Best Things To Do in Bangkok
Shoppers take note: Bangkok boasts everything from flashy high-end malls to very affordable mass markets like Chatuchak. You're also bound to discover a number of streets with shopkeepers selling specialized goods (namely jewelry and silk). When your wallet needs a rest, you can visit the city's beautiful temples – the Wat Pho and Wat Arun – two of the most popular in the city. There's also the opulent Grand Palace where you can see the sacred Emerald Buddha. Let your trip to Bangkok culminate in a leisurely float down the Chao Phraya River; it’s the perfect perspective from which to appreciate this bustling city.
Updated September 8, 2017
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Wat Arun, meaning "Temple of the Dawn," is named for the Hindu god Aruna, God of Dawn. And fittingly, this 270-foot temple is glorious to behold at dawn or sunset. The temple is covered from top to bottom with mosaics, pieced together by Chinese porcelain. To experience it, visitors can pay a small admission price to climb inside the temple's central prang, but keep in mind that the steps are steep and the stairway is very narrow.
Many travelers rave about Wat Arun for its beauty and tranquility – that is if you get there before the crowds. Recent visitors report crowds here aren't as bad as they are at the Grand Palace or Wat Pho but it's still best to get here early if you want to experience the attraction at its most peaceful. No matter what time you go, be sure your knees and shoulders are covered. And depending on where you go in Wat Arun, you may be required to take your shoes off.
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The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, known as Wat Pho in Thai, is a Buddhist temple complex which is most known for its gold-plated "Reclining Buddha" sculpture. The Buddha measures 151 feet long and is 50 meters tall, making it the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. The complex also houses the most Buddha's in all of Thailand. Along with the famous reclining Buddha, Wat Pho features a whopping 394 Buddhas that can be found spread out between four different chapels on-site.
In between all of the opulent statues, ornate pagodas and striking stonework spread throughout, you might be surprised to learn that you can get a massage here. In addition to being a place of worship, Wat Pho is also an education center that focuses on traditional medicine and massage therapy. You'll definitely be in for a cultural experience should you choose to do so, but make sure to research what a Thai massage is before you go (they're generally considered pretty painful by American standards).
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The Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the biggest street markets in the world. It sprawls more than 35 acres and contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 shops and vendors. Here, you'll see a multitude of goods for sale, from fruit to puppies to clothing, antiques and more. The best way to navigate this mammoth market is to grab a map at the information offices on the edge of the market. Chatuchak is broken up into 27 different sections, but don't expect them to correspond to one type of good sold. Everything is completely spread out, and while it definitely overwhelmed some travelers, others found the energy of the market completely enthralling.
Travelers recommend visiting in the morning when there are fewer crowds and the heat isn't oppressive. But considering an average of 200,000 people visit this market per day, you're going to have to share space with lots of locals and tourists regardless. Visitors say you shouldn't be afraid to bargain here, as some vendors are willing to come down on their prices. Also, make sure you bring lots of cash. Most vendors don't accept cards and many travelers said they walked away buying way more than they had initially planned.
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The Grand Palace will probably be on the itineraries of most first-time travelers to Bangkok. That's because the complex once served as the residence for multiple Thai kings, their royal courts, as well as multiple branches of government, including defense and treasury departments. Though royalty nor the government has resided here for hundreds of years, that hasn't stopped tourists from making a detour. Should you venture within the palace's walls, you'll find numerous ornate structures that feature an interesting mix of Thai and European-style architecture. But the most popular site in the palace by far is the Wat Phra Kaew temple, which houses a sacred emerald Buddha statue.
Recent visitors say the palace is definitely something to behold, but strongly suggested planning before you go. The first thing you need to consider is your apparel. Travelers say the attraction adheres to a strict dress code. Here, shoulders and knees must be completely covered, so be sure to bring pants or a long skirt with you. If you don't have the appropriate attire, you can purchase clothing on-site. The palace is also insanely crowded, to the point where some travelers didn't even enjoy their time there. If you can swing it, arrive as soon as the attraction opens. And if you want to really understand the history behind the palace (and there's a lot of it), many visitors suggested securing a tour guide while there, which you can find on-site. Those who did hire a tour guide appreciated the attraction a lot more and were happy not having to wander the complex around wondering which buildings held what significance.
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The Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) is a relatively new mixed-use arts space. Many liken its contemporary architecture to the Guggenheim, and the artwork inside – which ranges from painting to performance – pushes the aesthetic envelope just as much as the pieces in the famed New York City museum. A lot of travelers like the BACC simply because it's something to do other than shopping or going to a holy site. And unlike many of Bangkok's other top attractions, crowds are limited here, making it the best environment to admire the facility's cool art.
BACC is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free. To reach the BACC, take the skytrain to the Stadium National stop; the center is located at the Pathumwan Intersection. For more information, visit the website.
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Following World War II, American architect Jim Thompson decided to settle down in Thailand and during his time in the country, ended up resurrecting Thailand's struggling silk industry. The ins and outs of the silk industry are fascinating, but many find his home (which was constructed from six different Thai homes) even more so. And Thompson's mysterious disappearance – he went on a vacation and was never heard from again – gives this attraction even more allure. The architecture of the Jim Thompson House, along with its late owner's enigmatic history, is what draws visitors here. Travelers also enjoy its charming grounds and the in-house cafe.
Travelers say it's easy to miss the Jim Thompson House. If you take the Skytrain to the National Stadium stop, you'll find the house due north right along the Saen Saeb Canal. The complex is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the admission price (which includes a tour) costs 150 baht (or about $4.50). For more information, check out the Jim Thompson House's website.
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