Bangkok Destination Guide

Explore Bangkok Like a Pro

Shruthi C S Murthy

19 February 2017

Bangkok – The ‘City of Angels‘ and the capital of Thailand, is one of the most visited cities in the world. It should be your first stop on any Thailand visit attracting you with its endless curious sights. Bangkok is full of things to do and see. With just a few days to explore Bangkok, this travel guide has filtered out the best of the city. Covering from famous temples, shopping areas, nightlife to local markets, street foods this is to help you make the most of your time here, for all your travel tastes.

Bangkok is not only a very dynamic and well-planned city but also serves as a gateway to many other parts of Thailand. From here, you can go to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, and other popular destinations. Like us, almost all visitors to Thailand arrive in Bangkok first or at least pass through while traveling around Thailand. It is served very well by flights and buses and trains.

The streets of Bangkok near Grand Palace

Arrive in Bangkok

Bangkok by air is how you are likely to arrive. It’s served by the two airports Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. Suvarnabhumi Airport is used by all airlines in Thailand except for Nok Air, Orient Thai and Air Asia, which use the old Don Muang Airport. Both these airports are about 30 km from the city centre. So be prepared for a long ride to get into the city.

Taxi – Bangkok airport to City: Public taxis leave from both the airports. A charge of 50B is added to the meter fare for highway toll fee. The crew at the airport taxi stand will mention this to you beforehand.

Getting Around Bangkok

Going around Bangkok is effortless. The best way to do it is by Skytrain (BTS) or Metro (MRT), which is fast, affordable, and easily navigable for travelers. The city also offers an extensive network of buses, but these are prone to traffic jams and can be time-consuming. And while we’re on the topic of heavy traffic, don’t even think about driving. It will only frustrate you. Taxis are fairly cheap and charge only based on the meter, but again, severe traffic congestion is a regular issue. However, taxis are the easiest way to get from Bangkok Airport to the city. For a scenic view of the city, we suggest hopping aboard a riverboat and floating down the Chao Phraya River.

A fun way to experience the city is to explore Bangkok on foot. However, it’s not the easiest way to get from one point to another. Stick to taxis or the BTS and MRT for long distance travel and walk locally.

Bangkok Weather – Best Time to Visit Bangkok

The hottest season runs from March to August. Rainy season is unpredictable and varies, but normally runs from June to early October. While it is classified as monsoon season, the rains infrequently last more than an hour or two at a time.

If you are wondering when is the best time to visit Bangkok to soak up its sun and relax on its stunning beaches, Winter(November to February) is the right pick. Winter (late December/early January) is Bangkok’s coolest time of year and its peak tourist season. Go in November or February for relatively less crowd and cool weather. Our visit was in the month of October.

How Long Should I Stay In Bangkok / How many days in Bangkok

4-5 days in Bangkok would give you a decent overview and hopefully enough time to fall in love with this fascinating place.

However, we suggest you spending a week in Bangkok as there are a lot of things to do, places to visit. Take a tour on the river, go shopping, try the unlimited local food streets, weekend markets, experience the nightlife, rooftop bars and the dinner cruises. There are endless things that are of interest.

Bangkok Hotels – Where to Stay in Bangkok

Bangkok’s places of interest and leisure are so widespread that many of the areas in the city represent a good location to stay. With so many choices, it can be difficult to be sure if you’re picking the right one for you – this guide looks to give you a better idea so that you can best enjoy this wonderful city.

Khaosan Road is the backpacker’s zone of Bangkok and a tourist attraction by itself.

Advantages: Party hub with a lot of hostels/dorms and budget hotels offering great food and a lively atmosphere. Khaosan is close to some important tourist attractions like The Grand Palace & Wat Prakaew, Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Wat Traimit, Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) and Chao Phraya river.

Disadvantages: The SkyTrain doesn’t reach this area. It is more difficult to get to the city center.

 

Backpacker’s Street – The KhoSan Road

Sukhumvit Asok / Nana area: This is a central place. It is close to the main nightlife of Bangkok and close to the discos at Soi 11 of Sukhumvit (Soi are the little streets that go out of Sukhumvit). It is just three SkyTrainain stations away from the Big malls of Bangkok at Siam area and Jim Thompson House. You can find a lot of budget as well as luxury hotels in this area. There is also a lot of fast food.

