After celebrating Sankranta among the beauty of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia, we made our way to the next destination on our Southeast Asia itinerary – Bangkok, Thailand. In Bangkok, the water street flights continued for the same New Year celebrations, except known as Songkran. Festivities usually stretch for an entire week, so having arrived on the 15th of April, we joined the end of the festival and then picked up our Bangkok itinerary with 4 days to go and got exploring.
With street names that can take on different spelling, hectic traffic, huge neighborhoods, and a kaleidoscope of colors and new flavors, Bangkok can be overwhelming. But travelers are rewarded with fragrant and mouthwatering feasts, glowing temples, sophisticated venues, and oodles of kindness in the ‘Land of Smiles’. It’s an eclectic destination catering to all types of travelers and all budgets. Our itinerary is the perfect Bangkok travel guide for first-time visitors. We included all essentials and must dos in Bangkok so that you can have an incredible and wholesome visit. Bangkok will blow your mind!
Marvel at the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
A common first stop on most itineraries and a popular favorite for a good reason. Glistening mosaics on the spires of Wat Pho Buddhist temple is a mesmerizing sight. But even more impressive is the giant Reclining Buddha. 151 feet long and 49 feet tall, the statue is breathtaking, but its proportions are very difficult to capture in photos. You’ll just have to come and see it yourself!
The Wat Pho complex is a hypnotizing maze of temples and intricate mosaics. Once you are through, you will probably appreciate getting a Thai Massage at the Wat Pho Traditional Massage School, which works hard to keep traditions alive.
Eat Your Way through Khao San Road and Chinatown
Khao San Road is infamous among the backpackers flocking to Bangkok and has a reputation for cheap accommodation, neon signs galore and good parties. And while it does tend to get rowdy come nighttime, Khao San is also home to massage parlors, markets, and epic street food. Join the vibrant atmosphere and get sampling grilled meat on skewers, pad thai, mango sticky rice, and cockroaches if you dare.
Carry on your food tour by visiting the Netflix Street Food icon Jay Fai and try her world-famous crab omelet, which is located on Maha Chai Road. Due to its popularity, prepare to wait in a queue. But a visit to Jay Fai is the best segway into the street food world of Chinatown nearby, where Yaowarat Street starts at the Chinatown Gate, piercing the whole neighborhood and flooding with stalls come dusk. If you arrive before sunset, visit the Wat Chakrawat (The Crocodile Temple) and Wat Traimit (Temple of Golden Buddha) temples while you work up an appetite.
Face Your Fears at Mahanakorn Skywalk
This Tetris-looking building is Thailand’s highest observation deck offering incredible 360-degree views over the city. There are places to sit and admire Bangkok, a bar, and a glass tray that you can walk on and take in bird’s eye views from a drop of 1017 feet below you. An experience not for the faint-hearted. But the epic views make Mahanakhon Skywalk a must do in Bangkok and a bucket list item for many travelers.
Take a Boat on the Chao Praya River
The majestic Chao Praya River winds through Bangkok all the way to the Gulf of Thailand. Once serving as an important trading route along the Silk Road, now the river and its many canals justify Bangkok’s nickname ‘Venice of the East’. The best way to explore the canals is by hiring a traditional long-tail boat. The cruise will take around an hour, offering the beautiful scenery of Wat Arun, Thai villages, and markets based along the river bank.
Farewell the Day at a Rooftop Bar
Bangkok is bedazzled with shiny skyscrapers. Take advantage of the magnificent views they offer at sunset and find a rooftop bar for happy hour. Be sure to check if your rooftop bar of choice has a dress code. Most require smart casual attire with closed shoes and pants for men. There are infinite choices spread out all over the city. Our best recommendations are Lebua’s Riverview Rooftop Bar, where Hangover 2 was filmed, 360-degree views from Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar at Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, and ThreeSixty Rooftop Bar at Millennium Hilton that sits on the edge of Chao Praya River.
Get Your Morning Movement at Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is the first public park in Bangkok and its most beautiful green lung. The park is 1.5 miles long, featuring artificial ponds with paddle boats you can rent. It is loved by Bangkokians doing their morning runs and cycling, and giant monitor lizards, royally soaking in the sunshine. The park is surrounded by shiny skyscrapers offering picturesque views and photo opportunities that can be likened to a tropical Central Park.
If you want to do more serious shopping, this area has some of the best shopping malls in the country, like Siam Paragon, Siam Square, and Central World. Many of them are conveniently connected, so it’s incredibly easy to carry on with your shopping spree uninterrupted. The infamous MBK Center, full of cheap knockoffs, is also a short walk away.
Admire Thai Architecture at Jim Thompson Museum
This museum is the home of Jim Thompson, an American businessman, who created this sanctuary as an homage to traditional Thai architecture. The six teak homes, surrounded by tall trees and thick vegetation help you forget that you are actually in the heart of Bangkok. The museum exhibits Jim’s art collection gathered from all over Thailand and most importantly silk because he helped promote Thai silk worldwide. Picking up a high-quality silk piece like a scarf or necktie is the best souvenir you can take away from Jim Thompson’s former abode. The museum also dives into theories about Jim’s mysterious disappearance in Malaysia in 1967.
Experience Thai Fine Dining
After indulging on all you can eat street food, book a table at a Thai Fine Dining restaurant to experience the other end of the spectrum and sample modern Thai cuisine. We treated ourselves to a 10-course menu at Taan, a rooftop restaurant showcasing seasonal ingredients and flavors from all across Thailand.
Hunt for Treasure at Chatuchak Market
Chatuchak Market is one of the biggest open-air markets in the world and it has everything you can think of. The market is snaked with narrow lanes lined with stalls which are easier to navigate if you come early in the morning. Whether you are on the hunt for souvenirs, art, crafts, or clothes, you are guaranteed to find a gem if you take the time to search. Make sure to bargain and keep yourself refreshed with icy smoothies as you go.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
By now you may have noticed a pattern – taking cooking classes across the world is our favorite type of souvenir. And without fail, after tasting Bangkok’s street food and fine dining scenes, there was only one thing left to do. To learn the skills and put them into practice.
You can book a Thai cooking class that includes a morning market tour, which is the best way to familiarize yourself with the ingredients and learn what to look for when you are ready to recreate the dishes on your own. Learning about the cooking methods and flavor combinations helped us understand the history and culture behind them and appreciate the hard work of the chefs making our meals during our stay in Bangkok.
Planning a trip to Bangkok? Pin this guide and check out why you will also love Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand.