If you’re planning on travelling to various parts of Thailand then most likely the country’s crazy busy capital, Bangkok is on your list. I hear many people say they only passed through Bangkok to get to their next destination, or that Bangkok is so crazy you’ll only need a day before you want to escape. I can see this point of view. Bangkok is HUGE, and is in fact a very busy place with a lot going on. Though in saying that I’d like to inspire you to embrace it as it is and give the whole city a chance. There is so much to do and see in this huge capital (apart from partying) and you may just end up falling in love with it.
If you follow my work, you’ll know that I prefer slow travel and like to get to know a city and it’s culture well before moving on to the next destination. So I spent a total of 2 weeks exploring Bangkok to bring you my personal guide on places to explore during your next visit!
Old Town – Khao San Road
If you’re new to Bangkok you’ll more than likely end up on Khao San Road. You may have heard the saying “what happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok.” Well more specifically I’d like to translate this to “what happens on Khao San Road, REALLY happens on Khao San Road!” (Just think of the Hangover II movie).
Khao San Road is a tourist party central located in the Old Town area of Bangkok, known for sex, drugs and nightlife. Full of tuk tuks, lady boys, happy balloons, spare of the moment tattoos and mysterious “ping pong” shows. I can’t share what we got up to here…it’s one of those places you’ll have to come to for yourself to truly know what I’m talking about.
Though nightlife aside, the Old Town area is also a central place to stay for your first time in Bangkok, as it is where you’ll find all the main tourist points of interest such as temples and museums.
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Tip: Surprisingly Tuk Tuk taxis are significantly more expensive than regular airconditioned metred taxis, because they make their money from tourists who don’t know how much things are supposed to cost. Of course it’s an attraction in itself to take a ride in a tuk tuk, and sometimes it’s hard to find a ‘real’ taxi in Old Town because many of them hang around the business districts of Bangkok. Remember to always barter with a tuk tuk driver (a lot of the time the driver will take you to where you want to go for half of the first asking price), but if you happen to come across a real taxi (they are usually green and yellow) make sure to confirm they will use the metre, and if they won’t then chances are they are trying to rip you off so just wait for the next taxi to come by that agrees to use it. Below is an example of how much journeys should actually cost in Bangkok.
Or simply book a local tour guide to give you a private tour of the city here.
Temples & Museums
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall
If you’re nerdy like me and travel to get to know a country’s history and culture then I recommend starting your sightseeing journey at the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. It is the main museum in Bangkok where you’ll learn a lot about Thailand and it will give you a much better understanding of the places you’re here to explore. For example rather than just admiring the beauty of a temple or palace, you’ll already have an insight into why it has been designed the way it has and the purpose of what you’re looking at, which makes for a more meaningful experience.
Tip: Entry is 100Baht ($4AUD) including a 2 hour guided tour. Be prepared to either hand over your passport or a 1000baht ($40AUD) deposit (which you get back) to receive headphones with a recording of the tour in your language.
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace has an expensive entrance fee compared to other temples or attractions in Bangkok, though if you come to Bangkok without visiting The Grand Palace, did you really visit Bangkok? 500Baht ($20AUD) gets you in to see the most beautiful temples in Thailand, so it’s kind of a big deal. It’s also where the sacred Green Buddha is kept and the architecture here is insane; a true representation of Thailand’s Royal History.
Tip: The Grand Palace closes at 3.30pm so make sure to get here early as you probably need at least an hour to explore the area. It’s also a very sacred place for Thai people so to no be refused entry you must respect the Buddhist religion and wear clothes that cover you legs and shoulders.
Wat Pho Temple
Directly next to The Grand Palace and almost just as impressive is the Wat Pho Temple and is another one of those must-see temple complexes in Bangkok.
It is 100Baht to enter ($4AUD) where you’ll also get to see the giant Reclining Buddha.
Random Tip: To stay connected while roaming around the city you may want to get yourself a Thai SIM card with internet. A good phone company we used was ‘True SIM’ which you can get at any 7/11 convenience store. The plan we got was 30 days of unlimited internet for 900Baht ($36AUD).
Wat Paket (The Golden Mount)
For us the main reason for coming to Wat Paket was to check out the views of Bangkok from the top. While there, it is known to bang the gong 3 times for good luck.
The entry fee to Wat Paket is 100Baht ($4AUD), though only if they’re checking 😉
Wat Arun Temple
If you’re not all ‘templed out’ by this point then another popular temple to visit is Wat Arun Temple across the river. The ferry to cross the river here is only 4Baht ($0.15AUD). Or you can enjoy the temple’s beauty from afar while dining at one of the nice restaurants along the river.
Jim Thompson’s House
While we’re talking about architecture and history, you may also be interested in visiting Jim Thompson’s House. Jim Thompson was an American architect who ended up in Bangkok by military plane at the end of World War II to work on an architectural project. While in Thailand he fell in love with Thai silk and decided to introduce silk to the rest of the world. Thai silk soon became a huge export business as fashion designers started using this exquisite fabric as the new trend in the fashion industry, so Jim Thompson became the famous ‘Silk King.’