After all our research, we found out that Bangkok is split into several areas, each offering a unique flavor of the city. You can also find the best place to stay at Bangkok Riverside, Silom Area, Sukhumvit area, Siam Area and Chinatown Area. These are the best areas to stay and explore Bangkok with easy access. Ultimately, the city has a very good public transportation infrastructure, so you have the freedom to choose which sites you would like to be closest to and take it from there.

Where we stayed:

The Star of Sathorn Boutique Hotel | Click here for the Hotel review.
Address: 71/7 Krung Thonburi 4, Bang Lamphu Lang, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 | Click here for the Hotel review.
Address: 19/9 Sukhumvit Soi, 20 Sukhumvit Rd, Klongton, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

The Star of Sathorn Boutique Hotel

Novotel Sukhumvit 20 Bangkok

Best places to visit and top things to do in Bangkok

There are hundreds of attractions and places of interest in Bangkok, the Thailand’s beautiful and exciting capital city. With the charming river cruises and dazzling Wats (temples), invigorating Thai massages and spa treatments, soaring skyscrapers, colourful and flashy souvenir markets, and street side food stalls, there are so many must things to do and see in Bangkok.

Must see temples in Bangkok

No visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to a temple or a Wat, a significant part of Thai culture and heritage that offers an aura of peace and tranquillity to the travelers.

The Grand Palace & Wat Prakaew

One of the main landmarks, the Grand Palace is resplendent in gold trimming and consists of the greatest collection of temples in the capital. It is pricey to enter for foreigners but is the greatest spectacle for the first-time visitors and can be explored on foot. It consists over 100 vibrant buildings, golden spires, glittering mosaics and a grand mural of Ramakien (the Thai version of the famous Indian epic story of Ramayan) Wat Phra Kaew is the main attraction inside the complex with the Emerald Buddha. Don’t miss it! It’s just so rich and beautiful!

Timings: 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM

Entry fee: 500 baht (This is inclusive of all grand palace grounds and the emerald Buddha)

Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)

Its official name is Wat Phra Chettupon Wimon Mangkhlaram. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is next door to the Grand Palace and has the distinction of being the largest temple in town. There are Buddha statues in here galore, including that of the massive gold-plated, 160-foot long, 60-foot high Reclining Buddha. It is the main sight in here and features mother-of-pearl soles. It functions as a center of learning for traditional medication and it is a great place to pamper yourself a session of Thai traditional massage. The massage in Wat Pho is purported to be the best in town.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Entry fee: 100 baht

Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)

Located at the end of Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road. The Wat Traimit temple is another one of the must-see Temples in Bangkok, with its five-ton solid gold Buddha that was only discovered by accident in the 1960s. It was hidden from view for centuries owing to the rampaging Burmese.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
Entry fee: 100 baht

Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)

The Temple of Dawn is just on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. It is aptly named for the beautiful iridescent reflection of the first sunlight against the temple walls. It is one of the most well-known cultural landmarks of Bangkok. It is a 200-foot tall, 17th-century structure with great forms and views. Wat Arun is undisputedly one of the best places in Bangkok to enjoy the sunset. To reach there from the Grand Palace, walk to the ferry terminal, take a short hop on the river boat.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Entry fee: 100 baht

Jim Thompson House

This was the home of an American entrepreneur who revitalized Thailand’s silk industry and subsequently disappeared in the mountains of Malaysia in the 1960s. Many people who love art and craft should add Jim Thompson’s House Museum in the list of best places to visit in Bangkok. The house is now operating as a foundation which has the museum inside. It is a traditional Thai house designed and constructed in a unique and smart way without using nails to hold the wood planks together. Jim Thompson, an architect by himself has designed his house which has a beautiful garden view from all its windows.

Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day with the last Guided Tour at 6:00 PM
Entry fee: 150 baht (This includes Compulsory guided tours around the house)

Bangkok Shopping – Where To Shop In Bangkok

From weekend markets, night bazaars, floating markets to grand shopping malls, Bangkok offers a fascinating shopping experience. Bangkok has more than enough shopping malls to suit all kinds of lifestyles and budgets. The top Bangkok shopping malls are MBK Center, Siam Center and Siam Paragon. These generally come loaded with higher-end shops, as well as dining and other entertainment options. The famous flashy street markets are listed below. Explore KhoSan road, Silom road and Chatuchak markets for some unusual shopping experiences.

