So you’ve arrived in Bangkok. Congratulations! Or…you’ve been here a couple days, think you’ve seen everything and searched multiple blogs for ideas. Here to help.
Take a look at our top places to visit. I’ve broken the list into three sections: cultural, relaxation, and hidden gems. Some spots will look familiar, some will be new. Few you’ll enjoy solo, but many with a crew (you like that little rhyme?)
Word of Caution! For any cultural attraction in Bangkok, don’t be fooled by locals on the street or in tuk tuks. If you ask for a ride (always negotiate price before climbing in…drivers will accept for less than 50% than their first offer), tell them where you want to go and that’s it. The locals that work in these areas specialize in tricking tourists. There is no “special holiday” that’s closed the Grand Palace or Golden Buddha for the week and there’s no “incredible boat tour” that’s highly recommended by past tourists. Don’t fall for it. You didn’t happen to arrive in Bangkok on the one day everything is closed…I promise. If the driver gives you a hard time, just say you’re meeting friends there.
The behavior of these few locals are in no way an indication of all Thai people. It’s an unfortunate reality how protective and overcautious tourists are while traveling. Please don’t let this information hinder your chances of forming relationships with Thai people. Overall, they’re extremely courteous, welcoming, and amiable.
Now, let’s get started!
Entrance Fee: 500 Baht/person (About $16)
Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm (Avoid tourist traffic, visit in the morning)
Dress Code: Cover shoulders and knees. Out of respect for King Rama IX, white or black is preferred.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. This palace served as the residence for King Rama I through King Rama V. If King’s called this place home, you know it’s worth checking out. Today, this beautiful masterpiece is used for hosting royal ceremonies and the king’s guests. Little tip for when traveling through Thailand. Thai people adore their recently deceased King Rama IX. Morgan and I witnessed the cremation ceremony a year after his death. A part of this ceremony took place at the palace while the surrounding streets were filled with locals.
Throughout our time teaching, the majority of our students referred to this King as their life’s inspiration. Feel free to ask any local about their opinions of King Rama IX, it’s unbelievable what he accomplished.
Alright, back to the palace. Plan to walk around for at least an hour to an hour and a half. There are many spectacular buildings and sacred sites. Although the day we visited was overwhelmingly hot, we still loved the experience. The architecture is incredible and will be a cultural highlight during your stay.
Golden Mountain (Wat Saket)
Entrance Fee: 50 Baht ($1.5)
Dress code: Cover shoulders/knees
We enjoyed this temple because of the climb and the scenic view from the top. The mountain is an artificial hill built with carrara marble. The heat definitely makes these 300+ steps a little more exhausting than they should be. You’ll enjoy the ascent because of the various art pieces and gongs (yes, you can play with the gongs) along the way. Once you reach the top, you can walk around the indoor center area and observe worshippers. Then, you can enjoy one of the best views of the city. It’s amazing this place isn’t more popular for the sole purpose of the view. If you’re having trouble finding the mountain ask any local for “Wat Saket” or “Phu Khao Thong”.
There’s about two or three different names for everything in Thailand. If someone doesn’t understand your pronunciation (very common with taxis), annunciate letters in the word differently. It ends up being an entertaining game of accents, but frustrating when you’re in a hurry.
Entrance Fee: Depends on Tour Company. My group paid under 1,000 Baht each for round trip transportation. Then, a small fee to take a boat on the river (about 100 Baht).
Hours: Arrive early morning to avoid the floods of tourists and locals (unless you want to see fireflies at Amphawa).
There are two main floating markets: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Amphawa Floating Market.
Damnoen Saduak is about 100 km (over one hour drive) from Bangkok. It’s definitely a different kind of experience. Be prepared for the merchants to constantly hound you with prices and cheap deals, like at any mall or night market. When you arrive, you’ll walk around for a couple minutes, look through some shops, and then pay for the boat tickets.
On this ride, you’ll have shops on either side of you. Unfortunately, this market has become heavily influenced by tourists so you’ll mainly see common trinkets (Buddhas, elephants, and the occasional wooden penis). Now here’s the biggest piece…of advice on the boat ride.
If you look, the merchant will call you out. If you point, you’re in trouble. This is when the wooden crane comes out and pulls your boat to the side of the shop. Yes, each merchant on the river has a long wooden crane they use to latch on to the side of your boat to pull you in if you show interest. So, if you point, be prepared to pay. Or, you will have an awkward staring contest with your feet until the merchant has given up.
