this experience. First of all because they can get really close to the animals and interact by feeding them. Secondly because it’s a really laid back place with few fences and no traffic what so ever.

There’s a fruit vendor on site, dishing out bits of ham, sliced banana and those sticks to feed the turtles. Very cheap – 50 centimos for a full plate.

Location: 24 Th Prachathipok, cnr Thetsaban Soi 1

 

 

 

4. Frequent tuk tuk rides

We tuk-tukked everywhere. Be it just across the bridge     or further afield. Simply because it gave us, and especially the kids, a buzz. We had our own set of tuk-tuk rules too:

1 – Always put on sunglasses in order to protect our eyes from wind, fumes and dust.

2 – The kids were never allowed to get on the tuk-tuk first, nor to get off it last. I get a bit over protective when we’re travelling, and admit it – I was worried some crazy tuk-tuk driver would take off with the kids. Location: Everywhere!

5. Boat ride

I am still not sure if our daughter fell asleep because of, or in spite of, the rocky backwaters of Bangkok… Nevertheless, we had a private tour of the canals of the city in a traditional long tail boat, and were really amazed to discover how beautiful Bangkok is from this perspective.The boat was a rickety old wooden vessel that had seen better days for sure… and I wasn’t totally comfortable with the ill fitted life vests, but then again, the canals weren’t very wide, so I assumed we would be able to save ourselves should the boat give in to the currents…

Location: We boarded at the one of Bangkok’s many bridges. Sorry, can’t remember which one…

6. ‘Doing’ Khao San Rd

Khao San Rd is a haven for remote control addicted kids! Here you’ll find every shape, size and variety on planet Earth. They were also thrilled to pick up torches, flipflops, t-shirts, football shirts, SUNGLASSES, etc, etc.

Our son soon realised how to work his haggle magic, and became an expert at turning his back on the desired item, and saying ‘No, I’m not too bothered’. This would always result in the vendor calling us back with an offer to lower the price.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Ice cream heaven

In our family, ice cream is never a bad idea! We tracked down world famous ice cream chain Swensen’s in top notch shopping centre ‘Siam Parakon’.

Definitely not a backpacker place, this shopping centre is stricktly for the ones who are not Baht conscious – we are talking brands like Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Gucci, Lamborghini, Porche as well as the five star Kempinski Hotel Siam. Having said that, the ice cream was still affordable, delicious and safe for little stomachs.

Location: Siam station with the Skytrain

8. Seven Eleven

Prior to arriving in Thailand, we had no idea there would be a Seven Eleven on practically every street corner. Believe us, it’s an air conditioned piece of child friendly heaven when the intensity of Bangkok starts getting to you. Seek refuge, let the kids pick up an ice cream, browse the weird and wonderful section of crisps and just chill out. As strange as it may sound, we fell in love with Seven Eleven.

Location: Every street corner

9. Get your regular place

There’s nothing quite like returning to the same cafe a few days in a row. The staff recognizes you, the menu is familiar, and you know where the best table is. We found our regular place a few blocks down from the hotel. Nothing fancy, just a hole in the wall Thai restaurant, frequented by the locals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Seek refuge in the hotel

We totally recommend this down-to-earth-with-an-arty-atmosphere hotel in downtown Bangkok: Phranakorn Nornlen! It’s extremely child friendly, and consequently frequented by many families with kids. Their breakfasts come with hot chocolate for little vagabonds, and their interior design features vintage sweet shop and toy shop facades. In a pond in the garden, they have tadpoles and frogs which entertained our kids for hours! Another huge bonus are the delicious smoothies which ensure your little ones stock up on their healty fruits. BIG THUMBS UP from us!

We have written about this hotel before here.

Finally, after surviving/falling in love with Bangkok, we took a well deserved island break in Ko Chang. Find out all about our secret Ko Chang beach here.

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Water for elephants

A face to face encounter with an elephant is on many travelers’ wish list. These wonderfully bulky animals offer an amazing opportunity to be close to nature and wildlife in far away places like India, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and many other Asian countries.

More often than not, we travel with our two children aged 5 and 8, and like most other children the prospect of riding an elephant is as exotic as it gets. It is something that will keep them going even after fourteen hours on a plane, dodgy meals in even dodgier street stalls and believe it or not – it will even fuel their appetite for more  when their little legs and arms have temporarily taken on a horrid, lumpy texture due to dense mosquito bites.

In parent language this translates to ‘don’t mess with promised elephant rides’. Have you told your child (s)he will be riding an elephant, you’d better make it happen!


We took our kids on an elephant ride on a previous trip to Vietnam. We crossed Lac Lake on elephant back, an experience which left our then three year old daughter fast asleep. We were sat in a sort of rack mounted on the elephant’s back, and the rocking movements were horrific. It didn’t make matters any better that the elephant’s feet kept getting stuck in the muddy bottom of the lake, and he had to pull his legs out of the mud to keep moving forwards. Not nice.

This time around in Luang Prabang in Laos we wanted a different experience. We wanted to be closer to the animal, preferably sitting on the elephant without the wooden rack. We also wanted to experience the animals in their natural habitat without being part of a huge tour group. It felt good to know what we wanted, but making sure we got it wasn’t quite so easy.

Luang Prabang is full of agencies offering elephant rides. We took our time and talked to a good five or six of them to find out what was on offer. Some were so cheap that we immediately suspected that the experience would reflect the low price. Others were so pricey that we simply weren’t prepared to pay up. Two hundred euros for a morning with the elephants seemed too inflated. For that price you’d get your whole family in to Disneyland Paris. (Not that we’d rather do that, but after all, you don’t expect European prices in Laos).

Then, on a bike trip to the Tad Sae Waterfalls outside Luang Prabang we stumbled across an elephant camp. We negotiated our wishes, and ended up with everything we wished for at a very reasonable price:


This was on a par with the prices offered in the agencies we had been to see. Slightly cheaper actually. However, because we were negotiating on location, we had the advantage of knowing we would be the only tourists in the group, and we could also tell them we wanted to be as close to the animals as possible.

Another big advantage we had, due to luck only, was that our mahmuts (elephant trainers) took an immediate liking to our kids. They went out of their way to give them a fun filled adventure which included jumping off the elephant’s heads in the river, climbing back up using the elephant leg as a step and involving themselves in our water fight. They passed our kids from one elephant to the other in order to let both of them have a go as ‘mahmuts’.

Truth is, this $75 experience  turned out to be the highlight of our holiday. We ended our day in the Tad Sae Waterfalls full of adrenalin. The elephants blew our minds, and needless to say – during the rest of the trip the kids wanted to buy every single piece of souvenir that had an elephant on it.

Swimming with the elephants, riding them and touching the corners of their weird anatomy is something that touched our hearts.

Ever wondered what the life of a monk is like? During our stay in Luang Prabang, Spencer spent hours upon hours getting to know the monks and photograph their unique way of life. Check out some of the photos.