Ah, Bangkok. The chaotic Thai capital has a special place in our hearts (and livers, for that matter). It’s definitely an acquired taste – on our first visit, we weren’t exactly big fans. After returning several times, however, it’s become our favorite city in Southeast Asia. With glittering temples, bustling markets, mouth-watering cuisine, and absolutely epic nightlife, there’s a lot to love about BKK once you scratch the surface.
Although I’d strongly recommend you spend a full week in the city, rent an apartment, and really dive into it all, I realize that’s not feasible for everyone. With a decent plan, it’s definitely possible to rock Bangkok out in three days. Of course, you should also take into account travel days – if you get in on a late flight, don’t count that as your first day. Let’s hope you can get over jet lag quickly or that you’re coming in on a short flight, because it’s going to be an action-packed couple of days. Make your first trip a memorable one by following our Gypsy Guide to 3 Days in Bangkok.
For your first day in Bangkok, you’ll take in some of the most famous temples, admire the city from both a boat and the top of a skyscraper, and wind down with dinner and drinks on one of the hippest streets in town.
In a country that’s 95% Buddhist, you’ll want to begin by exploring some of the stunning temples here. First up, head to Wat Traimit (วัดไตรมิตร). This temple is home to the Golden Buddha, which stands at 3 meters tall and weighs a whopping 5.5 tons.
From there, hop in a tuk-tuk for a short cruise over to Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์). This is one of the oldest and largest temples in the city, and it’s home to the massive Reclining Buddha. This temple is also considered the birthplace of Thai massage, and there’s even a school on the grounds. If you’ve never had a Thai massage, now’s your chance.
From Wat Pho, it’s a simple ferry crossing over the river to your third and final temple of the day – Wat Arun (วัดอรุณ). The Temple of the Dawn derives its name from the Hindu god Arun, and it is an absolutely stunning structure. Best of all, you can climb up to the top of this one and take in a great view of the Chao Phraya River and the city it cuts through.
Lunch and River Cruise
Along the river, you’ve got plenty of options for a scenic, cheap lunch. Refuel with a coffee or go ahead and crack a Chang beer – you’re on vacation! After lunch, take a cruise along the Chao Phraya. Dubbed the “River of Kings” by none other than King Rama I, this river truly is the lifeblood of Bangkok. Passing by more temples, skyscrapers, and riverside shantytowns, you’ll see a lot of the city in a short time by cruising up the river. You can just ride the public ferry or hire your own boat for an hour.
Drinks With a View and Soi 11
With the sun down, it’s time to hit the town and take advantage of Bangkok’s awesome nightlife. Kick things off at the Moon Bar, located on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Keep in mind that there’s a dress code here, so be sure to wear pants and shoes, dudes. The drinks ain’t cheap, but the view of the city sure makes them worth it. If you can afford it, this would be a great spot for dinner as well. For those of you ballin’ on a budget like we tend to do, never fear, because more affordable eats are just around the corner.
Finally, head over to Soi 11 – one of the most popular hangouts amongst the expat crowd. Home to a wide variety of restaurants and bars, it’s the perfect place to wine and dine your day to conclusion. Whether you’re looking for cheap street food or a nice sit down meal, you’ll be able to find it here. This soi is also home to one of the best bars in all of
SE Asia the world – Cheap Charlie’s. It’s not just a clever name, as you’ll enjoy some of the cheapest drinks in the city here amongst good company. Just be sure to get there early, as they do last call at 11:30. If you’ve still got energy to burn, there are plenty of places to cut a rug or just grab another drink or seven right around the corner. Of course, you won’t want to get too rowdy – you’ve still got two busy days left in Bangkok.
On tap for the second day are a couple of markets, one of the city’s best museums, mega-malls, what just might be the best food court ever, and a look at Bangkok’s naughtier side. This plan is best done on a weekend, although if visiting during the week it’s possible to swap the first stop for something else. Ready for another kick-ass day in Bangkok? Here we go!
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The biggest market in Thailand and one of the largest in the world, this weekend market is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Spread out over many acres and featuring thousands upon thousands of stalls split amongst 27 categories, you can find just about anything here. Although there is definitely some method to the madness when it comes to the organization of Chatuchak, you’ll most likely get lost in the maze of stalls that seem to go on forever.
From silly t-shirts, to wood carvings, to beautiful artwork, and even live pets, this place is a one stop shop if there ever was one. There are over 200,000 visitors per day here, so to keep people at the market they’ve also got plenty of food and drink stalls, and you can even sit down and enjoy a massage in between all the shopping!
Or Tor Kor Fresh Market
Considered to be one of the best fresh markets in the world, Or Tor Kor is located steps away from Chatuchak and is the place to get your food shopping done in Bangkok. Here you can pick up fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and everything in between. It’s a bit pricier than other local markets, but the quality can’t be beat here.
