Kid-friendly Bangkok?
February 14, 2007 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Are there any fun sites or activities for a 10-year-old boy in or near Bangkok, Thailand?

Nothing much to add, except that I've always wanted to go and for various reasons this summer seems to be the right time to do so, but I'd be taking my son and am wondering if this is feasible, i.e. would he be bored silly or would there be things in and around Bangkok that would be equally fun for him, too? (Just FYI, when we visited Vietnam the only time he seemed to be truly enjoying himself was when we crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnel near Saigon and found this humongous orange centipede in the forest...) Also, and perhaps above all else, would it be a good idea to take a child there in the first place?
posted by misozaki to Travel & Transportation around Bangkok, Thailand (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Gee, you last comment sings to ring for me. I am not so certain you want to explain "those" birds and bees to anyone, especially your son. From what I understand the sex trade is pretty out in the open.
posted by bkeene12 at 5:28 PM on February 14, 2007

Ten year old boy? Oh, that's easy. Snake or Crocodile Farms. If not both.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:28 PM on February 14, 2007

From what I understand the sex trade is pretty out in the open.

Yes and no. If you take your son to Patpong, Soi Cowboy or Nana, then they're going to see a lot of pros. Avoid those places, and BKK is like any other major city in the world. Traffic, noise, people, hustle & bustle. Nothing spectacular.

I'd suggest taking him to a thai boxing match!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:02 PM on February 14, 2007

Get a leash for you son and tie it around his neck. The Department of State talks about child abduction in Thailand.
posted by phaedon at 6:09 PM on February 14, 2007

Never been, but just checked out a bangkok tourist site and this looks like it would be neat.
posted by CKmtl at 6:10 PM on February 14, 2007

phaedon: Parental child abduction is when one parent takes off with the child without the other parent's consent/knowledge.
posted by CKmtl at 6:13 PM on February 14, 2007

Well, thing is... Patpong is also where the night markets are & stuff, right? There are restaurants & bars and all sorts of other activities right alongside the sex areas from what I recall.

Still, I'd imagine you can find other areas to frequent. Or you can just lie and tell your son that a ping pong show actually involves games of ping pong. That he's not allowed to see. Possibly ever. And that the nice lady in the short skirt actually has a big pimple on her neck that only looks like an adam's apple...
posted by miss lynnster at 6:14 PM on February 14, 2007

You know... if you're a good parent, keep a close eye on your child and use communication to explain things to him as you see them, travel wil be an incredible gift to give to him. Period. It's wonderful that you want to show him the world, he will be a far better adult for it. Don't let fear or xenophobia make it scary. There are good and bad people everywhere, that's not something you can hide from. You're giving him an incredible gift by not trying to shelter him from how incredible and enormous this world is. With all seriousness, I congratulate you on that.

Now promise me you'll take him to a snake farm. Oh, and btw... I just found this too. Amusement & water parks! Woooo hooooooo!
posted by miss lynnster at 6:22 PM on February 14, 2007

We've only been to Bangkok once but there's definitely lots of things to do there. Can't wait to go back. The sex industry is there but only if you're looking for it. Check on the most recent political situation there though. You don't want to get caught in the middle of a coup.

The are a lot of tourist traps. Don't take any of the hotel tours. Try the Chatuchak weekend market even just to browse through their stuff. You'll find the oddest items there. If the huge reclining Buddha at Wat Pho or the Wat Phra Kaew -- or the temples for that matter-- won't awe your kid, a ride on a tuktuk is always a hoot.

Via Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, we found our way to Ayutthayah, Thailand's old capital. It's easily accessible by bus and it was a day trip for us. The old capital's ruins were turned into a park. You'll see some monks meditating there. They have elephant rides there too. If your 10 year old is scared of the adult elephants, they have baby elephants entertaining the visitors near their corral.
posted by mgatela at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2007

The supposed prevalence of the sex trade in Thailand doesn't align with my experience at all. I was just in Thailand in January (including three days in Bangkok) and I didn't see a single sex worker-- and I wanted to.

We spent two weeks in Thailand, going from the Northwest mountains down to the islands and spots in between and, I'm sorry to say, I think Bangkok was the most boring and least kid-friendly of all the places we visited. That said, there are things to do-- the Aquarium is fantastic (you can take glass bottom boat rides in the tanks!) and yes, the snake farm is a kid magnet. We also went boating in Lumphini Park where, in the middle of the city!, we saw crocodiles and huge monitor lizards.

