This post is thought to be a comprehensive guide about Bangkok. It shows tourist sights that you simply have to see, insight tips of locations that no tourist guide covers and information gathered over the past two years that I spent in one of the craziest places on earth. However it is impossible to come up with a ‘complete list’ of all things that happen in Bangkok. More than 10 Million people make every single day an exciting adventure.
Bangkok has many names
Let’s start with something to show off with and to keep the irritation to a minimum. Bangkok is not called Bangkok in Thailand. It is widely referred to as Krung Thep (The City of Angels) or Krung Thep Mahanakhon (The great City of Angels). Bangkok’s real name in Thai is much longer and considered the longest city name in the world. To keep it short and simple just remember that locals might refer to Bangkok as Krung Thep.
There are many rumors and warnings all across common travel guides. They all state to be aware of scammers and that is, of course, a good advice. However there is no need to be scared or paranoid when walking around Bangkok. The ‘bad guys’ usually don’t pull you over in some lonely alley and rob you – they simply try to talk you into giving them the money for some crazy or unnecessary service. So the best rule to avoid scamming: Don’t leave your common sense at home, then you’ll be fine. If somebody is ‘over-friendly’ to you and just won’t stop talking while playing with his mobile phone (probably texting the next Tuk Tuk driver to pick you up) just be aware and able to say ‘NO, thanks’. That’s enough.
Tip: Always stay friendly. The guys quite likely come up with a very thoughtful story. Smile and say no, that’s ok. No need to get rude.
A TukTuk ride is definitely something everybody should do once. It’s not very comfortable and, due to it’s (missing) height, you won’t be able to see a lot, but it simply belongs to Bangkok just like the Grand Palace and Pad Thai. Once again the warning though: Use common sense. If the TukTuk guy tells you ‘My friend, 20 Baht only’ without actually knowing where you want to go you can be sure he’ll scam you and probably drive you to some shops that pay him off to do exactly that. So like always, common sense helps to you enjoy a Bangkok original. Simply don’t try to save on the wrong end.
Tip: Take a TukTuk from the Golden Mount to The Grand Palace. You won’t get scammed and experience a TukTuk ride while heading for the next tourist attraction.
Pin Pong Show
Unless you travel as a couple you will hear this term quite often when spending time in main tourist areas like Khaosan Road or Sukhumvit. Taxi and TukTuk drivers will very likely utter those words when you pass them (might sound something like this: ‘Hey my friend…Ping Pong Show…come come’). I don’t want to get to much into it since it is already quite ‘famous’ among backpackers but just in case you haven’t heard of it before: It is not a sport! It’s a sex show. So if you say yes to those offers, be prepared.
The obvious sights & attractions
I firmly believe that you already know most of the ‘must see’ attractions from your travel guide. So I will not focus on them a lot but still mention them just so you remember.
The Golden Mount
One of the ‘must see’ must see temples in Bangkok. Like the name states on a ‘mountain’ with a nice view over Bangkok. It’s located quite close to the ‘Democracy Monument’ and Khaosan Road so it’s easy to reach and worth a visit. You’ll have to climb a lot of steps to make it to the top though.
Best time to go: In the morning. You will be glad that you woke up a little early instead of walking these steps in the hot afternoon sun.
How to go: Walk from Khaosan Road or Democracy Monument / TukTuk
The Grand Palace – Wat Phra Kaew
Without any doubt THE temple in Bangkok. It is home to the famous ‘Emerald Buddha’ and hosts different further important figures and accommodations. In short: It’s huge, interesting and also quite expensive if you are a foreigner. Nevertheless everybody should have seen it at least once. Prepare a lot of time so you don’t need to hurry through and keep in mind that most temples close at around 4.30 pm.
Best time to go: Morning / early afternoon. You need a lot of time to see everything and understand a little bit. Come back in the dark though. You’ll be able to get a lot of great pictures with cool lighting.
How to go: TukTuk from Golden Mount or anywhere else / River Boat (orange line) from Khaosan Road (Phra Attit Pier)
Wat Arun – The Temple Of Dawn
Compared to the other temples it’s quite small but has a very own atmosphere. Like the name states it’s the temple of dawn. You know what you have to do.