Even if you’re just a tourist staying in a hotel and don’t need to do any grocery shopping, this is a great place to come for a cheap, tasty, local lunch. Simply point to the dishes that you want and load up a plate. It’s a great way to fill your belly without emptying your wallet.
Jim Thompson House
Bangkok has plenty of fantastic museums, with one of the most famous being the Jim Thompson House. This museum is the former home of an American businessman who had a deep fascination with Thai culture, especially traditional teak-style houses. He collected many of them from different parts of the country and set them up in Bangkok to house his vast art collection. Mr. Thompson disappeared on Easter Sunday in 1967 while traveling in Malaysia, and this remains a great mystery to this very day. Compulsory guided tours leave every 20 minutes, so it’s easy to just show up and join the next available group.
Shop ’til You Drop
Going to the mall with friends and family is one of the favorite pastimes of Bangkok residents, and more power to them – it’s understandable why you’d want to get out of the heat and off the crowded roads to shop, eat, and be entertained. The city is home to countless mega-malls, with more and more popping up each and every year. Even if you loathe shopping malls (as I do), it’s worth it to take a stroll through at least one of them. At the very least, you get to enjoy air con and get a short break from the stifling heat outside. Some of the most popular malls are the MBK Center, Siam Paragon, and Siam Center.
Best. Food Court. Ever.
Do you love eating street food, but not necessarily enjoy eating in the street? Would you like to indulge in all of the best street food of Thailand, minus the sweltering heat and the rats? Well then you should probably check out Eathai. Located in the fancy Central Embassy mall of Bangkok, this is quite possibly the best food court ever. Highlighting the cuisine from all regions of Thailand in a clean and cool environment, this is one dining experience not to be missed in BKK. Just make sure you come here hungry, because there are so many options you’ll want to try it all!
Bangkok’s Naughty Side
Love it or hate it, the X-rated side of the city’s nightlife is what made it notorious worldwide. Full of neon and bikini-clad ladies (and ladyboys, for that matter), Bangkok’s go-go bars are located in a few different districts around the city. The most famous places are Patpong, Nana Plaza, and Soi Cowboy. Things have calmed down a bit since the military took over, but the party is still going strong and these bars continue to attract a wide variety of people, from curious tourists to “sexpats” looking for some company. These places are much different from the strip clubs or gentlemen’s clubs that you might be used to, and are actually a lot more fun if you ask me.
You might be a little beat at this point, but the third and final day is a good one. Visit an incredible temple, relax in a park, feast on Pad Thai, and hit the legendary Khao San Road.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว) is far and away the most sacred and important temple in the entire country thanks to the cherished relic it contains. The Emerald Buddha, carved from a single jade stone, is said to have been created in India in 43 BC. As the legend goes, it traveled between India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and northern Thailand before finally arriving at Wat Phra Kaew in 1784. It’s an impressive, sprawling complex that’s well worth half a day.
The biggest in all of Southeast Asia, the Bangkok National Museum is home to the largest collection of Thai artifacts and art in the country. Learn a bit about Thai culture and history while perusing the various buildings that were formerly part of King Rama I’s viceroy. Free guided tours are given a few days a week by volunteers, so check the schedule and see if you can join one. If so, you’ll want to switch up the order of this day and hit the museum first, as tours start at 9:30.
It’s been a big day exploring and learning in the temple and museum, so it’s time to relax a bit. Right across from Wat Phra Kaew, you’ll find this large field and public square. Get here around sunset to kick back and relax on the grass while you watch locals fly kites in a place that has held many important royal ceremonies throughout the country’s history.
Sure, it’s the most clichéd Thai dish you could possibly eat, but you can’t pass up an opportunity to eat what might very well be the best Pad Thai in the world. Head to famous Thip Samai for a plate of the famous noodles and a fresh squeezed orange juice. With a full and happy belly, you’ll be ready to tackle your last night in the Thai capital.
Khao San Road
Although it gets a bad reputation as the “backpacker ghetto” of Bangkok,the infamous Khao San Road is a place you’ve got to check out while you’re here. Love it or hate it, this street full of hostels, bars, and street vendors is quite possibly the epicenter of the SE Asian backpacking culture. Grab a cold Chang beer or seven, meet fellow travelers, and dance the night away.
If that trip doesn’t make you fall in love with this city, then I don’t know what will! Hopefully you’ve got more time in Thailand, because there’s still so much to see and do in the Kingdom of Smiles. Explore the ruins of ancient kingdoms, go jungle trekking, get scuba certified, ride the 1,864 curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop, or just chill on a beach. We’ve got tons of awesome stuff on Thailand in the works, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!