Things to do in Bangkok
Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand, things to do in Bangkok include;
- Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the Emerald Buddha
- Wat Arun
- Markets of Chatuchak (JJ), MBK and Pratunam
- Lumphini Park (and view of the city)
- Wat Saket (and view of the city)
- Jim Thompson House
- Wat Pho and reclining Buddha
- Shopping Malls including Siam Paragon, Emquartier, Siam Center, Terminal 21 and Central World
- Wat Trimitr and the golden Buddha
- The infamous Patpong market and nightlife
- Wat Benchamabophit
- Baiyoke Tower II (and view of the city)
- Kao San Road
Bangkok is huge, the traffic can be terrible and it’s too hot to walk around, so you need to choose the location of your hotel carefully. I would recommend staying in the Asok area which is close to the skytrain, underground train and 1 stop away from the airport link. The sky train runs over Sukhumvit road, so you can check hotels anywhere on Sukhumvit, just make sure it’s within walking distance of the Skytrain as you don’t want to get sat in traffic in a taxi.
The Grand Palace is the former residence of the King of Thailand, when he sadly passed away recently this is where the Thai people came to mourn. The coronation of the Kings of Thailand happen at the Grand Palace. On visiting the Grand Palace you’ll see Thai soldiers and guards protecting the palace as well as posing for photos. The Palace is a beautiful structure with colorful gardens in addition to the majestic buildings.
Wat Phra Keow and the Emerald Buddha
Wat Phra Keow is the most sacred temple in all of Thailand. It houses the Emerald Buddha, the Emerald Buddha is sculpted from a single Jade stone, emerald refers to the color. Legend has it that the Emerald Buddha will bring prosperity to the country that it resides in, as a result it’s the most important Buddhist statue in Thailand. You cannot go inside the building that houses the Emerald Buddha so to photograph it you’ll need a camera with very good zoom, also be aware that you will be photographing a dark room from the strong sun shining outside. You can view the Only By Land store to see the bridge camera I used to photograph the Emerald Buddha. More importantly, to enter the Wat Phra Keow complex you must wear conservative clothes and cover your body, so come prepared.
Wat Arun, known in English as ‘Temple of Dawn’ dates back to the 17th century but the spires were not added until the 19th century. You can climb the spires to take a wonderful city shot over the Chao Phraya river (above). It is said that the best time to go is sunrise when the sun reflects off the spires and it’s extremely quiet. Additionally, Wat Arun is also a good place to get a good monk shot as there are plenty here going about their daily routines.
How to get to Wat Arun
To get to Wat Arun you need to cross the famous Chao Phraya river which runs through Bangkok. To cross the river you’ll be encouraged to take a boat which costs around 200 baht. This sounds a decent price but if you check where the local boat over the river leaves from, this boat will cost less than 5 baht. In the near future the Chao Phraya river could become the first UNESCO world heritage site in Bangkok.
Wat Pho – Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is famous for its reclining Buddha, at 46 meters in length it one of the biggest in the world. The temple houses the largest collection of Buddha images in the world. If you are looking for Buddha images for your Instagram feed, Wat Pho is the place to take them! Wat Pho is the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage therefore many foreigners learn how to massage here.
Markets in Bangkok
There are 3 famous markets in Bangkok, Chatuchak (JJ weekend market), MBK Center and Pratunam. If you want the Thai market experience then any of these locations should meet your requirements, they each sell virtually the same things at the same prices. Each of the markets can be reached by skytrain (Pratunam by airport link).
Chatuchak Market (JJ Market)
The biggest of the markets in Bangkok is Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s actually open during the week but during the weekend there are much more stalls (and people). Almost anything you can imagine is sold here, including a pets section with questionable animal conditions. This market can be reached from the Mo Chit skytrain station as well as the Chatuchak Park subway station.
You should consider MBK if you want to stay inside in the air conditioning whilst exploring a market, your energy will last longer. MBK is also conveniently located within walking distance of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Central World.
Pratunam is a huge market located close to the airport link but you could also walk there from the Chit Lom Skytrain station. Most importantly it’s probably the cheapest of the markets as it’s not so touristy. Located in Pratunam is the Baiyoke Tower II. This was the tallest building in Bangkok and you can pay to reach the observatory on the top floor for a city view.
The Infamous Patpong Market
An alternative market to these is the infamous Patpong night market. Patpong has featured in movies such as The Hangover 2 and Bangkok Dangerous. The market is expensive, rife with pickpockets and very seedy.
Shopping Malls in Bangkok
Bangkok has more recently become famous for its modern shopping malls. In fact, along Sukhumvit road you’ll find countless shopping malls. As an illustration, almost every stop on the Sukhumvit line of the Skytrain is connected to a shopping mall. My favorite malls are, Siam Paragon, Emquartier and Central World which is one of the biggest in Asia. In addition, Siam Discovery is where you’ll find a waxwork of the most famous Thai actor, Tony Jaa. Tony Jaa has recently starred in the Hollywood action movies, Furious 7 in addition to xXx. He is famous for his Thai boxing skills and rose to fame in the Thai movie Ong Bak, which features a Tuk Tuk chase through the streets of Bangkok.
Lumpini Park is the Bangkok equivalent to Central Park in New York. It’s hot in Bangkok so I recommend visiting the park early morning or in the evening. Lumpini is famous for it’s monitor lizards, you’ll see these walking around the park as well as swimming in the water and climbing trees. They’re not dangerous and are actually scared of you. I recommend being quiet and walking slowly when you want to take their photo, or they will run away quickly.
Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson Houses are traditional Thai buildings and gardens in the center of Bangkok. They’re the former residence of American businessman, Jim Thomson who mysteriously disappeared into the jungles of Malaysia in 1967. He built the residence in the 1959 to show off his art collection. He had a huge silk business based in Bangkok which is why he chose to build his residence here. Additionally, there are Jim Thompson silk shops in most of the shopping malls in Bangkok. For this reason if you don’t make time to visit his house you can still see traditional Jim Thompson silk clothes in his shops.
How to get from Bangkok to Hua Hin
From Bangkok I drove south to Hua Hin, on leaving Bangkok you’ll cross the famous Rama VIII Bridge. The bridge was constructed between 1999-2002 to relieve traffic congestion. Although the traffic in Bangkok can be bad, imagine what it would be like if they hadn’t dramatically improved the infrastructure over the past few years. The road between Bangkok and Hua Hin is motorway the whole way which means you should get there between 2-3 hours. You may be tempted to speed but there are police speed check along the way so be careful!
It is good that you recommended finding a hotel in the Asok area. It is hot in Thailand and it would be very helpful if you are staying near the train stations. The Buddha sculptures in Thailand are amazing. They are well-maintained. One of the things that I look forward in Thailand is shopping. There are a lot of options that would be suitable for everyone.
There are some cracking photographs here so you can tell you are a pro photographer. We really loved the bustle and vibrancy of Bangkok, the overwhelming heat was sometimes a bit much though!
Planning to visit Thailand next year and so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for recommending a place to stay! Accommodation is one of the trickiest and most difficult part for me when planning trips especially if I’m visiting a new country, so this is really helpful!
My partner and I visited Bangkok as part of a broader South East Asia holiday in January and February of 2016. The place is absolutely manic! However there are some very beautiful and interesting places such as the reclining Buddha at Wat Po. That was an amazing photo you took – that statue is just enormous so that would have to have been an unbelievable lens!
I think Bangkok sounds a little overwhelming, but if you have a plan, it could be fun. Staying close to the action is good so you can avoid spending your time in traffic. I’d love to see all those Buddhas. The Emerald Buddha look spectacular.
It was interesting to know about the Emerald statue made out of a single jade stone. That must be exquisite..I can imagine the green glow right now. The Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha sound wonderful too.
That’s quite a big difference in price for crossing the river! It’s great that it will become a Unesco site pretty soon. I would like to visit Bangkok one day but I think I would love more the countryside and the islands of Thailand. I am not really a fan of chaotic places and capitals.
Nice pictures! The Reclining Buddha really looks like biggest in the world. Grand Palace is very Royal. Also I liked the Wat Arun so beautiful and I missed this place on my Bangkok trip. Special Thai massage is really very good specially feet massage.
Bangkok looks incredible, I don’t know if I could take the heat though. You pictures certainly make me want to consider give it a shot though! It seems like such a vibrant bustling place!
I love how brightly-colored Thailand is, and your pictures just emphasized that perspective for me. Stunning. One of my dreams is to explore the Bangkok market scene. I love your breakdowns!
It’s really refreshing to read a post with some great non-seedy activities to do in Bangkok! The city seems to be very full of life and color – I can’t wait to visit 🙂 Great tips about when to visit some of the attractions and how to dress appropriately. How long would you recommend staying in Bangkok for?
Hi Lindsay, I’d recommend stay at least 2-3 nights, you could even stay a week without running out of activities to do each day.
Thats nice! We have been to Bangkok several times and its an incredible city; loud, fascinating, overloaded, colourful, modern, traditional … I can’t wait to get back there.
Oh Bangkok is always a lot of fun, I loved visiting the Jim Thomson house and always like to get a foot massage whenever I can. The shopping at Chatuchak JJ weekend market is so crazy busy. Loved every moment of my time in Bangkok!
We only spent 36 hours in Bangkok on our honeymoon and we only had time to see the Grand Palace, do a boat ride to see Wat Arun, and get a Thai massage. I knew we missed out on most of the city, so I’m glad to read your recommendations. Great tip about getting a cheaper boat ride. I’m going to keep that in mind for the next time we go!
You have put together a very interesting travel plan here. I hadnt heard of Lumpini Park before, but it looks amazing. I will deffinately go the next time I’m in bangkok. I so agree that it’s important to choose your location wisely so it’s easy to move around. Last time we stayed in Khao San road area, next time will try Asok for sure.
