Consistently one of the most visited cities in the world, Bangkok is the go-to destination of the 21st century. From magnificent historic wonders that sit alongside tremendous modern skyscrapers, to its electric pace of life and unbeatable foodie scene, Bangkok has something to offer each and every traveller that passes through it. It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling solo, with family or in a big group of friends, there’s more than enough to keep you busy, entertained and well-fed in Thailand’s humming capital. Here are nine – a lucky number in the country – unmissable things to do.
While the city’s unmistakeably modern character is a large part of its charm – the metropolis is often imagined as a sprawling urban maze of high rises – you are never too far from its fascinating past. Ancient wonders, scenic vistas and historic attractions, many of which can be found along or near to the Chao Phraya River, remain as enthralling as ever. Here are a couple that should be on your itinerary.
Soak up some fascinating Thai history by wandering through one of Bangkok’s humbling wats. Popular temples include Wat Traimit, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho. The latter, a 16th century Buddhist complex, is famous for being one of the oldest and most spiritual temples in Bangkok. It’s also home to one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand – a breathtaking 46 metre long reclining gold-plated effigy.
Just south of Wat Pho is the iconic Grand Palace, a mighty and ornate compound that was formerly the official private residence of the king and the royal family. These days, the visually-stunning cluster of buildings is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and rightly so. Particular highlights include Dusit Hall, Phra Thinang Amarin Winitchai and the Siwalai Gardens quarter. Remember to dress appropriately.
When it comes to classic and decidedly unique Thai experiences, Bangkok is the place to be. Whether it’s watching Muay Thai boxers compete against one another, taking time out to meditate in a temple, or stopping off for some pampering at a Thai massage parlour, the city has it all. Here are two of our favourites.
For a definitive Thai experience that’s a treat for all the senses, take a thrilling journey through its busy streets in a tuk-tuk. As well as getting you cheaply from A to B, it’s also one of the best ways to view the city. Not only will you catch a glimpse of hidden gems along every route, you’ll also absorb amazing sounds and smells that are part of the inimitable charm of Bangkok.
The city is brimming with amazing venues, including the art deco-inspired Chalermkrung Royal Theatre and the riverside open-air Patravadi Theatre, so an evening out to watch timeless Thai performances is a must. Shows can vary from time-honoured dramatic Khon dancing displays – with its many characters and elaborate costumes – to colourful puppet shows and exhilarating martial arts demonstrations.
If you’re passionate about food, then Bangkok is a dream, serving both tasty and authentic Thai dishes, as well as more international ones. For amazing local cuisine, make your way to the bustling street food area around Victory Monument or head to Banglamphu (Old Town), which also specialises in street food. If you want to go more global, there’s no shortage of options, with Michelin-starred triumphs like J’aime by Jean-Michel Lorain (French) and Sühring (German). The following, meanwhile, should not be missed.
Haggle, taste or simply sit back in awe, Bangkok’s ever shifting floating markets will charm and satisfy your taste buds. Two of the most popular are the touristy Damnoen Saduak and the extremely popular Amphawa. While they’re both good for picking up vibrant and colourful fresh produce, they’re perfect for grabbing a flavoursome bite or two. If you’re in the mood for seafood, boat noodles or something a little sweeter – such as the fruit-shaped luk chup – the floating markets have it all.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to Chinatown, one of the largest in the world. It’s here that you’ll be able to delight all your senses with picturesque scenes – the neon-lit Yaowarat Road at night, for example – and incredible, mouth-watering street food – think oyster omelettes and kway chaps –prepared by chefs in the open.
By nightfall, Bangkok comes alive with a range of different options to keep you suitably entertained late into the evening – and there’s far more to experience than the backpacking haven of Khao San Road. Here are some suggestions.
With high rises and skyscrapers dominating the skyline – from the riveting pixel looking MahaNakhon to the golden domed State Tower – spectacular views are the order of the day in Bangkok. The city is renowned for its rooftop bar scene, offering visitors the chance to enjoy well-crafted drinks against a beautiful backdrop. Check out the open air Sky Bar, situated on the 64th floor of the State Tower, and the stylish Speakeasy at Hotel Muse Bangkok.
If you fancy listening to some live music while in Bangkok, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with a wide range of music venues to choose from. From concert arenas like the Impact Arena, which regularly showcases international artists, to effortlessly cool jazz bars like Brown Sugar – where local musicians take to the stage – whatever your sound, Thailand’s capital has music down to a tee.
Whether you’re after unusual souvenirs and quirky homeware, or you simply want to update your wardrobe while on your travels, Bangkok doesn’t disappoint. The city is a shopper’s paradise, with a nice mix of trendy shops and independent boutiques, as well as high end fashion outlets at Siam Paragon, for example. The following, however, is our top pick.
There are plenty of night markets in Bangkok, but none quite compare to this. Located on Srinakarin Road, the Rod Fai Market is a lively and entertaining experience that packs in an awful lot. The night train market stays open until past midnight so you can explore its mass of stalls, which sell anything from fragrant street food to vintage and antique gems, at leisure.
Getting to Bangkok from London is easy with Thai Airways, which operates two direct flights a day from the capital. Scheduled at lunchtime and in the evenings, the 11.5 hours long flight will get you to the Thai capital at a sensible time, allowing you to leisurely reach your accommodation or connect to an ongoing flight.
As Thai Airways main hub – and a gateway to the rest of Thailand and Asia – Bangkok makes for a great stopover destination. Once you’re done discovering its many delights, you can fly on with THAI to domestic destinations such as Chiang Mai, Krabi or Phuket, or further afield to Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia and the New Zealand.
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