Itinerary Overview

Bangkok is a cosmopolitan town with a population of more than ten million people. It was recently named the most visited city in the world and it doesn’t take long to appreciate why. It is a unique blend of old-world charm and modern convenience and is incredibly inexpensive compared to Western destinations. As the political, economic, and cultural capital of Thailand, Bangkok has a myriad of attractions. Visitors can enjoy world-class cultural monuments, chic rooftop bars, seedy nightlife, or amazing street food, all delivered with the same outstanding Thai hospitality. Bangkok’s four hundred active Buddhist temples are tastefully woven among outdoor markets and gigantic shopping malls. This is a city of non-stop action and can feel chaotic for first time visitors.

Day One of the below itinerary includes the Royal Palace, Khaosan and Rambutti roads. Day Two features a local floating market, some of Bangkok’s most impressive historical monuments, the city’s top art museum, and Soi Sukhumvit. Day Three is spent at two must-see temples, Jim Thompson House, and an evening in the world’s largest Chinatown.

Day 1

1. River Cruise

2. Grand Palace

3. Wat Phra Kaeo

4. Wat Pho

5. Wat Arun

6. Khaosan Road

Time: 6+ hours

Budget: $50+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Day 2

1. Floating Market

2. Ananta Samakon Throne Hall

3. Wat Benchamabophit

4. Chatuchak Weekend Market

5. Art and Cultural Center

6. Soi Sukhumvit 11

Time: 8+ hours

Budget: $75+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Day 3

1. Loha Prasat Metal Castle

2. Wat Saket (Golden Mount)

3. Jim Thompson House

4. Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha)

5. Chinatown

Time: 6+ hours

Budget: $30+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Fast Facts

BEFORE YOU GO

UTC/GMT +7

Intermediate English proficiency

A, B, C (European), F and O Sockets / 220V / 50Hz

Tap water is NOT considered safe for drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth

Tourists from US, CAN, AUS, and much of the EU can travel to Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa

The CDC recommends Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines for most travelers

When You Arrive

$1.00 (USD) = 30 Thai Baht (THB)

Tipping is not customary for restaurants or taxis, however, some establishments may include a 10% service fee

Public trains are inexpensive, but provide limited access to the city. Taxis, Uber, and Grab (Uber like mobile app) are clean, safe, and inexpensive. Request taxi drivers use the meter to avoid pricing disputes

Drive on left side

Airport to City Center: (BKK) Taxis are available on Level One – Ground Level, near gates three, four, seven, and eight. Uber is available on arrival floor at all gates (30-120 minutes depending on traffic; $15). (DMK) Taxis and Uber are available on the arrival floor at each terminal (30-60 minutes; $15)

Preferred accommodation type is luxury hotel, boutique hotel, Airbnb, or hostel

Best Time To Visit

October to February is the best time to visit Bangkok

Between October and February, the climate is a tropical cool – humid, yet comfortable. The least ideal time to visit Bangkok is between March and May, when the city reaches its highest temperatures. Peak tourist season is November to May, whereas, May to October is low season with regular bouts of rain showers.

Neighborhood Guide

 ChinatownRiversideSukhumvitSilom
DescriptionBackpackers, budget travelers, street foodUpscale, resorts, historical landmarks, waterfrontParty goers, shopping, trendy restaurantsBusiness travelers, nightlife, easily accessible
Affordability
Nature [Waterfront]
Dining
Landmarks
Nightlife

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: GRAND PALACE AND AREA TEMPLES, KHAOSAN ROAD

1) River Cruise  – The Chao Praya River is the thread that connects the Grand Palace with nearby temples and a great way to get familiar with Bangkok’s skyline. Take the Orange Line water taxi north from the Central Pier and get off at the Grand Palace on the east bank of the river. Don’t be shy about avoiding the “official tourist boat” as it makes fewer stops and charges three times the price.

 Up to 1 hour  $1

2) Grand Palace – If there is one must-see sight in Bangkok it is the Grand Palace. Its opulence, detail, and beauty are first class. While you are at the Grand Palace, be sure to visit Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It enshrines a Buddha figurine seated in the meditating position that was meticulously carved from a single block of jade. Male visitors to the Grand Palace complex must wear long pants, shirts with sleeves and no bare feet and women should be similarly modestly dressed (i.e. no see-through clothes or bare shoulders). There is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly (a deposit is required).