Jim Thompson also had a passion for collecting beautiful art from around the world which he displayed around his home, a house he designed himself using traditional Thai architectural techniques. Years ago Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared, so these days his house is used as a museum that’s open to the general public.
For 150Baht ($6AUD) you are given a 30 minute guided tour of Jim Thompson’s House, located a bit out of Old Town in the Siam district of Bangkok. It’s an interesting part of history, though the tour of his house itself may only interest those who appreciate art and architectural design.
Tip: When doing research on museums in Bangkok I also came across the Royal Elephant Museum, though according to Trip Advisor it doesn’t exist anymore.
Klong Lat Mayon Floating Market
The most unique kinds of markets I came across in Bangkok were ‘floating markets’ where locals sell goods from their little boats along the river. We went to the Klong Lat Mayon Floating Market where we joined a 1.5 hour boat tour along the canals, quite a distance from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok city and a great way to experience Bangkok’s rural lifestyle.
Tip: The best way to get here is by taxi, though make sure you go with a driver that actually knows where this market is, because often they say okay and agree on a price but just take you to the closest floating market. The 1.5 hour boat tour itself was 100Baht ($4AUD) per person.
We went to this particular floating market thinking it was the ‘main one’ worth visiting so we were expecting to be taken along the canals where we’d be able to buy things from the floating markets along the way, though this was more like a canal cruise that did a few stops at some markets on land during the tour. It was later that we discovered that the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets is the market we were looking for!
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Besides floating markets there are so many street markets in Bangkok filled with souvenirs and street food. A foodie or shopaholic’s heaven! I’m not one to enjoy shopping (unless I’m looking for something in particular) though I was very intrigued by the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. This place has 15,000 market stalls and you need a map to get around! The Chatuchak Market is open 9am-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays and you do really need a full day here to get through all the stalls. However if you’re not in Bagkok during a weekend then you can still visit these markets on a Friday night from 8pm-Midnight when half of the market stalls are open (still a lot!)
As I mentioned there is an abundance of street markets located throughout Bangkok, and there will most probably be one close to where you choose to stay. Some of which are:
- JJ Green near Chatuchuk Market (6pm-1.30am Thurs-Sun)
- Siam district: Talad Neon Night Market (4pm-Midnight Wed-Sun) & Ratchada Night Market (open daily 5pm-1am)
- Silom district: Silom Night Market (open daily 5pm-2am)
- Sukhumvit district: For good street food go to Khlong Toei Market (open 24/7) & Sukhumvit Soi 33 Night Food Market, or for antique shopping visit the Talad Rod Fai Vintage Night Market (5pm-Midnight Thurs-Sun)
You’ll also find street markets within Bangkok’s China Town, and the Chinese influence here make these markets different from the ones mentioned above. It’s like a ‘Mini China’ within Bangkok.
Pak Klong Talad Flower Market
Other unique markets to explore are flower markets, which are quite common in Thailand as well as other countries in South East Asia. Fresh flowers are very significant in Thai culture and symbolise good luck. They are used daily for religious ceremonies and to decorate religious shrines, houses, shops, or anything really. You’ll see Jasmine garlands hanging from rear-view mirrors of cars, buses, tuk-tuks and even on motorbikes everywhere.
So with so many fresh flowers needed to decorate everything each day, the flower production industry in Thailand is massive. The 24/7 Pac Klong Talad Flower Market is the primary flower market in Bangkok and the largest wholesale flower market in Thailand.
Maeklong Railway Market
Anf lastly, a 1.5hour drive from Bangkok, the famous Maeklong Railway Market is popular among tourists as it really stands out from all the rest. It is a market that is literally on a railway line that a train passes through several times per day. Quite an unusal sight to see, and definitely one I’d like to experience on my next trip to Bangkok.
Silom Neighborhood & Business Districts of Bangkok
More mature travellers or those who come here for business will more than likely want to stay in Bangkok’s busy business districts, which are quite modern and very different to the traditional Old Town tourist bubble. If you’re not into tourist attractions or have already experienced everything Old Town has to offer, then you may prefer to stay in this cosmopolitan side of Bangkok. Silom district is a popular choice for foreign visitors as it is also where you’ll find some well known luxury hotels.
The popular Wireless Road, where a lot of the luxury hotels are, leads to the huge Lumpini Park. Bangkok has a lot of air pollution so walking through this much needed park is a breath of fresh air (literally!)
Within the Silom district you’ll find the famous Sky Bar (from the Hangover II movie) which also happens to be the highest open-air bar in the world. It’s a classy bar with a strict dress code and is only open in the evenings from 6pm. It’s free to enter though you must buy a beverage from the pricey drinks menu. We didn’t realise it was a night bar and came past during the day while exploring the area with some friends, though even if we were here at night none of us would have met the dress code anyway, so we’re definitely adding the Sky Bar to the bucket list for next time!
