Last December on my third visit, I finally spent a full four days in Bangkok and realized there’s more to the city than the Grand Palace and cheap shopping. I did not like Bangkok the first two times I visited. Both times my trip lasted less than a couple of days. I found it congested and commercialized with not much to do and filled to the brim with tourists waiting to make their way to the islands. I was one of them. It’s still not one my favorite places in Asia but there are things worth seeing.
You can easily kill a few days in Bangkok exploring. It’s also an inexpensive foodie heaven. Here is how we spent our somewhat touristy and not so touristy four days in Bangkok. Travel tips included.
Four Days in Bangkok: An Itinerary
The Grand Palace and Wat Pho You can’t skip the Grand Palace. The architecture is ornate and simply beautiful. Entry into the buildings within the palace grounds is not permitted but you’ll still probably spend an hour or two here… and the photos will be stunning. Nearby down the street is Wat Pho, home to the famous reclining Buddha
Tip: Go early in the morning, it gets very crowded and make sure you wear clothes which cover your legs and shoulders otherwise you’ll have to turn around. In case you forget, there are stalls across the street that sell Thai pants and shawls for cheap. We got a pair for 100 Baht, less than $3. It’s also very, very hot and no food or beverage is sold within the complex of the Grand Palace. There are public faucets but you’ll have to use your hands as a ladle. Bring your own water and a hat.
“Cruise” the Chao Phraya River I use the word “cruise” broadly here. I don’t like typical cruise ships in general given that they are an environmental disaster (Be Better Than A Cruise Ship) but take a tour of the Chao Phraya river using the water taxi or passenger ferry boats from the central pier and take it all the way to the end and back. Its cheap (less than $1) and and a great alternative to the tourist boat.
Tour BKK in a Tuk Tuk It’s not the most environmentally sound way to travel but I suppose its better then riding in a car with the AC blasting. Tuk tuks are great fun and a small adventure given the speeds the drivers get up to. We paid a tuk tuk driver about 300 Baht and he drove us all around the popular spots in Bangkok our first evening for almost an hour and a half. It was a great way to get reacquainted with the city in a small timeframe and still feel like part of the action as opposed to experiencing it sitting behind a windshield.
Go to the Floating Markets Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan are the two of the most popular floating markets in and around the city. They can be done in a half day. A full day tour can be done with the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and visiting historical sites in Kanchanaburi including the Bridge over the River Kwai, Allied War Cemeteries with a finish at the Tiger Temple (I did this in 2008).
Tip: Go Early! Both are accessible by public transportation. And try the food the ladies give you on the passing boats.
Visit the malls
I know, I know. I hate malls too but they are pretty interesting in Bangkok. Like Dubai, the malls are destinations for social activity. In addition to seeing the latest street fashions, it is also a wonderful place for foodies. The malls are filled with amazing restaurants and food courts. Each mall has a different feel, some feel more like a bazaar and others upscale. Some sell bootleg DVDs and software, others sell Louis Vuitton handbags.
Tip: Go to MBK at Siam Square for cheap electronics and DVD’s of your favorite television seasons and movies. Paragon is where you’ll find the upscale shopping. Both have great food courts. The one at Central World is also very popular. Food Republic at Siam Center is one of the newest food courts to try as well as modern. You can easily find a great meal for 100-150 Baht ($3-$4usd). The restaurants with their own seating will certainly cost you more. The food court at Emporium mall is probably the most expensive, you’ll spend up 500 Baht and up.
Go to a Muay Thai fight
Muay Thai, a combat sport, is HUGE in Thailand. They sell tickets for tourists in Phuket and other islands (you’ll see them mock fighting on the tacky floats around the streets to attract you) but make sure you watch it in Bangkok at Ratchadamnoen Stadium or at Lumpini Boxing Stadium. It’s authentic and you’ll witness the serious fighters in action. It’s not for the faint hearted.
Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market The weekend market is pretty awesome, totally recommend this. It’s hot and crowded but there are so many cool things here. Great shopping and great places to eat. You’ll find electronics, modern and traditional Thai kitchenware and spa products to leather goods to exotic fish to modern art to cheap foot massage. I created a mock home spa with essential oils, natural soaps, salts, lantern burners for a fraction of the price based on what I found here.
Visit the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) I try to visit the contemporary art museum in every city I travel to. It gives you great insight into current trends and interpretation by new artists. Unfortunately, some cities don’t put as much importance on it like others. They are located outside the acceptable radius for tourists to venture to.
Tip: The MOCA in Bangkok is located relatively close to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, less than a 10 minute ride by taxi. Public transport is slightly more complicated. Group the Chatuchak market and the MOCA together on the weekend. Hopefully your visit falls on one of the weekend days. The guard outside of the museum will help you find a taxi back.
View Bangkok from a Rooftop
Bangkok is a great city to see from one of the many rooftop bars/restaurants. Any google search will point you to the best ones. One suggestion is Vertigo located at the Banyan Tree Bangkok, the views are gorgeous. Go right before sunset to get both daylight and nighttime perspectives.
Tip: Make a reservation for dinner or just head up for a drink or to snap a photo. There is a strict no backpack policy and gents must wear pants, trouser shorts are not allowed and certainly no open sandals. They are friendly to tourists so don’t be intimidated by the dress code.
Day Four of Four Days in Bangkok
Get More in Depth with Food via Cooking Classes. By now, you will have sampled a lot of the great food Bangkok has to offer. But why not learn the essential ingredients and techniques so you can cook it at home too. Cooking classes are very popular and there are lots of fine ones to choose from. Silom Thai Cooking School is very affordable at $30 a class and will teach you a starter, main course and dessert in each session. They’ll suggest common substitutions too if you can’t find a particular ingredient in your area. If you have time, visit ChinaTown. The food is insane.
Sukhumvit Soi 11 is a hotspot for tourists, expats and even locals with its many bars, restaurants and clubs. It’s so easy to reach, located steps from Nana BTS (Exit 3) with many hotels close by. Lots of first time visitors to BKK stay in the area. It gets lively around 5pm but take a visit in the day too.
And Yes, Go to a Ladyboy Cabaret when you have four days in Bangkok
Well I’m sure you know about this one 🙂 We decided to check one out at the Calypso Cabaret located at Asiatique, a popular and large open air riverfront mall in Bangkok. Our concierge insisted that it was a must see. It was entertaining although we were over it about a half hour in. Make sure you check out the Beyonce impersonator, that was a real show stopper. The holiday time finale was also fun.
Tip: The shows are slightly pricey. Book in advance online (and not through your concierge) ….you’ll pay 900 Baht ($25usd) pp vs 1200 Baht pp. The show gives you vouchers to redeem two free drinks with each entry. They are pretty watered down. Fill your belly and quench your thirst before the show. There is plenty of choice at Asiatique.
Happy Traveling. Hope you enjoyed reading Four Days in Bangkok. Feel free to leave me any questions in the comments below.
This post was not sponsored in any way.