The first time I was in Bangkok it was a whirlwind of late nights, cheap beers on the Kao San Road, and wondering how on earth she discovered she could fire a ping pong ball from down there!

This time I was arriving in Bangkok not as a 20-something backpacker, but as a rather more responsible mum of two. My girls, aged 7 and 5, are great at long haul travel. They sleep well on planes, they love the personal TV screen and their Zinc Flyte scooters keep them sailing through airports without complaining of long walks. But I really didn’t know how they would manage with a big, busy and very hot city like Bangkok – as it turned out, they loved it!

To help things run more smoothly we did the beachy bit of our holiday first. A few nights relaxing in Koh Samui acclimatised the girls to the heat and the time zone. They had a bit of R&R from a hectic term at school and we all got over the tiring journey. When we took the one hour flight to Bangkok they were ready and raring to go.  

We landed in Bangkok mid morning and transferred to our hotel on the river. We stayed at the Chatrium Hotel Riverside and our suite was stunning. We had 2 bedrooms, a living room and kitchenette and the most incredible views over the Chao Praya river! 

 

We left our bags and headed straight out into the city. Travelling around Bangkok is an adventure all on its own; there are ferries, speedy long tail boats and wild tuk tuk rides. Staying on the river meant we could use boat as our main form of transport. The river is a quick way to get around and it removes you slightly from the hustle and bustle of the city. Most hotels offer a free shuttle boat from their pier to one of the main ferry piers which makes navigating around the city really simple.

Wat Pho, Bangkok

Wat Pho was our first stop. I knew we wouldn’t fit in many temples with the kids but I hoped with the right planning they’d enjoy a bit of culture. They were very impressed with the giant reclining Buddha! Then we treated everyone to an ice cream – pacing yourself is important in the heat! My husband was brave enough to try the durian flavoured ice cream but he wouldn’t recommend it. The smell was enough to put me off! 

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Next on the agenda was Wat Arun. Thai temples are works of art and the children were enthralled with the vibrant colours, the gardens and of course the huge golden statues of Buddha. Wat Arun is the other side of the river, almost directly opposite Wat Pho. The river crossing ferry runs every 10-15 mins and costs just 4 baht. I highly recommend pairing Wat Pho and Wat Arun because it’s easy to move between the two. If you’d like some help navigating between the temples and someone to tell you a bit of the history I highly recommend booking a small group tour.

Two temples in the heat and humidity of the afternoon was enough for all of us so we negotiated a private long tail boat ride back to our hotel. Long tail boats are a thrilling ride! They’re fast and a little bumpy. One of my girls loved every second of it and the other was nervous, but thankfully soon relaxed into it and enjoyed temple spotting from the river. It was also a chance to see the brand new Siam shopping centre and its water displays in front of the Gucci storefront. 

Back at the hotel it was time for a dip. We purposefully chose a hotel with a pool – after a day of exploring the city a dip in the pool is the perfect wind down before heading back out for dinner. 

Touring Bangkok by canal boat

For day 2 we booked a canal tour with Thai Canal Tours.

We set out early taking the shuttle boat from the hotel to our local pier and train station. The trains in Bangkok are fantastic! Once we’d figured the pronunciation of where we were headed it was easy to buy our tickets and jump in the clean, air conditioned and practically empty train. We met our local tour guide who walked us to our private canal boat chattering the whole time. He was very entertaining and always had something interesting to show the children.

 

Our tour took us to an orchid farm where we strolled through the flowers under the cool canopies. We went to one of the old floating markets, although they have mostly migrated on to land now, you could still get a taste of the old ways of trading on the water. Our guide let us know which vendors practised good food hygiene and arranged food samples for us. We tried Thai rice cakes, fruits none of us had ever seen before and a few yummy desserts too. Snacking always keeps my kids quiet so this was perfect for them as we walked through the busy food markets. Other boat stops included a jungle temple where our guide taught the girls how to start the day mindfully, dedicate their day to others and to thank their family and ancestors. He explained that if we live our days thinking of others rather than thinking of ourselves, good will come back in return and we will have a good day too.
Before lunch we stopped at The Artist’s House where we admired Thai puppets, the girls painted masks and the grown ups enjoyed a peaceful iced coffee looking over the river. Lunch was at a local waterside cafe, and on the way home we stopped at a couple more temples. Each one unique and impressive in its own way. 

Sightseeing by boat with young kids works brilliantly. We had shade, a base to keep our many snacks and water bottles and we didn’t have to do too much walking. It also gave us as parents the headspace to really enjoy being shown around. We weren’t distracted checking maps, deciding where to eat or what to do next. All of that was sorted and we could enjoy the experience with our kids. 

On our final evening Asiatique was a great place to head for dinner. It had more Western style options which made a nice change and plenty of night markets to browse. And of course we had to travel the short journey by tuk tuk because we hadn’t had a ride in one of those yet! What a thrill, squeezing all four of us in and zooming off, the grown ups holding on the kids for dear life, just in case.

I always used to be nervous about booking a city break with children, but after visiting Bangkok I’m definitely booking more! Kids are surprisingly good sight-seers when you’ve planned your itinerary in a way that works for them. If you’re looking for more tips on sightseeing with kids Mommy and Me Travels has a fantastic round up of advice and inspiration from lots of family travel bloggers here. 

The big question now is where to go next? 

 

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