 1-2 hours  $15

3) Wat Pho – Exit the Grand Palace and walk south along the east wall and you will come to Wat Pho – one of the largest temple complexes in the city known for its giant reclining Buddha. The Buddha measures fifteen meters tall by forty-six meters long and is covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho was the site of the first public university in Thailand, but it is now known as a school for massage and medicine. Consider stopping here for a Thai massage as they are very well reviewed by visitors and cost less than $15.

 Up to 1 hour  $3

4) Wat Arun – From Wat Pho, it is a short walk west to Sapphan Taksin pier. From here you can take a water taxi to the east bank of the river and visit Wat Arun – one of the most picturesque temples in Bangkok. The temple’s spire stands at over seventy meters high and is beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns. Head into the ordination hall to enjoy a golden Buddha image and detailed murals that decorate the walls.

 Up to 1 hour  $3

5) Khaosan Road – Khaosan is a world-famous backpacker’s mecca. It is loud, chaotic, and crammed with tourists and expats, but it is an experience you will not soon forget. Packed into a half-mile long strip are countless budget guesthouses, bars and clubs, restaurants, massage parlors, market stalls, tattoo shops, and so much more. At night, the streets turn into bars and food hawkers sell everything from pad thai to exotic snacks. You are likely to be approached by scammers, lady-boys, local vendors, and everything in between offering every imaginable experience, edible substances, and second-hand goods. As an alternative, you can try the more attractive, well behaved brother of Khaosan Road – Rambuttri Alley – which runs parallel. Rambuttri gives a taste of how Bangkok used to look before all the skyscrapers were built. Leafy banyan trees shade the roads and you are likely to encounter more locals than backpackers.

 2-4 hours  $25+

Day 2: FLOATING MARKET, WEEKEND MARKET, SOI SUKHUMVIT 11

1) Floating Markets – Bangkok’s floating markets are fun, cheap, and an exciting way to experience the many variations of Thai cuisine. Khlong Lat Mayom is fifteen miles west of central Bangkok and is least likely to be overrun with tourists. One side of the market is dedicated to fresh produce, while the other is a smorgasbord of colorful snacks, sweets, and cooked foods. Take a lap around the market first to get familiar with the offerings, then pick up a collection of your favorite treats and find a table for your feast. For around three hundred baht, you can also take a boat ride through the neighboring canals, but we did not find the sights as interesting as the food offerings. Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand and very photogenic. The market is forty-five miles southwest of Bangkok, so the most cost efficient way to visit is to join a tour group. It is also one of the few markets open during weekdays. Amphawa is located ten miles south of Damnoen Saduak. It is very charming and even has a little Buddhist temple engulfed by a giant banyan tree.

 2-3 hours $25+

2) Ananta Samakon Throne Hall – Take one of the readily available metered taxis found outside the floating markets to Ananta Samakon Throne Hall. This is an impressive two-story white marble palace that sits at the end of the Royal Plaza, a ceremonial boulevard. The Hall is a stunning example of Italian Renaissance architecture with a beautiful central dome, under which the Royal Throne sits. Lining the walls are frescoes depicting Chakri Dynasty monarchs. Both the large paved plaza in front the Throne Hall and the manicured gardens connecting to the Vimanmek Mansion offer impressive views. Note that photography is not permitted inside the building and a strict dress code applies, meaning no flip-flops, shorts, sleeveless shirts, or T-shirts.

1-2 hours $2

3) Wat Benchamabophit – One of Bangkok’s most modern temples is a short walk to the south from the Throne Hall. It is made of shiny white marble, decorated with beautiful gold carvings, and has multi-tiered roofs. Inside the ordination hall is a large bronze Buddha image, beneath which the ashes of King Chulalongkorn are buried. The courtyard exhibits fifty-two local and foreign Buddha images, each one in a different style and pose. Behind the ordination hall is a large Bodhi Tree from Bodhgaya, the place of Buddha’s enlightenment. There is also a water pavilion and, in between the monks and people area, several bridges in a variety of styles.

 Up to 1 hour  $1

4) Chatuchak Weekend Market – A twenty minute taxi ride to the north of Wat Benchamabophit is the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It is home to more than 8,000 market stalls and on a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on sale. A main walkway encircles the entire market, and it branches off into a series of numbered alleyways. These alleyways are grouped into twenty-seven sections or categories, including clothing, furniture and home decoration, food and drinks, art, pets, books, antiques and collectibles. Free maps are available at several of the information kiosks. Remember to bring enough cash because most vendors do not accept credit cards.

