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If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, it’s almost guaranteed to start in Bangkok – and it should. The city is an absolute sensory overload and can be intimidating, especially for a first time visitor. But don’t let that deter you. Bangkok has just about everything you could want or even imagine for a big city, making it especially popular with people backpacking through Southeast Asia.
While you can spend a long time exploring Bangkok and not even scratch the surface, we generally recommend 2-3 days to start. Be warned though that, depending on when you get in, you’ll probably be dealing with some serious jet lag. So rest up! You’ve got a lot to see.
The Cube Hostel – Located in Silom, a very cool hostel where the beds are Japanese inspired capsules – though I prefer to call them cubbies!
Lub d – I would almost call Lub’d a luxury hostel if such a thing exists. You can find them throughout SEA. Both of the ones in Bangkok are in great areas – Silom and Siam Square.
Agoda Silom: https://bit.ly/2LMzb3j
Booking Silom: https://booki.ng/2LJg2zb
Agoda Siam: https://bit.ly/2O4gTHs
Booking Siam: https://booki.ng/2n32pf6
Bed Box – A great choice for the backpacker looking to checkout Khao San without being on Khao San. Bed Box is a few blocks over from Khao San, making it close enough to the action while still being able to sleep without a party outside your window.
**Scams to Lookout For
This trip starts out with some of the major landmarks in Bangkok. When visiting these spots, be wary of any helpful person who approaches you eager to let you know that the place you’d like to see is closed for the day. This almost always ends with the helpful stranger offering to take you somewhere better. Except that somewhere better is a store where you will be pressured to by useless “gems” that are just pieces of cut glass or poorly made suits. These shops give drivers commissions for bringing tourists to their shop. Once they realize that you won’t be buying anything, many of the drivers will leave you at the shop. This scam also sometimes takes the form of an unbelievably cheap tuk tuk ride that, when you gleefully accept it, ends up at these same shops. So, be skeptical of any people who seem overly eager to help you and any ride that seems too good to be true – it usually is.
The Grand Palace
The first place you’ll want to visit in Bangkok is perhaps the most iconic: The Grand Palace. Get here early because every tour bus in Bangkok feels the same way and around late morning – early afternoon this place can get PACKED.
Every building on the grounds is so strikingly beautiful that you could wander the grounds for 2 hours easily. Aside from the Grand Palace itself, the complex is also home to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the most sacred temple in all of Thailand. When you visit the Grand Palace, remember to dress appropriately! Visitors must have knees and shoulders covered at all times. You can rent clothes at the Temple, but I recommend saving yourself the hassle.
After the Grand Palace, walk a few blocks over to Wat Pho, also known as Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple is home to a massive, you guessed it, reclining Buddha. The Reclining Buddha is genuinely impressive in size alone. It honestly feels too big for the building it resides in. The Wat Pho grounds are another great place to walk around, as they take up an entire city block and possess the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.
Once you’ve seen Wat Pho, grab a snack or something cold to drink and take the short boat ride across the river to Wat Arun. Come to Wat Arun for the stellar view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River below from atop the temple.
If you’re anything like me, all this temple hopping in the Bangkok heat has you a hot, sweaty, and hungry. Grab some lunch and maybe some air conditioning and recharge for a bit.
Speaking of air conditioning: Bangkok’s malls are actually a pretty cool place to check out for a change of pace. The massive CentralWorld and MBK malls are favorites.
JJ Green Night Market
For dinner, find your way to this massive market. JJ Green is a vibrant night market full of not just great food, but awesome shopping as well. There are tons of stalls and vendors, selling everything from great vintage and second hand finds, to art and local goods. The market also has several bars if you’re looking to unwind with a Chang and some live music to end your day.
Another early morning! Bangkok has a 4 famous floating markets, the most notable probably being Thaling Chan or Damnoen Saduak. Be warned that most popular also means popular with tourists, so get there early to beat the crowds! The floating market are a great way to see Bangkok a little differently. So hop in the boat and start sampling your way through the seemingly endless vendors offering you snacks.
Bangkok is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Chinatown is alive and kicking during the day but head here in the evening to see it really come alive. This is a great area to see street food done right. With dishes like stir-fried crab and grilled salted fish, you definitely don’t want to skip this if you’re a fan of seafood. Come hungry.
Muay Thai Fight
Get off your feet for a bit and take in a Muay Thai fight. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is a huge part of Thai culture and Bangkok is a great place to see a real Muay Thai fight. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is probably the most notable in Thailand, and for good reason, as you can see some higher-level fighters there. Spring for ringside seats or sit up high (the stadium isn’t that big), you can’t go wrong.
Khao San Road
Like it or not, no list would be complete without the much talked about backpacker mecca. Khao San attracts travelers from anywhere and everywhere. If they’re backpacking SEA, they’re stopping at Khao San. The area is packed with street food stalls and vendors selling everything from elephant pants to bootleg designer clothes. Here, you can party until your heart’s content with people from all over the world. If that’s your scene, great! If you’re not into partying, get a thai massage, eat a scorpion on a stick, or just grab some 30 baht Thai, pull up a stool, and people watch for a bit.
Ayutthaya – Road Trip!
Well, Kinda. Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a city about an hour north of Bangkok. At one point, this was the capital of Thailand before being destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. The ruins of the old city are a really great day trip from Bangkok. A really great way to see Ayutthaya is by bicycle, either with an organized tour or renting them through a local hostel like we did. When we went to Ayutthaya, we actually spent the night but many people make it a simple day trip from Bangkok.
Tip: In Thailand guides or on postcards, you’ve probably come across the iconic image of a Buddha head entwined in the roots of a tree. This photo is from Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya. If you visit, remember that this is a sacred site. You can take a picture but cannot touch it. There’s even a guard that sits in a chair close by.
You had a long day trip and even longer few days in Bangkok. Time to toast to the city while taking in a killer view. Ever since the Hangover came out, rooftop bars have become a “must do” for many people visiting Thailand and Bangkok is now filled with them. They vary in price, dress code, and the ability to actually get a seat. A few notable ones are:
Red Sky – located on top of the CentralWorld shopping mall
Cielo – one of the cheapest rooftop bars with a more casual vibe
Above 11 – Theme is based on Central Park in New York City
Remember, every bar has varying dress codes and some will be more lenient than others. Many of them are perfectly fine as long as men are wearing pants and shoes. Others may require a slightly more dressed up look.
Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market – The Biggest Market in Thailand!
With 15,000 stalls (not a typo) Chatuchak Weekend Market is a massive open air market that has everything you could ever want. Within the 27 acre market, you can find antique wood carvings, furniture, clothes, souvenirs, and actual pets and still not even be half way done. If you are in Bangkok on the weekend, do not skip this market.
If you’re ready to head to Bangkok with your new itinerary in hand, don’t forget to check out our
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