Bangkok – the gateway to South East Asia and I guess one of the most popular cities in all of Asia. This city has cheap flights not only to domestic destinations, but around the region. Be sure to check AirAsia for the best deals, especially, if you don’t have much luggage.
So many people love this city and have already moved here or want to, but so many people also dislike it. I happen to the in the second group. I do see some of the charms of this city, but overall, despite my love of the big cities, it doesn’t appeal to me that much.
Whatever your opinion of the city, it offers a lot for people of all tastes. Whether you want cultural sightseeing, shopping, food, parks, nightlife or red light districts, you will find it here.
Thailand has a lot to offer to travelers, so I wouldn’t suggest spending more than 2 days in Bangkok, if you, like me, are not in love with it. You can also spend a lifetime here, if you like it, and not be bored 😊
Here is the best two-day itinerary I came up with. Of course, you can rearrange it or spend more days here, depending on your interests and time.
Start your Bangkok visit with cultural sightseeing.
Wherever in the city you are staying, you can get to the cultural center of the city by MRT by alighting at the station Sanam Chai. You also have a more complicated option to take BTS to Saphan Takin and switch to a ferry at the Sathorn pier. You should get off the ferry at Tha Thien or Tha Chang pier.
As most people visit Royal Palace and Wat Pho first and head to Wat Arun, I suggest to start with Wat Arun first to avoid crowds at least there.
There is simply no way to avoid crowds at the Royal palace or at Wat Pho. I read that if you come here very early, it would be ok, but it opens at 8.30 and from the start is full of tour groups, which keep coming, so there simply is no way of dealing with that.
So, start with taking a ferry from Tha Tien pier across the river to visit Wat Arun. The ferry across costs 4 baht, which you pay at the pier. You may have to queue for this, if you are going across in the afternoon (there was a very short queue in the morning), but the queue moves fast.
The Wats you will visit all around Bangkok are not as strict about the dress code, as the Royal palace, however, shoulders should be covered. As for the knees, they are not strict about this, as long as you don’t wear short shorts or skirt. Either way, have a scarf with you to put it around you, in case they ask this.
Wat Arun costs 50 baht. It is beautiful with intricate ornaments and amazing views.
Well, at least the photos of the views look wonderful, as we didn’t have a chance to go up. Unfortunately, when we visited, it wasn’t allowed to climb the stairs all the way up, which extremely disappointed me, as I was very excited to do this and see the amazing views. Not sure, if this is temporary, but the next day passing it by ferry, we didn’t see any people up there, so seems it was still not allowed to climb. I hope you will be luckier than us 😊 and they will reopen access to the top.
After visiting Wat Arun, take a ferry back to Tha Thien and visit Wat Pho (I believe it’s crowded any time of the day unfortunately, but after people leave Royal Palace in the afternoon – even more). This Wat is the one with the most famous reclining Buddha.
The ticket is 200 baht and you get a free water included in your ticket. The bottle even has photos of the Wat.
You may have to queue to get inside the temple to see the reclining Buddha. The statue is huge and it’s rather difficult to take the photo. Many locals come here to pay their respect. There are 108 bronze bowls here. You can get the coins at the entrance and put them in each of the bowls. They say it brings luck. The money goes for renovation of the Wat.
Be careful, while visiting, as the signs warn that there are a lot of thieves here. With the crowing it would be easy for them to steal.
In addition to this temple, there are a number of other smaller and bigger temples and stupas around and it is worth exploring the grounds.
You will find a lot of small stupas in rows, which are beautiful.
The guardians here are also very interesting.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon and found a number of different ceremonies here, including the school children praying and probably studying.
This temple is also famous for the massages. You can book to get a massage from trainees here, which I hear is quite cheap (I don’t know the price though, as we didn’t try to check this). You can also take courses in massage at this famous massage school.
After both Wats, head to the very crowded Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. See the detailed tips for visiting the Palace here.
In this area you have several spots with food and drinks, where you can have a break, coffee or lunch. We only visited one – called, AMA, which was quite all right, nothing particularly special though. There are a number of other places, which I had on my list based on reviews, which we didn’t get a chance to visit. So you may want to check out Tang Heng Kee, Home café, the Sixth or Bann Tha Thien.