 1-2 hours  $20+

5) Bangkok Art and Cultural Center – A twenty minute taxi ride south is the hub of Bangkok’s burgeoning art scene, offering the widest range of contemporary art, design, music, theater, and film in the city. The building is reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York, with huge white curving facade and spiral walkways. It also houses shops, an art library, and a couple of cafes.

 1-2 hours $0

6) Soi Sukhumvit 11 – Evenings out in Bangkok are not to be missed. Soi Sukhumvit 11 is a popular dining and nightlife destination and busy any night of the week. Here you will find Cheap Charlie’s – a well known dive bar and local institution, Havana Social Bangkok – a suave prohibition themed bar, Above Eleven – a rooftop bar with amazing views and upscale ambiance, and many others. The area is a good mix of expats and tourists along with a few locals. Alternatively, Thonglor is Bangkok’s most popular upscale entertainment street, well known for its classy bars, boutique shops, fashionable clubs, and restaurants. This is traditionally the domain of ultra-fashionable and rich Thais but in the last few years, more foreigners have been attracted by the sophisticated environment. Restaurant Khao is known for its contemporary Thai cuisine, Sabai-Jai for reasonably priced Isan cuisine (northern Thai), and The Iron Fairies for medieval decor and killer cocktails.

2-4 hours $25+

Day 3: METAL CASTLE, JIM THOMPSON HOUSE, CHINATOWN

1) Loha Prasat Metal Castle – Wat Ratchanadda is a Royal temple best known for the Loha Prasat Metal Castle, a thirty-six meter high castle supporting thirty-seven metal spires – each representing the virtues toward enlightenment. Two other such metal castles have existed in the world, but only the one in Bangkok is still standing. You can climb the spiral stairs to the top of the structure to an open air walkway from where you will have a good view of the Wat Saket temple and the Golden Mount.

 Up to 1 hour  $1

2) Wat Saket (Golden Mount) – A short walk to the east of Loha Prasat is Wat Saket, a temple whose origins can be traced back to the Ayutthaya period, which lasted until 1767. Built on a hilltop, the Golden Mount is the temple’s most well-known landmark. To get to the top requires a climb up three hundred and eighteen steps, but the path is well-paved and the climb relatively easy. There is a cemetery built into the base of the Golden Mount, where in the late 18th century, Wat Saket served as the capital’s crematorium for some 60,000 plague victims.

 Up to 1 hour  $1

3) Jim Thompson House – About three km to the east of Wat Sakat is the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was a retired American army officer, a one-time spy, an ex-architect, a silk merchant, and a renowned collector of antiques. He helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1960s, and at the time, was one of the most famous Americans living in Asia. Then one day in 1967, while at the height of his success, he mysteriously disappeared into the Malaysian jungle. The elegant residential enclave he left behind comprises six traditional Thai teakwood houses and showcases his thirty-year love affair with Southeast Asian art and culture.

 1-2 hours $5

4) Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha Temple) – A twenty minute taxi ride south of the Jim Thompson house is Wat Traimit, home of the world’s largest gold seated Buddha, measuring nearly five metres in height and weighing five and a half tons. In the past, artisans crafted the Buddhas in gold and disguised them from invading armies by covering them in stucco and plaster. The true make up of the Buddha at Wat Traimit was discovered by accident when it was dropped as it was being moved, revealing, under a casing of plaster, a solid gold Sukhothai style Buddha.

 Up to 1 hour  $5

5) Chinatown – A five minute walk to the west of Wat Traimit is the the world’s largest Chinatown. Visitors should prepare to be assaulted by an array of sights, sounds, and smells here. At night, Yaowarat Road transforms into one of the greatest street food locations in the world. Sampeng Lane Market is a busy and narrow area congested with vendors selling everything from cheap clothes to souvenirs and electronics. Behind the beautiful curved stupa at Wat Chakrawat is a murky pond housing three giant crocodiles. Legend has it that the crocodiles kept eating young monks at the temple so they were trapped and housed here instead.

 2-4 hours  $20+

BOTTOM LINE

A visit to Bangkok should include both the city’s old-world charm and modern sophistication. The above itinerary includes stops at the Royal Palace, notable temples and museums, unique nightlife destinations, and world-renowned shopping outlets. While many destinations may offer similar sights, it is the combination of these places with the Thai hospitality and culture that make Bangkok truly unique.

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