Wow. This is, officially, my two hundredth blog post! (Hurray!) I started writing about my own journey a few years ago and it has been a blast; it is truly a rewarding experience for me to learn so much more about the world’s culture and history, and I gained some new skills in blogging, social media, video making, and photo taking. Not only that, but I also made some new connections with other wanderlust and fellow travel bloggers, with whom we interact and share the experience of our amazing journeys.
My posts, I know, are far from perfect – not to mention there are so many outstanding full-time professional Youtubers and bloggers out there, who are making a living out of their traveling. However, I do hope to show you a different perspective. Here, I have my own platform to archive and revisit my journeys, and noting travel tips or two to those who are planning to visit there next. Sometimes, it got quite hectic on the road and memories tend to fade. Here, I have a chance to flip through my photos and videos and remind myself of what I missed and prepare myself for my second visit.
For this post, I am planning to do something just like that. I visit Bangkok many times throughout my life – it is not my most visited city, nor my favorite – but I do think Bangkok has a good balance to rank high in every list of best travel destinations. From food to entertainment, from heritage sites to modern malls, from active to cultural, from luxurious resorts to Airbnbs, from urban to nature… the city has a great variety of things to see and do that fits all sorts of travelers. So, I have summed up some of the top 10 things to see and do in this exciting city – and feel free to subscribe, comment, and share with us your experience in Bangkok!
Go Back in Time: Historic Monuments, Temples and Landmarks
If you visit Bangkok for the first time, you simply must soak into the rich history of Thailand. Thailand remains the only country in Southeast Asia not colonized by Europeans.
Fun Fact: Of all the 11 states in Southeast Asia, Thailand is the only country not colonized by Europeans. North Vietnam was once ruled by the Chinese; Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were colonized by the French, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Myanmar were British colonies; Indonesia was ruled by Dutch; The Philippines were a Spanish colony and East Timor was colonized by Portuguese.
Theravada Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand for hundreds of years, from Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Thonburi, Rattanakosin Kingdoms to now. While Sukhothai and Ayutthaya’s capitals are now famous heritage sites in Thailand (also Sukhothai and Ayutthaya respectively), Bangkok (including Thonburi) has been the capital of Thailand since the Thonburi reign from 1768. Hence, the city is filled with iconic landmarks – highlights include the Royal Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho.
Traffic in Bangkok could be quite hectic at times, and the Bangkok subway could not reach its old town along the Chao Phraya River; A good way to explore this part of Bangkok is by the Chao Phraya Tourist Hop-on-hop-off boat. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is probably one of the most featured temples in Bangkok. The temple is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace. What impressed me the most is the Ubosot – it is a perfect example of the Rattanakosin architectural style: The exterior of the building is surrounded by statues of Garuda and Naga, paved by golden embellishments and covered by blue and orange mosaic tiles; don’t miss out the frescoes inside that depict the life journeying of the Buddha.
Admire the 46 m indoor reclining Buddha at Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the silhouette of the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) during sunset.
If you have more time, have an excursion to Ayutthaya (one of the five Unesco World Heritage Sites in Thailand) and explore the historic park, ruins, Bang Pa-In Palace, Bodhi tree root in Wat Maha Thai, and Wat Lokayasutharam.
Go Artsy: Museum and Art Space
While the historic buildings embrace religious and traditional arts, refresh your art eyes with contemporary art created by local and regional artists. MOCA Bangkok has been purposely built to showcase and exhibit the exceptional works of art collected over the past three decades by Boonchai Bencharongkul.
The museum is privately owned and one of the largest contemporary art museums in Asia. It’s wonderful to know that there is a businessman in the country that works so hard to push modern art development! The exhibition features many famous Thai artists including Thawan Duchanee, Hem Vejakorn, Chalermchai Kositpipat, and Prateep Kochabua.
Check out the creative art scene in Bangkok at the diverse art space and galleries, including Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC), Kathmandu Photo Gallery, Chulalongkorn Art Centre, Bangkok University Gallery, H Art Gallery, Toot Yung Art Center, The Queen’s Gallery, and La Lanta Fine Art Gallery.
Go Nature: Safari World and Aquarium
Once you have feasted your eyes, go active in the sub-urban area! Visit the Safari World – a classic tourist attraction that consists of two parks named Marine Park and Safari Park that takes up a total area of 480 acres for its open zoo and 180 acres for its bird park.
Take a drive through the open area where you will meet a great diversity of wildlife from elephants, big cats, bears, giraffes, and more. Take a picture with a baby tiger, feed a camel, or walk through the Jungle Walk.
To get close to the aqua life, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World is located in the basement of Siam Paragon shopping mall. It is the largest in Southeast Asia, covering approximately 10,000 sq meters with hundreds of different species on display in the exhibit.
