Welcome to Bangkok. A city with over 6 million people. Also a city that never sleeps. Not a single minute.
And when you visit Bangkok it is really easy to not sleep as well.
In the streets there will always be people, every night of the week there are markets, street food on every corner, temples to explore and so much more.
It’s exotic, vibrant, chic and crazy. All at the same time. And I do like it.
It’s been over a while since I first visited this city in 2012. Back then I really only stayed for a few days as I had many other places and things to do in Thailand on my itinerary. Such as the beautiful mountainous city of Chiang Mai!
Thinking back, I remember the city being crazier, a little dirtier and more hectic than it appeared to me these days.
Maybe I am also a little more chilled out now, less restless as I may have been then as a backpacker when I wanted to see anything and everything and all at the same time!
There is definitely a lot of change happening, making me wonder what Bangkok will be like in another 100 years for now?
Will the sparkling temples still be there and will the city be as intoxicating and fun as it is now? Don’t expect me to come back in 100 years as I will be more than old and wrinkly. But, procrastination is fun right?
Thinking about the future also makes you reflect upon the past so here goes my list of the top 6 sights not to miss in Bangkok.
#1 The Grand Palace
You guess it, you cannot go past this one! The Grand Palace, a set of impressively beautiful buildings served as the official residence of the Thai King since 1782.
However the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit of Thailand live at a different Palace called Chitralada Royal Villa. It is still sometimes used for official events and gatherings.
The Grand Palace is the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom and has become one of the major places to visit in Bangkok, let alone Thailand.
The Grand Palace is the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom and has become one of the major tourist attractions in Thailand.
Within the temple grounds there is Wat Phra Kaew which holds the famous Emerald Buddha dating back to the 14th century. This temple is also the most important Buddhist temple in all of Thailand. The small Emerald Buddha is made out of a single block of Jade, which is not only very impressive to the travellers eyes but with justice highly worshiped by Thai people.
For an entry fee to this Bangkok attraction will set you back 500 Thai Baht (THB). This will get you to marvel at the amazing detail and creativity of the pagodas inside and out.
Despite the crowds I have enjoyed my visit to the Grand Palace multiple times already and I think I will be back again and again, because it truly is one of the best things to do in Bangkok!
Make sure you dress appropriately on the day of your visit. Exposed shoulders and legs are not very welcome, so be sure to cover up and wear proper shoes as well. Otherwise you will need to hire or even buy an expensive skirt or pair of pants before you enter the temple.
Getting to the Grand Palace can be either by Taxi or Tuk Tuk as it isn’t directly served by public transport through the BTS or MRT.
But because the Grand Palace is very close to the river, you can combine the trip with a little ferry ride on the Chao Praya River. Simply take the BTS to Saphan Taksin station and make your way down to Sathorn Pier to catch the ferry towards the north/right! Exit at Tha Chang pier and follow the crowds, it’s only a leisurely 10 minute stroll.
#2 Wat Pho
Wat Pho is the largest temple in town and right in the neighbourhood of the Grand Palace. Within this Buddhist temple, the main attraction is the 46 metre long and 15 metre high Reclining Buddha that is covered in gold leaf.
When I walked into the temple for the first time, the size of the Buddha almost felt unreal and I could hardly get it into one photo (as you can see)!
The entry fee is only 100 Thai Baht. Additionally, you may want to consider getting a massage here, since Wat Pho is the birthplace of traditional Thai massage and the first massage school was established here in 1955.
After paying a visit to the giant reclining Buddha, make sure you explore the rest of the temple grounds as they are just as beautiful and you will get some great shots of the many pagodas.
#3 Asiatique The Riverfront
Asiatique is one of the biggest lifestyle projects in Asia right on the river banks of the Chao Praya River in Bangkok.
Hosted in an old warehouse complex Asiatique The Riverfront is a trendy open-air mall which only opened in May 2012. It’s actually a nice change from the shopping triangle of Siam Paragon, Central World and MBK.
I visited Asiatique in November to celebrate the annual Loy Krathong festival where people gather around the river and canals to show their respects to the goddess of water by releasing flowers and candles onto the water. Therefore the mall was quite crowded and shopping wasn’t a main activity on my mind.
