Essential guide to traveling with kids in Bangkok
FAMILIES with young children needn’t bypass Bangkok enroute to a Thai beach resort – Bangkok with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience. Even a tuk-tuk ride can be a holiday highlight for young ones, and the constant noise and excitement of life lived on the streets provides so much stimulation for curious young minds. There are markets to explore, a skytrain to ride, delicious eats to try and amazing hotels with decadent buffets offering an oasis from the madness. Accommodation with a pool is a must for Bangkok stays with kids, as a perfect way to cool down after a day out and about.
Here are some things to do and places to go if you find yourself in Bangkok with young kids in tow, without resorting to low-brow animal theme parks or overly cheesy ‘tourist’ sites (because you really don’t have to compromise on valuable shopping time you know!):
Tuk-tuks are loud, uncomfortable and sometimes maddening with their inflated prices compared to the comforts and ease of Bangkok’s metered taxis, but for kids a jaunt in one is akin to a carnival ride. Try a short journey off the major roads so you don’t get stuck in traffic for too long. Another option is a klong taxi to traverse the canals and waterways in the backblocks of the capital. A boat ride on the Chao Phraya River is another excellent way to see some Bangkok sites in a transport mode that is engaging and fun for kids. You can catch the skytrain to Saphan Taksin and take a boat from there to Chinatown or the Khao San Road area, perhaps stopping at Wat Arun to explore. The skytrain itself is fun too, with the chance to see some of Bangkok from a different perspective, in air-conditioned comfort.
Kid friendly shopping spots
Chatuchak Weekend Market can be a great experience for kids. The animal section offers a maze of fish, birds, cats, dogs and more to see, and fashion minded older kids may love the chance to find trinkets, clothes and accessories at bargain prices. There are plenty of opportunities for food and drink pitstops, from homemade cake stalls to fried Thai street eats, and plenty of cold, sweet drinks. The park adjacent to the market is a great place for kids to blow off some steam and play on the equipment, though in the heat and humidity this is best visited first thing in the morning.
The malls at Siam offer a lot of things to see and do for families. Siam Paragon is the pick of the bunch with its world class aquarium, Siam Ocean World on its lower level. It provides an excellent way to break up the day if you’re attempting to mix shopping with entertaining young ones. On the mall’s ground level, they may love the open waterways coursing through the upmarket eateries, with carp to spot and bridges to cross. The food court is a riot of activity but try to steer the kids away from the fast food chains and take them for Thai, Japanese or around to Crystal Jade for a family friendly dim sum meal (bonus: they have high chairs). Up the top, there’s a fantastic cinema complex including an IMAX theatre offering new release movies with much cheaper ticket prices than home. If you have small children struggling to keep up, this mall offers free stroller hire.
Older kids with pocket money to burn will love being let loose in cheap and cheerful MBK. At nearby mall CentralWorld, you can visit an ice-skating rink once the kids tire of shopping. While in the vicinity of Siam there’s the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, an art gallery which can be fun for children to explore, not only for the rotating exhibitions but the building itself with its Guggenheim-esque circular interior.
If you’re exploring or staying around trendy Thonglor there are some cute kids boutiques dotted around the side sois. Lottie and Max is a gorgeous, upmarket children’s clothing and bed linen store with a small selection of colourful cushions and stuffed toys. The staff here adore children and there are even buckets of toys to play with in the changing rooms. A nearby café young kids will love is Big Knit, a knitting café which is usually the domain of ladies of leisure perfecting their crafty creations. It is adorned with colourful knitted animals, some for sale. Also in the Thonglor neighbourhood is mini mall J Avenue, which offers ten pin bowling and a branch of homegrown icecream hero iberry, where kids can sample delicious icecream and sorbets infused with Asian flavour, like longan and rambutan.
Parks and playgrounds
Aside from the aforementioned park adjoining Chatuchak Market, Bangkok is dotted with other outdoor spaces with lawns for running, turtles and ducks to feed and equipment to play on. Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s largest swath of green space. Like anywhere outdoors in Bangkok it is best to keep park excursions to early mornings or late afternoons so it is not unbearably hot.
The park next door to Emporium shopping mall is a winner for kids with its playground, duckpond and abundant shade to lounge or picnic under, as many Thai and expat families tend to do here. You can often see squirrels up the trees, which little kids love to spot. Inside Emporium, there’s a great indoor playground where for a small fee kids can jump in a ball bounce, ride a tubular slide and climb through tunnels and rope bridges. There are arcade games here too and small merry-go-round.
For a grander indoor playground experience, the excellent Fun-arium is a short cab ride down a side soi behind Emporium. Housed in a warehouse style building, Fun-arium offers an enormous indoor playground with everything imaginable, from a trampoline to enormous slides and even a rollerblading rink. There’s an onsite café for drinks and basic eats (though you can do much better elsewhere). Like all indoor play centres in Bangkok, both the kids and the supervising adult must bring and wear socks, however they are also for sale should you arrive unprepared.
If you can manage to perfect a balance of shopping, eating, exploring and play, you may find Bangkok has everything you need for an amazing family holiday.
Article by Liz Ledden. You can read more of Liz’s writing at devoured.