Bangkok: what to do? My 10 favourites in the Thai capital

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a city full of hidden treasures and must-see places to discover. From Buddhist temples to scenes of everyday life, not forgetting its various markets and street food, this immense megalopolis of over 11 million inhabitants is an incredibly lively city, authentic and full of charm. Bangkok was also the very first stop on my trip to Thailand, and also the very last, where I spent a total of 5 days. After exploring this incredibly dynamic and lively city, which didn’t leave me indifferent, I’d like to share with you my 10 favourites in Bangkok. These discoveries will give you an insight into the richness of Thai culture and the diversity of this fascinating city.
Follow me through the streets and districts of Bangkok to discover my recommendations for the Thai capital.

Coup de coeur à Bangkok. Quoi faire ?

 

My top 10 favourites in Bangkok

  1. Discover Thailand’s most beautiful temples
    2. Tasting street food
    3. Immerse yourself in Chinatown 
    4.  Travelling by waterbus
    5. Stroll through the streets of Talat Noi
    6. Visit the flower market
    7. Getting lost in the city off the beaten track
    8. Visit the floating markets
    9. Have a drink on a rooftop at sunset
    10. Try a Thai massage
    Practical information

1. Discover Thailand’s most beautiful temples

Bangkok was my very first destination in Thailand, so it was also my introduction to Buddhist temples. It didn’t take me long to get a visual slap in the face! Walking through the streets of the capital, I came face to face with some magnificent temples. Some of them are famous, and I’d recommend seeing them at least once in your life, but you shouldn’t hesitate to enter the smaller temples you come across on your walks. The most famous and emblematic of them all is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, also known as Wat Phra Kaeo. This temple is considered to be the holiest in Thailand and is home to a priceless jade statue of Buddha. Another important temple in Bangkok is Wat Pho, home to a 46-metre-long statue of a reclining Buddha, the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, is also a must-see, with its impressive spire-shaped towers and intricate ceramic designs. Finally, Wat Saket, also known as the Golden MountTemple, offers a superb 360-degree view of the city from its summit. All these temples, large and small, surprised me with their architecture and detail, but also immersed me in Buddhist history and religion in just a few days. Visiting these temples is the perfect way to learn about Thai history and religion, as well as to enjoy the architecture and intricate designs that make them so unique.

My favourite temples

Honestly, the best way to discover temples in Bangkok is to walk around the city and let yourself be sent by all the temples you come across. I found that the smaller, often little-known temples were often incredible! Entrance is free except for the larger temples, which cost between 50 bath and 200 bath for Wat Pho. Here are some of the temples I loved:

  • Wat Pha Lo
  • Wat Pho
  • Wat Benchama Bophit
  • Wat Bowonniwet
  • Wat Saket (Golden Mount Temple)
Tips for visiting the temples
  • What to wear
    Proper attire is required to visit temples throughout Thailand. Correct dress” means covering your shoulders and legs.
    Men can wear shorts, but women must cover at least 3/4 of their legs.
    I personally bought a few ‘sarongs’ and kept them in my bag so that I could cover up whenever I visited a temple.
  • When should I visit the temples?
    I recommend visiting the best-known temples early in the morning or late in the day (but check Google Maps for opening times) to avoid the crowds.
    Most of the city’s other temples can be visited at any time of day. I was often alone when I visited, which was great!

 

2. Culinary delights in street food

If I were to return to Bangkok it would be for one thing in particular: the street food! Bangkok is known worldwide for its incredibly diverse culinary scene, and street food plays a central role in this. Episode 1 of the “Street Food” series on Netflix showcases it very well indeed. Everywhere in the streets of the capital, at all hours of the day and night, there are street vendors offering a variety of delicious dishes at very low prices (between 15 and 100 bath). I loved being able to taste everything and immerse myself in this world of flavours and colours. What’s also great about Bangkok is that street food isn’t just limited to local cuisine; you can also find dishes from all over Thailand, as well as international dishes. Chinatown and Bang Rak are the most popular areas for street food stalls. So don’t be afraid to try the street food and I guarantee that you will be seduced by its bold flavours and intoxicating aromas. This is surely my top 1 must-do experience in Bangkok!

Thai dishes not to be missed

If you love Thai cuisine or are discovering it for the first time, here’s a short list of specialities you won’t want to miss:

  • pad thai
  • chicken satay kebabs
  • som tam (green papaya salad)
  • khao man gai (grilled chicken and rice)
  • And the best dessert ever: mango sticky rice (rice with coconut milk and mango). It’s so delicious!

