Bangkok is a jumping-off point to some of Thailand’s most famous beach resorts. But there’s a lot to see in the Thai capital, even if you only have a short time to take it all in. Bangkok is especially notable for its cultural sites and shopping, so weekend visitors should prepare their cameras and wallets for the “City of Angels.”
Visit the Palace
If you’ve only scheduled a day or two in Bangkok, the foremost sightseeing destination is the Grand Palace. It has been the official residence of the Thai monarchy for two centuries. Although the reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej lives in a different palace, this is still the site used for formal functions and serves as the symbolic seat of the royal family. No matter where you stay in Bangkok (although we recommend you to check out Mad Monkey Hostel, that features an outdoor swimming pool!), the Grand Palace is easily accessible by taxi. It’s located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and can be reached by a river ferry from the Saphan Taksin BTS (Skytrain) station.
The palace is not a single building, like the United Kingdom’s Buckingham Palace. Instead, inside the white walls is a collection of buildings housing offices, museums and the country’s most important Buddhist shrine — the one where the Emerald Buddha is located.
This is a good place to visit for families. Even children who don’t usually enjoy museums or cultural sites will love the Grand Palace’s opulence. It’s mesmerizing to travelers of all ages.
To show respect for the royal family and the palace, visitors are asked to dress respectfully. Some garments can be borrowed at the gate if the ones you come in are not suitable.
After you’ve taken in the palace, relax by shopping. Visitors to Bangkok have the benefit of many different kinds of shopping, from the famous floating markets to modern, air-conditioned shopping malls to haggling on the street for your purchases.
Peruse a floating market
There are two floating markets worth seeing near Bangkok. The one most visited by tourists is the Damnoen Saduak, which occurs daily and is in Ratchaburi Province. Or, if you are visiting the Thai capital on a weekend, devote an afternoon to the floating market in the village of Amphawa.
At either market, you’ll get a chance to take photos of this unique shopping experience. The markets consist of stalls and shops built on the sides of rivers or canals. Boat-riding shoppers can get their daily necessities from these markets or from vendors who are polling or motoring by on watercraft.
Photographers will find it interesting to see the markets from a bridge, but most visitors say they most liked experiencing the market from the water’s edge, in a boat themselves.
Visit a mall near National Stadium
Still not tired of shopping? The area around the National Stadium and Siam Exchange Skytrain (BTS) stations is a thriving hub of commerce and entertainment. This is where you’ll find the MBK Center, which provides an intriguing mix of tourist-oriented souvenirs and other goods in low- to mid-range shops. Across Rama I Avenue, the Siam Discovery Center, Siam Paragon, and Siam Center offer story upon story of air-conditioned shopping in ultra-modern environs.
Eat street food
All that shopping and sightseeing must have made you hungry by now, so dive into the inexpensive culinary delights of Thai street food. The night market on Yawolat Road in Chinatown is a good opportunity to try different goodies in one spot. You’ll find most street corners all over the city offer some kind of delicacy, though.
Explore the history of modern silk commerce
The next morning, grab an icy glass of Thai iced tea or coffee (sweetened with condensed milk) on your way to the Jim Thompson House museum. Thompson was an American businessman who promoted Southeast Asian textiles in the region until he mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia in the 1960s.
The museum is housed in traditional teak Thai houses on a small klong (canal) near National Stadium.
Get a massage
Finish your final hours of exploring Bangkok by getting a traditional Thai massage and meditating on all you’ve seen and done. Massage parlors are all over the city; ask at your hotel if they know a nearby one with a good reputation. Wat Pho, a large temple by the Grand Palace, has a world-recognized massage school where you can book massages.
About the Author: Rohini Gutta was an exchange student in Bangkok in her early 20s. Now, she’s an accountant for a large international firm in Australia who writes when she finds the time.