As I landed in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, I was impressed by the modern architecture that lay underneath me. Stepping out of the gate, I was immediately reassured that I made the right choice in coming here. Easy to read signs in English pointed to the local train that connected the airport to Downtown. The cost of airport food was on par with American prices so no surprise there, but when I stepped outside the airport, I was greeted with a plethora of food options, all at a much more budget-friendly cost. I wasn’t hungry yet as I was excited to get to my hotel and settle in so I kept moving. I had several options for transportation but chose the local train instead of a tuk-tuk (which I really wanted to try) in order to gain a feel for the city – a good option for solo or light family travelers wanting to see more of the city. Personally, I was happy to share the ride with people commuting to work. It was a good way to observe people and get to know a new place. The weather in Bangkok is always hot and humid, and even though it was monsoon season, it didn’t rain that first day. The lack of air conditioning on the train made for a hot ride, but people were pleasant and that overcompensated for the heat and humidity.
I soon arrived at my hotel where it was much cooler so I slowed down to plan the rest of my stay in Bangkok. I was also exhausted from all the traveling but the hotel staff was happy to accommodate all my needs. Since tourism is one of the largest sectors of the economy, most interactions with business are really easy and friendly as you’ll discover when you visit. Once I got some rest, I was ready to explore the great restaurants, markets, and nightlife of the capital of Thailand, Bangkok.
Here’s my list of where to go, what to do, and places to visit in Bangkok.
1. Bangkok Airport
The airport is very well organized but getting to your hotel can be a daunting experience in any foreign city. However, Bangkok makes it easy. There are plenty of tuk-tuk’s and taxis at the gate to get you where you need to go. The most budget friendly option is the Airport Rail Link, connecting downtown with the Bangkok airport.
2. Bangkok Shopping
If you are coming from a western nation, your currency will be worth more in Bangkok. Shopping abounds and for many, the amount of options available makes for the perfect vacation for the shopaholic. There are plenty of places to visit in Bangkok, from modern malls to open air markets, and every consumerism fantasy can be realized.
3. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Open on the weekend, this market is giant, featuring over 15,000 booths, all selling everything under the sun. Excellent food, raw materials, and even manufactured goods can all be found here. Areas of the market have wide boulevards in the open air, other parts are relegated to tight covered alleyways, a true Bangkok experience. Walking through such a large place, it is easy to get lost. The hot and humid weather makes the perfect excuse to try many of the sweet teas and ice treats available. To get here, you can take the skytrain to Mo Chit station (which is at the doorsteps of this open market) or ask any taxi or tuk-tuk driver to get you here – they will know the way.
4. Siam Paragon
Glass and steel construction beckons the high class from all areas of the world. High end stores and cinemas can be found here. Dozens of cafes and coffee shops are all vying for your attention, and the mall itself is giant. Walking through the building during the hottest part of the day is extremely relaxing, the air conditioning is always on. Great restaurants and great fashion can be found here, if you are looking to shop, this is the best mall for you! Easy enough to find and located at the Siam BTS Skytrain station, this mall is considered the center of Bangkok.
5. Getting around Bangkok
Getting around Bangkok may seem chaotic, but there are plenty of methods to suit all your needs. Do not be afraid to explore and experience the different modes of transportation – from cars, to trains, to ferries to tuk-tuk’s – you never know which one you may like best!
The most iconic method of travel in the city are these three wheeled vehicles that offer budget-friendly transportation. The vehicle is made from a motorcycle chassis, a large wagon is welded onto the rear and two wheels are added, most can fit two people comfortably. Drivers are friendly, but will rip you off every chance they get, so always haggle the price before using one. Agree on a price before getting into the vehicle; otherwise your route can become especially arduous. Be careful of the suit factory! Many drivers get paid to bring tourists to the many suit factories around the city. It is best to follow the route on your smartphone, if they start to veer off course, tell the driver repeatedly where you want to go. I like to incorporate the “fake it till you make it” strategy, by pretending to know more about Bangkok’s street layout than I actually do. Asserting yourself and not allowing yourself to be hustled will make tuk-tuk’s a more sustainable experience.