Bangkok is also a great base of operation for day trips and there are a lot of great kid-friendly places you could go from there. My top pick would probably be Prachuap Kiri Khan, which has an incredible mountaintop temple that has been completely overrun with monkeys. You can hand-feed them and everything. I'm in my mid-twenties and it turned me into a big kid, so I imagine it'd be a blast for a real one.
posted by chickletworks at 6:35 PM on February 14, 2007

chickletworks, seriously? I mean, I went there more than a couple of years ago... but were you in Patpong at all? 'Cuz they were pulling my sleeve to ask me to see shows, and I'm not even their target demographic. The prostitutes might've been harder to spot I suppose... they're mostly sitting at bars trying to look as loooonely as possible.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:44 PM on February 14, 2007

Thank you everyone for your answers and links. Snakes, crocodies, monkeys all sound promising! And boxing hadn't occurred to me. I wonder if kids are allowed in?

And that the nice lady in the short skirt actually has a big pimple on her neck that only looks like an adam's apple...

Perhaps that last line in my question didn't come out the way I intended. I'm not so worried about him seeing "trades" (at least from across the street, anyway) and people of certain occupations or orientations as that would be a part of that city and I would try to explain to the best of my ability the reality of things, if he asks. Though I wouldn't be dragging my kid around town at night or leaving him alone in the hotel, for that matter. But thanks for the pointers.

I'm now wondering if anybody's actually been there with kids?
posted by misozaki at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2007

Miss lynnster, yes, we were in Patpong-- at night, even! My understanding is that the push to clean that stuff up has really heightened in the last few years. It's obvious that Bangkok has recently made a huge effort to accommodate Western tourists (including large public works projects like the Skytrain and subway) and I guess cracking down on the hookers is part of that. Too bad!
posted by chickletworks at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2007

Hmmm. Well, at least that's good news for misozaki!

Regarding the thai boxing, if they let kids in I'd just watch out for if it gets too violent. They aren't as into the whole protective gear thing as they are in America, and they are doing some seriously intense fighting. It's incredible, but just be aware...
posted by miss lynnster at 7:19 PM on February 14, 2007

Oh, and to answer your question, I've been to Indonesia with kids but not Thailand. Different country but some similarities. I'm sure you'll be fine. I did find these tips online, though... and I'd tend to agree with them wholeheartedly for anyone going to Thailand, not just kids. It's stuff we just don't even think about here...

Dangers -- Be sure the kids keep their hands clean. Microbes thrive in the tropics. You may want to carry soap with you since many public toilets don't provide any. Playing with the dogs or cats on the street should be strictly forbidden, as rabies is fairly common. Be sure to apply insect repellant at all times of the year, but especially in the rainy season, since children are particularly susceptible to dengue fever, which is carried by mosquitoes.

Hazards -- Unlike the padded world of the West, Thailand has a number of hazards such as open manholes, and unfenced swimming pools, so keep a close eye on the children. Crosswalks are a recent thing in Thailand and drivers generally don't respect them, so don't assume it's safe to cross if there are any cars coming.

posted by miss lynnster at 7:27 PM on February 14, 2007

Ah, parents took me there many times when I was a kid(to see family), from ages 9-14. I think the funnest things for me were just experiencing a big city for the first time and trying all the delicious food. Having grown up in the US, it was so exciting for me to experience a SE Asian city, though if your son has already been in Vietnam maybe it won't surprise him so much. As for specific activities:

Lots of beautiful temples as mentioned earlier - Wat Prakeo(Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho(Giant Buddha), Wat Arun(temple of the dawn - get a ride on a river ferry in the morning to enjoy it best!)...although I do remember when I was younger I was whining about the heat all the time whenever we visited temples.

Food, food, food...please let your son try Thai and Teochew Chinese cuisine at its best. Too much to recommend. For the best Chinese cuisine, go to the Yaowarat(Chinatown) area. Try the "suki" or hotpot - MK restaurant is a big chain, and I remember enjoying "Texas" restaurant in Chinatown. If you get a chance, eat at Koka(Coca? sp?) restaurant and try their huge stuffed prawns and paper-wrapped chicken. Of course, street food is some of the best out there too. I have never once gotten sick from eating food in Thailand(and I even ate sushi there!). Please do read up on Thai food before you go so you won't miss out - there's plenty of sites on the net about it! Even if you end up eating pizza once, maybe he will get a kick out of the local practice of putting ketchup on pizza. Oh, and don't drink the tap water.

