When tourists decide to visit tropical Thailand, otherwise known as the Land of Smiles, their holiday would not be complete without making a stop in bountiful Bangkok! From hosting incredible cultural celebrations to being home to a rich history, here are our top 23 interesting and iconic experiences this city has to offer.
1. Take a moment to simply be in Bangkok
Nestled between the Chao Phraya River Delta; in Central Thailand lives a concrete jungle home to over 8.3 million people. Coming in at 606 square miles, this cosmopolitan city is big and bustling. Before we jump into the attractions and activities, we suggest taking some time to absorb the energy of the city, peeking behind the veil of the tourist lens to get a clearer look at how some locals may live their lives.
2. Fall in love with the street food
If you are looking for an authentic taste of Thailand, look no further than the many family-owned stalls that line the streets of Bangkok’s cityscape. Most locals and tourists alike live off of the street food, meaning that there is always an affordable and delectable treat waiting for us around every corner. A few popular dishes to look out for are: Papaya Salad (Som Tam), Fried Rice (Khao Pad), Salty Barbequed Fish (Pla Pao), Stir-Fried Pork with Basil (Pad Krapao Moo).
3. Enjoy the city’s finer foods
For those who prefer to relax with a sit-down meal catered for kings and queens, Bangkok has an extensive classy culinary scene that will not disappoint. From the French-fusion offered by La Normandie to the transcendental Thai dishes at Nahm to the wonderful hubs like Vogue Lounge, Bangkok has an impressive menu of Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants. These amazing meals are often paired with immaculate cityscapes and sensational scenery to offer an unforgettable fine-dining experience.
4. Go to the Grand Palace
One of the most popular tourist sites in Bangkok, the Grand Palace lies in the heart of the city and is made up of many beautifully crafted buildings. One of these buildings includes Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This 14th century symbol of Thai spirituality is seen as one of the most sacred temples in Thailand. This palace used to be the home of Kings, and is still used to celebrate auspicious ceremonies today.
5. Time travel with temple tours
Transport to another time by taking a tour of the surrounding temples. By admiring the intricate architecture and seeing how the Buddhist monks honor age-old traditions, we get a taste of what ancient Thailand must have been as we step through and share their sacred grounds. Must-see temples include Wat Pho, home to the 151 feet long reclining Buddha; Wat Saket, accessible by climbing up an artificial mountain; Wat Suthat, characterized by its giant red swing; and Wat Traimit, home to the biggest solid gold statue in the world.
6. Ride along the Chao Phraya River
What better way to explore the banks of the Chao Phraya River than by hitching a ride on the many red ferry boats available. This easy and enjoyable day adventure is not only affordable but allows tourists the freedom to check out the various sights at their leisure and build a tour based on their interests. The Buddhist temple Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn, lies on the west bank of the river and is a wonder to witness in the first light of the morning sun.
7. Frolic through the flower market
While on the ferry ride, a faint scent of flowers can fill the air as we overlook the river. Tourists can hop off at Pak Khlong Talat, a market situated along the canal since the 18th century. Now a flower market, we can see heaps and bounds of beautiful blooms everywhere we look. Locally grown flowers include vibrant orchids, magnificent chrysanthemums, fragrant jasmine, lovely lilies, and more! Visitors can also purchase imported flowers, locally grown fruit and vegetables, sacred offerings called Phuang Malai, cone-shaped offerings that are known as Bai Sri, as well as incense.
8. Check out Chinatown
Near the river is yet another attraction that cannot be missed, the Chinatown in Bangkok is one of the biggest in the world and offers a unique eating and shopping experience. On-the-go snacks include oyster omelets, dim sum of all types, flat noodles, ice cream, and other Chinese-Thai desserts. Interesting items of all types, from teddybears to pretty pens hidden in a maze of shops, mean tourists with a sense of adventure will most certainly have a good time!
9. Bicycle through Bangkok’s Green Lung
Near the Chao Phraya River lies the Bang Krachao green space, a tropical jungle that offers a perfect nature getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. When viewed through Bangkok’s satellites, the area resembles a lung which became its namesake. Accessed by boat, tourists can hire a bike and ride through the 16-kilometer forest passing coconuts, mossy rocks, palm leaves, and perhaps the odd snake or water monitor. There are also wooden village houses, small temples, an eco-resort, and a botanical garden – giving visitors a range of opportunities to connect with nature.
10. Marvel at the many markets
Markets have intertwined themselves into the nature of this busy city, playing a pivotal part in providing a livelihood for many locals. There are so many markets we can visit, including the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest market in Thailand. If we are looking for something different, perhaps the Mae Klong Railway Market which is located on a railway track and is moved throughout the day to make way for passing trains. There are also many floating markets such as the Amphawa or Damnoen Saduak that offer delicious delicacies, handicrafts, fashion, and more!
11. See what the nightlife has in store
When the sun goes down, Bangkok transforms into a new creature altogether, alive with the fun and festivity of its night time shenanigans. Whether it’s rooftop cafés, crazy nightclubs, extravagant lounges, bouncy backpackers, Karaoke clubs, or the entirety of Khao San Road – there is undoubtedly something for everyone when it comes to Bangkok’s nightlife. As the inspiration for both the classic club song “One Night in Bangkok” as well as the movie “Hangover 2” – an adventure into the nightlife is almost a right of passage for all travelers who venture here.
12. Take in the traditional Thai shows
There are many shows available for the theatrically inclined traveler, such as the most famously renowned Siam Niramit. This is a remarkable show presented in a 2000-seat dinner theatre, showcasing the story of Thailand’s heritage through traditional music, classical dance, elaborate costumes, and more. Other places to see the classical arts include the National Theatre, Erawan Shrine, and the Thailand Cultural Center. Another famous show Thailand is known for is it’s immaculate Cabaret performances, held in many restaurants and theaters throughout Bangkok city.