To get your active juices flowing, go out to join an exciting Flight of the Gibbon zipline adventure and soaring through the jungle in the outskirt of Bangkok, rent a bike in the Khao Yai sunflower Field, or take a day excursion to Jim Thompson farm or Bang Kachao!
Go Market: Floating Markets and Train Market
There is no way that you are in Bangkok you don’t somehow end up in a market. Street food, local handicrafts, or souvenirs are basically anywhere in the streets and alleys in the city. Hop on a boat and sail through the canals where hawkers try to make a sell for whatever they have on their boats: from fruits, arts, toys, handicrafts to fashion. The floating market was originated at a time when water transport plays an important role in daily life. Today, most floating markets are mainly for tourists:
Amphawa: The market is only 50km away from the city center of Bangkok, making a great afternoon getaway. The market also features some boutiques and shop onshore with handmade products, T-shirts, and more. The fresh freshwater prawn and grilled fish in stores on the bank worth a try as well!
Damoen Saduak: One of the most popular floating markets in Bangkok these days, because it’s the largest in the crowd that was established in 1866. While it enjoyed some antiquity and history, the market today didn’t look quite the same. But still, there is some delicious local food that you could try and don’t forget to go to the walking bridge for a picture of the canals.
Taling Chan & Khlong Lat Mayom: These are the smaller floating markets in the same area that are closer to the city of Bangkok. Actually, it’s very close to a new local market “Chang Chui” and it’s possible to hit three birds with one stone. (I will introduce Chang Chui below)
Mae Klong Railway Market is another lesser-known best-kept-secret of Bangkok’s local markets. The market gained attention from an international tourist as it sits exactly on a functioning train track. As the train comes to the station, the market immediately transforms to make way for the train to pass, with locals and tourists packed themselves on both sides of the narrow passage.
The market has been set up since 1905 – it was later the officials decided to build a train track in the middle of the market in order to better deliver the local well to the rest of Thailand, the market remained despite the new track was built. Today the train runs 4 times a day (8 times in and out). While the train schedules may change and not as punctual, once you see the store owners (who are notified by the train officers) closing their tents and hiding their products, you know it’s time to get ready for the “railway market” moment. An officer will walk in front of the train to make sure the path is cleared for the train to pass through, and you may find the train may actually run on top of baskets of limes and such. The train finally stops at the Mae Klong Station before it heads out once again – If you have time, consider taking the train and see the market from a different perspective. The train takes about an hour to reach Ban Laem station, and from there you may head back to Bangkok changing to other trains.
Mae Klong Train Schedule (2019)
Arrival: 8:30am, 11:10am, 2:30am, 5:40pm
Departure: 6:20am, 9:00am, 11:30am, 3:30pm
Go Fine Dining: Asia Best Restaurants
Check out the list of “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019”… 10 Asia’s Best Restaurants are in Tokyo, 9 in Hong Kong, 8 in Singapore, and huh… Bangkok has 8 as well. Namely: Gaggan, Paste, Sühring, Modern German food in a beautifully restored townhouse, GAA, BO.LAN, LE DU, NAHM, and SORN…
I have yet to taste them all (and yes some of them – like Gaggan could be quite difficult to get a table. Their booking is always full and you could be on the waiting list forever, and they are closed on 25 August 2019). I visited Sühring recently with my group of friends this year and I was happy to know that it rose to the top of the list and ranked #4 in 2019.
Sühring brings modern German food to a beautifully restored townhouse. The German twin cook does have some novel tricks up their sleeves and we had a great 3-hour course meal in the private section with some good vinyl music and services. The menu of the night includes three Chapters from appetizers, main courses to dessert. The dishes experimented with different tastes and flavors, and the presentation has a great visual impact, too. The highlight was the main dish – Hungarian duck that aged 7 days in a pot, just to keep the moisture and tenderness of the meat. More, we get to choose our own cutleries for the dish.
Later the same year, I visited SRA BUA by KIIN KIIN in Kempinski and it was a joy. To me, the dishes there were much more creative and it was an interesting experience that I will be happy to share in another later post. While not all restaurants are exactly award-winning ones – many of these are still among the list of ‘Best Restaurants” or “Michelin-decorated” that worth going to. The “Star-studded” Bangkok restaurant list has only made my trips so much more exciting. Visit Karmakamet Diner, an establish brand of aromatic products turned café in Sukhumvit; or enjoy a high tea sea at Divana café, their signature gelatin flowers are not only a feast to the stomach but to the eye; Khao is a Michelin 1-star restaurant in Ekkamai serving some authentic Thai dishes at a very reasonable price. House of Sathron; I also visited The House of Sathorn, which is located next to the W Hotel. The House of Sathorn is a beautiful colonial mansion that dates back to 1889 and it was once the Embassy of the Soviet Union. Now, it is retained and fully restored in front of the tallest building in Thailand, the MahaNakhon. The restaurant offers a seasonal menu, as the chef evolves and updates the menu by choosing the best ingredients possible in the country. The flamboyant presentation and innovative combination of dishes pleasantly surprised me and enriched my culinary experience. I wish to introduce more about all these food experience that I should include them in my next “Yummylicious! Bangkok!” post!