3. Immerse yourself in Chinatown (day&night)

Chinatown, located in the Samphanthawong district, is an iconic part of Bangkok. With its narrow streets teeming with people, hundreds (or thousands?) of street vendors, temples and markets, Chinatown is THE authentic experience of local life. The atmosphere is guaranteed day and night, especially on the main avenue Yaowarat Road, with its many illuminated signs bearing Chinese characters, which is completely transformed as it fills up with even more people as soon as night falls. The night market on Yaowarat Road is filled with hundreds of mini food stalls selling absolutely everything from souvenirs to jewellery and more. I loved discovering these two facets of the Chinatown district, and I can’t recommend it enough: Don’t miss Bangkok’s Chinatown!

4.Getting around by waterbus

Water buses are one of the most popular ways of getting around Bangkok. These boats are typical of the city, navigating the city’s canals, also known as “khlong”, and are used to get around as if you were taking the metro. They are a practical and economical way of getting around and discovering the different areas of the city, as you can reach Chinatown from Khaosan Road, for example. As well as being practical, I found that it was a great way to get a different perspective of the city, with a view of the temples and buildings from the river, but also to discover corners that would otherwise be inaccessible. The prices of the boat-buses are very affordable, varying according to the distance travelled (between 12 and 30 bath a trip). I loved doing the trip during golden hours (at the end of the day, before sunset), for the view and the magical atmosphere of Bangkok. It’s a great way to discover Bangkok in an original and economical way.

5. Strolling the streets of Talat Noi

Not far from Chinatown is Talat Noi, one of Bangkok’s most historic districts. Bordered by the Chao Phraya River, Talat Noi is known for its narrow streets and wooden houses, but also for its street art – in short, a place where you can lose yourself for hours. The locals have lived here for generations and their influence can be seen in the temples, restaurants and shops. If, like me, you love photography, you’ll be delighted to discover the colourful streets and old abandoned buildings that have a unique atmosphere. There is also a market in Talat Noi where you can find street food, fresh seafood and other local produce. You can finish your tour of the district by taking a walk along the river to enjoy the view of the river and the traditional wooden boats (before climbing onto a Klongs for a short boat-bus ride). Talat Noi is therefore an ideal place to discover Bangkok’s culture and history, while immersing yourself in an authentic and charming atmosphere.

6. Visit the flower market

The Bangkok Flower Market, also known as Pak Khlong Talat, is a picturesque and colourful market offering a variety of exotic flowers, plants and herbs. It’s a feast for the senses, with an abundance of colours, scents and sounds. The vendors, most of them women, are dressed in traditional Thai outfits and sell all kinds of flowers: orchids, lotuses, roses, jasmines and lilies, as well as plants and herbs used in Thai cooking. If you come early in the morning, you can see customers coming in to make bulk purchases for special occasions or simply to buy wreaths of flowers to place in temples. The atmosphere is very friendly and much less busy than in Chinatown. And it’s a nice change from the street food markets you find everywhere! Bangkok’s flower market is a great place to discover the local culture, buy souvenirs and take some great photos.

7. Getting lost in the city off the beaten track

This is undoubtedly my favourite activity wherever I travel: getting lost in order to discover more. Getting lost in the streets of Bangkok is one of the best ways to discover the city and soak up its atmosphere, to meet new people, to get off the beaten track, and to find beautiful nuggets. There are so many different districts to explore, each with its own style and charm, so many authentic scenes of life to discover. It’s worth not always having your nose in a guidebook or on a map, but simply letting yourself be carried along, where your feet take you. The narrow streets, perpendicular to the main roads, are often full of surprises, with street vendors, traditional shops, hidden temples and authentic local restaurants. If you like street photography, you’ll love it too! The best advice I can give you is clearly to dare to venture off the beaten track, and you’re sure to discover hidden treasures you’d never have found otherwise. Bangkok is far from being a tourist city created for tourism. As soon as you get away from the centres of interest, it’s Thai life that you come across… and it’s just magical!

