Things to do in Bangkok

Get Your Bearings in Bangkok

By Dave Stamboulis
Bangkok Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

Bangkok is one of the top spots in the world to splurge on 5 star lodgings. Take your pick between elegant old hotels along the Chao Phraya River or swanky new, cutting edge digs around Silom Road and the city center. The best lodging choices here all offer sumptuous buffet breakfasts, sky bars, and world-class restaurants to go with the premium sleep. The river area is the most relaxed and atmospheric part of the city, whereas the central areas offer quick access to the BTS Skytrain along with a dizzying variety of eating and nightlife all around.

Caution:

Book ahead for Christmas and New Year, the most crowded time here.

Hot Tips:

Last-minute Internet booking can yield some great finds with all the hotel competition in Bangkok.

What to Eat

Bangkok is voted by many as the best city to eat in in the world. From posh rooftop restaurants to out of the way, hole-in-the-walls, you can be eating spicy Thai, Japanese sashimi or even Ethiopian all on the same day. The best restaurants tend to cluster around Silom Road, but it's also worth it to go out of your way to experience simple local eateries. Do make sure to mix it up while in Bangkok, try northern and southern cuisine, as well as fine Italian while visiting.

Hot Tips:

Don't be scared of street stalls or restaurants with Formica tables and metal stools; they often serve the best food in town!

Be Sure to Sample:

Som tam (papaya salad), grilled chicken, and sticky rice.

Things to See

While not overly noted for its attractions, Bangkok does have enough sightseeing to keep you busy for many days. In addition to all the temples, there are some excellent day tours that can be made around the city, taking in the green spaces or river areas that most visitors don't often get to see. Bangkok may not have the art galleries or history museums of places like Paris or Cairo, but it does have its fair share of quirky little museums that are highly worthy of a stopover.

Avoid:

Tuk tuk drivers and anyone who tells you that sights are "closed" or who want to give you a free ride; they are just out to scam you.

Hot Tips:

Don't miss Wat Phra Kaew and the Emerald Buddha, if you only have time for one temple, this is the grand daddy of them all.

Places to Party

The government closing laws of the past years may have slightly dampened Bangkok's reputation as a city that never sleeps, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying some of the the world's highest rooftop bars, along with the best dance clubs, music venues and new snazzy spots to sip the latest signature cocktail. Roof or riverside bars are the place to start at sunset, moving to the clubs and pub venues along Sukhumvit and Silom Roads as the night progresses.

Hot Tips:

Many drinking spots have great happy hour deals before 7 or 8, or special nights for ladies; do some research before heading out.

Where to Shop

It seems like there is a new shopping mall going up every month in Bangkok, and the city has some of the most fashionable upscale shopping malls in the world. Not only are the malls here full of designer shops and goods, they are great spots to eat, watch movies and enjoy the cold air conditioning. For more traditional goods, don't forget to visit some of the outdoor markets such as Chatuchak or the Talat Rod Fai retro market on weekends, which give a nice slice of local flavor.

Caution:

Pirated goods are illegal in most countries and you can get in trouble with customs back home, so avoid the fake watches, clothes and other goods that are hawked at the night markets and elsewhere here.

Take It or Leave It:

Bargaining is de rigeur here, but don't expect to knock off more than 20% of the quoted price.

Best Local Souvenir:

Thai pillows, cushions, and silk products are all worth bringing home.

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Things to do in Bangkok


Bangkok is known for...

Five of Bangkok's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Food:

From bottom to top, Bangkok is one of the best places to eat in the world. It has some of the tastiest and cleanest street food one will find anywhere on the planet. In fact, a large majority of Thais buy their meals from street vendors rather than cook, as the dishes are delicious and very inexpensive. Everyone has their favorite stall, just ask around. On the other end of the spectrum, fine dining in chic and luxurious surroundings also abound, in 5 star hotels, on rooftops, and in relaxing gardens. And in between, well, maybe the best of both worlds!

2. Wats (Temples):

Throughout time, the images of Bangkok most renowned are those of wats, or temples, whose slanting roofs and gables are gilded in gold and replete with mythical naga serpents. Famed temples like Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, rise gracefully from the Chao Phraya River. The wats are not only tourist attractions, but living pilgrimage spots, and thousands of locals visit daily to make merit, burn joss sticks, and ask for luck in the coming year. The most famous temple is Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha statue, but there are hundreds more to choose from, each with their own colors, history, and stories of interest.

3. Nightlife:

Bangkok has always been infamous for its naughty nightlife, and the entertainment districts of Patpong and Nana are still going strong. However the City of Angels has truly diversified and gone very chic and modern in setting the trend for a night out. New wine bars and imported beer pubs are springing up weekly, the city now boasts champagne bars, as well as the greatest collection of rooftop drinking spots to be found in Asia. There is retro, rock and roll, jazz, blues and plenty of live music, and there are also huge discos and clubs with live DJ’s spinning world beats, and if this doesn’t appeal, plenty of local whiskey drinkers at cozy corner stalls.

4. Traffic:

Bangkok’s congestion and massive traffic jams are legendary, but visitors can escape most of them by making use of all the shiny new transport options. The BTS Skytrain is probably the most useful, running through most of the downtown business and entertainment districts along Silom, Siam, and Sukhumvit. There is now also the MRT Subway, which connects to the Skytrain in several points and covers other key areas of the city. And last but certainly not least is the new Airport Link, which runs from downtown to the international airport in an astonishing 15 minutes. The local version of the Link stops along Petchaburi Road, and is far faster than a taxi.

5. Cityscapes:

Bangkok sprawls, and from ground level can be overwhelming in the heat, traffic, and general chaos. However it is a fantastic city to be seen from above, with tremendous sunsets, rainstorms, and views of the various temples dotting the landscape, Chao Phraya River, and the sleek modern architecture that engulfs the central city. There are dozens of rooftop bars, restaurants, hotels, and other sky high spots to choose from, which all get plenty of cooling breezes and are a great spots to chill out, watch the sun go down, and watch the lightshow over the metropolis begin. Many of the high rise hotels have rooftop pools for sunbathing and swimming so even hot afternoons can be escaped.