What a great post. The information about needing to be dressed conservatively is EXACTLY why we research before we go! I like to avoid the sun so I wear long sleeves anyway, but in a hot climate like Thailand I”m sure that is unusual so most would not be prepared to cover up. Thailand is on our list of places we want to go – such a vibrant and beautiful place.
I love how you highlighted parts of Thailand that are often undiscovered by tourists. The sky train is so useful, better than on the back of a scooter taxi in the traffic and heat. I’m an Ong Bak fan as well! 🙂 Would love to visit the Jim Thompson Houses on my next visit, never heard of it before.
Tony Jaa has another movie called Tom yum Goong which is a good action movie too.
This part of Thailand looks like such a vibrant place! I would love to visit the Reclining Buddha since it’s such an iconic spot in Thailand. You’ve given me so many places to add to the itinerary for whenever we FINALLY make it to Thailand!
You have put so much in a compact yet comprehensive post! The place looks so colourful, especially the buildings of Wat Arun. Your shot of the reclining Buddha is superb. There is a similar statue in Yangon as well. It was so difficult to photograph. Great tips! The Jim Thompson Houses look vibrant too. That red wall <3 Thanks for sharing this James. Wish to visit it soon!
Aww now you made me miss Bangkok. I went there last year and I loved it. So much do see and so much to do! The only disappointing was visiting Wat Pho as somehow I missed the reclining Buddha ( I didnt know he’s located in that temple! ) I guess I am gonna have to go back one day 🙂 Great photos!
We were in Bangkok not so long ago, we then travelled up to Chiang Rai where we saw the Wat where the Jade Buddha was discovered. There is so much to see and do in Bangkok isn’t there, but just so much traffic (as if people didn’t know that already lol). We spent a lot of time at the Reclining Buddha temple, the buildings in the courtyards leading up to the temple are stunning and it’s easy to lose track of time. Thanks for sharing, pinned for later
I lived in Sukhumvit Soi 12 near Cabbages & Condoms for a year & a half. I love that city, the people and of course, the food. Good point re the local boat across to Wat Arun. Many people are unaware and the price difference is substantial. Next stop, Hua Hin. Have fun!
Bangkok has always been a stopover for us before escaping to nearby islands. We stayed near MBK mall once and the second time at Centara. We have covered almost all the places you have mentioned except infamous night market, Jim Thompson Houses and Lumbini park.
Bangkok is definitely on my list of places I must visit. All of the temples and Buddha statues are must sees for me. The market could be cool to see especially if food is involved. I’d definitely want to go to the top of the spire and get a good view while there. Thank you for sharing this.
Bangkok is an incredibly beautiful city and I explored it like 10 years back. I would love to see the Reclining Buddha and Lumpini Park. All your pictures look so pretty!
Useful tips for visiting Bangkok, a city we love. Thanks for sharing.
Loved reading about particular things to do in Bankok, seems like everyone is doing the same things and it gets boring to read about it. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Enjoy your journeys and great places of interest for tourists to visit in Bangkok. Also good recommendation on where to find a hotel. Great tips and photos and I will pin this for my next visit to Thailand.
We have been through Bangkok traffic. Like your tips on accommodation and navigating through traffic. Sometimes it is tempting to speed when you get a chance. But better to be careful while travelling for legal reasons as well as safety.
Heading to Bangkok next month so this is extremely useful! Can’t wait as Thailand has been top of my to visit list for years but has ended up being passed by in favour of Canada, Croatia and Italy! So finally I get to see what it is like! We are catching the train from Bangkok to Penang too which will be interesting!
I’m dying to go to Wat Pho and study thai massage. I am a massage therapist here in America. Did you happen to get a massage while you were there? I’ve heard they’re so affordable and wonderful 🙂
Thailand is on my bucket list for a long time now (hopefully next year it will come true, fingers cross) for its beautiful beaches, rural landscape and of course all the delicious fruits that grows there. 🙂 Never really thought to much about the Bangkok since I don’t really like crowded places/cities, but I guess it’s a must stop when traveling to Thailand. Thanks for all the tips!
As you know, I am a massive fan of Bangkok and you’ve captured all the places of interest really well. Such an amazing city with loads to see and do. I was there only a few weeks ago and enjoyed seeing some of my favourite places again.
Like you I also chose my hotels carefully. That’s a good tip you shared! I save time and money by staying close to train stations and airports. It’s a pity that despite being so close to my country India, I have yet not traveled to Thailand. I would love to do the Bangkok – Hua Hin drive myself.
I think it is a really good recommendation to visit Hua Hin when you go to Bangkok. There is a lot of things to do there and people are short on time but Hua Hin is such a great relaxing place to go and so easy to get there from Bangkok by train. So many people make the mistake of going to Pattaya. Another great place to go with an easy travel from Bangkok is Kanchanaburi. Again nice relaxing place and I love those houseboats.