When you are done with all the cultural sightseeing, hop on a public ferry at the Tha Chang pier. There are several ferries in different colors, only one, so called “tourist ferry” is more expensive, others cost 15-20 baht. You pay after you get on the boat directly to the conductor. We took the ferry first to the north, then hopped off at one of the stops and got on a ferry going southwards.
You can get off at any of the stops you like, for instance to explore the Wat Amarinthararam near Wang Lang pier. It was a very nice ride, you get to see interesting things on the shores of the river and experience a very lively part of this huge city. Unfortunately, the river is not very clean, we saw a number of plastic bottles and other rubbish in the water.
All ferries go South to Sathorn pier, which is near the BTS station Saphan Taksin.
In the evening, to finish your day in style, you can visit one of the numerous bars with views, such as Sky bar, Vertigo, the Roof, etc. They are rather expensive of course, so be prepared. Also, most of them have a certain dress code – like not letting people with flip flops in or asking for smart casual clothes.
Today, take the MRT and get off at Sam Yot station. From here it’s a short walk to Wat Suthat Thepwararam.
This is a very underrated wat and only known to some just because there is a giant swing at the square north of the temple. The swing now is not being used, it doesn’t even have the seat. Apparently, it was used during some of the holidays by men, who would ride it and catch coins in the air, which was obviously dangerous practice and, hence, discontinued.
However, in my opinion, the swing is the least interesting thing about this area. The temple itself is very beautiful. You can start exploring it from the south, get inside the smaller buildings, watch the people pray. Apparently, the frescoes of the main building depict the incarnations of Buddha. Besides, the main hall holds the statue of Buddha from Sukhotai.
From the north side of the Wat Suthat Thepwararam, walk to Loha Prasat. If you take the Siri Phong road, you can hit the factory, which produces Budha statues. It was very interesting to see this place with a lot of statues of different sizes ready to be shipped wherever.
Loha Prasat (or Wat Ratchanatdaram) is not a temple often visited by tourists. There are really few people around here and you can explore it in peace, especially the lower floors, as the roof has very small space and you may still bump into people 😊 You should walk up a spiral staircase to get to the roof and see the beautiful views over Bangkok skyline.
Overall, this temple has a very interesting concept with a lot of information about the spiritual path. The spires of the building itself (37 of them) represent the virtues. It also stands out with its beauty.
We didn’t pass by at night, but it looks spectacular on the night photos too. The main building is surrounded by smaller ones, making for a beautiful complex to explore. Entrance is free and you can donate to the temple.
From here, cross the canal to get to the Golden Mountain (Wat Saket). You should not miss this white temple with golden top standing on top of the hill.
By the way, you can also get here by boat. The pier is very close to the hill. Entrance to the temple costs 50 baht. Before you climb, you will find several of these golden trees, where people hang golden leaves for luck.
As generally in Thai temples, they ask for shoulders and knees to be covered, but I was wearing the dress, which was above the knee, although had no problems at any of the temples we visited that day. However, they will definitely not let you in with short shorts and a tank top, so be aware and bring cover-up. Scarves to wrap around you are perfectly acceptable.
The climb up the stairs is not so difficult or steep. However, there are over 300 steps and if you have mobility issues, you should take it easy and stop often. From the top you get wonderful views of the city skyline, especially of the surrounding temples and the skyscrapers far in the background.
On the way down, you will take another way and will see a number of bells and drums, as well as smaller buildings with different Buddha statues.
You can rearrange your schedule and time your visit to the Golden mountain by evening, when sunset is beautiful, as people say. We visited in the late afternoon, but didn’t wait for the sunset, as we were hungry 😊
After your visit to the Golden mountain, you have an option to go southwards and visit the Chinatown, Yaorawat road (the area near the Wat Mangkon MRT station), and (if you don’t have temple fatigue by now) Wat Traimit Worawihan (you can either walk here or get MRT and get off at Hua Lamphong). You also can get a boat from the pier north of the Golden Mount and head to Sukhumvit. Another option is to take MRT and head to the Lumphini park. It all depends on your time and interests.