The mall has a range of international restaurants along the boardwalk, snack stalls, designer boutiques, bazar-style stands and a huge ferris wheel. You can find anything from jewellery to souvenirs, fashion and furniture.
All the action is happening at night as the mall opens from 5pm.
There are also a couple of shows taking place, from puppets to Muay Thai Boxing to ladyboys, you will find something that’s for sure!
The best way to get to Asiatique The Riverfront is by BTS to Saphan Taksin and then continuing with the free shuttle boat from Sathorn Pier (towards the south/left when you exit the BTS) which runs every 15 minutes from 4.30pm to 11.30pm.
Note to self
Traffic in the area can be very heavy (even on normal days)! I didn’t find a free taxi on the festival night of Loy Krathong and ended up squishing me onto one of the jammed boats. Claustrophobia here I come!
You haven’t been to Bangkok if you haven’t visited Chinatown. The area is less developed than the rest of Bangkok, you see less foreign faces and a lack of English-speaking people and air-conditioned places are to be expected.
In the heart of the quarter lies Yaowarat Road with many small alleys and lanes branching off. Put down your Bangkok map and get lost between shops selling gold, clothing, electronics or antiques. There are many temples, shrines and old shophouses scattered across the area as well.
Once the sun sets, the street turns into a massive food market with flickering neon lights of Chinese characters over your head.
Here’s definitely the best place in Bangkok to try some exotic foods such as birds nest soup or shark fin – anyone hungry?
Again, it’s easiest to get to Chinatown by boat and get off at Ratchawong Pier. However, Chinatown also has its own MRT station called Hua Lamphong which is also know as the main train station.
Every year around February Chinese New Year, the most important holiday for all Chinese people, is celebrated hugely in the streets of Chinatown. This big celebration defines the start of the Chinese Year and is a cultural mix of street performances and food fairs that last about two weeks.
#5 Khao San Road
If you have read the book The Beach then you probably know that this street is often referred to as ‘the centre of backpacking universe’!
Quite rightly, as the street houses numerous hostels, guest houses and budget hotels and you see many backpackers and international travellers flocking through the street.
There are also plenty of shops, souvenir street stalls, restaurants serving Thai and Western style food, clubs and travel agents.
Walking along Khao San Road in the daytime will seem innocent. You will hear and meet a multicultural crowd and with the darkness kicking in, the streets get busier, making it a good spot for night bazar shopping and yes, a very famous backpacker party spot too. Come prepared for blasting music and buckets!
And don’t forget to bargain as vendors will try and sell at the most expensive price to foreigners.
Khao San Road is close to the Grand Palace and I walked it easily in 20 minutes. However, you can take a Tuk Tuk or Taxi in front of the palace to get here as well.
If you are looking to get away from the backpacker crowd without leaving the area entirely, visit nearby Soi Rambuttri.
This horseshoe-shaped street curves around a temple called Wat Chana Songkhram. It’s a litte quieter and offers cosy cafés, bars and market stalls while many street bars are popping up at night.
As you reach the end of the street there is only one (not so usual) way: Climbing up some wobbly stairs into a restaurant and back down on the other side through the front door.
#6 Chatuchak Weekend Market
A little to the north of central Bangkok sits one of the world’s largest weekend markets with over 8,000 stalls selling anything from fashion, plants, pets, souvenirs, antiques, art, food and much more.
The market is open on Fridays from 6pm to 12am and Saturday and Sundays from 9am to 6pm and can be reached with public transport such as the BTS to Mo Chit Station or the MRT to Chatuchak Park Station.
Come early in the morning if you want to avoid the main crowd and heat of the afternoon walking around as the market is open-air.
I understand, Bangkok is not for everyone. It’s hectic, there is lots and lots of traffic, skyscrapers and pollution… I could go on!
However, I seem to enjoy this metropolis more and more every time I visit. Discovering new places while finding hidden gems in known areas I have already visited. There is never a shortage of things to do in Bangkok.
I think part of me will always like this crazy city.
No matter how Bangkok will change over the next 100 years, I hope it will still have incredible views like these!