What comes to mind when you think of Thailand? Is it the beautiful beaches? The food? The people? Or the high-rise filled skyline of Bangkok?
For most people, the capital city is one of the main associations you make with a place. And if you’ve seen the movie Hangover 3, then you’re sure to have an idea of what this bustling city is all about. Although Thailand has a number of cities that all provide a different vibe, Bangkok is one full of liveliness, adventure…and probably some things you’ve never seen before. This city is so, so big; and there are a million things you can do here over the course of a few trips.
Here is a list of some of the top recommendations I have for getting the full Bangkok experience—on and off the grid.
If you thought some of the homes that you saw on an episode of MTV Cribs were amazing, wait until you see how the King of Thailand is living.
For a 200 Baht entrance fee ($6 USD), line up with the crowds of foreign tourists to take your tour through the many buildings that make up the Grand Palace. You can walk around this place for hours and marvel at the unique architecture that makes up each building.
Although there are tours you can take with official tour guides (you’ll see them holding up yellow flags on sticks) that will give you all of the historical details, exploring the palace alone gives you the chance to go at your own pace (and save a little money).
If you are traveling alone, don’t be afraid to ask another tourist to snap a couple pics for you (just use caution with who you’re choosing to give your phone/camera to). Chances are they will ask you to return the favor, or even take a picture with them—especially if you’re a blonde-hair, blue-eyed foreigner like me!
Famous for the “reclining Buddha”, Wat Phra is another must-see as you tour your way through the Bangkok temples.
About a 15-minute walk from the Grand Palace, a quick search in maps will guide you through the streets to get you there. Pay your 200 Baht ($6 USD) entrance fee and make your way in to see the colorful tiles that cover the buildings of this temple.
Line up with the other tourists and venture into the main temple where you will find the giant reclining Buddha sculpture (with the most beautiful feet and toes I have ever seen!). Drop some baht coins in the bowls that line the walls for good luck as you follow the crowd around the temple and out of the exit, and grab some free (yes, free) water when you get out!
Built right next to the Chao Phraya River that runs all the way through Bangkok, this beautiful white temple stands out next to the high-rises that line the riverside.
There’s a convenient ferry that rides you across the river for only 20 Baht ($0.66 USD)—(the Grand Palace and Wat Pho are on the other side of the river, so this is the quickest, and cheapest way to get there). There’s a 200 Baht ($6 USD) entrance fee for this temple as well.
The white stones used to build this temple make it stand out from the rest. The main Wat (temple) is gigantic, and you can climb your way up the steep steps to the top for a spectacular view of the temple site and the surrounding Bangkok geography. Take a quiet moment to sit on the marble stone benches, cool off from the heat, and listen to the monks chanting at the main temple.
Before you get started on your temple-touring trek, remember these few things:
Attire- Temples are notorious for getting those perfect Insta-pics, and what compliments a picture better than the perfect outfit? Most definitely dress up to your preference when visiting these temples, but remember that as they are temples, you must abide by the cultural rules and cover up your shoulders, mid-drift, and knees (no crop tops ladies!).
Socks- Also, when entering into a temple it is required to take your shoes off; and in the blazing Thai sun, those marble floors get real hot! If you’re wearing sandals, make sure to bring an extra pair of socks with you so you don’t scald the pads of your feet (like I did—rookie mistake!).
Entrance fees- Because Bangkok is such a tourist destination, and the temples settled in this city are so immaculate, they all charge a higher-than-usual entrance fee of around 200 Baht ($6 USD), so make sure to keep extra cash on you (some temples take credit card, but most of Thailand runs on cash exchange so it’s always wise to have a wallet full of Baht).
Many of the high-rises that occupy Bangkok’s skyline have twin towers (two buildings that look practically the same, structured next to each other). The Ghost Tower is one that mirrors its twin high-rise but was never finished; and thus, has become a popular tourist attraction.
Why? Climb your way up the 50+ flights of stairs through unfinished halls and rooms to get the best panoramic view of Bangkok that I have yet to find.
How do you get in? Walk down the side alley and look for a Thai man acting as security who will acknowledge you and let you through a metal sheet. Pay him 500 Baht ($17 USD) and he will show you the way to the top.
Best time to go? Go around 4:00/5:00pm. This will allow you enough time to catch the daytime, sunset, and nighttime views that Bangkok has to offer at the top.