Go Yummylicious: Thai food
Obviously, it is impossible to introduce and list out all delicious local Thai food and it deserves a post on its own. Anyway, there is no way you are leaving Bangkok without a taste of some local dish. The night markets are a good place to start: chicken rice, seafood barbecue, coconut, mango sticky rice, steam fish, pork rib stew, novelty pancakes… the possibilities are endless; Venture to alleys or streets where you may discover some hidden treasures, go to China town, you may find some classic Chinese delicacies with a touch of Thai flavor. Restaurants like Somboon Seafood are renowned for unique tastes developed over the years and today still there is a long line outside many of its restaurants all over Bangkok every day.
As for me, as much as I want to resist, I let myself go and I couldn’t say no to the temptation of the dessert dishes in many dessert bars and cafes! Today, After You Dessert Cafe is basically everywhere; but don’t forget to try the local souffle pancake places like Brix Dessert Bar, Pancake Cafe Fluff, and GRAM for a miracle pancake.
Mango rice is technically a national dish. go to Make me Mango or Mango Tango for a delightful mango dessert after dinner, it will definitely light up your evening.
Go Out! Night Markets and Shows
Carrying on from the hypes and fun of traditional markets, Bangkok has an exciting variety of bazaars, clubs, and theatres that operates until late at night.
I think by now literally everyone knows about the popular Chatuchak Weekend Market – it is now conveniently connected by both BTS and MRT Blue Line at the Chatuchak Park Station. Recently, J.J market’s new extension J.J Green Market was closed in 2018 – but well, there are other plans to install and so stay-tuned.
Beautiful view by the river on Asiatique’s Ferris Wheel.
However, if you have already been to Chatuchak and want to explore the rest. You have a great list below:
Patong Night Market: Busy night bazaar with many stalls hawking gifts, souvenirs, clothing, and street food.
The Camp Vintage Flea Market / DUM DUM Vintage Shop: a funky night-time flea market & vintage shop, with food stalls, a palm-lined dining area & a hip vibe. Opened in 2018, the market is so far less popular among tourists, yet the covered walkway including the DUM DUM Vintage Shop has a vintage theme that sells bohemian and vintage style fashion, decorations, home products, and records.
Warehouse 30: Industrial-chic warehouse offering a community arts space with vendors, galleries, food, and films.
LHONG 1919: 19th-century mansion restored as a mixed-use complex with restaurants, stores, and a shrine. It’s on the route of the Chao Phraya Tourist Hop-on-hop-off boat.
ASIATIQUE The Riverfront: Another market at the end of the Hop-on-hop-off boat, illuminated at night, with a sizable Ferris wheel in an open-air mall offers scenic river views.
Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market: Ratchada Train Night Market is getting popular recently and it got its name based on its previous function as a train station. This big, vibrant outdoor market with music features many vendors – the variety of food and goods surprised me. From a big pile of seafood on paper, crickets, cartoon character pancakes, ribs, and so much more! The Green Vintage Ratchada is the latest addition to selling green design products. One more tip, don’t forget to go to the parking lot at the Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre and take pictures of the tipsy tents of the market.
Chang Chui Creative Park: The new park is located a bit of the beaten track in Thonburi. This is the first creative space in Thailand that consists of event spaces, art galleries, restaurants, live houses, cafes, and bars. The market was started by a group of artists, hence, you may find some really special and unique products here!
Talad Rod Fai Train Night Market: bustling outdoor night market specializing in antiques and vintage memorabilia, with bars and restaurants.
Hua Mum Night Market: It is a new off-the-radar night market in Hua Mum District. Don’t miss out on the seafood restaurant in the market where hunky muscular male servers are all dressed up in pink and sexy costumes as they entertain the diners.
Thailand Creative and Design Center: Innovative design and technology expo center for creatives, with a large library & exhibition space.
Continue the fun after a night out in the markets and catch a show, for example, the Joe Louis Thai Puppet Theatre, Muay Thai Boxing, Calypso Cabaret and dinner show, Siam Niramit Show, and so on!
Go High: Rooftop & SkyWalk
While sky bars are no exactly invented, nor it’s exclusive in Bangkok, there are so many fabulous rooftop bars in the city making it one of the must-dos while you are here. Besides, going to the rooftop bars has become a great way for a group of friends to have a fun night out, enjoy the neon lights panoramic views of the Bangkok city skyline, and feel the cooling breeze getting away from the hustle and bustle on the ground.
