Visiting Bangkok - What to See and Do
(Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport BKK, Thailand)
Thailand's capital Bangkok
is the rushing life blood of this colourful and welcoming nation. Though hot, dirty and congested, it is rarely a disappointing travel destination, since there is such a diverse assortment of attractions. Whether you are here to party or experience the royalty and spirituality of Thailand
, Bangkok delivers the goods.
From the traveller vortex of Khao San Road and Banglampu to the slick high-rise hotels and bars along Sukhumvit Road, the city caters to every budget and agenda. There is naughtiness aplenty in Patpong and around Nana Plaza, and majestic Buddhist icons in Wat Pho.
Bangkok is an absolute city of contrasts, where monks stroll by glittering air-conditioned shopping malls and motorcycle taxis whiz through the inevitable traffic. The capital is the gateway to Thailand and warrants at least three days to get a proper taste of the 'Big Mango'.
Ten things you must do in Bangkok
- The Grand Palace offers commoners a rare glimpse into the bejewelled universe of Thailand's monarchy. This amazing complex is awash in beautifully intricate buildings and Buddhist temples. The highlight is Wat Phra Kaew, the nation's most revered temple and home to the Emerald Buddha. Dress appropriately and get here at 08:30 on the dot to avoid the crowds and the heat.
- Just next door to the Grand Palace is Wat Po, arguably the most photogenic Buddhist temple attraction in the country. Built by King Rama I in the 16th century, it is the oldest temple in Bangkok and still bustling with monks and visitors. Among the highlights is the massive golden Reclining Buddha, though simply wandering around the 91 chedis (mounds) and soaking in the atmosphere is the real experience.
- Even if you don't want to stay in a backpacker guesthouse, it is fun to walk around Khao San Road and neighbouring Banglampu. This street has been the hub of travellers to Bangkok for decades and is still something of a street carnival mixed with bars and eclectic shops. Visit at night when the street is closed to traffic and the bars really hop.
- A superb early morning excursion is to take a boat taxi across the Chao Phraya River and visit Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Built in the early 1800s, it is a beautiful example of Buddhist temple architecture. Perhaps best of all are the sweeping views back across the river of Wat Po and the Royal Palace.
- Bangkok's legendary red light district is Patpong. While some of its raw craziness has dimmed in recent years, it is still a fun and freaky place to explore after dark. This is where bar girls perform their tricks and sex oozes out of every dimly lit doorway. It is fairly safe, though, and worth a look even if this kind of adventuring isn't on your agenda.
- The Thailand Cultural Centre is the largest performing arts venue in the capital. It hosts a steady schedule of diverse shows, including traditional Thai dance and music, along with visiting ballet and symphony orchestras. There is always something interesting scheduled if you feel like a dose of culture during your stay in Bangkok.
- The Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak is one of the most interesting day trips from the capital. This ancient fresh produce and food market exists entirely on a network of canals, with traditional boats moving around selling their colourful and tasty goods to a daily onslaught of customers. This excursion is best booked through a travel company, who can arrange the 40-minute drive transport and get you a private boat to tour the canals and market up close.
- Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market is the granddaddy of all outdoor markets in the capital. This attraction is simply massive and will easily take most of a day to thoroughly explore. Vendors sell pretty much everything here, from antiques to silk, trinkets and junk. It is exotic, colourful and actually a local market, so there are great photography opportunities. Just be sure to visit right at 09:00 when it opens, to avoid the heat.
- Chinatown is an interesting departure from the usual Thai scene that makes up the majority of Bangkok. Here, the signs turn to Chinese and the restaurants serve up incredibly tasty authentic dishes. The shopping is also quite eclectic, from alien roots and herbs to cool silk lanterns and other mementoes.
- You have probably seen the wooden boats that ply the city's Chao Phraya River. If you really want to be impressed, visit the Bangkok Royal Barge Museum, which showcases the incredibly elaborate boats used by the king during rare royal processions on the river. The largest of the group is over 46 metres / 150 feet long, but all of the barges are true works of art.