I recently returned to Bangkok, Thailand and used the city as the launching point for my tour of Southeast Asia, which included trips to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On my first trip back in 2014, I wasn’t left with a particularly favorable impression of the city – it can be a nightmare in terms of wheelchair access. That said, this second trip – however short it was – opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t seen before, and I may finally have fallen in love with the City of Angels.
In this post, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite activities from those 48 hours. You’ll get my unique perspective on accessibility, as a triple amputee and power wheelchair user.
The Baiyoke Tower is home to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest all-hotel structure in Southeast Asia. The building stands at a height of 997 feet (85 stories), and offers a stunning view from its observation deck on the 77th and 83rd floors. The revolving 84th floor is also part of the observatory, but this section is not accessible to wheelchairs.
For 350 Thai Baht, you’ll get access to the observatory and a ticket to try out Asia’s only fruit buffet. Yes – a buffet consisting of fruit, a few delicious pastries, and flavorful ice cream! Rather than going through the hassle of serving myself, I took up the hostesses on their offer to pick out a few things for me. Here’s what they came up with:
There were several fruits that I couldn’t identify, but they were all fresh and tasty. As an added bonus to my relatively inexpensive ticket to the observation deck, I was impressed!
The nearest wheelchair accessible transportation is less than 5 minutes away at the Ratchaprarop Airport Rail Link (ARL) station. The station contains elevators, and the gap between the platform and train is less than 3 inches. More information on using the ARL to connect to the MRT and BTS public transit systems can be found here.
There is very little green space in Bangkok, but Lumphini Park is a great opportunity to relax outdoors in the bustling Thai capital. The space was opened to the public in the 1920s, but became a true park after World War I. Lumphini contains an artificial lake with fountain, plus a well maintained jogging/cycling trail that runs through the park. The pathways are wheelchair accessible, and are constantly in use by the active residents of Bangkok.
I visited the park in the late afternoon, grabbed a soda pop from a street vendor and the park’s main entrance, and rolled around inside for a bit. Many groups of people (some of 100 or more) gathered for aerobic exercise routines set to music, and it was quite a sight.
I came to the park on the MRT metro train, and got off at the Si Lom station, which is only steps away from the true entrance to the park (and a towering statue of King Rama VI). You can also access the park from the Lumphini MRT station, but I recommend using Si Lom – you won’t want to miss the statue!
I ran into the Pratunam Market by chance, and am glad I did. While the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the most well-known Bazaar in Bangkok, Pratunam is the largest clothing and textile market in the city. There were plenty of items for sale in the market which was about 4 blocks in length. The covered sidewalks are wheelchair accessible with curb cuts, and it is easy to roll up to the stalls.
All manner of clothing was on sale, including many name brand knockoffs. I also saw a lot of watches, electronics and toys, in addition to food and drink. Everything was very cheap. Markets and bazaars and exciting, and Pratunam is one of the most accessible ones I have found in Asia.
The market is less than one-third of a mile from the Ratchaprarop ARL station – so it is a great idea to pair the market with a visit to the Baiyoke Tower’s observation deck.
Shop at Siam Paragon
While shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do while traveling, I have made an exception to visit the Siam Paragon on each of my trips to Bangkok. As one of the largest shopping malls in Asia, Siam Paragon has a lot to offer the wheelchair traveler. The mall is wheelchair accessible from both the street and directly from the BTS Skytrain Siam station (served by both lines of the BTS). It is also filled to the brim with retailers of all kinds – from western luxury brands to purposeful Asian ones.
Siam Paragon is also a great place to find food and entertainment. Countless restaurants are located throughout the mall, and grocery store of 80,000 square feet is located on the ground floor. In addition to dining, you’ll have an opportunity to see a movie at the Paragon Cineplex, or tour Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World – the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia!
Lounge by the Pool
Bangkok is hot and humid in all seasons, but particularly in the summer rain season which is going on right now. A trip to a sunny and warm environment is not complete without a trip to the pool – whether you want to swim, or just tan in the sunlight.
I took the photo above at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, which was in a great area of the city for wheelchair accessible tourism and connections to accessible transportation. While the hotel’s rooftop pool did not have a lift, I was able to take a nap on one of the comfortable lounge chairs and sip a delicious cocktail from the poolside bar.
I’m still searching for a Bangkok hotel with a pool hoist, so if you are aware of any, please share in the comments below.
Enjoy Thai Street Food?
This is a bonus sixth thing to do, but I will disclose that I have not tried street food in Bangkok. The reason is simple – I do not like spicy foods, and spices are the number one ingredient in any Thai recipe. I have interacted on many occasions with street food vendors in the city, but only ever to purchase a beverage.
Many of my friends tell me that the street food in Bangkok is excellent, and anyone who enjoys Thai food should give it a try. Street food experiences in Asia are adventurous, remarkably affordable and usually very good. My first Asian street food experience occurred in Seoul, South Korea and the food was incredible. If you have had street food in Thailand, let me know about it in the comments below!