I really wanted to get this Bangkok travel guide out whilst Bangkok is fresh in my head. As I sit writing this in Don Mueang airport, I can reflect on our time in Bangkok as two weeks really well spent. Read on for a quick Bangkok travel guide. Find out what’s worth seeing in Bangkok and how to maximise your time in this great city.
Bangkok is one of those cities that really surprised us. We’ve seen a few capital cities so far and generally disliked them. Delhi was too hectic and Vientiane was a little sleepy. It’s fair to say that so far, we’ve learned not to expect too much from capitals. All that changes here though – we have loved Bangkok.
The contrast of the old and the new, along with the sheer amount there is to do and see here, has left us with a poignant sense of sadness as we depart.
The following is an account of what I think is worth seeing and what you might want to skip – a Bangkok travel guide.
Ok, I’m gonna start this with a confession. We actually only visited one temple in Bangkok 😂. The Golden Mount is incredible and you should definitely visit. However, we were templed out by the time we got to Bangkok. We’d seen so many in the weeks before, we were really looking for other things to do.
I’ve heard the Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha and Grand Palace are really great, but I try not to recommend things personally unless I’ve actually visited. Even if you’re like us and a bit templed out by South East Asia, be sure to visit at least one temple in Bangkok. It’s important to see that contrast between the old of the temples and the new of the malls and sky train.
Alright, here are the real highlights of this Bangkok travel guide. The markets in Bangkok are really special. Unquestionably, they’re the cheapest way to eat the best food – find out more about that here. Note that the Bangkok markets are experts in selling you crap you don’t need.
Chatuchak market is excellent. Someone told me it’s one of the biggest markets in the world – you can really feel it when you’re there. Thousands and thousands of stalls, all with surprisingly reasonable prices. If you need clothes as we did (9 weeks of travelling takes a hit on your clothes – especially white items!) there’s no better place than here. T shirts will cost you $2-3. Shirts $4-5 and trousers $7-8. Not bad quality either. Surprisingly, most of the vendors aren’t open to a bit of bartering here. I think they’ve all come to some kind of agreement not to negotiate. There’s even signs in a few places asking you not to try. We still tried and knocked off 10-20 baht in most places.
Rot Fai night market is awesome. There’s clothes and bars, but you need to go for the food. Hundreds and hundreds of stalls, all selling the widest variety of foods around. I tried all kinds of weird meats – I actually stopped asking what I was eating by the end. The mealworms and cockroach stalls were a step to far for me, but some people rave about them! If that’s not your speed, you can easily grab fresh chicken with french fries.
Definitely eat at the markets and street vendors. The food is often just as good as restaurants, but at a fraction of the price. I read that all the street stalls are regulated by the government – if that’s true, it’s actually not surprising. They’re all clean and use fresh ingredients. Get the Pad Thai whenever you can.
Our favourite restaurant was Eat Sight Story. It’s great for a treat and offers breathtaking views of the Chao Phraya river and Wat Arun. We got two starters, mains and drinks for $40. So certainly on the expensive side, but if you’re looking for somewhere on a special occasion or a special treat you can’t go wrong here.
We also really liked Kinkao restaurant. Excellent authentic Thai food. We dined with a Thai friend so apologies, I have no idea what the dishes we had were called 😂. We had this huge fish that looked like it was killed 5 minutes before we ate it. All kinds of curries and meats – it was really great. Our friend said it was her favourite Thai food in the city. Three of us ate a veritable feast for around $35, so pretty well priced all in all.
Even if you’re not usually one for bars and nightclubs, you have to see some of Bangkok’s nightlife.
I didn’t see any rooftop bars myself, but Mary met a friend in Octave Rooftop Lounge. The views look incredible, and Mary hasn’t stopped raving about how great it was. It’s a little pricey, but I’m being told to type it’s “worth every penny.”
We also had a night in Sukhumvit. This place felt like the cool, young, hip place to be seen out in Bangkok. There’s loads of nice bars to spend a night hopping around in. The live music in Sukhumvit was the bad side of average, so it’s best to visit somewhere like the Australian Bar where you can have a dance. It’s not exactly cheap, but it had a really cool feel (perhaps too cool if you get turned away from hip hop clubs like we did – our shoes weren’t “cool” enough 🤓😅).
Khaosan Road is a must – a backpackers paradise. Cheap clothes, with cheap bars and even cheaper drinks. You can get huge buckets of alcohol for $2-3. 2-3 of those will sort you out big time. Khaosan road isn’t clean, it’s not fancy and it’s really not a good example of Thai culture (I did eat a scorpion there if that counts 🙄). But if you’re looking for a cheap night out that’s guaranteed to be fun, spend a big night here.
We also had a great night at the Calypso Ladyboys cabaret. Know that the lip syncing and singing is truly awful. However, staring at their crotches and trying to find where they hide it is great fun.
Spend a few hours in Lumphini Park. It’s one of the real highlights in this Bangkok travel guide. The equivalent of Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London, Lumphini Park is a nice break from the concrete jungle. Go when we did at 6pm to see all the free exercises classes. Join in with a ballroom dancing class if you’re feeling adventurous. Be warned, there’s about a million joggers who will not stop to let you pass (quite right too). Go during the day too, take a picnic and admire the swan pedalos on the lakes. We didn’t see any, but we’ve heard there are massive monitor lizards roaming the park, so watch out!
This section should help you get around the city. Here’s a transport in Bangkok travel guide.
If you’re not careful, transport around Bangkok can be a nightmare. If you can help it, don’t try to get anywhere between 5-7pm.
Your first choice should be public transport. Get the BTS Skytrain or metro if you can. They’re extremely reasonably priced and have a lot of convenient stations around the city. Make sure you get the boat on the Chao Phraya river at least once. The boat is a cool activity in itself, but at rush hour actually becomes the fastest way to get around the city.
If you have to use the hugely congested roads, use a ride hailing app like Uber first. You’re guaranteed a reasonable price – it’ll be much cheaper than the price quoted by tuk tuk drivers.
Bangkok is a really special city and I hope this Bangkok travel guide entices you into it.
If you’re used to just breezing over capital cities, consider giving this one a little more attention. Some of our friends from the UK have actually settled here, and after visiting we’re not surprised.
Yes it’s crowded and yes it’s a little dirty. It’s not the perfect city, but it really doesn’t try to be. Bangkok embraces the old and the new, the tacky and the stylish, the poor and the rich.
Bangkok and it’s people will welcome you with open arms – that seems to be the real essence of its character.