Chatuchak Market (Bangkok Weekend Market)

The Chatuchak weekend market is one of the largest markets in the world and remains an essential Bangkok shopping experience. Locals, tourists, and ex-pats flock here on the weekends to bargain for household goods, souvenirs, clothes and original Thai art before grabbing a bite to eat or a quick leg massage. There are over 10,000 stalls of clothes, souvenirs, delicious Thai cuisines and much more. Since it is so huge, it usually takes almost a whole day for the visit.

Opening Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 09:00 hrs – 18:00 hrs. Fridays 18:00 hrs- 24:00 hrs

Walking across Yaowaraj Road (China Town)

Yaowaraj Road is the heart of Chinatown in Bangkok. During the day, it’s mostly a commercial road, with gold shops, stores selling products imported from China, and food outlets. During the night, however, it becomes a massive ‘food street’ and attracts both tourists and locals from all over the city. Here you feel a bit like in China, instead of in Thailand with all the huge blackboards full of Chinese characters. This is a whole new world in the midst of Bangkok.

Bangkok Flower Market – Pak Klong Talad Bangkok

Depart in the early morning from Saphan Taksin BTS station, and take the Chao Praya River Express boat to Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s largest 24-hour flower market. A beautiful sight to behold as morning dawns, this market is also handily situated on the way to Wat Pho and Wat Arun; two of Bangkok’s must-see temples.

The best times to visit: midnight (12:00 AM -2:00 AM) or early in the morning (6:00 AM -7:00 AM) as you’ll see florists arranging the lovely fresh flowers, ready for sale. If visiting at night, be sure to visit nearby Yaowarat Road, Bangkok’s Chinatown. From textiles to second-hand souvenirs, it’s a bargain hunter’s paradise.

Bangkok Floating Markets 

The floating markets are unique to Thailand and are remarkable. The peddlers trade on small boats laden with colorful fruits and vegetables. The two worth checking out are the Damnoen Morning Market and the Amphawa Evening Floating market.

Floating Market. PC: artwolfe.com

Best rooftop bars in Bangkok – Lebua at State Tower

This has to be the most famous sky bar in Bangkok though the drawback to fame is the inevitable crowds. Sky Bar by Lebua is a fabulous place, there’s no doubt in it. If you’re a fan of The Hangover movie this will be the place you want to visit for a night out, but expect it to be busy. The buzzing vibe may be just what you’re looking for, and when combined with the amazing views from the 63rd floor you can see why the location scouts for the popular Hollywood movie picked this place above all others. Look out over the river and the city as the sun sets over Bangkok.

Other famous sky bars in Bangkok are Vertigo and Moon Bar, Octave Rooftop Barsit and many others. So relax with one of Sky Bar’s signature cocktails, and enjoy the live jazz music.

View from Lebua State Tower. PC: wallpaperscraft.com

Where to eat in Bangkok – Street Food Stalls

Do not dare leave Bangkok without trying the street foods! Local vendors are everywhere selling must-taste treats that provide you with a genuine taste of Thailand. Try out some best street food dishes like Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad), Gaeng Daeng (red curry) and Kao Pad (fried rice) to the iconic Pad Thai, fried noodles with finely ground peanuts, mango sticky rice, Thai Chicken curry, oyster omelets, barbeque, and many other lip-smacking delights.

A Romantic Dinner at Bangkok – The Dinner Cruises

Bangkok Dinner Cruises are the perfect end to a day. Allowing you to see the city from a different perspective as the sun goes down and the temples and palaces are lit up. Hop on to any of the boats to have a memorable dinner cruising along the Chao Phraya River. We had our share of joy enjoying a candlelight dinner with Loy Nava Dinner Cruises. They serve Thai and international buffet dinner after you’re welcomed on board with cocktails. The cruise sails by Thailand’s attractions by night, such as the Grand Palace, and returns back to its starting point – so you’ll have a chance to see everything again. A live dance and traditional music playing throughout create the perfect setting for you to relax in the moonlight after dinner. Besides you can have a good chance to take pictures of the night view.

Loy Nava Dinner Cruises | Website – Experience their luxury rice barge journey into Thai culture and the Thai heart. Five-star dining, traditional culture and touring, on the only original antique teakwood rice barge on the river in Bangkok. Experience first-class Thai hospitality and delicious food from around Thailand in the comfort and tranquility of this luxury, open-air cruise.

Location: Starts and ends at Si Phaya Express boat Pier.

