Bangkok began as a small trading centre and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago. Today, while the city is up to speed with modern times, the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past still prevails. Be it dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market or colourful Chinatown, each of these famous places has an intriguing story to tell.
Top Experiences in Bangkok
Temple of Dawn
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water.
Given beauty of the architecture and the fine craftsmanship it is not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The spire (prang) on the bank of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok’s world-famous landmarks. It has an imposing spire over 70 metres high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. At day time, it’s no less busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples.
Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants and a dense concentration of gold shops, Chinatown is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious – it will keep you wanting to come back for more. Plan your visit during major festivals, like Chinese New Year, and you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It’s one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s an easy ten minute walk between here and the Grand Palace, and we recommend coming to Wat Pho second, because even though the golden Buddha here is just as popular many people don’t take the time to wander around the rest of the complex so the experience tends to be far more relaxing. This is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage.
Once ringed by rice fields, modern Bangkok has since expanded in every possible direction with few concessions to agriculture or charm. Within northern Bangkok, other than some of the city’s best markets, sights are relatively few and far between, but the upside is that the area is a good place to get a taste of provincial Thailand if you don’t have the time to go upcountry. If you’re into Thai boxing, the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium relocated here in 2014.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Among the largest markets in the world, Chatuchak seems to unite everything buyable, from used vintage sneakers to baby squirrels. Plan to spend a full day here, as there’s plenty to see, do and buy. But come early, ideally around 10am, to beat the crowds and the heat.
Friday nights from around 8pm to midnight, several vendors, largely those selling clothing, accessories and food, open up shop in Chatuchak. There are a few vendors on weekday mornings, and a daily vegetable, plant and flower market opposite the market’s southern side. One section of the latter, known as the Or Tor Kor Market, sells fantastically gargantuan fruit and seafood, and has a decent food court as well.
Once you’re deep in the bowels of Chatuchak, it will seem like there is no order and no escape, but the market is arranged into relatively coherent sections. Use the clock tower as a handy landmark.
Exotic fruits, towers of dried chillies, smoky grills and the city’s few remaining rickshaws form a very un-Bangkok backdrop at this, one of the most expansive and atmospheric produce markets in the area. Come early, though, as most vendors are gone by 9am.
To get to the market, take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Nonthaburi Pier, the northernmost stop for most lines. The market is a two-minute walk east along the main road from the pier.