The first place I ever visited in Southeast Asia. It’s a massive city that some people can find a bit overwhelming – the maze of streets, the tiny market stalls next to huge shopping complexes, hot pots of unfamiliar smells and the constant hum of motorbikes, cars and tuk tuks. Give it a chance because it’s one of the most exciting cities in the world.
Area made famous by the backpacking strip: Khao San Road.
The glittering temple district includes the spectacular Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The BTS doesn’t reach directly into this area so take a tuk tuk or ferry.
Big, modern shopping district with the historical Jim Thompson house tucked down a quiet road. BTS stop Siam or Chit Lom.
Just south of Siam is mainly a business district.
Main nightlife area.
Area south of Chinatown and west of Silom. Stunning ultra luxury hotels including the Banyan Tree, topped with the famous Vertigo restaurant.
HISTORICAL SITES & TEMPLES
Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
One of the most beautiful and significant places in Bangkok. Constructed in 1782 for the king, the complex is a stunning blend of colour and gold. The ordination hall houses the 14th century Emerald Buddha, which is actually carved from jade. Tickets to the Grand Palace are sold from 8.30am to 3.30pm and the price includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. It can get very busy (and hot) so arrive early. As there are temples inside the complex you will need to cover your shoulders and knees. You can rent cover ups when you arrive but it’s easier to just dress appropriately.
Known for the Reclining Buddha, a 46m long and 15m high golden statue, with mother-of-pearl inlays of the soles of the feet. It’s incredible.
Known as the Temple of the Dawn, Wat Arun is a unique temple on the bank of the Chao Phraya river and is considered one of the most beautiful in Thailand. The white walls are covered in floral mosaics made from Chinese porcelain, in some places full plates are used.
Jim Thompson House
Explore the intriguing house and collection of artwork of Jim Thompson, an American business man who lived in Thailand in the 1950s and 60s until his mysterious disappearance in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia in 1967.
Take a trip outside the city to explore the floating markets. Damnoen Sanduak is over 100 years old and is the most famous. These days it’s more tourist attraction than anything else but it’s a very unique experience for someone who has never visited Thailand.
Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market
Flowers are an important part of Thai culture and are often used as offerings at shrines and inside temples. This is a working market unlike Damnoen Sanduak.
Maeklong Railway Market
At first glance this market doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special. Then you realise the whole thing is set around a train track – where trains actually pass though!
Outside of the main city is the large weekend market at Chatuchak Park.
Is a massive shopping center with market style levels in the center of the city. So if you’re not in Bangkok for the Chatuchak Market, MBK is the place to go.
Siam district has the most shopping opportunities in the city.
Modern, expensive department store.
Trendy dark marble design, shops cater for a younger crowd complete with Starbucks.
Upmarket food court where you can get fancy food and western brands. The upper levels have highstreet western brands like H&M and Zara – Don’t expect it to be any cheaper than back home.
Accessed via the skywalk from the Siam complex.
FOOD & DRINK
Moon Bar and Vertigo restaurant at Banyan Tree hotel, Riverside District
After spending the day exploring, slow down for an evening and enjoy stunning views over the glittering city. Moon Bar is one of the highest alfresco bars in the world, perched on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Bangkok has plenty of bars to choose from, but none have views like this. Other popular bars are not as high and are away from the river so you don’t get such a dramatic view of the skyline.
Street Food in Banglamphu District
The district encompasses Khao San Road, probably the most famous backpacking spot in the world. It’s a blend of old and new – cheap joints offering ‘Very Strong Cocktails’, fancy bars and there is even a McDonalds – making the vibe firmly western.
MBK 6th Floor
Where you stay in Bangkok depends on what you’re interested in.
Want shopping, choose Siam Square
There are heaps of shopping opportunities all over the city, but the biggest is around Siam Square. Selection of BTS stops also makes it easy to get out to other parts of the city.
I stayed at Glur Watergate Bangkok which is within walking distance of Siam area £5 a night.
Want something upmarket, choose Riverside
The area next to the river has some of the classiest hotels in the city with amazing views – especially at sunset. Close to the nightlife of Silom.
Want a backpacker party, choose Khao San Road, Banglamphu District
The wild nightlife of Khao San Road attracts tourists from all over the world. There are plenty of places to stay within stumbling distance of Khao San. You are also conveniently located to the Grand Palace and temples.
Want something lively but not Khao San, choose Chinatown
There are lots of budget and midrange options with easy access to the main sites and train station.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK): The largest airport in Thailand. Thai Airways services direct flights from London Heathrow. Taxis cost 220 – 380 BAH. Airport Rail Link into Phaya Thai in central Bangkok via the BTS Skytrain 30 minutes 45 BAH 6am – midnight.
Don Mueang International Airport (DMK): The home of low cost carrier airlines including Air Asia. Dong Mueang is at least 40 minutes drive from Suvarnbhumi so you’ll need a lot of time to comfortably catch your next flight.
This large network makes it easy to move around the city. The glittering temple district of Ratanakosin isn’t covered so you’ll need to change to a ferry or tuk tuk.
Klorng: Travelling around Bangkok’s canals is a joy in itself. Boats are inexpensive with journeys costing as little as 10 BAH.
River: Chao Phraya Express Boats crisscross the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river allowing easy connections with the BTS.
An icon of Bangkok and a must way of travelling in the city. Expect to haggle on price as you’ll initially be quoted a massively inflated price. Short journeys should cost 60 BAH. On the other hand you could be offered a ridiculously low price of 20 BAH. Ignore anyone offering cheap trips as you’ll end up on long detours to gem shops.
Taxis are better suited than a tuk tuk for longer journeys. All taxis are required to use the meter which starts at 35 BAH. Some might try their luck at giving you an inflated price, just smile and say ‘meter’ and they will use it.
With all the other options you only need to use buses to leave Bangkok.
Visited August 2013, March 2015, November 2016, August 2017