We suggest you try their Deluxe Package which includes: Cruise, Dinner(Thai Traditional & Thai Seafood Menu), 5 premium drinks – Any Cocktail, White Wine, Small Dessert Wine, liquor and a complimentary Hotel pickup and drop.

Reservation and Booking: Check Loy Nava Dinner Cruises website for reservation. It is better to make an advance booking.

Best Thai Massage and Spas in Bangkok

With some of the best massage centers in the world, Bangkok can be claimed as the ‘Massage Capital’ of the world.

Another signature activity you just cannot afford to miss in Bangkok is the authentic full body Thai Massage. Offering the perfect blend of ancient Eastern traditional treatments and more modern Western elements, the spas in Bangkok are simply sublime. All the stresses and strains of modern life will be scrubbed, massaged and cleaned away, leaving you to feel like a new person. It’s certainly a worthwhile aspect of a Thailand holiday. If you don’t have time for a spa, go for a cheap foot massage or enjoy a traditional Thai body massage. Don’t know where to go? Check out our recommendation below. We had a rejuvenating and refreshing Thai massage and would get back to this place on our next visit to Bangkok. Being in the Sukhumvit area, this spa is very near to most of the places of interest.

Baan Sabai Spa Bangkok | Website
Address: Sukhumvit 26, Khlong tan, Khlong teoy, Bangkok, 10110 Thailand
We recommend their Origine/Pure Gold SPA Packages includes:
(Body scrub:30 min, Body wrap:30 min, Jacuzzi 30 min, Milky rise/Gold oil massage:90 min, Face treatment:60 min)

 

Bangkok Nightlife

Energetic and diverse, the nightlife scene in Bangkok offers much more than just drinking in relaxed backpacker joints around the Khaosan Road, or visiting Patpong’s infamous go-go bars. You can sip cocktails in chic rooftop bars as you gaze across the skyline, listen to jazz musicians jamming in atmospheric clubs, or dance until dawn as international DJs play house, hip-hop, and electro.

Khao San Road – Backpackers street

It resides north of the Grand Palace. Get here by a tuk-tuk or a meter taxi. If there’s one area of Bangkok that you simply have to visit, it’s Khao San Road. Full of bars, restaurants and backpackers, this young and lively spot is the place to try alcohol the ‘Thai’ way (in buckets!), and make new friends from around the world.

Soi 11 of Sukhumvit Road

The Sukhumvit Road is one of the longest streets of Bangkok. Over here life pulsates at night. The street is lined with stands and food stalls and also those who want to enjoy the nightlife are right over here.

How to Save Money in Bangkok

 

  • Avoid fancy food. You’ll find the most authentic and most affordable Thai food in small, family-owned restaurants.
  • Shop smart. Shopping is a major perk of visiting Bangkok. For the best prices on local goods, opt for street markets like Chatuchak Market rather than shopping malls.
  • Sleep in the Old City Lodging which is not expensive in Bangkok. Even luxury hotels are affordable here. Still, you can save some baht by booking smaller boutique properties in the Old City (Rattanakosin).

Conclusion:

Bangkok Tourism is always booming. Temples, palaces, museums, floating markets – with a wealth of tourist attractions and cultural landmarks, Bangkok offers a variety of sightseeing options to its visitors. Even with its congestion, heavy traffic and jam-packed streets, Bangkok’s charm is beguiling nonetheless. Without a doubt, Bangkok is a must-visit destination and it’s almost certain that one trip to this captivating city will leave you wanting to come back for more.

Bangkok Travel Tips – Helpful hints and advice

Bangkok is quite a safe city although touts and pickpockets are rife and it pays to remain alerted at all times. Avoiding the midday heat and keeping hydrated with bottled water is a must.

  • Very few Bangkok taxi drivers speak much English. So an address written in Thai can help immensely.
  • Arrive early at ‘The Grand palace’ as it can be a very busy place with queues, and lots to see inside.
  • Famous in Bangkok are the local street food and fruit stands. Although a must-try, be mindful of overcharging and hygiene standards – especially for weak stomachs.
  • The easiest mode of transport in Bangkok is the MRT/BTS train and The river boats – These serve all the major tourist areas in Bangkok.
  • Dress appropriately at temples (no shorts or sleeveless tops).
  • Khao San Road is a hugely popular tourist spot. Expect higher prices than usual here for food and drinks.
  • For Skybars – Dress code is smart-casual and rather strict. Flip-flops are not allowed for ladies and shorts for men.

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