Today Maria talks about the top things to do in Bangkok – tourist attractions! Bangkok is the seat of power of the only country in Southern Asia to have never been colonized. Nowadays, Thailand’s capital is one of the most important airline hubs around the world, making the city a top stopover.
Enjoy both the highlights and some must-see hidden gems by following this brief Bangkok tourist attractions guide!
Top Bangkok Tourist Attractions
Wat Pho, the birthplace of traditional Thai massage
Even if you’re not into temples when looking for the best things to see in Bangkok, you can’t miss Wat Pho: it tops the list of highest grade first-class royal temples in Thailand.
What’s even more interesting? This temple served as the earliest public education center in the entire country, still housing a traditional Thai medical school to this day.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the birthplace of traditional Thai massage as we know it! Make sure you make an appointment at the place where it all began.
Two hundred years of Thai royalty at the Grand Palace
Just a few steps away from Wat Pho is the equally-impressive Grand Palace.
The complex served as the official residence of Siamese kings for over two centuries.
While the current Thai king lives in the Dusit Palace, its wealth of history and intricate, mixed-style architectural details make the Grand Palace one of the top Bangkok tourist attractions in my book as well.
Tip: allow yourself a minimum of 4 hours here, in addition to arriving by opening time. Its sheer size and unrelenting hordes of Chinese tourists are the top reasons why.
Chow down the best street food
We would be doing a disservice to the best things to do in Bangkok if we didn’t mention the food! Thailand’s capital is, arguably, one of the best cities in Asia (or even the world) for street food. For this reason, it is imperative you chow down some of the following districts during your Bangkok visit:
- Bangrak (บางรัก)
- Bang Khun Non (บางขุนนนท์)
- Victory Monument (อนุสาวรีย์ชัยสมรภูมิ)
- Ratchawat Market (ราชวัตร)
- Talat Phlu (ตลาดพลู)
Definitely some of the best spots for first-time visitors to Thailand to get a taste of its cheapest, most authentic dishes. Everything from the world-renowned Pat Thai noodles to the steamy Tom Kha soup and sweet khanom bueang “tacos” can be found in stalls there.
Try boat noodles at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
While quite touristy, Damnoen Saduak is a unique day trip from Bangkok.
The floating market still retains its charm and some authenticity, with local vendors floating down the river, selling fresh food and ingredients.
As a visitor, you must have a bowl of Doy Kuay Teow Reua. Known in English as “boat noodles,” this Chinese-inspired soup is made with crispy pork skins, liver, and even wontons in a dark, spicy chili broth.
Discover the roots of Thai cuisine at Yaowarat
Speaking of Thai food: did you know that some of the most popular Thai dishes are variations of Chinese originals?
An influx of mainly Teochew and Hokkien immigrants migrated to Thailand around the 15th century. They brought with them not only recipes, but also cooking techniques such as stir-frying in a wok.
For this reason, I enlisted the help of Taste of Thailand Food Tours to explore the heart of Yaowarat–Bangkok’s Chinatown.
Some dishes I was introduced to include:
- Original Dim Sum
- Pork belly and offal noodle soup (Kuay Jab Nam Sai)
- Peppery rolled noodle soup with crispy pork (Guay Jab)
- Black sesame dumplings in ginger tea (Bua Loy Nam King)
Questionable nightlife at Khao San Road and Soi Cowboy
There are certain things in life you must try (or visit) at least once. This was my motto when heading to Khao San Road.
Backpackers swarm the streets, buying cheap Engrish T-shirts or sipping massive bucket cocktails from converted Volkswagen van bars.
It’s an odd, chaotic street show that sums up the typical Bangkok backpacker scene.
Soi Cowboy, on the other hand, epitomizes a slightly darker side of the city’s nightlife.
Questionable “ping-pong shows,” scantily-clad young women and lady voice fill the streets–all competing to lure as many tourists as possible into their respective bars and dance clubs.
Certainly not for everyone, but both districts dominate many top Bangkok tourist attractions lists.
Other Unique Things to Do in Bangkok
Midnight by tuk tuk caravan
One of the funnest, most unique things I did in Bangkok was joining a tuk tuk caravanat night. We scoured town for the most iconic foods, markets, temples, and bars.
Bangkok Food Tours organized this four-hour rendezvous. It includes trying out the original Pat Thai, Kao Mun Kai, another bites–in addition to visiting city landmarks close to their closing time.
Such a different perspective of Bangkok at night, I highly recommend it.
A day trip to Wang Saen Suk, a hell temple
A place that explicitly depicts what the Thai Buddhist version of hell is like.
May not be on everyone’s Bangkok tourist attractions list, but it certainly gives travelers a unique glimpse into the local culture.
Wang Saen Suk is actually located 90 minutes from Bangkok, at Sai 2, Soi 19, Saen Suk. As it is halfway between Bangkok and Pattaya, it’s an easy day trip from either city.
I recommend this “temple” to anyone who has visited Bangkok more than once or travelers who are simply looking for radically different, ermm, postcard photos.
Experience a free meditation retreat at Wat Arun
A wealth of knowledge of both silent and Vipassana meditation was instilled in me at Wat Arun, where I took part of the free four-day meditation course.
I accidentally stumbled upon the center in the back of the complex after finding out the main Wat Arun towers were undergoing extensive renovations (and thus decided to skip paid entry).
There, the Indonesian-born director and now master also introduced me to Buddhist teachings and how to apply them to improve the quality of my life– regardless of my own religion (or lack thereof).
The most lovely part of the retreat (aside from having tasty local meals and simple accommodation covered) was sitting down with the teacher nightly for a Q&A session.
During those sessions, he would clarify any doubts I had about Buddhism and my new, evolving meditation practice.
Certainly one of the most memorable experiences I had not only in Bangkok, but my entire trip to Thailand.
Support family planning by eating at Cabbages and Condoms
Another of my favorite quirky Bangkok tourist attractions is a restaurant that gives back to the community in a unique way.
Cabbages and Condoms (C&C) donates part of its proceeds to family planning and sex education through the Population and Community Development Association (PDA).
While the good intentions and food are reason enough to visit, another major draw of C&C is its decor.
Almost everything in the restaurant is made with/or decorated with condoms!
From fully-dressed mannequins to colorful latex lamps, the props and getups at this establishment also make it a photographer’s dream.
You can’t really do anything in Thailand in the next 30 day… Haven’t you heard? The king is dead.