As one of Asia’s best value and most popular destinations, Bangkok offers a plethora of things to see and do. Filled with many spectacular Buddhist temples and ornate buildings, the city is at once exotic and at the same time modern with all the creature comforts that one can imagine. Bangkok is also known as a shopping haven, with mass consumerism juxtaposing against a strong market culture. The city’s streets are always buzzing and teeming with life.
I have been to Bangkok quite a few times and always enjoy coming here for the unbeatable value, delicious Thai food and fascinating things to see in the city’s streets. Whether you’re a first-timer, a regular or even a shopaholic, here is my itinerary suggestion on a trip to Bangkok that you can easily break down into 2-days, 3-days or 4-days depending on the length of time you are there. I’ve made the duration flexible to make the itinerary easy to execute during weekends or during longer visits. For some other ideas, you can also check out this Bangkok travel guide.
Table of Contents
Day 1 – Old Bangkok
Learn About Thailand’s Royal Traditions at the Grand Palace
If it is your first time visiting Bangkok, venturing out to the dazzling Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha is recommended. First built in the late 1700s, the palace grounds cover an area of over 218,000 square meters. While the royal family no longer resides here (they reside at Dusit Palace), the Grand Palace still hosts some official and state functions. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew, considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, is also situated here.
If you are visiting the Grand Palace, do note that a dress code applies. Men are required to wear trousers and sleeved shirts while women are expected to cover their upper arms and legs up to the thigh area. As a last resort, visitors who show up with improper clothing can rent clothes from shops nearby.
Be Awed by the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, this well known religious building sits just next to the Grand Palace and can be easily combined with the former. The image of the gold-plated reclining Buddha is perhaps one of the most iconic tourist shots in Bangkok and at any given time of day, visitors will find the narrow hallway housing the statue to be extremely claustrophobic.
Immediately to the west of Wat Pho just opposite Tha Tien pier, is another one of Bangkok’s most well-known landmarks. Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, consists of a large central tower and flanked by four smaller ones on each side. The grey-ish appearance of the temple makes it seem like it’s constructed from the same material as the likes of the Ayuthaya temples but it’s actually a lot more ornate than that when inspected closely. The material is actually Chinese porcelain. Visitors are able to enter for a fee whenever the temple is not under renovation. It is well worth the short trip across the river to see this temple up close. I would also recommend checking this temple out during sunset when it is floodlit.
Ong Ang Canal
If you happen to be in Bangkok on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday – check out the newly rehabilitated Ong Ang Canal which is roughly in between Wat Pho and Chinatown. The walkways around the canals were recently repaved and decorated with street art. During weekends, you will find street performers, artists as well as independent shopkeepers selling their wares. You can even go kayaking here and paddle through the canal.
Ong Ang Canal can be easily reached through Sam Yot MRT Station.
A Feast for the Senses at Yaowarat Road
Yaowarat Road, which is synonymous with Bangkok’s Chinatown, has seen quite a bit of transformation as of late. I have been visiting since pre-2020 when it was a hotbed for touristy restaurants serving bird’s nest or shark’s fin. Gradual reliance on locals when the borders were closed for 2 years meant that many of those establishments are no longer around. Instead, street vendors offering anything from fried crickets to noodle soup have increased the street side congestion even further. The street has also become a lot more accessible via public transport, with the nearby Wat Mangkon MRT station opening in 2019. A typical walking route that takes one thru the gist of Bangkok’s Chinatown is to start from Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan up until Grand China Bangkok Hotel. The area is best visited from sunset onwards. That’s when the street truly becomes alive with neon signs and street side food stalls.
Tom Yum Noodles for Supper at Jeh O Chula
Jeh O Chula is a popular dinner and supper spot (they open til midnight) and they are well-known for sumptuous dishes such as Tom Yum Noodles, Fried Pork Belly and Spicy Salmon Sashimi Salad. End your day here after a long day out. There is always a long and snaking queue but you can get a guaranteed slot with a set meal by booking in advance here.
