Bangkok is where most foreign visitors will enter the country, usually from one of the major airport in the city. Bangkok welcomes more foreign visitors than any other city on earth. Like any major city, it has its issues and some travelers have wondered if they should just pass through the capital on the way to an island or beach.
Well if you’re a first-timer to Thailand or the city, then I’d say it’s worth the trip.
Bangkok is the capital and the largest city in the country. With more than 11 million people, it can be very overwhelming for first-time visitors. However, being one of the hottest travel destinations in the world, this city has a lot to offer than just congestion and pollution.
No visit to Bangkok (or anywhere in Thailand) is complete without checking out at least one of its many temples. Here are some of the must-sees :
- Wat Pho – famed for its reclining Buddha, which is the largest of its kind in the world. The temple is quiet most of the time, and its size is huge enough to wander for one or two hours. There’s great massage offered there too.
- Wat Arun – This temple is featured on the country’s Tourism Authority logo, and is a beautiful landmark sitting next to the Chao Phraya River. (Do note, the main spire is still being renovated until today)
- Wat Bechamabophit : Also known as the Marble Temple, it is truly the most beautiful as it is built of marble from Italy. (Also my favorite to visit, not so crowded and great for Instagram photos)
- Wat Saket : The Golden Mountain is so high up that you’re required to climb its winding steps to the top, where the worship hall is located and offers stunning views of the city.
- Wat Phra Kaew : This is the most sacred and most iconic temple in Thailand. One MUST visit this if there’s only one temple you can go to. The architecture here is to die for, it is spectacular and very Thai-lish. The entrance fee covers the Grand Palace as well, which is worth checking out too.
There are other temples to visit too in Bangkok, but the above five are probably the best in my opinion.
Chao Phraya River
This is the beating heart of Bangkok, flowing through the center and providing water, transportation network and many more benefits to the city. The best way to experience the river is to take a long tail boat and cruise along the way. Taking a dinner cruise is another great option to see the city at night and have a wonderful meal.
Other Major Attractions
- Jim Thompson’s House : A great place to learn about his history and his work with nice Thai architecture.
- National Museum: For the country’s historic and cultural displays.
- Lumphini Park : The Central Park of Bangkok, great for a short escape from the busy streets.
- Dusit Palace : A retreat from the heat of the Grand Palace for King Rama V.
- Siam Ocean World : Located in Siam Square, the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia.
- Erawan Shrine : A sacred corner of the Hindu god Brahma next to Grand Hyatt where people come to worship. There’s a free Thai folk dancing performance if you’re not into praying.
A great reason why Bangkok is a destination returned by so many is because of its shopping, ranging from the best bargains to the high-end malls.
With no doubt, the city is known for its crazy markets selling all things imaginable, here are some of its best :
- Chatuchak Weekend Market: Opens on weekends, with more than 8000 stalls, it is the largest of its kind in the world. It is a MUST when it comes to the best bargain shopping.
- Banglamphu: A market area for cheap and knock-offs items.
- Pratunam Market: A good daytime alternative when it comes to shopping. When the sky gets dark, a night market is set-up and is great for street food.
- Pak Khlong Talat: Mainly for flowers and vegetables.
- Phahurat: More on Indian items such as fabrics, spices and Bollywood DVDs.
- Khlong Toei Market: Probably the best of all-night markets. It is off the tourist trail and offers some of the best street food you could ever ask for.
- Asiatique the Riverfront: More like a playground than a market, but has a maze of stores to browse for inexpensive goods. The Ferris wheel is a total must when you’re in the area.
Siam Square, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld and MBK Center are Bangkok’s best shopping malls. Terminal 21 is worth going too.
Bangkok is infamous for its nightlife, say it world class or dangerous, when the night falls the streets come alive with neon signs, loud remixes, go-go bars, and not-so-legal prostitutes.
- Rooftop bars: One way to end the Bangkok sunlight is to head up to its many rooftop bars. Most of them are on top of the more high-end hotels, catch the sunset with a cocktail or other crazy creations the bar can offer.
- Khao San Road: A backpacker’s hub, also one of the best hippie nightlife spots.
- Patpong: The world-famous strip of go-go bars, located in Silom.
- Thong Lo (Soi 55) : A very hip area for a little more expensive drinking and nightclubs.
Although a chaotic city, Bangkok offers great cultural experiences for visitors too.
- Muay Thai: The action sport is not to be missed if a thrill is what you want to see.
- Cooking classes: If mastering the savory Thai cuisine is on your bucket list, join one of them and learn about the recipes and skills of cooking the best dishes of the country.
- Meditation: Few temples in Bangkok offers meditation for visitors, such as Wat Pho and Wat Mahathat.
- Siam Niramit: A spectacular show performing the history and culture of each region of Thailand.
- Cabaret show: Another exciting performance to watch for some comedy, music and dancing played mostly by ladyboys.
- Tuk-tuk ride: Cheap and fun, this is one true Bangkok experience that will take you anywhere you want!
Staying in Bangkok can be great for some, but if you want to explore other Thai treasures, there are plenty to choose from within a three-hour drive :
- Ayutthaya: The former capital of the country (when it was Siam), with ancient temple ruins and extensive waterways.
- Damnoen Saduak: Home to the most famous floating market in Thailand. The other food-oriented Amphawa Floating Market is not too far away to combine as a trip.
- Kanchanaburi: Erawan Falls, Bridge over the River Kwai and impressive countryside scenery.
- Bang Pa-In: The place where the iconic floating Summer Palace is located.
- Pattaya: Beach resort city famed for its stretch of sand and crazy nightlife, best to stay for at least one night to get a taste of this sexy destination.
I have been to Bangkok several times and it is my favorite city in Southeast Asia, and I never get bored of it. There are so much to see and do, and there are always plenty of surprises every time I come back.
I’d say, go to Bangkok! There’s nowhere like it!