Same same, but different. This Thailish T-shirt philosophy sums up Bangkok, a city where the familiar and the exotic collide like the flavours on a plate of pàt tai.
Bangkok welcomes more visitors than any other city in the world and it doesn’t take long to realize why. Bangkok is a city of contrasts with action at every turn; marvel at the gleaming temples, catch a tuk tuk along the bustling Chinatown or take a long tail boat through floating markets. Food is another Bangkok highlight, from local dishes served at humble street stalls to haute cuisine at romantic rooftop restaurants.
Luxury malls compete with a sea of boutiques and markets, where you can treat yourself without overspending. Extravagant luxury hotels and surprisingly cheap serviced apartments welcoming you with the same famed Thai Hospitality. And no visit to Bangkok would be complete without a glimpse of its famous nightlife- from cabarets to exotic red-light districts. Bangkok never ceases to amaze.
In a city bursting to the seams with awe-inspiring temples, bustling local markets, vibrant nightlife and vast shopping complexes, deciding on which attractions should make the cut is no easy task and IF NOT CONVINCED YET THEN SEE MY LIST OF TOP BANGKOK ATTRACTIONS
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it’s dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark. 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 a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the ministers. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
The robes on the Buddha are changed with the seasons by HM The King of Thailand, and forms an important ritual in the Buddhist calendar. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace around the turn of the twentieth century, but the palace complex is still used to mark all kinds of other ceremonial and auspicious happenings.
2) WAT ARUN (THE TEMPLE OF DAWN)
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water.
I would recommend spending at least an hour visiting the temple. Although it is known as the Temple of the Dawn, it’s absolutely stunning at sunset, particularly when lit up at night. The quietest time to visit, however, is early morning, before the crowds.
Given beauty of the architecture and the fine craftsmanship it is not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.
3) Floating Market (Damnoen Saduak )
Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand, great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life. An early morning start is worth it to avoid the heat and catch Damnoen Saduak at its liveliest. Most visitors who come to Thailand want to visit a floating market and many of them will end up here. Don’t let that put you off though, it’s an enjoyable morning out of the city and if you avoid the tourist shops you can get a real sense of the place. The market is over an hour outside Bangkok, and the easiest way to get there is to join a tour.
4) Chinatown (Yaowarat)
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. At day time, its no less busy, as hordes of shops descend upon this long strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese Temples.
Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants and a dense concentration of gold shops, Chinatown is an experience not to miss. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious-it will keep you wanting to come back for more. If you really want to see why this place is so popular than plan your visit during major festivals, especially Chinese New Year and this place is at its best.
5) Wat Pho (Old City)
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It’s one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf.
This is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage.
The highlight for most people visiting Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha. The figures here are impressive: 15 metres tall, 46 metres long, so large it feels like it has been squeezed into the building. 108 are a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection. You’ll need to take your shoes off to enter, and if you would like a little good luck, we recommend purchasing a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall which you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls which line the length of the walls. Dropping the small pennies in makes a nice ringing sound and even if your wishes don’t come true, the money goes towards helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.
6) Chao Phraya River & Waterways (Riverside)
One of the most scenic areas, the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night: water-taxis and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury hotels. The areas from Wat Arun to Phra Sumeru Fortress are home to some of the oldest settlements in Bangkok, particularly Bangkok Noi and its charming ambience of stilt houses flanking the complex waterways.
7) Chatuchak Weekend Market (Chatuchak)
Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally shop ‘till you drop’.
If you have one weekend in Bangkok, squeeze in a day trip to Chatuchak Weekend Market and you will not be disappointed.
For first-timers, ‘conquering’ Chatuchak may seem like an impossible task, but worry not. There is a system to help you navigate your way through Chatuchak. Inside, one main walkway encircles the entire market, and it branches off into a series of numbered alleyways called Soi 1, Soi 2, Soi 3, and so on.
8) Khao San Road (Old City)
If Bangkok is a city where East greets West, then Khao San Road is the scene of their collision, the place where they jostle for superiority and poke one another in the eye. With travellers from every corner of the modern world, sleek clubs playing sophisticated sounds, eclectic market stalls, converted VW cocktail bars, and foods tamed to suit the Western palate, it may seem clear who won the fight.
Nightlife in Khao San Road
Khao San Road has plenty of places for partygoers to choose from. This long entertainment street offers numerous bars and restaurants serving drinks at cheap prices. After the sunset, many mobile bars will take over the roadside, selling buckets full of cocktails. This is one of the most popular precursors to start the night before heading out to sample some of the nearby clubs.
More options become available as the night rolls on. The Club and Lava Bar are where all the electronic beat lovers gather, while Shamrock and Brick Bar offer both live music and DJ’s with hip and hit tunes. Gazebo Khao San is not to be missed; the Moroccan theme bar was voted as one of the Great Bars of the World by Lonely Planet readers. Gazebo is trendy and laid back but also offers a disco room for those looking to dance.
9) Soi Cowboy Sukhumvit (Asoke)
Soi Cowboy was named after the cowboy hat-wearing African-American who opened the first bar here in the early 1970s, this red-light district has a more laid-back, carnival-like feel to it than Patpong or Nana Plaza. Flashing neon lights up a colourful streetscape of 20 or so A go-go bars that line its sides. Don’t be shy, it’s pretty easygoing and open-minded, entry is always free and drink’s prices are fixed.
Soi Cowboy is just next to Terminal 21, a very popular new shopping mall, so just cross the street and see it for yourself… or use Terminal 21 as an excuse to have a quick peek. Remember, you might not see this again anywhere else in the world!
Soi Cowboy is fairly straightforward, no traps or scams… so just sit and order a drink: expect to pay 100 to 150 baht, which is rather fair (some bars like Sahara and Kiss now charging up to 180 baht… ouch). Staff members might sit next to you and ask for a drink, but rarely in a pushy way. If you want to enjoy your new friend’s company, it’s a nice gesture to buy her one and it is not too crazily expensive.
10. Jim Thompson’s House (Siam)
Jim Thompson’s three decades of dedication to the revival of Thai silk, then a dying art, changed the industry forever. After he mysteriously disappeared into the jungles of Malaysia, he left a legacy behind, which is reflected through his vast collections of Thai art and antiques now on display at the Jim Thompson’s House and Museum, itself a lovely complex of six Thai-style teakwood houses preserved to their original glory.
Jim Thompson House a legacy left behind by a middle-aged American man named Jim Thompson. His elegant residential enclave, comprising six traditional Thai teakwood houses transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Ban Krua community, echoes Jim Thompson’s 30-year love affair with Southeast Asian art and cultural heritage.
A strict dress code applies. The Grand Palace with The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is Thailand’s most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly (a deposit is required).