Throbbing, energetic Bangkok is a bucket list city if there ever was one. Packed with steamy food courts and shouting street food vendors, sleepless clubs thumping with electro and techno and spiked pagodas oozing a Buddhist serenity, the metropolis rarely fails to impress. Check out this list of things every traveler should have on the menu when hitting the streets of the Thai capital…
Party down Khaosan Road
No trip to the fabled capital of the Land of Smiles could possibly be complete without at least one night spent on the tiles down the raucous, sleepless strips of Khaosan Road. Neon-lit bars slosh with Chang beers and bucket cocktails from the early hours, while the winding alleyways pulse with massage sellers and hedonist super clubs. Deep-fried insects are the stock of touts and aromatic pad Thais beckon from the street stalls. There really is not a dull moment on this electric strip!
Haggle your way through Chatuchak Market
Chatuchak Market booms with racks and racks of multi-coloured saris and scarves, batik frocks and branded tees, vintage shirts and dresses, handmade jewellery and Thai trinkets, Christmas decorations and painted china, collectable antiques and dusty books, blooming plants and bespoke artworks – the list goes on! Covering a whopping 35 acres of the city, this sprawling bazaar is the place to go to fire up the haggling valves and get some souvenirs.
Dine and drink cocktails on a sky bar above the city
Just like Singapore and KL, Bangkok is famed for its soaring sky bars and restaurants in the clouds. Dotting the tops of the skyscrapers of chic and cool Sukhumvit area, and rising high against the meandering channels of the Chao Phraya River as it cuts through the heart of town, there are spots like Octave and Moon Bar to conquer, not to mention swish jazz bars and eateries atop the tallest building in all of Thailand (an experience all of our travelers enjoy on our Taste of Thailand itinerary!).
Ride a tuk-tuk (preferably at night)
For many travelers, Bangkok will be the first chance to sample the delights of the auto-rickshaw. This rumbling, ratting vehicle plonked on the back of a motorcycle with an added wheel is the transport of choice for most all of Asia – so get used to it! But hey, it’s fun too. Weaving through the smoky, noodle-scented backstreets and shimmering golden stupas of Banglamphu, tuk-tuks offer a fine, if Ginsberg-esque, vision of Bangkok (especially at night!).
Sample the street food
Forever vying with the likes of Seoul and Singapore, Delhi and Lima for the title of the world’s street food capital, Bangkok surely comes out trumps with its delectable (and sometimes not-so-delectable) offering of fresh papaya salads and egg-infused rice, marinated pork skewers and deep-fried crickets (see what we mean by not-so-delectable?). Extra tip: search for the stalls where the locals are queuing – these will always be the best.
Tour the Grand Palace
The regal residence of the revered Thai kings and queens makes its home right in the midst of central Bangkok. Gilded in gold and spiked with countless stupas of shiny metal, this awe-inspiring wonder is one of the most totemic landmarks in the entire Land of Smiles. It’s got a strict dress code, but visitors who do come can tour the Royal Court Rooms and the elegant Dusit Hall, not to mention the Wat Phra Kaew – the most sacred Buddhist shrine in the country and the home of the glistening Emerald Buddha statue to boot.
Take a river cruise on the Chao Phraya River
Given the sheer size of Bangkok, there’s no question that taking a riverboat is one of the best ways to encompass the top sights, sounds and smells of the city in one fell swoop. Travelers can opt between organised tours along the Chao Phraya or municipal water taxis that flit between the various docks, hopping on and hopping off when they get seduced by the glimmering pagodas of temples like Wat Po (one of the highlights of Bangkok on our Treasures of Thailand trip) or the shop-houses of Phra Arthit Road to name just two of the delights along the meanders.
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"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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