Visiting Thailand would not be complete without spending a few days in its capital, Bangkok. Granted, the city is really huge and you would probably need a whole week to fully explore it, but most people don’t have enough vacation time to do so. To help you plan your holiday in Bangkok, I’ve compiled a list of must-see places with helpful tips and directions to make the most of your time.
- Book a hotel that’s walking distance to a BTS (skytrain) or MRT (underground) station. There are even hotels with pedestrian bridges attached to the stations! To take that even further, book a hotel that’s close to the Siam BTS station. It’s a connecting line so you won’t have to change trains from another station.
- If you’re not encumbered with too many suitcases, it’s very easy to get from the airport to the city via the airport express train. It may even be faster than taking a cab during rush hour traffic and is way cheaper.
- Take into account how far places are from one another. It’s a large city and you may want to group certain activities together or you will be spending a lot of time traveling from one spot to the next.
- Some BTS stations’ ticket machines only take coins. You can change your notes into coins at the ticket counters.
- For both men and women, there are dress codes when visiting the temples (shoulders and legs must be covered). But fret not if you forget to bring something. The temples will have coverings you can borrow for a couple of baht.
Editor's note: At this writing, the exchange rate is approximately 32 baht to US$1, meaning each baht is worth about 3 cents.
- The locals appreciate it if you learn a couple of Thai phrases when approaching them. Here are the two most important ones — "Hello" and "Thank you!" Men say hello to a person of either gender by saying Sawa dee Krab, while women say Sawa dee Ka. Men say thank you by saying Kof Khun Krab and women say Kof Khun Ka.
Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is indeed a grande dame that holds visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail which are seen by many as a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people.
The palace complex comprises three courts - the Outer, Central and Inner Courts. The Outer Court is also home to Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The Grand Palace closes at 3:30 pm so be sure to get there early enough to be able to fully explore the area. Unfortunately, we missed seeing it because we had a late start to our day.
Editor's notes: Click here for more details about the dress code at the Grand Palace. Also, there are more than two dozen dates during the year on which portions of the palace either close early or are closed altogether. Click here for a list of those dates and operating hours.
Luckily for us, Wat Pho is walking distance to the Grand Palace and it closes later. The Reclining Buddha is really huge and impressive. The most interesting aspect of the statue are the 108 intricate mother-of-pearl illustrations on the five-meter feet of the Buddha. The illustrations are laksanas, the actions and symbols that helped Buddha attain perfection.
- For 20 baht, you can buy a bowl of small coins to drop into 108 bronze bowls aligning the wall. You will hear the “clink clink” of the bowls which is oddly soothing.
- Spend some time exploring the surrounding areas in Wat Pho. There are beautiful pagodas and interesting statues.
Opening hours for Grand Palace: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm daily.
Opening hours for Wat Pho: 8 am – 5 pm daily.
THREE TERRIFIC DAYS - Day 2
Amphawa Floating Market
There are quite a few floating markets outside of the city. We decided on Amphawa because it’s closer to Bangkok than Damnoen Saduak floating market and less touristy.
The floating market is filled with small tables aligning the edges facing the water. There are boat “kitchens” where people are frying noodles or grilling seafood. There’s also a large night market selling a bunch of dried seafood, fruits and candy. If you fancy staying there and experiencing the floating market lifestyle, there are several homestays along the water.
- When you reach the market, make sure to ask when the last bus will leave. It may change from 8:30 pm to 8 (as it did for us). Thankfully we made it back on time or it will be an expensive taxi ride back to the city!
- There are several makeshift karaoke stations along the walkway. If you are brave and can sing Thai songs, you can give it a go!
Opening hours: Friday-Sunday
THREE TERRIFIC DAYS - Day 3
Chatuchak Weekend Market
If you happen to be in Bangkok over a weekend, Chatuchak market is a place you have to experience, even if you’re not a shopper. There’s an outdoor area with rows and rows of mini stores selling clothes and accessories and street carts selling food.
Then you turn into one of the alleys and you’re in a massive indoor area with even more shops selling everything you can possibly think of – clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, toiletries, food, utensils, cookware, pet food, furniture, etc. You will feel like you’re in a maze and will have a hard time figuring out where you are in relation to the outdoor area.
- Right when you get out of the BTR station, there’s a cart selling coconut ice cream. It will be the best thing you’ll eat all day.
- Bring enough cash because you will end up buying stuff that you don’t expect (like MC Hammer hippie pants or Tibetan singing bowls). That’s almost a guarantee!
- It’s very hot and crowded so be sure to go there earlier in the day to beat the afternoon heat.
Opening hours: Friday, 6 pm – midnight. Saturday & Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm.
Heather T is author of the blog Eat the Wind, which is dedicated to the pursuit of wanderlust and culinary curiosity. Drawing on her experience in public relations and corporate communications, the blog features well-written travel stories, travel tips and recipes from all over the world.
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Photos by Heather T
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