Best time to go: Have a guess! I recommend you watch the sunrise from the bridge nearby or the pier across Chao Praya River. It’s worth it.
How to go: Walk from Grand Palace / River Boat (orange line) from Khao San Road (Phra Attit Pier)
Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha
Sorry for this statement but you’ll probably have never seen such a big ass Buddha statue before. The Reclining Buddha is incredibly famous and very impressive. Go there. Under all circumstances.
Best time to go: When you’re finished with The Grand Palace. Wat Pho is right next to it and doesn’t take that much time.
How to go: Walk from The Grand Palace / River boat from Khaosan Road (Phra Attit Pier)
Chatuchak weekend market
I honestly have no idea what makes tourists go there. It’s a HUGE market, sure. But it is crowded as hell and almost leaves you no place to breathe. However it is incredibly famous so I guess you’ll be going there anyway. Kinda like Oktoberfest. You know it’s crowded and crazy but you are doing it anyway. Don’t get annoyed though, I warned you!
When you finally got annoyed you still can leave the market and head over to Chatuchak Park or Queen Sirikit Park. Two of the nicest green areas in Bangkok and very close to the craziness.
Best time to go: Look at the name.
How to go: Subway: Station Chatuchak / BTS: Station Mo Chit / Bus
Baiyoke II Sky Hotel
No, you are not supposed to check in there! Baiyoke II is the highest building in Thailand and offers you a great view over Bangkok. It is free after 21.30 but you won’t be able to go out into the open area. If you come early you have to pay entrance fee but you will be able to get an amazing view and take some very cool pictures of the City of Angels. There is also a bar and restaurant up there so you won’t get bored.
Best time to go: Before sunset so you’ll be able to take pictures during daylight and after sunset. Both great experiences.
How to go: BTS to Chit Lom or Siam then walk / TukTuk / Bus
Unusual places to go
Now that we have the ‘typical tourist’ attractions behind us it’s time for three of the cool spots that are not mentioned in any tourist guide.
Memorial Bridge Night Market
The Memorial Bridge Night Market is, like the name states, a night market right beyond the Memorial Bridge. The cool thing about it is that it is also close to the HUGE flower market which is also a nice thing to see at least once. Thai life at its best!
The night market itself offers everything you expect from such a place. Cheap (fake) shoes and clothing, awesome and interesting food, fruits and drinks and a cool atmosphere.
Tip: Stroll around the market, buy some fruits, food and drinks and then do it like the local youth and head up to the Memorial Bridge, sit on the edge, watch the Chao Praya beneath you and enjoy being in Krung Thep. There aren’t many foreigners hanging out but the teens / students that hang out there are always friendly and very often talkative. Give it a try but don’t force anything.
Best time to go: At lunch time…of course not. At night!
How to go: By bus or taxi. It’s not to far away from Wat Pho.
Saphan Taksin – Taksin Bridge
It doesn’t sound that cool. After all, it’s just a bridge. Going there won’t disappoint you though. Especially if you are the proud owner of a good camera. Saphan Taksin offers you an amazing view over the Chao Praya river and the skyline of Bangkok. This is one of the places that will make you say ‘I love Bangkok’. It is not a nice place to spend a lot of time though due to all the traffic on the bridge but the view at night is incredible and definitely worth the trip.
Best time to go: At night
How to go: BTS to Saphan Taksin station
The Bangkok Tollway
I can already hear you saying ‘are you kidding me?’. No, I am not. Since the Bangkok tollway is a little expensive most locals avoid it what makes complete sense of course. This fact however is what makes it worth doing it anyway. If you go there at dawn or sunset you will have the amazing skyline of Bangkok directly in your face. Most of the cool and amazing Bangkok Skyline shots you see in videos or movies have been taken there. If you go there don’t be like Michael Schumacher. Once you enter the tollway and you head up towards the upper level make sure to take it slow, open the windows and listen to ‘Bangkok, oriental city’ in the radio.
Best time to go: Sunrise
How to go: How do you enter a tollway?
One last advice: Don’t be afraid of new experiences in ‘The Big Mango’ and in Thailand in general. Eat street food, take a local bus and learn some Thai. Most importantly though: Enjoy your trip!