I didn't know what to expect for my first trip to Bangkok, as the trip was quite last minute and i didn't have a chance to do any major research- all i knew was that i would be staying there for 4 nights at Lebua State Tower (where the Hangover 2 was filmed) and that it had one of the most breathtaking views from their world famous Sirocco Skybar restaurant on the 64th floor.
Bangkok is known for its shopping as well as a few temples, however most people spend just a day or two here before leaving to the islands or the jungle, and is known as a "love it or hate it city". As far as tourist attractions go (other than what i mentioned above) it definitely doesn't compare to London or Paris, however it is a fantastic place to wander around, hop on a Tuk Tuk (their version of a cab, see photos) and find some amazing eats.
Check out my list of things to do in Bangkok:
Places to Visit
1. The Grand Palace + Wat Pho
The first place you should visit in Bangkok is the Grand Palace (Royal Palace) and neighbouring Wat Pho, home to the famous reclining Buddha and massage school. Unfortunately you can’t go into any of the buildings, but you can wander around the grounds and open temples which is worth the visit. The architecture is stunningly beautiful.
**Tip: to avoid the crowds, go first thing in the morning.
Afterward you're finished exploring the Grand Palace, head down the street to Wat Pho and the famous reclining Buddha (and also the famous Golden Buddha). The Wat Pho complex fills an entire city block so while seeing the statues doesn’t take long, you could spend over an hour wandering the maze-like temple grounds.
**Tip: you'll want to wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders, as it is considered disrespectful to wear clothes that don't cover your legs and shoulders. If you forget however, you can rent pants or shirts at the palace and at Wat Pho they give them out for free.
2. Cruise the Chao Phraya river
Take a tour of the Chao Phraya river. Not only is it the best way to escape Bangkok rush hour traffic, it's also quite relaxing and on top of that a pretty cool experience that definitely shouldn’t be skipped. You can ride the water taxi up and down the river for around 20 baht (less than $1 USD). Start at the central pier, go to the end, and come back. Presto! Instant tour! (The only difference with the official tourist boat, which makes less stops, is that they have someone that gives brief descriptions about important sites as you go along.)
3. Tour the Temples
The best way to see the beautiful temples of Bangkok is to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around from place to place. This is often the cheapest and most efficient way to see the temples throughout Bangkok. Below are a few of my favorite ones to check out:
- Wat Saket and the Golden Mount
- Wat Traimit
- Wat Benchamabophit
- Wat Kalayanamit
4. Visit Khao San Road
This road is a must- see, even if it's for a quick stop! Here you’ll find endless bars, shops, street food, international restaurants, vendors, locals, and activity all day and all night. It’s also a popular weekend for Thais. If you're looking for something a bit quieter, then head over to Soi Rambuttri, however Khao San is an awesome place to sit outside, people watch and meet other travelers. Also, check out Brick Bar- the hidden-away Thai ska bar where only locals go.
5. Visit the malls
Let me just say... you have not seen a mall until you have seen the malls! These malls aren't just malls here, they're social hubs (partly due to the air-con) where people eat (the food is delicious), drink at bars, see movies (in 5-D... google that it's nuts!), sit at coffee shops, and go bowling! Each mall is known for its own thing and has its own unique character. Head over to Siam Square and visit MBK (where you can find everything from cheap phones, shirts, shoes etc), then visit Paragon and Emporium (upscale shopping).
6. Watch a Muay Thai fight (if you're into that... personally i'm not)
Muay Thai, which is a combat sport involving striking and clinching, is everywhere in Thailand and Thais take it very seriously. Fighters train for years. Skip the tourist Muay Thai fights on the islands and spend a night seeing an authentic match with world-class fighters in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium.
7. Visit Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s Central Park.It's a very large green space and definitely worth a visit if you’re into people watching (like me)! At any given time, you’ll find people playing sports, walking, biking, practicing tai chi, or just relaxing. Bangkok is a city that lacks a lot of green space, so it's definitely a beautiful place to visit, especially if you want a change of scenery from the concrete jungle that is Bangkok.
8. Take a food tour
If you're a foodie and love to try new things, Bangkok is a great place to be as there is lots of variety. If you'd like to learn more about Thai cuisine and get a deeper appreciation for their food, take a food tour. Want to dive even deeper? Take a cooking class!