7. River Ferry
My preferred method of travel is the river ferry at a price of just 3 baht. Learning the boat schedule is easy, and the ferry goes to all the major sights. There are also water taxis and all sorts of transportation by river, but the public ferry is by far the best. The Chao Phraya River is the main artery for travel throughout the city, and docks are strategically placed along its entirety. The ferry schedule is color coordinated, and signs are placed at every dock explaining in detail how the ferry works. These signs are written in English, obviously to help the thousands of tourists navigating the city every day. Riding a boat at night gives the best view of the skyline, and the colorful lights make for a beautiful sight.
8. Bangkok Sightseeing
Buddhist temples abound in Thailand’s capital city, and the many historical sights including palaces provide excellent touring options. There are plenty of sights to see that are budget friendly and family friendly. Before you venture out of your hotel, plan your day around what you want to see and how you are going to get there since it can get overwhelming.
9. Wat Intharawihan Temple
A 32 meter (104.98 feet) statue of Buddha adorned in gold leaf makes for an excellent photo opportunity. The temple built around the statue is made of marble. and is a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from around the world. Enjoying the throngs of tourists and locals alike make this temple an energetic experience. Try going around sunset when the crowds dissipate. The cooler temperatures and low light make for a more intimate experience.
10. Chitralada Palace
Owned by the royal family, this palace was once the living space for the king of Thailand. Still used on occasion, the complex itself is massive and located in the heart of Bangkok. Impressive architecture can be viewed through the gates, and the amount of lights strung along the perimeter make night-viewing truly spectacular. There are armed guards at all the entrances, but they are more than happy to pose for photos. Many families get their picture taken in front of the palace, another example highlighting Thailand’s love for tourists.
11. Wat Pho
A large Buddhist temple complex that is extremely easy to navigate to using the river ferry. Housing the largest collection of Buddha imagery in Thailand, this temple is arguably the most important in the country. People from around the world flock to gaze at its multi-colored terracotta roof and historical artwork. There is a 46 meter (150.9 feet) long reclining Buddha that is the centerpiece of every visit. This golden statue is so large that the building to house it was constructed after the statue was completed. The temple complex features dozens of buildings, each housing art and religious trinkets. Females must stay covered, and some areas are off limits to women.
12. Pororo AquaPark Rooftop Water Park
Pororo swim park is located on the rooftop of a shopping plaza, CentralPlaza which is in the Bagna district. This waterpark is a dream come true for parents who love to shop – get the children’s fun and adult shopping completed at the same location!
13. Bangkok Nightlife
Perhaps the largest draw for tourists is the incredible Bangkok nightlife. From rooftop bars, to backpacker bars, there are even more adult themed entertainment options that I do not recommend. Whatever you are into or want to experience – solo, couples, child-friendly, adults-only – Bangkok has it all.
14. Khao San Road
Every visitor to this area of the world has been to this road at least once. This street is famous for its strip of restaurants, hostels, and bars, packing every tourist activity into one location. Tanks of flesh eating fish offer a unique pedicure experience, and the pad-thai sold by street vendors is as delicious as it is affordable. If you want to try scorpions on a stick or buy a t-shirt, this is the street for you. After dark, the bars become the focal point. With plenty of people around, bringing the kids to enjoy the eclectic scene that plays out every night is entirely doable. Travelers from every country congregate to drink and meet other travelers. Khao San Road can be as family friendly as you want it to be.
15. Rooftop Bars
The amount of rooftop bars in Bangkok are too plentiful to list here but every hotel will have one. Finding one is the easy part, these bars are so plentiful that roof hopping from one to the other is easy to do with visual guidance alone. Leave the kids in the hotel room (with an adult of course) and enjoy a beautiful night out. The warm air of Thailand makes evening drinking very enjoyable. The skyline, modern buildings, and cultural scene give Bangkok a vibe that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. Many travelers opt to sleep during the hottest part of the day in order to fully enjoy the cool evening hours.
Bangkok, Thailand is an interesting destination for vacationers worldwide; travelers of all sorts will find plenty to do in this modern Asian city. Enjoy the many transportation options, great shopping options, marvel in the amazing sights, and live it up with the world’s best nightlife. Bangkok is waiting for you to explore, take advantage of any time you have in this city of the future.