Things to Do in Bangkok
Bangkok is a vibrant, lively hectic and colourful city filled with cars, motorbikes, boats, tuk-tuks, dogs, ladyboys, friendly street food vendors, high rise shopping centres, and intricate little alleyways, markets and streets all worth exploring.
The city is large, although with an excellent MTR subway and Sky Trains operating through most areas of the city, and with inexpensive taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbike taxis all allow visitors to the city to get around the city with minimal fuss and cost involved.
1. Check out China Town
The china town area is the busy and vibrant hub of the local Chinese community. Street food markets, large spice shops, medicine stores, tea houses, Chinese temples and shrines, as well as lots of Chinese snacks to try! The small alleyways that run through the undercover market stalls winding around the side streets are lined with fresh produce stalls, a large range of fruits, vegetables, whole stalls set up with a huge range of mushrooms and spices, as well as meats stalls (if you are vegetarian turn around when you see these stalls – they are quite confronting).
2. Check out Khao San Road
The backpacker mecca of South East Asia. Khao San Road and surrounding Soi Rambutri are lined with inexpensive hostels and guesthouses, massage stalls, tattoo studios, street food vendors and street markets. The atmosphere after dark is lively, fun and friendly as hundreds of backpackers, travellers, and local vendors all gather in the area for an evening filled with tasty street eats, shopping, exchanging of travel plans and sharing of stories, as well as drinking and relaxing.
3. Catching a Boat on the Chao Phraya River
the river weaves around the city past large hotels and businesses and around small wooden hut houses that hang over the edge of the river. Small boats run through the smaller canals of the city acting as taxis between the suburbs, while larger boats, ferries and barges can be seen along the Chao Phraya River.
It is possible to catch a riverboat and travel 21km through the city (these boats only costings around 15Baht). There are also boat services aimed specifically at visitors to the city, only stopping at a certain number of piers, with attractions being pointed out, while those on board are able to hop on and off any of the piers they wish. Tickets for these boats cost 150 Baht for a full day of unlimited travel.
4. Shopping Centres
MBK Shopping Centre
MBK is popular with visitors to the city. The centre is home to over 2000 shops over 7 floors. You can find almost anything from electrical, clothing, fake designer goods, souvenirs, shoes, supermarkets, indoor bowling, cinemas, and food courts (the International Food Court is popular as you can find almost every cuisine in one area). Catch the BTS to National Stadium to get there.
in Panthip Plaza you find five stories of the latest technology, computers, mobiles, hardware, software, original and pirated goods as well as all the latest gadgets. This place is a heaven for lovers of IT. Catch the BTS to Chidlom Station to get there. This place has just seen a major redevelopment and has now a lot more restaurants too.
Central World is a huge shopping with a large range of international stores including Zara and Timberland as well as over 100 restaurants and cafes, a cinema and even an ice-skating rink. This shopping centre is large, trendy and definitely worth a visit if you enjoy shopping. Catch the BTS to Siam Station.
The Siam Centre is great if you love fashion, here you can find Thai individual fashion designers displaying their collections. Here you can find something unique that is not a fake designer brand. I found out that Thailand is the major fashion hub for South-East Asia. There is also a great food court on the top floor. Siam Centre is located between Central World and Siam Paragon.
Siam Paragon is high end. The centre is a modern construction of glass and steel and filled with high street fashion, home décor and gourmet cafes and restaurants. You can even buy a Rolls Royce car here. Catch the BTS to Siam Station to check out this stylish shopping complex. Even though high end the food court here is surprisingly affordable. The cinema is great here and even has 4DX movies.
Siam Discovery is for me the best shopping centre in Bangkok. This 7 storey mall has a way of displaying goods by themes and in a way, you feel like at home, especially on the upper floors. You can find homeware, fashion and gadgets. I was amazed by finding products and brands I have never seen before.
Platinum Fashion Mall
The Platinum Fashion Mall is the home of wholesale. You can products by item but when you buy more than one you get better discounts. Lot’s of local brands that have shops in the Chatuchak Weekend Market are also here. If you want to shop in the comfort of air conditioning instead of going to the hot and humid weekend market, this is the place. It is located a 10-minute walk from Central World and the nearest BTS station is Chidlom.
Terminal 21 has to be my 2nd favourite shopping mall in Bangkok. It is a themed mall with every floor representing a different tourist themed destination. The escalators function as airplanes taking you from one destination to the other. There is a great number of individual boutiques besides mainstream fashion brands. The food court on the top floor has to be one of the cheapest in Bangkok that is located in a shopping centre.
Terminal 21 links to BTS Skytrain and MRT with a skywalk, at Asok Station and Sukhumvit Station.
This is one of the more expensive shopping malls with high-end brands. Architecturally this shopping centre is something different, I liked the Helix Quartier which is a spiral road going up an atrium that features a lot of different eateries alongside. There is lots of greenery hanging down the Atrium.
The EmQuartier is located on Sukhumvit Road and can be accessed by the BTS Skytrain at Phrom Phong Station.
