Bangkok is an electric city. Few places in the world feel as alive and pulsing. It also has a knack of forming very polarizing opinions — people tend to either love it or hate it. It can certainly be overwhelming and off putting to a lot of people, but for the very same reasons, it could also feel exciting, and filled with endless possibilities. Bangkok has a way of making you feel like every day will bring something new, that tomorrow will be nothing like today and two days from now will be nothing like tomorrow. Whichever category you end up falling into, use these tips to make the most out of your trip to the Thailand’s capital and the hub of Southeast Asia.
What to do:
- Tour the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Wat means temple in Thai, and there are a lot of them all throughout Bangkok. Wat Pho is home to the famous reclining Buddha. You can also head across the river to Wat Arun to get amazing views of the city from atop the temple. The Grand, or Royal, Palace used to be where the king lived, but nowadays it’s only used for ceremonies.
- Take a riverboat tour. Called the “Venice of the East,” Bangkok used to have many water alleyways that have since been replaced by roads, but you can still cruise down the Chao Phraya River, the central water artery of the city. Instead of paying for an overpriced tour, you can get the same views from a simple water taxi that will take you up and down the river for 20 baht ($0.60).
- Watch a Muay Thai fight. Muay Thai boxing is extremely popular in Thailand, and in Bangkok there are fights almost every night of the week, but most often on the weekends.
- Visit the floating market. It’s touristy, and overpriced because of that, but it’s absolutely worth a visit as it has a uniquely Thai feel to it and the food is fantastic. Located just outside Bangkok, tours leave every day in the morning and end up being a half-day excursion.
- Explore Chinatown. Bangkok’s Chinatown is packed with restaurants, street stalls, centuries-old markets, gold vendors, and some of the city’s best street food. Head to the north end of Chinatown and wander among the lilies, birds of paradise, and orchids at Pak Klong Talad.
- Hang out on Sukhimvit Soi 11. This street in downtown Bangkok is an expat and young local hotspot. Cheap Charlie’s is an institution — many will argue it’s the best expat bar in the world. There are also two great clubs on the road: Bed and Q Bar.
Where to eat:
Other than the aforementioned markets, there’s also the Chatuchak Weekend Market which offers up a variety of cheap food stalls. Street food is the way to go in Bangkok. It’s delicious and usually costs between $1-2. Don’t worry about it being unsafe either, Thais and foreigners eat it all the time and never get sick. Vendors are generally very hygienic.
If you want some international food, head to Limoncello or Bella Napoli for Italian, Isao or Maru for sushi, and Senor Pico’s or Coyote’s for Mexican.
Where to stay:
Cheap hotels, guesthouses, and hostels are everywhere in Bangkok. You can get a private room in a guesthouse for $7 a night or stay in a budget hotel for around $30 a night. The main tourist area is on Khao San Road. For a great budget hotel, check out Suk 11 Guesthouse.
Bangkok doesn’t have the most tourist attractions in the world by any means, but there is still enough to do to easily fill up three days worth of exploring. For most people, their initial reaction will be one of sensory overload as the infamous traffic, filth, and smells can turn many people off. Give the city some time though, and it might just surprise you.