While there may be certain places on your dream backpacker route that you’ve seen on a blog or Instagram, it’s important to do a little research before you travel to make sure these picture-perfect destinations actually have some cultural merit that makes them worth visiting. This ensures you don’t arrive somewhere that looks amazing on the ‘gram but is actually just a tourist trap with foreigners taking photos rather than an authentic experience. Whether it’s a mall, market, bar or beach, you’re sure to come across both local wonders and tourist torture! Here we give you some top tips for avoiding Bangkok’s tourist traps and a guide for seeking out more authentic spots instead.
Do Your Research
It’s great to read around before any trip abroad to get some top tips on where to travel and what to see. However, if you really want to find out the best details about a city or destination, you’re better off seeking out local blogs, expat diaries or hotel/hostel articles that aim to give you the whole truth, rather than beauty bloggers searching for the most photogenic spots (even if that means complete inauthenticity!) or influencers selling you something they’ve been paid to promote.
It’s amazing to find bars that are loved by locals, shopping malls and markets that offer genuine Thai produce at bargain prices and roadside shacks and eateries that serve up traditional dishes that you may not find elsewhere.
Go Where The Locals Go
An obvious tip that many of us often forget is: go where the locals go. We might feel drawn to a restaurant or bar that has a buzzing atmosphere full of travellers, but this isn’t going to give you a taste of Thailand. You’re probably much more likely to find a quirky place that will give you a night to remember if you spot some locals sharing a bottle of whiskey in a small bar or a family dining together on sharing platters of Thai food. This is definitely the case when you’re at popular food markets, where tourist gather at the well-put-together stands and restaurants, while locals sit down on a mat on the floor and share tender meat cooked over a make-shift barbecue, or one-pot dishes that can feed a whole family. This is where you want to eat!
Another place where locals enjoy spending time together is in parks and squares across the city. If you allow yourself to wander around Bangkok’s parks (especially on weekends) you’re likely to stumble across a fun catwalk or competition, a local Tai Chi lesson or simply groups of families and friends enjoying each other’s company. This will give you an authentic look at Thai life that will add to your travel experience.
Feel Free To Say No
While it’s always good to be open-minded while travelling in new countries, it is also worth following your gut when someone offers a ‘cultural experience’ that sounds too good to be true. A trip to unknown monasteries and a local family shop or restaurant may sound authentic and charming, but it’s probably more likely to be a classic tourist trap that leads you traipsing in the same footsteps of the previous traveller who came before you. This is especially true if someone has come out of nowhere to offer you this amazing experience. If you have been chatting to a local for some time and they want to show you something (and you feel comfortable in their company and get a good feeling about it), by all means go ahead – you never know, it might be the best thing you do on your trip! Just be careful, and don’t feel pressured to say yes.
Even if you find yourself in a tourist trap in Bangkok, which is bound to happen at some point, either embrace the show of it all, or venture a little further, wandering down side-streets or steps to find something a bit more authentic. The likelihood is, if a spot is famous for shopping or a food market, this probably stemmed from an original version that was loved by locals. Even if the main area is overrun by tourists, there’s probably a smaller version nearby or certain stalls that still offer traditional meals, materials or merchandise that offer a true taste of Thailand.