- CRU Rooftop Champagne Bar
- Sky Bar – Lebua at State Tower
- Vertigo @ Banyan Tree Bangkok
- Octave Rooftop bar @ Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit
- Park Society @ Sofitel So on Sathorn
- Three Sixty @ millennium Hilton Bangkok
- Above Eleven
- Red Sky @ Centara Grand at Central World
- Attitude @ Avani hotel
- Char Rooftop Bar @@ Indigo Hotel
Some tips for going to Rooftop Bars:
- Always make a reservation before visiting the bars as they are always full. Visit their websites and check for availability.
- Use the app Eatigo to make a reservation, places like CRU offer a discount of up to 50% during non-peak hours. I was once a hotel guest and got a free drink coupon at the Rooftop bar as well.
- Most rooftop bars have a dress code: No shorts, sandals, and sleeveless shirts for men
King Power MahaNakhon: King Power MahaNakhon, formerly known as MahaNakhon, is a mixed-use skyscraper in the Silom/Sathon central business district of Bangkok, Thailand. It was opened in December 2016.
To me, it is an option for the sky bar experience. The entrance fee is a bit expensive in Bangkok standard, but the visit has no time limit, so you could visit any time of the day and stay there until midnight!
The observatory, consists of three levels, starting from an indoor section in the 74/F. Sit down on the beanbags and enjoy a 360 panoramic of the Bangkok skyline, from the line of skyscrapers along the BTS line to the palace and monuments on the riverside.
Move your way up to the 76/F to the rooftop and sky garden. There, there’s a cafe where you could not only enjoy the view but also some cooling breeze. Be thrilled as you walk down the glass platform only to see Bangkok from its highest peak! It’s said to be the highest! No photo-taking on the glass platform, that you could have someone to stay behind the ropes and take the photos for you.
Go Relax: Massage and Spa
I remember once enjoying a massage and spa in Bangkok is a must. Some of the spa centers open till late that we could enjoy a good rub down after dinner and a fun day out. Now some of the spa centers close earlier and remember to make a reservation before visiting.
Healthland is one of the most popular massage centers among locals. The large facilities offer a good price for a wide range of body massages and treatments. Of course, each hotel has its own massage and spa treatment center and some of them have a great list on their menu.
There are so many and I have only included some I visited and recommend in the following list:
- Urban Retreat Spa
- Lavana Bangkok
- Let’s Relax
- Urban Retreat Bangkok Asok Branch
- Montra Health & Spa
Go on a Shopping Spree: Shopping Malls!
While Bangkok is still under development, the number of upscale shopping malls in the city is enchanting. Visitors may find a number of luxurious retail brand setting up their flagship stores, they have a number of local brands, boutique, designer stores and food chain that makes a day in the mall so much more exciting.
Siam Center, Siam Paragon, Central World, and Gayson are some classic shopping malls that are connected through skywalks all the way from Siam to Chit Lom BTS station. Emporium, with its new extension, EmQuartier, has a great food hall at Phrom Phong. Central Embassy is a rather new luxury shopping complex and hotel featuring dozens of high-end retailers, boutiques, restaurants, and Park Hyatt. I just love their book tower and art tower on level 6. It features an open playground that kids would just love exploring the slides. The book tower is an open area for shoppers to read books and look for designer products. The Raw Bar, Meat bar, and many cafes offer a lot of interesting dishes on their menu.
The Market is a new place that positioned as an “indoor Chatuchak” featuring local fashion brands and design goods. I got some new tees and shoes there at the mall.
Terminal 21 is one of my favorites as the mall features a lot of local brands and most of their fashion is unique at a very good price.
ICONSIAM brought a floating market to the mall. This is a new mall by the river, making both sides of the river so much more exciting!
If you are too tired to get out to eat after your shopping spree; it’s perfectly fine to stay in the mall and have a nice dinner in the malls. Many shopping arcades usually have a great array of restaurants, or an exciting food hall and go beyond your imagination. They are no commercial fast food – renowned food chain and the international franchise also set up stalls here that offers authentic and delicious dishes. Like my.kitchen in Siam Discovery is a recent addition with a new dining experience; it has restaurants, cafes, and bakeries like Brix Dessert Bar, Café Chilli, Jamie’s Italian, Phufu, and Man Fu Yuan.
Don’t forget to visit one of those local supermarkets like Big C to shop for local merchandise and snacks before heading back home. Some of the superstores open until 2 am and popular products include Kohkae peanuts, tube-shaped honey, big lava sheets… some of my friends like local home products like fabric softeners with the flavor of babies~