Things to do in Bangkok: 3 day itinerary
It has been 8 years since I last visited Thailand and it was clear it was going to be a slightly different experience compared to when I was 22, backpacking and staying in hostels for £4 a night. That said, I was still excited to embark on some of my old favourites at Khao San Road – age is just a number right?!
What I knew I was going to enjoy as much as I did 8 years ago was the Thai food. I am in my element when I can eat little and often and I love snacking – I love Thailand with the plentiful street food stalls selling anything and everything for anywhere between 10p to a £1. With influences from the Islamic world (dried spices coconut and palm sugar) and China (noodles and wok fried dishes) the flavours are pretty amazing. My tip is just to try as much as you can – you can afford to try dishes even if you end up not being fond of then.
I can see why Bangkok is a love hate city – it is busy, loud and, frankly, a little bit mental. The traffic is chaotic, the beeping is incessant and the air generally more smoggy. But what is that compared to the character of the city and the diverse amount of things to do in Bangkok.
Bangkok is pretty spread out with things to do dotted all around the city – it is around the same population size as London to give you an idea. It really is a city with a diverse personality – from street food to sky high bars, temples to river boat cruises, crazy and sophisticated nightlife and lots of shopping.
Taxis are the most direct and affordable way to get around Bangkok, albeit beware of the traffic. We did not pay more than 200 baht for a journey and some took as long as 45 minutes. Some taxi drivers will ask for a fixed fare and others will run off the meter – the metered ones never went over 150 baht. Most of the taxis are air conditioned which can be a lovely rest bite after the sun! Bangkok also has metros and the Skytrain as alternative transport. Of course there are also the infamous tuk tuk’s which are licensed taxis but are open air so make sure you hold on. Expect to pay a little more, agree it in advance and have fun!!
DAY ONE THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK
Wat Phra Kaew / Grand Palace
Also known as the temple of the emerald Buddha, Wat (the Thai word for temple) Phra Kaew is the colloquial name for the palace that includes the former residence of the Thai monarch.
This is the busiest and most touristy site that you will visit in Bangkok so be warned of the crowds. I definitely recommend arriving close to the opening time of 8.30am to try and avoid some of the crowds and to walk around when it is not too hot. We took a taxi from the Amari Watergate to the Grand Palace for 200 baht fixed fare which is not bad considering it was a 35 minute journey (mainly because of the traffic).
You can enter through the gates and into part of the grounds for free but the entrance into the palace where the temple of the emerald Buddha is 500 baht. This is the most expensive attraction by far that you will visit in Bangkok but it is still only just over £10. There was a queue when we arrived but it was actually dealt with quite efficiently.
With all temples and shrines you must abide by the rules, which is to cover your shoulders and knees before entering which is a respect to the Buddha. Unlike Wat Pho and Wat Arun (see below), there are no clothes to rent but there is a shop by the entrance where you can buy items of clothing if you have forgotten to cover up. When you kneel in front of the Buddha respect can be given by saying “Wai” or using humble body language. Note that Buddha’s cannot be used as decoration or tattoo and you should not buy any Buddha heads. Lastly when you pray, your feet can not face the Buddha so it is best to just sit on your feet.
The grounds are vast and include more than 100 buildings that represent 200 years of royal history and architecture. The emerald Buddha (above) is hosted in a beautiful temple but is actually really small so get your glasses on! Each entrance to the Grand Palace compound is watched over by a pair of Yaksha – ogres or finats from Hindi mythology.
The palace is without a doubt stunning but the crowds were a little bit much for me. Definitely bear in mind visiting if you are also visiting the nearby Wat Pho (see below – totally worth it!) but just beware of the crowds.
Wat Pho is a ten minute walk from the Grand Palace and, whilst still touristy, has much more space than the Grand Place. With the entrance fee only being 100 baht, it is real value for money as you can spend a couple of hours meandering through the grounds and, of course, visiting the city’s largest reclining Buddha which is pretty impressive.
The meticulous detail on the temples around Wat Pho is impressive – the mosaics and the images of the people lifting up the stones is really impressive. You will walk past hallways covered with Buddha’s but the main event is the reclining Buddha at 46m long and 5m high and finished in plaster and golden lead is a reminder of the Buddha’s passing into nirvana (its death).