I know I’m not necessarily painting the most glorious picture of this floating market. But, the main reason why it’s on our list, is because of the memories it created. This truly was an amazing experience and I can’t compare it to anything we’ve done before. As long as you’re prepared for the merchants and that crane, you will enjoy your time.
Amphawa is our favorite floating market. It’s 90 km from Bangkok and it has not been overrun by tourists. By the end of the night, you’ll see more locals than tourists which is a nice change of pace. This market is filled with little wooden houses along the canal, selling souvenirs but focused more on snacks and seafood. I’m a seafood lover so this was the perfect market for me. Morgan and I joined our school’s monthly field trip to experience this authentic escape from the city.
This market is much for developed and includes many restaurants on the river bank. We ate the most delicious seafood fried rice while watching our students run around through the various shops. If you love fresh seafood, you will leave happy.
Best part: If you’re able to go at night, buy long tail boat tickets to see the fireflies. The driver will bring the boat close enough to the trees along the river so you can capture the fireflies and hold them in your hands. At one time, we had about five fireflies just flying between the passengers on our boat. Just another unforgettable experience.
Entrance Fee (includes bike): 750 baht (600 baht online)
Hours: 9am-7pm (Arrive early morning)
It took us six months to hear about this place! This is credited as the world’s largest outdoor museum. Ancient Siam, aka Ancient City, is filled with Thailand’s historically significant structures. The grounds correspond to the realistic shape of the Kingdom, with the monuments (some life-size and some miniature) located at correct places geographically.
When you arrive at the entrance, you’ll pick up your pocket guide and choose a bike. There are hundreds of bikes…take your time choosing the right one because you’re stuck with it for the whole day. Although the monuments are stunning, the bikes are not. You will be sore the next day. Some people choose to rent a golf cart to avoid the next day of sitting on pillows.
We spent at least four hours biking around, taking photos, and marveling at the spectacular replicas. Plan to spend time here because there’s so much to see and learn.
“If a man has no knowledge of the past, he is nothing but a vessel without a rudder on the high seas” – Lek Viriyaphant, founder of the Ancient City.
Entrance Fee: 100 baht
Known as the Temple of Dawn, locals call it Wat Chaeng. It’s located directly across from Wat Pho, in case you want to hit two popular temples in the same day. The design and craftsmanship are different than any other temple. It’s decorated with colorful porcelain sprites and overlooks the Chao Phraya River.
It’s fairly easy to forget the significance of each temple you visit while traveling in Asia. I vividly remember only one during our first month in Japan, India, and Vietnam. Without properly understanding the religion and history of each temple, you will only recollect a few. This is one you will never forget. The way the sunset lights up the intricate patterns of colored glass makes this one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. Be prepared to spend at least an hour walking around the grounds. The dress code is the same as any other temple. If you need, you can rent the necessary cover ups at the entrance.
Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)
Entrance Fee: FREE!!!! It can’t be..but it is!
This is a big Buddha! Made of solid gold with a Sukhothia style. It’s almost five meters high (about 16 feet for my fellow Americans) and weighs five and a half tons. This is the world’s largest gold seated Buddha and that alone means you need to see it. If the sheer size and precious metal doesn’t entice you, the story behind this Buddha is even more entertaining.
Relax, You’re on Vacation:
Khao San Road
Commonly know as “the center of the backpacking universe”. This couldn’t be more accurate. It’s a small and vibrant street filled with bars, clubs, and merchants. If you’re in Bangkok to party, this is the spot. Although Morgan and I haven’t spent much time here, it’s a must see because there’s nothing like it. This street attracts the most diverse group of people and it’s the perfect way to meet travelers from around the world.
It’s sometimes uncomfortably hot during the day so I recommend going at night. The drink prices are unbeatable. In SE Asia, its popular to order buckets at bars. Yeah, the bucket you use to build sandcastles with when you were young…different uses over here! Some deals are BOGO for 300 baht which is perfect for groups or a solo traveler that had a rough day.
This is the place to be adventurous! Try some street food, eat a scorpion, and talk to some strangers. For us it was a one and done experience, but we’re happy we tried it out!
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, you can visit this open public place filled with trees and an artificial lake. You can even rent little paddle boats for a small fee.
There are endless opportunities at this park. You can join various types of workout classes, run or bike on the trails, and/or lift weights in the open air gym. Shout out to the couples. If you want to spend a nice evening with your girl or guy, go have a picnic in this beautiful park (Warning: you’ll get yelled at if you bring wine).