13. Meander through the Khlongs
The canals, known as Khlongs, form the many waterways throughout Bangkok. Over and above the main Chao Phraya River, there are two additional waterways including the Khlong Saen Saeb (which cuts across Bangkok city from east to west) and the Khlongs of Thonburi (a network of canals on the opposite side of the river). Tourists can get an in-depth look into the heart of local life passing through farms, orchid nurseries, and traditional residential villages. This exploration can be done riding boats like long-tails, ferries, shuttles, or cruises.
14. Cuddle cuties at animal cafes
Another thing Bangkok is known for is having an array of animal cafés throughout the city, offering up an adorable way to spend an afternoon with cute little critters. Some animal cafés, such as the Little Zoo Café, have all types of wild animals for their patrons to play with. Other cafés only offer certain animals; such as raccoons at the Pooltime Café, kitties at Caturday, and bunnies at the Rabito Café. If you are an animal lover or just feel like a cuddle from a four-legged friend, there are over 35 animal cafés available!
15. Spoil yourself with a shopping spree
If there is one place you can shop till you drop, it’s Bangkok! For electronics and Thai branded clothes, check out MBK. For geeky gadgets, go to Pantip Plaza. For international brands and sportswear, Central World is the place to be. For clothing and accessories, the Platinum Fashion mall will rock your world. For high-end shoppers looking for luxury, Siam Paragon is the answer. These are just the tip of the shopping iceberg in Bangkok, as there are many more specialized shops and general malls available.
16. Order a motorcycle taxi
The driving conditions throughout Bangkok are on another level, with the many motorbikes and scooters weaving in between cars and trucks to create the elaborate fabric of the city’s traffic scape. As we do not recommend taking on these streets without proper licensing or experience, a motorcycle taxi is the next best thing. This adrenaline-pumping experience will give you the ride of your life as you come within inches of surrounding cars as your driver effortlessly navigates the crowded streets to get you safely to your destination.
17. Visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is an ancient city outside of Bangkok, home to some breathtaking Buddhist statues and temple ruins accessible along a bicycle ride. Tourists can check out Wat Maha That, a temple with the famous sight of a Buddha head statue entangled in tree roots; Wat Ratchaburana, offering an opportunity to explore deep inside the temple; Wat Thammikarat, a working temple with a display or many rooster statues; and Wat Phra Ram, nestled in a tranquil garden setting. There are many more sights to see at this lesser-frequented yet equally stunning ancient city.
18. Learn about the history of Kanchanaburi
Kicking off with an iconic train ride on the infamous Death Railway, tourists travel 150 kilometers passing over the River Kwai to get to Kanchanaburi. Thereafter, tourists can visit the War Cemetery and learn about the POW that built the railway at the JEATH War Museum. For the nature lovers, there is the Krasae Cave as well as the Erawan National Park, where they can find a stunning seven tier waterfall. There is also the Kanchanaburi Elephants World, an ethical sanctuary which is home to old and previously neglected elephants.
19. Climb up an abandoned tower
For those fitness fanatics, adrenalin junkies, or social media personalities willing to make a sacrifice for the ‘gram; why not climb up an abandoned tower? The Sathorn Unique Tower, known as the Ghost Tower, is a 49 story residential and retail building that was abandoned during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Today, the locals believe it’s haunted, but that hasn’t stopped thrill-seeking tourists from checking it out. Climbers can expect to see interesting graffiti as well as breathtaking views of the city.
20. Watch a Muay Thai fight
Although Muay Thai was developed as an ancient fighting technique used in the military, it is now primarily a spectator sport. This fighting technique uses fists, elbows, knees, and shins to take down opponents earning the name ‘the art of eight limbs’. There are many boxing stadiums throughout Bangkok where viewers can witness this impressive fighting style; such as the Siam, New Lumpinee, and Rajadamnern boxing stadiums. If you are planning a longer stay, you can even learn a thing or two by attending classes at local gyms.
21. Enjoy a Thai Massage
Experiencing this massage is a must, especially after a long day of adventuring around the streets and temples of Bangkok city. This massage practice originated in Thailand by Buddhist monks over 2,500 years ago and offers a range of benefits such as balancing energy, relieving tension in joints and muscles, and increasing flexibility. The massage is done fully clothed, with the therapist moving the body into various deep stretches. These affordable and energizing massages are readily accessible all over the city.
22. Visit uniquely themed bars
When it comes to looking for something out of the ordinary, the Bangkok bar scene has us covered! Some of the most decadent and dramatically decorated bars in the world can be found in this city including Iron Fairies, Sing Sing, Maggie Choo’s, A.R Sutton & Co Engineers Siam, The House on Sathorn, and Third Pig. If we are looking for a taste of history, we can visit Bamboo Bar, the oldest Jazz bar in Bangkok, or search for secret but wildly popular speakeasies such as Havana Social and Tep Bar.
23. Take part in meaningful celebrations
The Thai culture is known for hosting some amazing celebrations, one of which includes Songkran, the traditional Thai new years. Between 13 and 15 April every year, friends and strangers spray one another with water to wash away any bad luck. This always erupts into a giant water fight, where people of all types celebrate together into the early morning. Loy Krathong is another breathtaking celebration, held on the 31st of October, where locals release candle-lit boats shaped like lotus flowers down the river. This wholesome celebration symbolizes letting go of anger and negativity.