If you are a sua ku who has never set foot in Thailand, much less Bangkok, planning your first trip can be exhausting. What do people look for in the land of smiles anyway? Delicious food, cheap shopping, beautiful beaches and mystical temples… The possibilities are endless! What exactly should I do there? Where should I go?
Everyone who’s been there dishes out recommendations but at the end of the day, they all seem to share the same itinerary with their suggestions being a combination of only three things — 1. Transvestites show; 2. Floating market; 3. Elephant ride — all of which sound like tourist traps I’m not interested in.
When in doubt, always ask Google. After the nights I spent trawling through Google and scrutinising Top 10 lists from Bangkok.com, I can finally say I’m no longer a frog in the well when it comes to visiting Bangkok. To make things easier for you, I compiled a list of 10 things to do on your first trip to Bangkok.
1. The Grand Palace
Bangkok’s most famous landmark, The Grand Palace, housed the King and his court for about 150 years. Although the royal Thai family does not live there anymore, The Grand Palace is still one of the most visited landmarks of Thailand due to its unique mix of Western and Thai architectural style. You know what they say? You haven’t been to Bangkok until you visit The Grand Palace.
A complete tour takes about two to three hours and a strict dress code applies — shorts and sleeveless tops are not allowed even in Bangkok‘s sweltering weather. Changing in toilets near The Grand Palace is highly not recommended as the queues are never-ending. Remember to dress appropriately or you will be denied entry into the magnificent palace.
2. Bangkok Boat Tour
Instead of the famous and overcrowded Chao Phraya River, take a boat tour downtown along Khlong Saen Saep River. Affordable and efficient, locals often use boats as a means to escape the monster traffic jams on the roads of Bangkok.
Even though the boat tour is dubbed as Bangkok’s Oriental Venice, it is merely a big canal at best. In place of Venice’s incomparable beauty and atmosphere are the stench of diesel and filthy old transport boats. However, you can take a peek into local life in Bangkok while admiring traditional Thai wooden structures by the river bank. This boat tour is the closest you can get to learning about the way of life in Bangkok.
3. Wat Arun
Also known as the Eiffel Tower of Thailand, Wat Arun is a Buddhist monastery along Phraya River Sipan. With with four prangs surrounding the main prang, Phra Prang, this is Thailand‘s largest domestic Mahayana relic tower decorated by intricate murals. At its highest point, the entire Chao Phraya River and Grand Palace can be seen. This is definitely an alluring scene not to be missed.
The climb down, however, is less desirable with steep steps at 90° — it is recommended to pack light to reduce the burden on your shoulders during the descend and not wear slippers. Go while you’re still young, enjoy the climb up Wat Arun before your knees give way.
The only constant all around the world — Chinatown. The difference between Bangkok‘s and Singapore‘s is the countless number of street stalls selling cheap yet delicious seafood. Spot T&K between the innumerable rows of vendors because that’s where you can satisfy your craving for grilled Thai prawn, curry crab, oysters, lemon sea bass, shrimp paste spinach, dong fen baked crab, fresh oyster omelet, money, shrimp cakes, blood clams, steamed mussels, Thai fried rice… You name it, they have it.
After chowing down the appetising seafood, you can take a stroll along Chinatown where you’ll spot locals selling souvenirs, or you can stop by one of the vendors selling fresh coconut to quench your thirst. Here’s a tip: flag a cab away from the streets of Chinatown or risk taxi drivers quoting you marked up fares.
5. Floating Market
Classic of classics in Bangkok, the two most famous floating markets are Amphawa Floating Market and Damnoen Saduak, although most tourists still prefer Damnoen Saduak. As you cruise through the through the crowded small waterway, you can enjoy picturesque views usually seen on postcards while vendors yell their promotions at you from both sides of the riverbank.
You may even spot some vendors cooking on the boats but remember, just because you see them cooking in a stable manner doesn’t mean you can eat your noodles the same way! They are experts after all and you don’t want to leave the place drenched in soup. Word of advice: if you’re not born with a pair of sturdy hands and years of experience eating offshore, enjoy the noodles after your boat ride instead — you can find them on the streets as well.
After stuffing yourself with piping hot noodles, you may wish to explore Amphawa Floating Market, which is more popular with locals. However, keep in mind that Amphawa Floating Market is opened only on Fridays and Saturdays and is most crowded from 4pm to 8pm.
6. Siam Square
Remember romance movie ‘Love of Siam‘? The lively shopping mall visited by youths in the tearjerker is Siam Square. Popular with teenagers and young adults, Siam Square is the equivalent of Singapore’s Orchard Road. Surrounding the shopping districts are four main malls:
- Siam Paragon: Luxury brands, atas cinemas, underground aquarium
- Siam Center: Fashion brands for youths, trendy clothes
- Siam Discovery: Madame Tussauds, handmade products
- MBK: Departmental stores
If you’re looking for better bargains, skip the malls and head straight to the small alleys instead.
7. Chatuchak Weekend Market
There are three horrors that come with every visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market: 1. No matter how sore your feet gets, you keep on walking till they turn numb, so you end up spending on feet massages; 2. Your wallet will be empty because everything is so cheap compared to Singapore (pssst, there’s an ATM nearby if you need it); 3. You leave with painful hands after a day of lugging your bags of loots around.
Fellow shopaholics, listen up! Sleep early the night before, wear comfortable shoes and bring a wallet loaded with bahts to prepare yourself for a productive shopping day.
8. Khao San Road
Known for cheap accommodation, Khao San Road is a backpacker’s heaven. Expect to see ang mohs with giant backpacks filled with necessities for their one or two month stay in Thailand. Other than the hordes of foreigners you meet here, the difference between Khao San Road and the rest of Bangkok is the abundance of bars, coffee shops and western food. The place only gets more exciting after dusk!
9. Soi Cowboy
Similar to NaNa and Patpong to attract tourists and clients, Soi Cowboy is Bangkok‘s famous red light district with more than 40 bars down the short street. Walking in, you’ll be greeted by a scene just like any a-go-go bar — alcoholic drinks with girls in bikini dancing on the stage; some illegal bars even take it up a notch with naked girls.
Clients can pay to spend a night with these girls and locals frequent these bars for prostitutes too. Most of the prostitutes hailed from rural parts of Northeast Thailand. Remember: never head up to the second floor of the red light district to avoid extortion.
10. Asiatique the Riverfront
With Chao Phraya River and a signature Ferris wheel surrounding Asiatique, you won’t miss this open-air mall. Spanning over a total of ten districts, with every district distinctly different from another, you either can enjoy your dinner while listening to live bands play or walk across districts to explore the different goods sold.
One of the more popular malls in Bangkok in the recent years, Asiatique wins hands down when it comes to cleanliness and affordability of the products sold. You can even watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve!
Are you contemplating on visiting Bangkok this coming long weekend? Maybe this video from Tourism Authority of Thailand will help you make up your mind.
Still want to learn more about things to do in Thailand before booking your flights? Let KKday help you discover the charms of Thailand!
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