The Wat Pho compound is the national headquarters for Thai medicine including the teaching of Thai massage. This is why there are two massage schools within Wat Po. We visited the Thai Traditional Massage School which is open from 8am to 7pm – we had a traditional Thai message for 30 minutes for 260 baht (one hour was 420 baht) and they also offer foot massages and oil massages. We were directed to a number of beds, kept out clothes on and sat with one leg over the other. I definitely recommend this as a mid-day rest as they massage you from one side to the other and then back and front. It was a fantastic massage which was hard in all the right places and included real stretching!
From Wat Pho head towards the river to catch the public ferry (pier 8) which is 4 baht over the other side of the river to visit Wat Arun in Thonburi – the journey literally takes three mins. If you have the munchies before you depart, definitely visit Baan Thai a lovely informal restaurant serving delicious and affordable Thai food.
Admission to Wat Arun is only 50 baht and it is open from 8am-6pm. Wat Arun is a much smaller complex than the Grand Place and Wat Pho but it has beautiful mosaics and is less touristy. Do note that you cannot climb to the top (82m) like you used to. It is also referred to as The Temple of Dawn as is lit up, which looked beautiful in pictures.
After Wat Arun we were going to get a long tail boat along the river bit the weather was pretty misty so we decided to give it a miss. Apparently you can also get a local boat up and down the river for around 50 baht.
The itinerary outlined above can be completed in around 5 hours but if you want to spend more time looking around, definitely allow all day.
Day 2 – Things to do in Bangkok
We took a taxi to the Golden Mount or ‘Phu Khao Thong’ where the entrance fee to climb to the top is 50 baht. Luckily the steps are not steep and just spiraled, so it is a much easier climb than some. At the top you have lovely 360 views of Bangkok and get to admire the gold chedi.
The Golden Mount is built on an artificial man made hill and is a well-known landmark in Bangkok and is the scared pilgrimage site during the week long worshipping period in November. In gleans at nighttime so try and spot it from where you are.
From the Golden Mount we travelled to Chinatown and meandered our way through the small streets taking in all of the street food aromas. Selling a wide range of foods from curries to wheat noodles and broths, Chinatown is worth a visit.
We had only visited Khao San Road during the evening so had missed out on all the market stalls (had to refrain myself from buying lots and being forced to carry it with my bucket…) so we ventured back in the day to walk around the various stalls and purchase dresses, shorts, tops, bracelets and more!! As with the other markets, definitely haggle but don’t be rude.
Pratunam Night Market
Located a five minute from the Amari is the Pratunam night market with stalls and stalls of clothes, souvenirs, bags, shoes and more. Expect to pay around 50 baht for shorts, 50 baht for flip flops , 100-200 baht for dresses. You can get immersed here for a good hour or more, although you realise in the end that everyone is selling similar items so spend some time checking it all out first before committing.
Day 3 in Bangkok
We only had a half day in Bangkok before we flew to Chiang Mai.
Bangkok is great for shopping. Whether it is the joys of the markets and haggling or the expensive boutique or designer shops, Bangkok has it all. If you are looking for big malls, at Central World you can find more than 500 shops and 100 restaurants!! You can also find Siam Paragon, an upmarket designer shopping mall:
Platinum Fashion Mall was more up my street and only a 5 minute walk from the Amari. Spread over five floors the mall is stocked with smaller outlets selling cheaper clothes and shoes and bags. If you are going to take shopping seriously then really consider taking an extra suitcase home or do I what I did and just fill your current suitcase to the absolutely brim that you have to sit on it to shut it at all times…
In between shopping we also visited the Erawan Shrine where there were many locals worshiping. The shrine is free to enter and has a very interesting but sad story. It was originally built in 1956 to end a string of misfortunes that occurred during the construction of a hotel, including sinking ships carrying materials and injured workers. The statute of Lord Brahma was built in the shrine and the misfortunes ended. Sadly, an awful act of terror occurred in 2015 when a bomb killed 20 people and damaged the shrine. In positive sprits, it was repaired and reopened just two days later and remains a popular shrine to visit.
Thing I missed in Bangkok
Sadly I did not have time to travel outside the city to a Floating Market or attend a cookery class. I also visited mid-week so was unable to visit the famous Chatuchak weekend market.
East London Girl: Things to do in Bangkok