Bangkok is 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 be 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 at all.
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 travellers, 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.
Day 1 Itinerary
Highlights: Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Royal Palace, public ferry from Tha Chang pier to Sathorn ferry stop, a bar with a view
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 through 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.
Price: 100 baht.
As most people visit Royal Palace and Wat Pho first and head to Wat Arun in the late afternoon, 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 to these latter 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.
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 is beautiful with intricate ornaments. In the past it was allowed to climb the main prang of the Wat, the photos of the views looked wonderful. Unfortunately, they no longer allow 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.
Price: 200 baht and you get a free water included in your ticket. The bottle even has photos of the Wat.
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 so). This Wat is the one with the most famous reclining Buddha.
You may have to queue to get inside the temple to see the most famous 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 crowding it would be easy for them to steal.
In addition to the main temple, there are a number of other smaller temples and buildings at Wat Pho and it is worth exploring the grounds. You will find a lot of small stupas in rows, which are beautiful.
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.
Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
In this area you have several spots with food and drinks, where you can have a break, coffee or lunch. We managed to check out Pad Thai Kratong Thong. You may also want to see Tang Heng Kee, Home café or the Sixth, which are popular restaurants in the area.
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 (200 baht), so avoid getting on that one. All the others cost between 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. All ferries go South to Sathorn pier, which is near the BTS station Saphan Taksin. 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.
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.
Day 2 Itinerary
Highlights: Wat Suthat Thepwararam, Loha Prasat, Golden Mountain, Lumphini park, Erawan shrine, Siam, Sukhumvit red light districts (Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy).
Wat Suthat Thepwararam
Price: 20 baht, free during the holidays.
Start your day by taking the MRT and getting 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. In the courtyard, there are Buddha statues all around. Unlike in some other temples, these are all exactly similar and same sizes.
Loha Prasat (or Wat Ratchanatdaram)
Price: 20 baht
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 Buddha statues. It was very interesting to see this place with a lot of statues of different sizes ready to be shipped wherever.
Loha Prasat 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.
Golden Mountain (Wat Saket)
Price: 50 baht.
From Loha Prasat, cross the canal to get to the Golden Mountain. 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. 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.
Inside, you will find many different Buddha statues, including the ones depicting the 7 weekdays. The signs say not to take your shoes off, but for some reason some people still do.
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, Depending on your time and interests you have a few options:
- Go southwards (either walk here or get MRT and get off at Hua Lamphong) and visit the Chinatown, Yaorawat road and (if you don’t have temple fatigue by now) Wat Traimit Worawihan.
- Get a boat from the pier north of the Golden Mount and head to Sukhumvit.
- Take MRT and head to the Lumphini park.
The Lumphini Park
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 here, as you like. Obviously, you can skip the visit to the park, if you are short on time, as it’s nothing that special or a must see.
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 areas 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.
The Red Light District
After the shopping spree whether 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 four 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. For instance, 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.
Suggestions for Additional Days 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.
- 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 trains is difficult, but ferry is a good option.
- 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 880 baht, so this definitely is not a budget friendly place to visit.
- For more historical information about Thailand, you can visit Bangkok National Museum.
- You can make a day out of shopping in this city. There are numerous shopping malls and markets in Siam, Sukhumvit, etc.
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 favorite cities. We did a day trip, but if you are interested, you can also do an overnight trip.
- 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.
- 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.