The Unicorn Cafe & Other Themed Cafes
Another really cool place to check out in Silom is The Unicorn Cafe. It is really fun to visit and like a dream come true for those who love unicorns. Literally everything in this cafe is unicorn themed, including the menu that’s full of sweet drinks and colourful desserts. You even get to wear a unicorn onesy while you dine!
Apart from The Unicron Cafe, Bangkok has it’s fair share of weird themed cafes. I got bit carried away with researching them all, here are a few I found that actually exist:
- Mermaid Castle (mermaid themed and you even get to wear a mermaid tail while you dine)
- Sanrio Hello Kitty House (Hello Kitty themed)
- Hajime Robot Restaurant (robot themed where you order your food from a computer and are literally served entirely by robots!)
- Perhaps Rabbits’ Café (Alice in Wonderland themed)
- Rabbito’ Cafe (where you get to play with bunny rabbits while eating your meal)
- Caturday Cafe (where you get to play with cats while you dine)
- Big Dog Cafe (where you get to play with dogs while you dine)
- True Love Cafe (where you can play with 17 huskies while you dine)
- Pooltime Cafe (where you get to dine with racoons)
- Little Zoo Cafe (where you get to dine with racoons, foxes, owls and other animals)
- Mocking Tales (fairytale and fiction inspired cafe)
- Sretsis Parlour (fantasy land where wishes come true)
- Ace of Cups (witch themed)
- Kaethy The Witch (Halloween themed)
- KC Selfie Coffee (where the coffee comes out with a printed selfie of you on the foam)
- The Rome Restaurant (Rome themed, and even has a fake colosseum as part of the huge outdoor dining area)
- 66 Station (American gas station themed)
- Chocolate Ville (like a fake neighbourhood filled with mixed cultures)
- Sheep Village (mini farm area with real sheep and restaurant)
- Mr. Jones’ Orphanage (teddy bear themed)
- Teddy Castle (where you dine with giant teddy bears at the table)Villa De Bear (teddy bear factory themed)
- Maidreamin’ (Japanese maid themed dessert place)
- Cabbages & Condoms (condom themed)
- Tales Khao San (train themed)
- More Than A Game (board game themed)
- Bico Café (bicycle themed)
- Floral Cafe (flower themed)
- On the River Café (Caribbean themed)
- Tropical Swell (island themed)
- Mr. Bean Coffee Shop (Mr. Bean themed)
- Charlie Brown Cafe (themed with characters from the Peanuts comic strips)
- Moomin Café (Moomim characters themed)
- BTS Cafe (a South Korean boy band called BTS themed)
If you love to shop then just North of Silom the city blends into the Siam district of Bangkok, which is known for it’s high density of modern air-conditioned shopping centres. A few are MBK, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Center, Central Chidlom and the ultra-luxurious Central World.
Next door to Silom and Siam, Bangkok city stretches out to the outer Sukhumvit district, which is popular among expats and Westerners living in Bangkok. It’s also close to the airport so there are many hotels in the area that offer a good place to stay if you have an early morning flight.
Sukhumvit lacks typical tourist attractions (it’s the complete opposite side of the city to Old Town), though it’s another busy business district that’s great for nightlife and shopping. It is here that you’ll find Terminal 21, a shopping centre that was designed to look like an airport with each floor representing a different city in the world (super cool!)
Man-Made Islands of Bangkok
Bangkok also has two man made islands created between rivers and canals that are a popular city escape to enjoy a bit of nature on cycling tours. The first being Bang Krachao Island, and though I haven’t been myself, I’ve heard from other travellers that it’s technically possible to do on your own if you catch a taxi to the area and then a boat to the island where you can hire bicycles. And the second being Koh Kret Island, which seems to be best explored on an organised day trip with a tour group.
If you’re as fascinated by planes as I am then you may want to take a taxi to the outskirts of Bangkok to the Airplane Graveyard, where you’ll find pieces of abandoned air crafts. There are lots of safety hazards but it’s pretty cool to be able to climb in to what was once an operating airplane before crashing, though there is a bit of an eerie feel to the place.
Tip: The Airplane Graveyard is not exactly promoted as a tourist attraction and may look closed when you arrive but if you yell out to the family that live on the property they will let you through their gate to have a look around for 200Baht ($8AUD).
Other activities you may consider doing during your trip to Bangkok may include:
- Get a Traditional Thai Massage (around 200Baht $8AUD for 1hour)
- See a Muay Thai Show (another thing Bangkok is famous for)
- Do a cooking class (I’ve read that Amita’s Thai Cooking Class or Blue Elephant Cooking School are good)
- If I think of any more I’ll add them to this list!
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If I’ve missed anything that you feel would benefit those who read this then please leave us a comment below…
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