Thailand blends idyllic beaches and bustling towns with lush countryside and glimmering temples. Tourists flock to the islands that are scattered in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, but the capital is often ignored and treated as merely a stop-off point. If you’re taking an Emirates flight to Bangkok to go island hopping, consider spending a few days in the city before you move on.
Bangkok is an acquired taste, but if you love culture and food, you should certainly give it a chance. It’s hectic and fast-paced but it’s a place where real life happens. Watch in awe as entire families balance on one motor scooter, stop to enjoy a takeaway of freshly sliced fruit from a cycling vendor, enjoy the aromatic fried noodles laced with chilli from a market stall and then enter a plush, high-rise restaurant to sip cocktails. The hot weather and pollution make this a stifling city at times, but there’s so much life here that it has to be experienced to be believed.
Whether you enjoy culture, art, cuisine or shopping, there are plenty of attractions here to tempt you.
1 Visit a floating market
Spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the unique floating market in the Taling Chan district on the banks of the Chao Praya River. The authentic experience allows you to see how trading in the area has taken place for generations, using the rivers and canals to transport and sell goods. Wander around and buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, drink from a freshly cut coconut and sample the wide range of street food from the floating docks that serve as dining rooms. The floating kitchens are tethered to the docks, just an arm’s reach away as you sit on your mats on the floor and devour dish after dish of delicious, fragrant food. Just remember to pace yourself, because you’re sure to want to try some of everything!
You can catch an air-conditioned bus, take an organized tour or hire a longtail to take you to the market, and if you enjoy it there are a number of other floating markets just outside Bangkok to explore.
2 Escape Hunt
Escape Hunt will lure you back in time some 100 years to old Siam. This themed adventure involves you playing the part of a famous London detective where, as part of a small group or couple, you have to use your skills to solve the greatest murder mystery of your life. Work as part of a team to discover clues and solve puzzles. This may not be your average tourist attraction, but it’s an adventure worth experiencing. The aim of the game is to escape from your room and you have an hour to do so with the support of your in-room Games Master. Prices start from 495 THB plus VAT per person.
3 Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun is known as being one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok. Standing proudly over the water, the impressive monument has a tall spire decorated with pieces of colored porcelain that sparkle in the sun.
If you intend to go inside, arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds. You can climb some of the steps in the central prang (tower) for views over the river, and take a look around the ordination hall to see the golden Buddha and the murals that decorate the walls.
It’s particularly pretty at night when it’s lit up, and the best way to take in the view is from one of the restaurants on the opposite side of the river where you can watch as the sun goes down.
4 King Rama IX Park
Bangkok can be oppressive at times. If you need to escape, the Rama IX Park is the ideal place to unwind. Set in over 200 acres, you can explore the themed gardens, stroll around the lake and visit the gallery that houses a celebration of the life of the King. As well as a botanic garden featuring plants that are native to Thailand, there are also Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, American and English gardens that you can explore by taking one of the many walking trails. Sit under a gazebo and enjoy an ice-cream then work it off by hiring a pedal boat. It’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours, especially if you’ve only just landed and want a calm activity to ease you over the jet lag.
5 Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok
Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok (MOCA). Housed in an impressive building, the museum contains hundreds of paintings and sculptures that explore challenging themes such as religion and corruption. The purpose built gallery is flooded with natural light to show the local art at its best. It’s an ideal attraction to add to your itinerary in between heavier sightseeing trips, as the air-conditioned venue will only take you a couple of hours to explore.
Bangkok city break
If you enjoy food, culture and art, Bangkok could be the lively destination you’ve been searching for. Combine it with a beach trip for the best of both worlds.
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I’ve made it as far as the Bangkok airport on a few occasions but haven’t had the time to venture into the city. I’d like to experience it – bit for a few days only. The King Rama IX Park sounds like a great place to unwind.
Leigh recently posted..Magical Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California
There is no subway into the city, so unless you take a taxi it is not so easy to jump in and out of Bangkok since the traffic can be so horrible.
It’s interesting how in some cities the water channels act as roads, highways.
Yep, and I am sure that is the way it has been for thousands of years.
Bangkok is definitely intense, for all the good and bad reasons. I found shopping to also be one of the best things you can do there!!
Bruno recently posted..Bangkok Shopping Guide: 6 Places To Shop Until You Drop!
Very true. Bangkok is great for arts and crafts and electronics.