8. Take a trip to the floating markets

Before coming to Bangkok, I had seen these images of floating markets, where the vendors move around on their little wooden boats, but I had understood that these markets no longer existed or were just a tourist attraction. In fact, the best-known floating market, Damnoen Saduak, is located around 100 km from Bangkok. It’s not very authentic nowadays, with thousands of tourists arriving every day by bus or via organised tours. So I spoke to several locals before finding an alternative: the floating markets at Taling Chan and Khlong Lat Mayom, which only open at weekends. The former is smaller and more of a traditional market, but the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market really has a magical atmosphere and has several vendors on boats. You can find everything here: local produce, animals, handicrafts, clothes, etc. The atmosphere is lively, and it’s clearly a meeting place for Thai families who come to gather around the large tables. You can also take a boat trip through the canals (price: 100 bath but I haven’t tried it). To get here, I took a local bus from the centre of Bangkok (12 bath), and even if the journey is longer than by taxi it was a wonderful way to have a completely local experience (if you use Google Maps, you won’t have any trouble finding your way around). So even though these are touristy places, it’s still a typical and original activity to do in Bangkok and I really enjoyed the unique atmosphere of the floating markets.

9. Enjoying a drink on a rooftop at sunset

Bangkok is famous for its towering skyscrapers and views of the city from its many rooftops. One of the views I loved was the spectacular view of the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun temple at sunset. I met up with other travellers (hello digipots!) on a rooftop to enjoy the magnificent view of Wat Arun temple while sipping a cocktail at sunset. We were at the Rooftop Sala Rattanakosin (see here) but the other bars in the area also offer great terraces. It’s best to arrive early or book in advance to get a seat. To enjoy a rooftop with a panoramic view over the rest of the city, the Sky Bar or Sirocco are among the most famous rooftops. You can see the immensity of the city and, at night, all the temples light up… A beautiful sight!

10. Let yourself be tempted by a Thai massage

You’ll probably see posters on every street corner or be called out in the street for “Thai massage”. But if there’s one local experience you really must try, it’s the famous Thai massage (or simply one of the massages on offer). There are plenty of massage parlours in Bangkok offering traditional massage as well as oil massage, foot massage and neck massage. Traditional massage uses specific techniques, pressure on acupuncture points, stretching and compression to help relieve muscle tension and improve blood circulation. It is usually performed on a mat on the floor and the masseurs use their hands, elbows, feet and even knees to work the muscles and joints. I haven’t tried it myself, as I’ve preferred to have oil massages, and every time I’ve had one, it’s been incredible, and for a very small price! And if you’re discovering Bangkok on foot, like me, it’ll save your life (and your feet)!

 

 

Another must-see in Bangkok

Visit the Grand Palais (or Palais Royal)

It is the city’s most visited tourist attraction. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, it was built 200 years ago when Bangkok became Thailand’s new capital. It was once the main residence of the monarchs. Today, Bangkok’s Grand Palace no longer houses the current king but is often used for official events. It covers 29 hectares, divided into several buildings, gardens and pavilions. It is also home to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), which houses a superb jade statue of Buddha.
I visited it at the end of my trip to Thailand and it’s true that it’s a place steeped in history. However, it’s not one of my favourites.

On the other hand, be warned, the Grand Palace is open every day! (Beware if you come across locals or drivers who tell you that it’s closed exceptionally “today”, it’s a scam). Admission costs 500 bath (around €18). In 2023, a mask will still be compulsory to visit the Grand Palais.

 

Some practical information about Bangkok

How many days do you need to stay in Bangkok?

Given the size of the city and all the things you can do there, there are plenty of opportunities. Personally, I think that to appreciate a place, you have to give it a chance and spend several days there. If you stay in Bangkok for 2 or 3 days, you’ll be able to do the main sights and get a good idea of the city’s atmosphere. From 4 days onwards, you can really appreciate Bangkok to the full and take your time to get lost and get off the beaten track.

Where to stay in Bangkok?

On my two trips to Bangkok, I stayed close to the Khao San Road area, but away from the hustle and bustle. I found that the area was very central for visiting the whole city on foot and also quite easy to get to from the airport.

I really like these two places where I stayed:

Bangkok Saran Poshtel
Wonderfully well located in a quiet street
Breakfast and budget rooms
From €14 per night for a single or double room
See on Booking

The LOL Elephant hostel
Superb hostel with several double and triple rooms
Great location, close to everything and the hosts are always willing to help
From €8 per night
See on Booking

Visiting Bangkok alone

I went to Thailand as a solo traveller. So I was alone when I arrived in Bangkok. But even though the city can seem intimidating, I always felt safe there, day and night. It’s also a very touristy destination, with lots of backpackers, holidaymakers and solo travellers. It’s a city in which you naturally feel at ease when you’re a woman travelling alone.

And what insurance?

As with any trip, it’s best to take out travel insurance before you leave (to avoid any problems)! I always use Chapka Assurance for their tailor-made insurance. (My choice is the CAP Assistance 24 insurance).

 

 

Do you have a question about Bangkok?
Leave me a message and I’ll answer it 🙂

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