It won’t take long for you to notice that you’re not alone in this park. There are over 400 water monitor lizards swimming and basking in the sun. These lovable scaly creatures can be up to three meters long. They will do you no harm so don’t worry. Just take some photos then move your blanket a couple feet back from the water to avoid future guests.
MBK/Siam Discovery/Siam Paragon
These are the three main shopping malls near Siam and National Stadium BTS stations. The malls are connected and provide different experiences and fulfill the needs for almost anything.
MBK is the main tourist mall. It includes about five floors of indoor markets (think clothes, trinkets, and knock-offs) where you’ll find the best deals for the classic elephant pants and fake watches/jewelry. If you’re shopping with a group or attempting to buy multiple items, try to find a single shop that sells everything you’re looking for. If you buy in quantity, you’ll get much better deals.
This mall also contains an arcade (go watch some of the locals play…it’s like The Rock and Vin Diesel duking it out in Fast and Furious…but really just two dudes playing Dance Dance Revolution), movie theatre, bowling alley (cheap deals on Wednesdays), and an Escape Room location.
We highly recommend the Escape Room, especially if you’ve never done it before. We chose Prison Break and Mummy Returns and loved the challenge. Tickets are 550 baht per person. Take a break from the sun and test your problem solving skills.
Siam Discovery connects MBK and Siam Paragon together. It’s the middle child between the two. This mall contains a mix of clothing stores, a Virgin Active Fitness Club…but more importantly an Outback Steakhouse on the top floor! There was no bloomin’ onion but the ribs were still delicious.
Siam Paragon is one of the most luxurious malls I’ve been inside of (the winner goes to The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore). You will find every single designer in this mall…almost had to pull Morgan out of the Louis Vutton store. Then she had to pull me away from the showrooms for Aston Martin and Rolls Royce…one day.
Read Morgan’s post about the food in Siam Paragon. This is the place for budget traveler window shopping. We just used the excuse that our backpacks were too full so we didn’t buy anything.
You’ve made it to the Hidden Gems!
Green Lung is the greenest area in the entire city. Also called ‘Jungle’, this area is filled with lush vegetation and the trails are shaded by banana trees and coconut palms. We recommend booking a bike tour through Recreational Bangkok Biking on Tripadvisor. For about $40, you can explore the Green Lung, a Bangkok slum, a non-touristy temple with an interesting story, and even test your Thai boxing skills (for an additional fee).
The tour, Colors of Bangkok, has everything. The company provides all transportation and the information you’ll learn will shock you. A reasonable amount of balance and biking experience is needed…The company posts a video on their Youtube page after each tour. You can see me running into a pole on one of the bridges.
Pet Zone is something Morgan and I stumbled upon near Chatuchak Market. Ever open up Google Maps to check if there’s anything interesting around you? Yeah, we do that a lot. This area is where locals come to buy their household pets.
Morgan and I love animals so we definitely enjoyed our time here. Although this destination isn’t worth a special trip (you’re probably not traveling to Bangkok to purchase an exotic animal or a puppy) definitely take the short walk from the night market. Play with the puppers and hold some fluff balls, it’ll make anyone’s day better.
Caturday Cat Cafe…might as well stick with the animals right? We visited this cafe on Morgan’s birthday and we loved it. It’s surprisingly clean, located right next to the BTS, and serves great coffee. You are required to pay 100 baht/person on drinks or food. If you’re a cat lover, you’ll end up spending more. I’m a dog lover myself but I still enjoyed watching this massive cat sit in Morgan’s seat whenever she stood up. These cats have some attitude, so be prepared for that. If cats aren’t you’re thing, look up other animal cafes that Bangkok has to offer. I hear there’s one with huskies…planning a trip there soon.
Total VR is the first Virtual Reality Arcade in Bangkok. It’s located in The Street Rachada Mall. The price is 550 baht per hour. This is something we did months ago and we still talk about it today. VR has become insanely popular and this is the best location we’ve found while traveling. We could not stop laughing and I’m sure we looked like complete fools. Try playing Sweet Escape…you climb donuts and candy canes. Nothing better than that. If you haven’t tried VR yet, take a break from the tourist attrtactions and test your virtual skills.
You made it through the list! I know it was long, there’s just so much to say about this wonderful city.
I hope you’ve learned a little bit about Bangkok and that I’ve introduced you to some new attractions for your trip.
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