Beaches - please do not go to Pattaya; there are many beautiful beaches in other parts of the country that are not thronged by Western tourists and sex workers. The South, particularly Krabi and Phang Nga is very beautiful, with plenty of opportunities for scuba diving, parasailing, etc. If you go to the South you can also get a taste of Thai Muslim culture. The provinces I mentioned above are definitely safe as far as separatist violence is concerned.

Animals - Safari World( A huge park where you drive your car through and see all sorts of animals like lions and tigers - there is nothing separating your car from the animals! I remember thinking it was very cool. Everyone over there pronounces it with the stress on the first syllable, though ("saffery").

Boxing - Yes, kids are allowed in, and as a martial-arts crazed kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The biggest stadiums are Lumphini and Ratchadamnoen.

Shopping - I remember HATING going to markets when I was younger because of the heat, although there is lots of cool stuff to be bought there. Bargain hard for everything. On the other hand, if your son enjoys computer games/technology, you could take him to Panthip Plaza. When I was there, it was basically a huge mall that sold tons of the latest pirated video games for a dollar each, although in recent years I think they've been cracking down on it. Nevertheless, you can still buy legitimate software there for much cheaper prices than in te US, as well as all sorts of computer hardware and acessories.

Ruins - As a kid I thought the ruined cities were absolutely fascinating, and I would still love to go back there if I ever got the chance. Ayutthaya and Sukhothai were the old capitals of Thailand and have plenty of ruins around. These places are surprisingly devoid of tourists and are an absolutely wonderful place to catch some peace and quiet and let your son run around climbing around ruins. Visiting these ruined cities was definitely one of my best memories of Thailand. For an idea of what I mean, check out this website:

Regarding sex workers: When I was 10 years old, if there were sex workers around, I had absolutely no idea they were sex workers, because it just wasn't something that I remember noticing. Even when I was old enough to know what those were, I don't think they are particularly noticeable in Bangkok unless you go to certain areas(in the evening, at that). I do remember encountering transvestites when I was a bit older, but they weren't sex workers(I had my hair cut by one, and bought some T-shirts from another). Sex workers definitely aren't very noticeable unless you spend all your time around the tourist/nightclub areas, so don't!

I'm sure there's tons more stuff, but I haven't been there for a long time, so I can't remember it all in one sitting. If you have any more questions feel free to e-mail me - e-mails in the profile! Enjoy your trip to Bangkok!
posted by pravit at 7:33 PM on February 14, 2007

Seconding (or more): snakes! crocodiles! food!!

Also what pravit said - Pattaya is nasty.
posted by whatzit at 7:48 PM on February 14, 2007

I am not a kid! But here's a few things I reccomend - Ayutthaya is awesome - the ruins are really fun to explore - don't miss the Buddha in a tree.

Also fun for a kid could be the Chatuchak markets. They have many weird and interesting stalls to explore - including a large animal section. A highlight for me there was seeing squirrels, scorpions and other crawlies for sale (pet not eat, they claimed!).

I was at the Bangkok zoo two years ago and it has a decent reptile section - boa constrictors and monitor lizards and the like. He might get a kick out of that - a sign pointing out how terrible and dangerous these lizards are - then walking along a path to find 3 sitting there in the sun.

Also - for an all in one culture hit - boxing, animals, dancing - try the Rose garden - kind of a tourist trap but everything is aimed at a kid level - eg the Boxing is a bit WWF.

If you need anything else or more information, please email me - I love Bangkok!
posted by teststrip at 7:52 PM on February 14, 2007

I lived in Bangkok for a year (about four years ago) and the chorus of concerns about the sex trade can be ignored. There are specific areas where it is obvious and prevalent and any guidebook will tell you exactly where those areas are. Otherwise, even if it is there, you won't see it. So don't worry about that. And most of those areas, including the notorious places outside Bangkok like Pattaya, are boring and gross anyway.

I don't know exactly what a kid would like to do, but seeing elephants in big cities seems like it would be something a kid would get excited about. Elephants are about in touristy areas, like central Bangkok along Sukhumvit. I find it unethical, but if I was a kid, I go nuts to see that. You can also ride on elephants in places outside the city.

I second Chatuchak market. It is gigantic and overwhelming, but there is all sorts of stuff there. Buy some juice in a bad with a straw for the young one and bargain for some crap.

