Having visited many cities around the world, Bangkok remains my favourite. It’s beautiful, flavourful street food, friendly people, shopping, and nightlife puts it on the top of my list.
I have listed below my ‘Must see’s’ for a first time visitor to the city.
MBK Mall – Popular with both locals and tourists alike, this mall has 8 floors packed with electricals, home décor, and clothing (with both real and fake branded items) – it is a real treasure trove of goodies, so be warned and make extra room in your suitcase because you’ll need it! The MBK Centre can be reached by taking the Skytrain (BTS) to National Stadium (otherwise take a tuk tuk / taxi – simply ask for the MBK Centre.)
Chatuchak Weekend Market – One of the world’s largest weekend markets covering 27 acres and having more than 15,000 booths selling a variety of goods from all over Thailand – you name it, you can buy it here. The name suggests that it is only open at weekends, however I am advised that it is also open on Wednesday / Thursday selling plants and flowers, and on Friday selling wholesale items only. The easiest way to reach the market is by skytrain (BTS to Mo Chit Station, or via the underground (MRT) to Chatuchak Park Station, or Kamphaeng Phet Station.
Patpong Night Market – As well as being home to the famous red light district, Patpong is also host to a large night market that lines the streets every night. Here you will find handmade Thai goods, street food, and fake branded items including jewellery and clothes. You’ll need to be aware that due to the number of venues offering ‘ping pong’ shows in the area, it is likely you will be approached by a tout showing you a ‘menu’ of services on offer at these venues. The best way to reach the night market is via the skytrain (BTS) to Sala Daeng, or Silom Station.
MBK Food Court – The food court is located on the 6th floor of the MBK Centre. It is a huge food area offering different types of Thai food, as well as other Asian food including Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese. It is operated on a voucher system so you need to purchase vouchers then hand these over to the food vendors – any unspent vouchers can then be refunded when you have finished. In my experience, the food is cheap, tasty, and there is a good selection. To reach the MBK Centre, please see the section above titled ‘MBK Mall.’
Sukhumvit Soi 38 Night Market – This night market started off small but has now expanded and each night many food stalls set up along Soi 38 offering a choice of delicious, cheap Thai food. In order to reach the market, take the Skytrain (BTS) to Thong Lo and you’ll see the market sprawling along Soi 38.
Grand Palace – If you only visit one sight whilst in Bangkok then make sure it’s the Grand Palace. The ‘Grand Palace’ is actually a complex of buildings and includes the temple of the Emerald Buddha. The entry price as of 2013 is 400 baht. Please note that there is a strict dress code – you must cover your shoulders and wear trousers / skirt past your knees – if you come dressed inappropriately then you can hire clothes there (just leave your passport / credit card as security). The Palace is open between 8:30am to 3:30pm and to get there take the Chaophraya Express Boat to the Chang Pier (Tha Chang).
Wat Pho – Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha as it is home to one of the largest Buddha statues in the world – 160 ft in length. The temple is open daily from 8 am until 5 pm, however note that it closes for lunch between noon and 1 pm. The entry fee is 50 baht.
Wat Arun – Another beautiful temple complex, “The Temple of Dawn” sits on the West bank of the Chaophraya River. The entry fee is 50 baht and it is open between 8am and 5pm.
Express Ferry / Longtail Boat – Seeing Bangkok from the banks of the Chaophraya River is a ‘must’ experience whilst in Bangkok. If you are on a budget then you can ride on the express ferry for only a couple of baht depending on where you are travelling to (buy your ticket on the boat). You can also buy an unlimited day ticket for the tourist boat for only 150 baht. However, if you want to see more of the local life from the river banks at a slower pace then you can charter a long tail boat. Your long tail boat driver will then take you down the smaller inlets of the Chaophraya River, this however requires a bigger budget and you need to be careful of the touts hanging around the piers. Always agree on a price and duration before you set off or you might get a not so nice surprise – like I did on my first visit to Bangkok!
Thai Massage – When in Thailand you’ll find it hard to walk past the massage ladies in the markets, or in the malls. A traditional Thai massage will stretch every muscle in your body and ‘click’ every finger and toe! A traditional massage costs around 250 baht for 45 minutes (although prices will vary substantially depending on where you go).
Ping Pong Show – The mere mention of a Ping Pong Show will cause sniggers and smerks, however it is an essential ‘Bangkok’ EXPERIENCE. Most Ping Pong Shows are located in the Patpong area and are very touristy. There are touts literally dragging you into these shows – as you walk down the road a tout will jump out at you with a ‘menu’ for the show, these typically feature blowing out candles, popping a balloon with darts…the list goes on. Many people cannot resist a sneek peak at these shows whilst in Bangkok, however once inside you will find out that they are cringe worthy and if you’re not careful you can get stung with a HUGE bill. Make sure you know the price of drinks before you order, do not accept what appear to be ‘free’ shots or drinks, do not buy the girls drinks and make sure you insist on paying for your drinks when you receive them (before you take a sip!)
Hi – Sukhumvit Hostel – This is my favourite hostel in Bangkok and I have returned to it many times. It is located just 5 minutes’ walk from Thong Lo BTS Station on Sukhumvit Soi 38. Its location makes it handy to public transport which makes it easy to get into the heart of Bangkok and it is a good location for food given the night market that pops up on Soi 38 every night.