Day 2 – Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-In Excursion
Explore the Ancient Ruins of Ayutthaya
Set out early in the morning for a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya which is only an hour away from Bangkok. You won’t be able to visit all the temples within half a day but you can expect to reasonably cover the major ones like Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Yai Chaimongkon and Wat Phra Mahathat. You can choose this tour that can take you there by an air-conditioned vehicle and even includes the picturesque Bang Pa-In Summer Palace.
Bang Pa-In Palace
Go for an excursion to the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace just north of Bangkok where you can find a combination of Thai, Chinese and European architectural influences. A visit here is usually combined with the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.
Cruise Along the Chao Phraya
Go on an evening cruise along the Chao Phraya river and see monuments such as the Grand Palace and Wat Arun lit up in the night sky while enjoying a meal.
With Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams, it is sometimes more practical to just take the water taxi and cruise down the Chao Phraya. If you are heading to the impressive Iconsiam at the other side of the city, it may be more practical to go by boat. The shopping mall is one of the largest in Asia and the highlight here is a section devoted entirely to regional Thai cuisine. You can find many street eats here from as far as Isaan and Chiang Mai, all in one roof!
Check out one of the city’s many rooftop bars for excellent views of the skyline. Lebua Tower (Sirocco), Banyan Tree (Vertigo) and So Sofitel are just some that you can consider. You can’t go wrong with any of these, or better yet go bar-hopping across multiple nights! Expect to pay western prices though for drinks in exchange for the spectacular view
Day 3 – New Attractions & Less Common Attractions in Bangkok
Experience the Green Side of Bangkok
Take it easy in the morning by exploring Bangkok’s green lungs. You may be a Bangkok regular by now, having done all the temples and the shopping, but chances are you have not been to Lumphini Park. Come to this lush oasis early in the morning when you can witness locals doing taichi and cycle your way around the park without the infamous Bangkok heat setting in.
Further afield, Rama IX Park is more off-the-beaten path than Lumphini Park and a lot bigger. This park is several kilometers from Central Bangkok. Expect to pay about 200 Baht for a ride here. Make sure to check out the Royal Pavilion which sits in a postcard perfect lotus pond.
Visit Unusual Museums
Bangkok has some pretty weird museums and you can spend this day on an offbeat museum-hopping tour. From the corpses of mass murderers in the Forensics Museum to the gruesome Human Body Museum, you will slowly see Bangkok’s freaky side. For something quirky, you can also check out the Phallic Shrine, home to hundreds of penises standing (and leaning) side by side. Women come here to seek blessings when they want to conceive a child.
Walk Through Transparent Glass 314 Meters Above Ground
If gruesome museums aren’t your thing, check out one of the city’s newest attractions – the Kingpower Mahanakhon Skywalk in Sathorn. This is the highest observation deck in Bangkok. In certain areas, you get to walk on a totally transparent glass floor, giving you the impression that you are walking on air. You can book tickets here to get them at a discount here to enjoy a dedicated online queue which is shorter than the walk-in one.
You can spend the afternoon checking out the fast-gentrifying Charoenkrung Road which is home to charming cafes and photogenic colonial buildings. In this area, you can find museums/galleries such as the Bangkokian Museum (open daily Wed to Sun, 10AM to 4PM) and discover how city folk lived in the olden days. For a spot of modern art, there’s also the Thailand Creative & Design Center or TCDC (open Tues to Sun, 10:30AM to 9PM) which used to ba Bangkok’s main post office. The well-known night market, Asiatique, is also located in this part of the city.
Talad Rot Fai
Check out what is perhaps Bangkok’s quirkiest market, Talad Rot Fai which is located in Srinakarin Road. You’ll find all sorts of oddities here, from antiques to vintage items dating back from the 1970’s. The restaurants around here are just as odd – you’ll find restaurants using old cinema chairs as dinner chairs and bars on reconstructed Volkswagen Beetles.
