Welcome to the Land of Smiles!
The jewel in Thailand’s crown, Bangkok City is one of the most visited cities in the world because of its fascinating cultural experience and unique way of life. Exploring Bangkok may seem like a daunting challenge for those who are visiting for the first time, but this guide will ease you through the hustle and bustle. This is a worldwide local’s guide to the energetic city of Bangkok.
Set on the murky banks of the Chao Phraya River, the sound of whizzing tuk-tuks and the aroma of freshly made street food make Bangkok a city that stimulates all the senses--a vibrant city that is full of surprises at every turn.
Buddhism in Bangkok
Among the tall skyscrapers and modern shopping centers are ornate Buddhist temples. Also known as Wat, these are havens for peace within the confines of the major city. While it may not be possible to visit every site on the unending list of Bangkok’s serene and beautiful temples, there are several that are not to be missed. Along the Chao Phraya River is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok, which is also the home of the massive reclining Buddha. With a length of 160 feet and 50 feet tall, the huge golden Buddha represents God entering Nirvana. Other must-see temples are Wat Phra Kaew with its tall golden towers, located next to the Grand Palace, and the colorful Wat Arun.
Worldwide Local Tip: While tourists are welcome to take pictures and explore the temples, bear in mind that the temples are holy places of worship. People will likely come into the temple to worship, therefore dress appropriately and be a considerate visitor--bring a shawl or a jacket that you can shed before you stop for lunch at one of the delicious Bangkok cafes.
Bangkok After Dark
Bangkok has gained notoriety for its wild nightlife. It is sensory overload, with bright flashing lights that will lure you in. From seedy areas such as Nana Plaza and Patpong to scenic views on a rooftop bar, Bangkok has a diverse array of activities for after dark. Khao San Road is popular, especially among the backpacking community, because of its cheap hostels and central location. The main strip is filled with buzzing bars and the liveliest of Bangkok restaurants, and the street is overrun with revelers. For a calmer nightlife option, hop on a relaxing cruise through the Chao Phraya river, where you can dine while gazing at the bright city lights.
Worldwide Local Tip: For balanced nightlife, head to the Asiatique Riverfront. It is a much less crowded place, but still has a lot going on, making carousing this district one of the top things to do in Bangkok. From trendy bars and night markets to cabaret shows, it has an eclectic range of things to do. You can go for a peaceful stroll through the gorgeous promenade by the river, enjoying the balmy Bangkok weather, after hanging out at the cocktail bars.
Shopping in Bangkok--Floating Markets, Trinkets, and the Best Street Food
A trip to Thailand’s capital is not complete without visiting one of its many floating markets. An insight into a Thai way of life for centuries, you can hop on a boat tour across the busy narrow canals, to visit local vendors selling fresh produce and other locally made items. Most markets are only open during the mornings, so make sure that you get up bright and early. The largest and most popular floating market is the Damnoen Saduak, located around 2 hours away from the city.
Worldwide Local Tip: There are many floating markets that have been glamorized to suit tourists in Bangkok. For an authentic local experience, visit the less touristy Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. Enjoy delicious local meals--the real Bangkok cuisine, at a fraction of the price--served up on narrow wooden boats.
Bring a piece of the city home with you by buying trinkets from its weekend market. A bustling place full of local stalls selling everything from bootleg t-shirts to souvenirs, the Chatuchak weekend market is popular amongst locals and tourists. Here, you can easily get lost and immerse yourself. It’s the largest and busiest market in all of Thailand, with up to 15,000 vendors. For a different, comfortable shopping experience, Bangkok also has modern shopping centers, such as those in Siam Square and Terminal 21.
Worldwide Local Tip: Always haggle to get a good price at local markets. Vendors tend to increase the price of an item up to four times its worth based on whether you are a local or a tourist. Haggle respectfully to ensure that you are given the best price. Know where haggling is not appreciated, though--the concierge at your ritzy Bangkok hotel will likely not find it amusing if you try to short her a few Baht!
Enjoy your visit!
Your journey to the land of smiles guarantees to leave you with exciting memories and amazing experiences, thanks to its colorful traditions and amazing people. Its warm residents make every guest feel like they are part of the city. Whether you are an unwitting tourist or a worldwide local, a trip to Bangkok will be an adventure you will never forget.