A kid would probably freak out to see crickets and scorpions on sale to eat. You can either take a third class train to NE Thailand and have someone try to sell you a water beetle at a stop, or just go to a backpacker area where they sell it on the street to white people. Those areas are generally boring and worth avoiding (unless you want to spend your entire time there hearing about Bush form neo-hippie Europeans and trustafarian Americans), but, again, I am thinking about what a kid would like.

There is a building on the outskirts of Bangkok (can't remember exactly where) that looks like an elephant. That is neat.

I third a trip to Lumphini to see some Thai boxing matches. They can be pretty violent, but are much more fun to watch then regular boxing.

There is much more to do outside Bangkok that would be appealing to everyone (maybe living there for awhile soured me on the city, but I can't stand it anymore).

MY BEST SUGGESTION: A kid would love to go to Lopburi, which is not far north of Bangkok. A monkey troop (now two troops after there was internecine fighting years ago) hang about some ruins in this small city and get into everything. The antennae on buildings have inverted cones to keep the monkeys from fiddling with them. There are pretty domesticated at this point and will climb on you and tug your hair and whatnot. I saw a Thai women let her baby play with them, so I guess they are fairly safe. Regardless, they are fascinating to watch and interact with, even if you don't let them pile on your kid. The old ones ignore you, but the younger ones will try to sneak around the back of you till they are out of sight then spring on your back. Every year the town makes a gigantic feast for the monkeys and let them go at it and they go berserk. It is broadcast on Thai TV and is somewhat of a major event.

I know Thailand pretty well, but have never been there with kids and have very few kids around me anymore, so these are my best guesses as to what a youngster would enjoy (I am going off what I think I would have been excited about when I was younger).
posted by Falconetti at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2007

I lived in Bangkok for nine years, having left there just two years ago. I second most of Falconetti's and Pravit's suggestions. My baby daughter has been to Thailand yet, but I can't wait until she's a little older because I know she'll love it.

Safari World, linked above, would be great for kids.

Ayutthaya would be awesome in an Indiana Jones way.

Crocodile Farm shouldn't be missed.

The Night Bazaar is a lot of fun, and I prefer it to Chatuchak. Chatuchak is incredibly hot and crowded and while it's fun for an hour or so, it can be draining. The Night Bazaar has a lot of the same stuff for sale, but of course it's open after dark so it's a lot cooler and much less crowded. Plus the food there is great.

I'd skip the Rose Garden and the Floating Market.

DO NOT MISS the canal tours. You can hire a longtail boat for about $10 to take a ride through the back canals on the Thonburi side of the town. It's utterly amazing, and I recommended to anybody who visited me in Bangkok. Also there's a stop at small zoo with a snake show, which a kid would love. Make sure they have lifejackets in the boat, though.

Boxing match would be fun. They do let kids in.

It's very easy to avoid the sex stuff, he won't notice a thing.

And the stuff about child abductions is absolute rubbish, don't even think twice about it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:36 PM on February 14, 2007

If you can afford it, and are going to be anywhere near the area, the Phuket, Thailand Club Med is an amazing place for a young boy. Some of my fondest childhood moments come from vacationing there in the 80s. There is literally a million things -- from archery, squash, swimming, the glorious kids club, etc. -- to do at all hours of the day.

Ah, memories.
posted by JPowers at 9:38 PM on February 14, 2007

I don't have time to read everything in the responses -- when I was 5, we vacationed in Thailand and I remember enjoying riding a baby elephant, seeing a crocodile farm, baboons (I think), a mongoose/cobra fight (heh... may be traumatizing for some), ceremonial kickboxing and my mother up on stage in our hotel, singing Itsy-Bitsy-Teenie-Weenie-Yellow-Polka-Dot-Bikini with the house band.

For a 5 year old, these were good times and remaind some of my most distinctive early memories. That and the Thai whores running up to touch my blonde (at the time) hair and pinching my cheek. I blushed.
posted by empyrean at 9:55 PM on February 14, 2007

See? Thai whores can be a GOOD memory for a kid! ;)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:55 PM on February 14, 2007

SNAKE FARM! Make sure you catch the demonstration. It's AWESOME. This page has the times - 10.30 am and 2pm on weekdays. Seeing someone milk a cobra is amazing.
posted by handee at 12:53 AM on February 15, 2007

Thanks for taking the time to answer, everyone! I really appreciate the detailed recommendations. Best answers left and right!
posted by misozaki at 3:19 AM on February 15, 2007

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