This is the latest shopping centre to have opened up in Bangkok and is located on the banks of the Choa Praya River. It is one of the largest shopping malls in Asia and the development includes the tallest tower the 70-floor Magnolias Waterfront Residences. This mall targets high-end shopping.
IconSiam is located adjacent to the APM Gold Line Charoen Nakhon Station, which connects to the BTS system at Krung Thon Buri Station.
5. Take a Break from The Busy City and Heat at Lumphini Park
Close to the Lumphini MRT Station, Lumphini Park is a large, quiet, relaxing area filled with beautiful gardens, well-kept paths and seating, a wide range of birds, lots of squirrels, as well as quite large water monitors. The large monitor lizards run around the banks of the river and lake within the park before jumping in the water for a swim.
I found them interesting to watch, as I had never seen a lizard as large as these, and especially did not expect them to be living in the middle of the city (although when you are at Lumphini Park it doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of the city).
If you are staying in the city for a while, Lumphini Park is the perfect spot for an early morning jog. There are paddle boats for hire on the lake, a cycling track, as well as local exercise groups practising yoga and tai chi. Check out the street food vendors near the Lumphini MRT Station entrance of the park.
6. Wat Arun
A large temple that visitors can climb up its steps to see the view it offers of the city. The Temple stands at approximately 80 metres and was named after an Indian god named Aruna. It is a popular attraction with visitors to the city and definitely worth checking out if you are in Bangkok and enjoy visiting temples.
7. The Royal Palace and The Emerald Buddha
The name basically sums this up. The Palace is near to the Khao San Road area, and definitely within walking distance if the weather is not too hot. The temples, well-kept grounds, and grand Palace make this site one the most popular attractions to visit while in Bangkok. Wat Phra Kaeo is also on the grounds of the palace and is thought to be one of the holiest temples in the country.
8. Wat Pho
Wat Pho is one of the older temples in Bangkok, it was built between 1688 and 1703. It is famous for its 46 metres long reclining Buddha. Take your time to explore Wat Po as it is huge and covers 80,000 square metres. The Wat Pho is also the home of the Thai massage and you can do courses here lasting from a few weeks up to a year. Wat Pho has trained over 200,000 massage therapists.
9. Forensic Museum
If your looking for something different from the usual temples, shopping malls and typical tourist attractions then check out the ever so creepy Bangkok Forensic Museum. This place sits just across from the Royal Palace, inside the Siriraj Hospital, and may just be the creepiest place I have even visited.
The museum itself features preserved human organs, parasites and how they have destroyed organs, preserved babies that have died from genetic disorders, the body of a well-known man who was well known in the area for eating organs from children, and a thousand other body parts and bones in glass cabinets (no, I’m not kidding). Entry here will cost you around 40 Baht.
10. Vimanek Teak Mansion
This is a former Royal Villa in Bangkok built out of teak wood, it is not far from the Dusit zoo. Unfortunately as of 2019, it has been dismantled as the foundation was in need of repairs, it will be rebuilt upon its completion.
Asiatique is a large open-air riverfront mall. What I like is that it is part of the old dock of the East Asiatic Company. It is part retail and part entertainment as you can see from the big ferries wheel. It makes for a great night out and have fun, shop and eat along the banks of the Chao Praya River. The best way to get there is to use the free shuttle boat from Saton pier.
12. Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market, in North Bangkok, is the largest market in Thailand and the world’s largest weekend market, attracting 200,000 visitors every weekend. It is also a very diverse market with almost everything for sale that you can imagine from antiques, plants, cosmetics, pets, electronics, food, drinks, clothing, home decoration and furniture, and books. Unfortunately, it is also a major centre for trade in illegal wildlife.
13. Patpong Night Market
Patpong is a red light district that is one of the world’s famous. It is here where Thailand’s go-go culture started. It is also a night market and the one that is most famous for fake designer brands and watches. If you buy here be prepared to barter hard. However, the Covid pandemic has hit this street the hardest as it was almost exclusively reliant on tourists. The nearest BTS Sky train station is Sala Daeng.
14. W Market
The W market is an outdoor food court that appeals to locals and expats that can be found along the Sukhumvit road. You can find Thai food as well as a lot of international food options with a total of almost 100 food stalls. This is the place to hang out with friends over a few drinks and delicious food. It is located at Sukhumvit 71 and the closest BTS Sky train is Phra Khanong
15. The Papaya Vintage Shop
A strange vintage shop/museum that you would not expect in Bangkok is the Papaya Vintage shop. This shop/warehouse is full to the brim with toys and collectables from life-size figurines of Darth Vader, Batman, Spiderman and Albert Hitchcock, vintage furniture including tables, chairs, desks, lights and lamps, a large collection of Vespas and old motorcycles and much more! You can find this place in Lat Pharo (Soi Lat Pharo 55/2, Lat Pharo Road Wang Thong Lamg).
I will just add that I had a difficult time finding this place, as taxi drivers in the area didn’t understand what I was saying – most likely because I couldn’t pronounce the street names correctly, so it is a great idea to get someone at your hostel or hotel to write the name and address down in Thai so you have no problems finding your way there. (If you plan to take photos then maybe only use your camera with no flash in stealth mode, as I was told No Camera when I pulled mine out while in the store.