What To Do in Bangkok
If you’re traveling around South-East Asia for a while you will most likely end up in Bangkok a number of times so it’s important to know what to do there.
You’ll probably run out of touristy things to do in Bangkok after the first or second visit but it’ll be quite nice bouncing back there a lot if you end up doing it too. Or you could just eat your way around it as Bangkok is great for food.
When you’re traveling around,everything is always unfamiliar and new , especially if it’s your first time in Asia, so actually if there is somewhere you keep passing through it can start to have a homely comforting feel to it. Bangkok in particular is good as a repeated stop through since it’s very Western so for travel weary moments it’s a great place to recharge.
I like to explore cities by walking round them where possible so I’ve always done most of my exploration of Bangkok by foot, which the below suggestions reflect. This tour of what to do in Bangkok could easily be done by using tuk-tuks, busses and the skytrain.
The Grand Palace Bangkok
I walked here from Khaosan Road which isn’t too bad a walk although it can be a little uncomfortable in the midday heat whilst dressed appropriately for the palace and temple (trousers and shoulders covered).
They are really strict on the dress code at the Grand Palace and I saw women turned away who even had scarves they could put round their shoulders as that wasn’t deemed to be sufficient. You have to have a shirt or long sleeved top.
The Grand Palace and temple are really impressive and very much worth a visit.
The Temple of The Emerald Buddha sits in the middle of the palace area inside the building shown below. The photo above shows the doors to it.
Unfortunately The Temple was closed when I was there due to a religious ceremony. It’s the most important Buddhist Temple in all of Thailand and supposed to be spectacular. If the outside is anything to judge by I’d say that’s very much correct.
That would be why in the below photo I look like I’m dressed for winter but I was actually sweating so much I’m pretty sure there would have been no difference in my clothing had I just jumped in a pool (I did have light shirts with me for this purpose but they were all in the laundry ?).
There are also a number of other smaller temples in the surrounding area of The Grand Palace which I had a look around afterward. If you just walk around the block outside the Palace you’ll see a number of them.
Heading towards the river and only a short walk from The Grand Palace is a Amulet market. The main thing sold there are amulets (statues of Buddha) but there are many food stalls as well in the periphery of the sprawling market. Since you’re right by the river already at the market it’s easy to get a boat from there to explore a little more of the city on water.
This is the most popular place with backpackers in Bangkok. It’s so popular in fact some backpackers are starting to turn away from it now thinking it’s become too touristy (which in all honesty it has but it’s a fun and well located place to base yourself near).
If you’ve never been to Thailand before walking down Khaosan Road the first time is great. There’s stall after stall of bustling street sellers with everything from clothes, to massages to food. And it’s all really cheap (compared to Western Countries that is, it’s actually quite expensive in comparison to some other places in Asia such as India or Sri Lanka).
The first time I went to the Khaosan Road I didn’t even know where to start on the shops! Along the Khaosan Road you can get good cheap street food for a pound or two or go into one of the many Western Asian fusion restaurants along the side of the street and have a sit down meal for not much more. There is usually a happy hour of some description in most of these restaurants too.
Khaosan Road is busy during the day but that’s nothing in comparison to how it is at night. Khaosan Road is party central in the evening with bars overflowing right along the street. The photo above is from above Khaosan Road on one of the hotel roof tops early in the evening, before the craziness has properly kicked off.
And the below is from inside one of the bars, in the midst of the madness.
In Thailand drinks are frequently sold in buckets rather than just a glass. Along the whole of Khaosan Road you’ll see loads of cheap deals for buckets and it works out a lot cheaper sharing those with friends than drinking beer.
All the bars in Khaosan Road shut down at 1am so try not to go out too late or you won’t have much of an evening. Given how many tourists there are in one small location and how drunk most people are in the evening it’s hardly surprising that there is a lot of opportunistic crime on the Khaosan Road.
Many find their wallets and phones taken from their trouser pockets or handbags. And trouble tends to occur if people walk down small alleyways whether than just be innocently or because they are intending to buy drugs or hire the services of a prostitute (P.S. Don’t be a sex tourist, that’s about as cool as being a begpacker).
I enjoy the Khaosan Road. Yeah, it’s busy and hectic and touristy but as long as your accommodation isn’t right on it you can get away from it easily enough and still enjoy it when you want to.
I even spent my 29th birthday there. And died my hair pink just to celebrate the fact that I could as I was no longer working in an office! I have a bit of a birthday hat tradition so had to improvise with this Thai one a friend bought.
I did discover the day after this slightly drunk looking photo was taken that the Khaosan Road isn’t a great place to be when hungover. You don’t want to shop or drink so once you’ve eaten you’ve exhausted the three main activities on the Khaosan Road.
Since it was my third time in Bangkok by the point at which this happened, I actually took myself off to the cinema in one of the big malls. That’s what I mean about it being a good stop gap place. Want to watch a movie in English? Sure. Need to get new electrical items? Sure. There are even shopping malls in Bangkok with lots of brands you’ll recognise from back home. There are plenty of options of what to do in Bangkok for shopping and relaxation. You’d even be able to have a great time exploring Bangkok with kids.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Every time I go to Bangkok I stay at Rest Inn Dormitory Guesthouse now.
It’s located near Khaosan Road but not on it so it’s quiet enough and within walking distance of a lot of sights in Bangkok. The dorm rooms have a lot of people in but they’re really big and you all get your own lockable compartment that’s large enough for all your possessions and each bunk bed comes with a curtain you can close around it so you feel like you’ve got a bit of privacy.
Downstairs in the hostel is a restaurant which serves Thai, Western and also Indian food as the owners of the hostel are two brothers from India.
The Indian food there is really good. I love Thai curry as much as the next person, but after two months in India I was occasionally missing Indian curry too so I really enjoyed being able to get a good Indian curry and naan there. The owners are also really sweet and very helpful with booking busses or organizing SIM cards etc.
They even gave me a free beer on my birthday.
There are plenty of other neighbourhoods to stay in Bangkok though that aren’t on the Khaosan Road.
How Long to Spend in Bangkok
If you’ll only be going through once I’d suggest at least two to three days in Bangkok to be able to explore properly. With 48 hours in Bangkok you’ll still be able to see a good amount of the attractions above.
Moving On: How to Get from Bangkok to Northern or Southern Thailand
If you want to go north after Bangkok I’d suggest Chiang Mai as a good next stop. It’s an overnight bus ride to get there but the busses are so easy to use in Thailand. You can book them through most hostels and the bus companies will pick you up from your door.
If you want to go south after Bangkok you can buy a combined bus and boat ticket to get to the islands in the south, on both the west and east coast easily. Lomprayah are the company to book through for this but it usually requires a bit more planning than heading north due to the popularity of the routes. The busses for that route leave from Khaosan Road so you can just walk to the departure point.
It is a REALLY long bus and boat journey so if you are planning in advance it’s worth looking at flights which can be really cheap if you’re flexible on dates. Be sure to check out how to find the cheapest flights here.
Oh and also if you do fly double check which airport you’ll be going from as if it’s a domestic flight you may well be leaving from a different airport to the one you arrived in. I’ve met a few people who’ve missed flights because of making this mistake and going to the wrong one.