Day 4 – Shopping Day
Hunt For Bargains in Pratunam
Wake up early to access the cheapest goods you can find anywhere in Bangkok in the Pratunam Morning Market. The cheapest goods are typically available between 5am to 8am and most stores are closed by noon. Be warned – bulk of the goods consist of ladies’ clothing. If sorting through wholesale markets is not your thing, you can also check out Platinum Mall which sells basically the same clothes as the Pratunam morning market but at a higher price and in airconditioned comfort.
Get Lost in the Maze That Is Chatuchak
Brace yourself for this mini-village of a market. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is not just Thailand’s largest market, it is also a popular tourist attraction. Here you’ll find a lot of interesting products by budding designers and hipsters alongside more conventional items such as household products, pets and even food to bring home. A day is not enough to cover the entirety of the place, but hey you only have a weekend!
Mall-Hopping in Siam & Sukhumvit
If you still have not had enough of the weekend markets and wholesale clothes market, here are some notable shopping malls to check out in Bangkok. Many of them are situated around the Rama I and Sukhumvit stretch.
- Siam Paragon – high end mall close to the BTS station, with all the luxury brands that you can think of
- Siam Center – recently renovated upscale hipster mall catering to a young crowd
- Centralworld Plaza – One of the largest malls in the world, Centralworld is another upmarket mall – though not as upmarket as Siam Paragon. You can find Zen department store here.
- Gaysorn Shopping Center – another high-end shopping malls with a similar tenant mix to Siam Paragon plus some other brands
- MBK Shopping Center – hands down the most popular mall for tourists. MBK is the place to be, especially for those seeking bargains without sacrificing comfort
- Siam Square – a street-level shopping center offering a handy mix of retail, f&b, entertainment and even tutor schools. Popular with local students
- Terminal 21 – Located in Sukhumvit Road with easy access to Asoke station, shoppers can almost explore the world in this mall which each floor having different international themes
- Some of Bangkok’s malls have really interesting interiors and are worthy attractions even if you’re not planning to buy anything. Design-wise, the ones I recommend are Central Embassy and EmQuartier
Watch a Muay Thai Match
In the evening, you can watch one of Thailand’s quintessential sports – Muay Thai (Thai boxing).
Helpful Tips for Bangkok
- Travel Insurance: You can compare for the best travel insurance that suits you and get exclusive discounts and even freebies when you book. Current promotions including free PCR tests with travel insurance purchase are available here. If you reside in Singapore, check out Starr Travelead, one of the cheapest travel insurance. They have a promotion that comes with S$10 cash rebate that helps to offset the insurance cost. If you are based elsewhere, you can check out Worldnomads as they have quite an extensive coverage, even including personal accidents into their list of benefits.
- Airport Transport: Taxi scams used to be prevalent in Suvarnabhumi Airport. While they have mostly dissipated in recent years, it still pays to be careful in dealing with random offers for transport. Whether you arrive in Dong Muang or Suvarnabhumi, you will find official taxi stands where taxis go by the meter. Unfortunately, queues tend to be very long and sometimes, it’s also difficult to get a car from a ride-sharing app like Grab. A cheap and fast way to get to the city from Suvarnabhumi Airport is the Airport Rail Link which takes you to Siam Center where there are train connections to other parts of the city. Alternatively, you can also book airport transfers in advance in order to skip the taxi queue.
- Which Bangkok Airport is Better: If you are deciding whether to arrive in Don Muang Airport or Suvarnabhumi Airport, it does not really make much of a difference. I have used both during various occasions. I would say that the airport facilities in Don Muang aren’t as extensive as in Suvarnabhumi. The former has fewer airport lounges and duty free shops. In terms of immigration queues, it used to be better in Don Muang but recently it has become just as bad. Taxi queues are very long in both airports.