Why is it called the Ghost Tower? Aside from it being an abandoned building, it is said that a tourist was found hanging on the 37th floor a few years back. Walking back down to the bottom of this tower in the pitch black, with this story in mind, really send chills down your spine and caps off this adrenaline filled adventure.
Located on the outskirts of downtown, take a ride off the beaten path to find Bangkok’s Airplane Graveyard. A site that features numerous old, broken down airplanes.
Climb up into one of these abandoned airplanes and take a seat in the cockpit (“I’m the captain now!”). The airplanes are covered in colorful street graffiti and their grungy interiors make it the perfect place to take pictures and explore. Many of the airplanes still feature the remaining’s of the overhead bins, seats, and even life vests!
How do you get there? You can take a Grab (Thai’s version of Uber; prices will range depending on where you are), or take the local bus route on Bus-514 for 30 Baht ($1 USD).
How do you get in? There’s a Thai family that owns the property. Tell them you want to take pictures, give them 200 Baht ($6 USD), and begin climbing around the old pieces of aerostructures.
For those of you who want to get your unfiltered, Thai-style partying on, make your way to Khao San Road once the sun goes down. This infamous street is lined with food vendors, open-style bars, and people trying to sell you everything from handmade bracelets with crude statements (e.g. I love penis) to whip-its (balloons filled with helium that you inhale).
Every bar is bumping loud music at top volume, colorful lights are flashing in all directions, and intoxicated tourists fill the area shoulder to shoulder. Once the bars close around 2am, you can venture down the side alleys to any of the night clubs and continue your partying til sunrise—literally.
If you’re feeling brave, make sure to try a scorpion (or any of the other bugs that are being sold along the street)—it’s salty and crunchy like a potato chip! And if that doesn’t cut it, head over to 7-11 and grab a “toastie” to satisfy your “drunchies” (drunk munchies).
Located right around Sukhumvit Road, nestled between fancy-high-rise hotels, you can find two more popular areas to drink, party, and see some things you’ve probably never seen before.
Nana Plaza is an open-style bar conglomerate situated on a road that is bustling with more bars, tourists, and food vendors. Sneak off to any of the clubs surrounding its perimeter and get a taste of a Thai-style strip club.
When you’re finished scoping out the scene, head down Sukhumvit a few blocks and find yourself at Cowboy Plaza. This road offers more bars and clubs; and is where you can check out an infamous ping pong show. For those of you who have yet to experience this, I will just confirm that it is not related to the sport..and will let you figure out the rest.
Centrally located along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, check out Asiatique for a beautiful outdoor shopping experience. With the river running along the side, the outdoor bazaar-style shops, and the lights of Bangkok’s tallest Ferris-Wheel shining above; this place is a magical sight to see.
Make your way through the aisles of the shops for inexpensive shopping of hand-crafted clothes and trinkets. Stop at any of the boutique restaurants, or head near the riverside and grab some Thai food at the market for something on the cheaper side.
Make sure to take a ride on the Ferris-wheel (400 Baht/$13 USD) for spectacular views of the Bangkok skyline nestled up against the river, or just hang out near the water and watch the ferries float by.
This place is especially spectacular in the evening, allowing you a chance to catch the sunset over the river and beat the Thai heat.
The Indy Market is located on the opposite side of downtown, across the Chao Phraya River; but it is worth the trip. This huge night market really captures the Thai culture with its tented booths and locals running the show.
The place is bustling with people as you squeeze through the aisles, shoulder to shoulder, looking for the best foods to try. My suggestion: have everyone in your group grab a few different things and meet up in one of the comfy lounge areas in the center to share all of your treats. This shared style of eating is common in Thailand and the best opportunity to try all of the delicious foods that this country has to offer.
Make sure to find the “rainbow-crepe guy” for a tasty dessert. And if you want to have some cold ones after your meal, climb up the stairs of any of the bars outlining the perimeter and catch of birds-eye view of the colorful tents while a Thai local plays live music.
Want a break from Thai culture, and heat? Step your way into the extremely air-conned Terminal 21 and into some of the most popular cities in the world.
This mall is designed like an airport, with each floor being the landing and departure site for well-known destinations such as San Francisco, Istanbul, Paris, and Tokyo. Each floor is decorated to theme and filled with shopping goods of all types.
Foreign-food restaurants are also scattered throughout and there is a Thai-style food hall on the very top floor. If you’re feeling like a movie, follow the smell of popcorn to the Hollywood floor. Make sure to check for movies in English, and stand up when the King’s song comes on during the commercials (yes, this is a thing, and everyone must stand!).