BANGKOK | Bangkok is a huge city that almost 15 million people call home. Famed for its rich history, beautiful shrines and temples, and vibrant street food scene, it’s a city that has something for everyone who visits.
There’s diverse architecture, amazing food, museums, galleries, and more. There’s popular tourist spots that are well worth checking out, and lesser known hidden gems, found off the beaten path. Two days is barely enough to scratch the surface of what Bangkok has to offer, but you can fit a lot in if you plan things out.
If time is not on your side and you only have 48 hours or so in town, here’s some suggestions on things to do in Bangkok, that will ensure you have a great experience.
Check Out The City’s Temples
There are over 40,000 temples in Bangkok, and almost all of them can be visited by tourists. Wat Pho and Wat Arun are the most famous two, and they are well worth a visit. Wat Pho is known for its huge golden reclining Buddha statue, while Wat Arun is popular for its þrahng, which offers spectacular views across the Chao Phraya River.
Beyond the popular temples, be sure to visit a few smaller ones. Many only contain one main room that’s open to the public, and can be easily seen in just a few minutes. I’m particularly fond of Wat Sutthi Wararam. It doubles as a contemporary art gallery, with intricate, colourful murals, presenting Buddhist motifs and tales, in a modern way.
Discover Bangkok’s Street Art
Bangkok has a vibrant street art scene, with local and international artists painting small and larger scale murals all over the city. Several festivals are held throughout the year, and the murals painted as part of these remain for visitors to see.
Local artists to keep an eye out for include Alex Face, Himbad, Bonus, Asin, Dark1, Chun Smith, Pakorn, panda Dew, Mr.Bows, Komkrit, D.o.D, Loboboy, Bongo, Sorimeo, and mxrnies.
You can find their work all over town. Particular areas to explore for street art are:
- Soi Charoenkrung 30
- Soi Charoenkrung 28
- Song Wat Road
- San Chao Rong Kueak Alley
- Saphan Taksin BTS Station
- Pathumwan Sky Walk
- Khlong Saen Saep
- Chalermla Park
Eat Street Food
Bangkok is famed for its street food scene. There are entire streets dedicated to street food, and vendors can be found all over town selling delicious things. Most street food vendors specialise in one dish, and each has their own spin on it. People will endlessly debate as to whose version is best, but what’s certain is that you will eat very well in Bangkok.
As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to street food, follow the locals. Many people tell me that they’re wary of eating street food because it ‘might make them sick’. If you stick to the ‘follow the locals’ rule, you won’t have this problem. If a place is busy with locals lining up to enjoy that food that’s being served up, it’s going to be good and safe.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the world. Founded in 1782 as the home of the city’s mainly Teochew immigrant Chinese population, Chinatown spans several neighbourhoods. Today, Chinatown continues to be a hub of Chinese culture. It’s also known for its preserved historic shophouses, and for its vibrant food and drink scene.
Explore Charoen Krung Road
Bangkok’s oldest paved road, Charoen Krung Road, has experienced a renaissance in modern years. Creatives and young entrepreneurs have set up shop, attracted to the area’s relatively low rents, historic buildings, and slower pace. It’s an interesting mix of new and old, with traditional shops and trendy modern venues co-existing.
Relax With A Thai Massage
Nuad Thai, aka traditional Thai massage, dates back to at least 1384, and has been recognised as part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is still part of Thailand’s medical system due to its perceived healing properties at both emotional and physical levels. One thing’s for sure. After a long day of exploring, there’s nothing quite as relaxing and rejuvenating as a traditional Thai massage.
See The Grand Palace
Dating back to 1785, Bangkok’s Grand Palace is the official residence of the king, and is still used for ceremonial purposes today. It’s actually made up of several structures, and is well worth a visit. If you do plan on visiting, be sure to check the calendar, as the Grand Palace is closed to the public when the king is in residence.
Take A River Taxi
370 kilometre (229 mile) long Chao Phraya River is the lifeblood of Bangkok, winding through the centre of the city. Travelling along it by boat is a great way to see the city from a different point of view. Skip the touristy, overpriced cruises, and instead join the locals and hop onto a river taxi. They only cost around 30 baht a trip, and you can get on and off at convenient spots along the river.
Visit A Market
Bangkok is home to many markets, and no visit to the city is complete without a market visit. Sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market is the most famous, and is one of the largest open-air markets in the world. Anything you can think of, you can find there.
For food, head across the road to Or Tor Kor Market. Popular with local chefs and cooks, is where you’ll find some of the best quality produce in town. It’s also home to an amazing food court.
If you’re keen on visiting one of Bangkok’s famed floating markets, head out of the centre, where the markets are set up for tourists, and check out Don Wai Floating Market. From the centre of town, you can get a taxi there in around half an hour for 400 baht.
Visit Some Museums
There are countless museums in Bangkok, dealing with all sorts of topics. National Museum Bangkok, established in 1874, is the largest and best known. It contains a vast collection of artefacts that take visitors through Thailand’s history from Neolithic times through to the modern era.
Those interested in contemporary art should visit Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA BANGKOK). Established in 2012, it’s one of Asia’s largest contemporary art museums, with an impressive collection of Thai and international art exhibited over five levels.
Walk Along Khao San Road
Ever since the 1980s, Khao San Road has been the place where backpackers from around the world have congregated. These days the street is very touristy, but it still attracts backpackers from all walks of life, from across the world. Being touristy doesn’t mean that it’s still not a fascinating place. Take a walk through the area, grab a drink, and watch life unfold all around you.
Wander Through A Red Light District
There are four main red light districts in Bangkok: Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, Patpong, and Soi Twilight. I’m not here to debate all that there is to debate about Thailand’s sex industry and the morality of sex tourism. What I am here to tell you is that walking through one of these red light districts and observing all that’s going on around you, is an insightful experience.