Believe it or not, there is more to Thailand than just it's food reputation. Here are just a few of the many exciting things to do while you're in Bangkok.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
One of the world’s largest markets resides right here in Bangkok — and you’d be crazy to miss it! You can find pretty much anything you could ever want or need here: from local designer clothing to precious silverware to mountains of spices, or even your usual souvenirs and trinkets.
Plan to visit Chatuchak on a Saturday or Sunday. If you go on Friday, only about half of the shops tend to be open. Whichever day you choose, intend to spend the entire day. Even with that, you’ll never be able to walk every inner aisle and alley. In fact, you’ll barely make it off the main circle before the day is through, although the inner shops do tend to get repetitive in their offerings.
There’s plenty to eat and drink here so no need to pack a lunch. But do remember to bring 5 baht to use the bathroom. There’s a beautiful park right outside the marketplace that’s a perfect place to enjoy your lunch (there really isn’t anywhere to sit inside the market).
To get there, take the BTS to Mo Chit station, or the MRT to Chatuchak and you’ll be just steps away from one of the best shopping experiences you’ll find.
Asiatique: The Riverfront
This lovely pier-side marketplace is great for an evening away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bangkok. Take a ferry along the beautiful Chao Phraya River and spend a few hours shopping, eating, and people watching in this posh yet casual atmosphere.
Rot Fai and Ratchada Train Markets
If you’re looking for a more youthful scene, head over to either one of these train markets. Rot Fai is the larger of the two but far more difficult to get to (though you’ll find more locals here for that reason).
For ease of access, I’d suggest sticking with the Ratchada one (they both have the same owner, the main difference is in their size). Take the MRT to the Thailand Cultural Centre station and walk a couple blocks. It’ll be hidden behind a large mall but just follow the crowds and you’ll find it.
The grounds are open every evening after 5pm and offer rows upon rows of delicious foods, ranging from easy bite-size finger foods to full sized hope-you-brought-the-family seafood platters.
In addition, there’s an equal or larger amount of market space devoted to clothing and handicrafts. But the coolest part? The little retro-hipster shops and bars that line the area. There is so much to see and enjoy here that it’s become one of our favourite places to visit when we’re in Bangkok.
Temples and other touristy stuff
Admittedly, I’m not the type of person that likes to capture photos of famous monuments or go out of my way to seek out popular locations, but I can appreciate that many are.
But Thailand has some wonderful tourist destinations that are actually pretty awe-inspiring. For those of you that are history buffs, Bangkok's temples are fascinating in both their intricate beauty but also in how many there are!
With over 400 different temples throughout the city, you history buffs will be dancing! The most popular places to visit are Wat Pho to see the lying Buddha and the Grand Palace (which are both in the same area).
From there, you can take a quick walk over to Khao San Road: the backpackers heaven. Here you'll experience the epitome of catering to tourists. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of fun to be had here and if you're looking to meet some new friends, this is certainly the place to go. Just don't expect to find anything remotely "local" or traditionally Thai here -- rather, all the pad Thai and beer you could ever ask for.
Take a boat ride down one of the many rivers
To really get a feel for the old city, hire a river boat to take you out for a better view.
Bangkok was built around the magnificent Chao Phraya River. It’s a wide, expansive river that hugs the west and south sides of the city. Day or night, you can hire a long tail boat or hop on a ferry to take a leisurely ride down the river.
There are a few things to see along the way: the temples, Asiatique’s glowing ferris wheel, the luxurious riverside hotels and condos, and the dance party cruise boats (which is another way to traverse the waters, if that’s your thing).
If you’ve got children in tow, head over to the Thonglor and Sukhumvit area. Along the BTS line, you’ll find a few attractions like Dinosaur Planet (exactly what it sounds like), Funarium (a big climbing obstacle course), Snow Town (a large simulated town with fake snow that you can mold into snowmen, etc. A great place to cool down), among other attractions.
Elsewhere, there’s KidZania, arguably the most popular children’s entertainment venue. It's an interactive educational experience where you get to play around and try out different jobs like being a firefighter or a pilot.
Catch the sunset with a cocktail, high above the city
Since the famous Hangover scene, rooftop bars have been popping up all over Bangkok. Each one is a little different than the other: some super pricey, some with strict dress codes, some casual, etc.
We really liked The Octave Bar, which sits atop the Marriott at Thonglo station. The dress code was easy: just dress nice.. although we begrudgingly saw many people in cargo shorts and tank tops after we got all dolled up so it's definitely way more lax than the website's rules dictate).
The view was lovely, the sunset was fantastic and there was no cover. My only annoyance was that they did seem a bit pushy with ordering drinks.
Bangkok’s shopping centres
Another thing that Bangkok has several of is shopping centres. Luxury or lousy, they’ve got it all — and several of each. Our favourite ones are:
EmQuartier: this mall is very chic. But to be honest, we don’t go for the shopping. We go for the food. They’ve got an extensive food court in the lower level for lunch-style faster foods. And if you head to the very, very top, they’ve got a magical five story helix with 50 dine-in restaurants. It’s impossible to put it into words how fantastic this place is. You don’t even need to eat there… just go explore it.
Terminal 21: a world-travel themed mall where each floor is decorated to look like different cities around the globe. The shopping is geared toward the casual middle-class with places like American Eagle and the food court offerings are of a similar status.
Central World: okay, if you want to literally shop until you drop, get your butt here. Several gigantic floors of well known and local retailers. It’s so huge, they’ve got two full floors devoted just to their food court and another five or so for shopping.
MBK: I’ve personally never gone in, but I’ve heard great things about it.
Strange and interesting bars and restaurants.
Bangkok has grown at an exponentially rapid pace and has become an ultimate foodie destination. This has paved the way for a boom of sustainable new bars and restaurants to flood the scene and take Bangkok to the next level.
All over the city, and particularly in the Thonglor area, there are some funky places popping up.
Hopping around to places like Iron Fairies, or the Hello Kitty House will keep you entertained.
Take a stroll in Lumphini Park
And finally, when you’re all worn out and you just need a breath of fresh air, head over to Lumphini park. Once overrun by monitor lizards, this green space features a long paved pathway, ponds and rivers, fountains and bridges, and most curiously, an outdoor gym facility. It’s large enough to clear your thoughts and your lungs while getting to know a different, greener side of Bangkok.
And so much more!
Like I always say: get out there and explore the streets that are unfamiliar and you're bound to find something new and exciting. The places listed above just barely scratch the surface of what Bangkok truly brings to the table.
What's your favourite thing to do in Bangkok? We'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!