Vibe: Bangkok is crazy all day and even crazier at night. This is the city that never sleeps. Its vibrant streets surround the Chao Phraya River and canals feed through the city. Highways cut through a sea of skyscrapers and golden temples peak through the modern high-rises. It's a shopper's paradise with shopping mall after shopping mall, bustling markets and a bargain to be found on every corner.
Must Do: Take a tuk tuk tour of the city and make stops at the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho.
Known for: Being the capital of Thailand and a major tourist gateway to the rest of Thailand and all of Southeast Asia. Bangkok is also nicknamed the “Venice of the East" due to the elaborate network of canals (known as khlongs) that run through the city. It boasts bargain shopping, funky markets, a riverside full of unique attractions, local delicacies, bustling nightlife and amazing historical sights that display its unique heritage.
Did you know: Bangkok is actually the English name, the Thai's know this city as: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
The translation means: “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”
Top Things to See and Do in Bangkok
Must-see Cultural Attractions
Thailand has a long and proud history evident in its grand temples and palaces. Must see attractions include the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), Wat Po and Wat Arun which are all fairly close together on the west side of the city along the Chao Phraya River. You can either jump in a tuk tuk and make your way to each attraction or take a boat tour up the river to see them from a different perspective. You'll need to wear modest clothes if you're planning on going inside the temples or the palace.
Khao San Road
The famous Khao San Road is a popular hive for budget travellers and backpackers. This short street in central Bangkok was once a major rice market, and its name “Khaosan” can be translated as “milled rice”. Here you will find all sorts of cheap shops, accommodation, travel agents and travel booking options (plus the Stray Bangkok shop!). It gets lively after dark and there are plenty of places to have a drink and a bite to eat and watch the night unfold.
One of the city's regionally famous parks is Lumphini Park, known as Bangkok's Central Park. Once a camp for Japanese soldiers during World War II, today the park holds grand pageants and ceremonies of the Thai constitution.
There are no shortage of markets in Bangkok although some of them stand out above the rest: The Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the largest markets in the world with over 8000 stalls filled with everything from souvenirs to fashion, pets to art. The Floating markets in the Taling Chan District are genuine local markets where you can ride a longtail boat around the stalls, tasting the food, shopping and even getting a foot massage under the trees. The Patpong Night Market in the Silom district is famous for knock off goods and go-go bars and showcases a seedier side of Bangkok.
Take the BTS Skytrain to Siam where you'll find a cluster of shopping malls that all cater for different budgets. At the MBK mall you'll find knock off fashion items and souvenirs, jewellery and technology, you can bargain here to get a good price. Across the road you'll see Siam Centre where you'll find middle of the range fashion and a great food court called Food Republic with reasonably priced international food stalls. Directly across the square you'll find Siam Paragon, one of the biggest shopping centres in Asia. It carries all the luxury brands, is home to Southeast Asia's largest aquarium and a 16-screen cineplex and it's own impressive food court. It's worth going into just to check out the Lamborghini showroom on the second floor, cafes with individual iPod docks and impressive entrance displays.
Eating and Drinking
Thai food is exceptional with an exotic mix of flavours. Make sure you try some of these local favourites:
- Tom Yum Goong - a spicy, fragrant soup with prawns (goong), mushrooms and lemongrass.
- Som Tum - spicy green papaya salad with a sweet and spicy flavour
- Gaeng Daeng and Gaeng Keow Wan - Red curry and green curry. Both have a coconut milk base and either a red chilli paste or a green paste. Try them with beef (nua), chicken (kai/gai) or tofu.
- Pad Thai - Thai style fried noodles with fish sauce, egg, beansprouts and either chicken, prawns or tofu
- Med Ma Muang (Kai/Gai) - stir fried chicken with dried chillies, cashew nuts, sometimes carrots and mushrooms, in a mild soy sauce.
You'll never be stuck for a place to eat in Bangkok and you'll find something to suit every budget. For just a few dollars you can get delicious three course meal of vegetarian spring rolls, chicken pad thai and a banana pancake from the street food carts on Khao San road. If you're after somewhere nice and clean or something other than thai food, the food courts in the malls have great international food options at reasonable prices. Get a fast, tasty seafood meal and mix with the locals on Yaowarat road in one of Chinatown's road-side restaurants.
Just like the variety of restaurants available, you'll also be able to find just about every type of watering hole in this city. From street-side bars with plastic chairs, to Irish and English pubs where you can get a pint, to chic rooftop bars where your drink comes with an incredible view. Some of the best roof top bars include Moon Bar, a completely open air bar at the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel on the 61st floor; the Rooftop Bar on the 83rd floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel and the Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of the Lebua Hotel, probably best known for it's role in The Hangover 2. Sky Bar's creative cocktails (get yourself a hangovertini!) will set you back a bit more than your regular cocktail but the views over the Chao Phraya river are priceless.
BANGKOK AIRPORT TO CENTRAL CITY
From Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Intl Airport to Khao San Road area.
Metered: a taxi can cost between 270 Thai Baht (THB) and 500 THB depending on the traffic. For example, it might be 270 THB if you travel at 6am or late night.
Toll ways: There are 2 toll costs to go on the faster expressway, which are 45 THB and 25 THB (total 70 THB)
Please Note: from Suvarnabhumi Intl Airport by taxi, you will need to pay 50 THB airport service fee to the taxi driver on top of toll fees and meter.
Minivan from Khao San area to airport (only) is about 130 -150 THB per person. It can take 1-2 hours.
Note: This is a public minivan which will pick-up passengers from other Hotels so it is best to allow up to 2 hours to get to the Airport (just to be sure).
Have just 48 hours in Thailand’s City of Angels? Our Stray team superstar Chris Deane weighs in with his tips for a great two days!