Bangkok Destination Guide
Thailand's capital is ablaze with neon at night and roars with traffic by day but, despite the ramshackle chaos, there’s always something beautiful to fix your eye on or tasty to stop you in your tracks.
From spotting gold-spired Buddhist temples and monks' robes, to picking up arts, crafts and antiques in a hidden market, it’s hard to leave Bangkok without accruing a long list of extraordinary experiences – and probably another suitcase for all of your shopping! A vast, tropical, assault on the senses, pack your curiosity, fortitude and sense of adventure for this classic Asian destination.
You’ll love experiencing...
- Shopping at Siam Square
- Cruising on the Chao Phraya River
- Nightlife at Patpong & Khao San Road
Given its sprawl across 50 districts, it’s not a cliché to say there are endless things to see and do in Bangkok. Still, most of Bangkok’s top attractions are in the Old City in Rattanakosin. This densely-packed area between downtown and the river is home to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – the most sacred temple in Thailand.
Wat Pho, home to a huge reclining Buddha statue and an authentic Thai massage centre, is also one of the most-visited sites in the area. Adjacent to Rattanakosin is the (in)famous Khao San Road – a budget traveller's Mecca. A short tuk-tuk ride away you’ll find the leafy, European-style area sporting the look-worthy Dusit Palace.
Marvel at sacred sights like...
- The Grand Palace
- The Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po)
- The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
You're going to get the real Thai deal in Bangkok. From ubiquitous Thai street food stalls selling their own concoctions, to friendly family-run diners and upmarket restaurants selling national dishes to a ‘farang’ audience, Bangkok has it all. Get ready for sweet, sour and spicy like you've never experienced before!
You’ll find some flavoursome Thai food literally on every block and in every shopping centre in Bangkok, but just remember the important phrase “mai ow prik” if you don’t want chilli. To find Chinese food, head to Yaowarat; go to Soi Phadung Dao for seafood or stick to Sukhumvit for something more contemporary. For a drink with a view, the top of the crop are the rooftop bars at the Banyan Tree Hotel and the Lebua State Tower, while Royal City Avenue is Bangkok’s premier nightclub district.
Thailand’s most regal bites are found at...
- Blue Elephant Restaurant
- Whale’s Belly
- Issaya Siamese Club
International chains, tiny boutique guesthouses and a multitude of mid-range options comprise the majority of Bangkok hotels. Luxury hotels tend to condense around the Ploenchit-Chidlom and Sukhumvit districts. If you want to shop, consider staying in Siam; to be close to Old City sites, your best bet is to find a riverside property.
The amplified nightlife in touristy Khao San and Silom has prompted a range of accommodation options in these areas. Depending on where you stay, air-conditioning may be an optional extra, and it's worth it. High season runs October to April, so bargains are up for grabs from May to September.
Bangkok’s best boutique hotels...
- Praya Pallazo, Riverside
- S31 Hotel, Sukhumvit
- Hotel Muse, Siam
Tailor-made clothes, gemstones, gold and antiques are all among the bounty Bangkok shopping can reveal. The whole city can feel like a market at times, but the king of them all is the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. The largest market of its kind in Southeast Asia, you’ll need the whole weekend just to get through it all!
For knock-offs bargains, squeeze your way through the buzzing streets of Silom, while Siam Square is the place to go if you want air-conditioned comfort and the latest gadgets. These days more a cultural relic than a bargain hunter’s paradise, the weekend Taling Chan Floating Market in Thonburi blends rural and canal-side life and is well worth a visit.
Fill your suitcase with...
- Antiques at Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Knock-offs at Patpong Night Market
- Clothes and gadgets at Siam Square
Bangkok like a Local
Locals don't like to rush. They're not trying to condense so much into their time. They know some of the best street food zones are in Bang Rak, Chinatown and Ratchawat. If they are one of Bangkok's beautiful people with a love of big-name DJs, they'll be dancing, drinking and dining at clubs including Route 66 and Slim at Royal City Avenue.
If they want to drink in sky-high city views along with top wines or cocktails, they'll be doing so at Red Sky, on the 55th-floor of the Centara Grand Hotel. If they’re laidback hipsters, they’ll know that Bangkok’s best market is The Train Night Market (Talad Rot Fai) and the only music worth listening to comes from local indie labels such as Panda Records and Zudrangma.
Hang out with locals at...
- The Train Night Market
- Zudrangma Record Store in Sukhumvit
- Phra Arthit Rd not Khao San Rd