Where to Eat in Bangkok
Sri Trat (90 Soi Sukhumvit 33) – A showcase of cuisine from Trat province near the Cambodian border. Specialties include the local version of Sweet and Sour Pork Belly Stew, Massaman Curry with Durian and Stir-fried Noodles with Soft-Shell Crab.
Plu (Soi Sathon 3) – Located in a colonial house, Plu offers dishes from all over Thailand. You will find many well-known Thai dishes here like Pad Thai and a more coconut-y version of Tom Yum. The Steamed Sea Bass entails a longer serving time but is well worth the wait.
Rung Rueang (10/3 Soi Sukhumvit 26) – This nondescript eatery off Sukhumvit is famous for its pork noodles. You can order them dry or with soup and with varying levels of spiciness. What sets their pork noodles apart is the high and relatively dense concentration of minced meat which they also sell in frozen form.
Supanniga Eating Room (multiple locations) – A popular Bangkok restaurant with three locations – one in Sathorn, one by the river overlooking Wat Arun and one in Thonglor. Cuisine is mostly from Eastern Thailand with specialties such as Pu Jah (crab meat and minced meat in crab shell) and hearty curries.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Budget – Lub d Bangkok Siam is located within walking distance from Siam Station and Siam Square. I personally favor this area over the popular backpacker haven of Khao San Road as the train in the Siam area enables you to avoid Bangkok’s infamous traffic jams. Another convenient location for stays is the Phaya Thai area which offers convenient connections with Suvarnabhumi Airport. For a budget hotel, Hotel Tranz offers spacious and spotless rooms while being located just next to Phaya Thai Station.
Midrange – Holiday Inn Express Sathorn is close enough to the BTS station. Its location just off Sathorn Road is ideal if you are in Bangkok over the weekend and wish to avoid the traffic jams. Another good midrange option in Sathorn is the T2 Residence Sathorn which is located in a quiet side street. If you prefer to stay near the Siam/Sukhumvit area, a relatively new option to consider is the Sindhorn Midtown Hotel located a short walk from Chit Lom Station. Rooms are modern and well-appointed. This hotel is also popular for its rooftop pool.
Luxury – My personal pick is The Sukhothai Bangkok for a peek at fine Thai living. The rooms are decked with Thai handicrafts and antiques while the breakfast buffet here is among the best I’ve had in the city. Highly recommended if you are looking to splurge a bit. Alternatively, you can also check out the new The Standard Mahanakhon located in the same building as the Kingpower Mahanakhon Skywalk. Rooms are stylish with the usage of “cute” furnishings and are highly instagram-worthy.
Rates are always competitive regardless of the season and booking websites are an excellent way to compare prices. You can check out some of the best deals for hotels in Bangkok HERE.
Transport Options in Bangkok
With a myriad of transport options, it is sometimes not very easy to choose the best way to get around Bangkok. Here are some available options:
Tuktuk – It may be worthwhile to try it once or twice just for the heck of it. It is by far the most iconic means of transport in Bangkok but be aware that the starting fare could easily set you back by 100 Baht. This is almost 3x the flag down fare for a cab.
Taxi – A popular and economical means of transport in Bangkok, taxis in Bangkok are generally clean. The flag-down fare is 35 Baht. Some drivers could be choosy and you may find yourself in situations where you’ll have to go through two or three drivers just to get yourself one who’s willing to turn the meter on.
BTS/MRT – Routes are limited but you’re covered for most places within the Sukhumvit area and Chatuchak Night Market. The BTS/MRT is a great way to beat the infamous traffic jams of Bangkok. If you’re heading to the older part of town, this may not be the most ideal option.
Buses – The most inexpensive way of getting around Bangkok but your main challenge is knowing the routes which are mostly written only in Thai.
Grab – This is personally my preferred means of transport. Fares are competitive and are almost similarly priced to cabs. You won’t have to worry about cab drivers turning you down.
Have you been to Bangkok before? What was your itinerary like when you were in the Thai capital?