The Lumphini park is a big park in the heart of the city. Many people come here to lie or sit at the small lakes and relax and enjoy the views. This is a great way to escape the Bangkok mass, noise and crowds. You can spend as much time, as you like here.
From the Lumphini park, you can walk some 20 minutes north to reach Erawan shrine. This is also not a must see, as such. But I was fascinated by it, because it was built in the 20th century to ward off “bad luck”. The construction workers of the hotel Grand Hyatt insisted that the place was cursed, as several misfortunes happened during the construction. So, the hotel administration decided to build this shrine to calm the workers down. The shrine is said to bring good luck to whoever visits. That’s why, people queue to stand in the middle and pray and receive good luck. There are also Thai dance performances here in the evenings.
The Erawan shrine is in the Siam area, where you can visit the shopping malls, if you are interested. The most famous ones in the area are the Siam Paragon and Central World.
If you are visiting Bangkok on a weekend and want to do some shopping for cheap clothes, appliances and numerous other things, you can head to the very popular Chatuchak weekend market. It works from the morning about 10am to 6pm and, as I heard, even later. To get there from Erawan Shrine, hop on BTS stop Chit Lom and head to Mo Chit station. You can also get there from wherever by MRT getting off at the stop called Chatuchak.
At this market you can buy basically anything you need. We needed a couple of t-shirts, so we visited for short, but to be honest, I wouldn’t go otherwise, as it’s crowded and an absolute maze, it’s very easy to get lost in these rows and rows of different stalls.
After the shopping spree wether at Chatuchak market or Siam, you can head to check out Bangkok’s one of the most popular attraction (if not THE most popular), the red-light district. There are three places you can go to for this, two of them are in Sukhumvit – Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy, the third is Patpong. This last is apparently the oldest and most dodgy from them all. There’s also one more – Soi Twilight.
If, like us, you don’t wanna spend much time at any of these, there are many options for you in the area, you can sit at a coffee shop – Artis Coffee. They have great coffee and nice atmosphere.
You can also find numerous malls in the Sukhumvit area, such as the newly built Terminal 21, with different city concepts on each floor. You can find yummy ice cream, sweets and numerous food places in this mall. If you are looking for a supermarket, head to the lowest floor for one. It is not very cheap, but ok, if you need something at the moment.
Other places you can see in Bangkok
If you have more time in Bangkok, or are not interested in some of the suggested places to visit, you have many different options. For instance, you can visit or stay at the very popular Khao San road, which has been a place, where backpackers stayed for decades. It now turned into a loud party place with no authenticity left any more. It definitely wasn’t our cup of tea, but do check it out, if you are interested. Getting there by public transport is difficult, but ferry is a good option.
You can make a day out of shopping in this city. There are numerous shopping malls and markets in Siam, Sukhumvit, etc.
You can head to Jim Thompson house to explore the history of an American, who made Thai silk famous.
To get amazing views over the city, you can head to the Mahanakhon Skywalk. They have the glass floor on the rooftop and the open air sky deck. The entrance is expensive at 1050 baht, so this definitely is not a budget friendly place to visit.
For more historical information about Thailand, you can visit Bangkok National Museum.
Day trips from Bangkok
There are several options for day trips or short trips with overnight stay.
- I do suggest Ayutthaya, it was one of my favourate cities. We did a day trip, but if you are interested, you can also do an overnight trip.
- Another popular option (if not the most popular), is Pattaya, which didn’t appeal to us much. If I saw past the fascinated reviews of the people, I would definitely skip this place and add more time elsewhere. We would definitely be better off this way.
- You can also take a train to Katchanaburi and from there explore the death railway and get to the Erawan falls, but this is better done at least with one night stay in the area, as one day won’t be enough.
- People also take half day trips to one of the floating markets. The most popular one is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We didn’t do this, as it wasn’t interesting to us. I have seen mixed impressions from people, some of whom were highly fascinated, while some – highly disappointed. So it’s up to you to decide, whether this activity appeals to you.