Bangkok, Thailand’s capital and one of the world’s top tourist destinations is home to over 11 million people. It’s a cosmopolitan metropolis that boasts a fascinating juxtaposition of old ancient temples, palaces, and 200-year-old homes happily coexisting with brand spanking new high rise mega malls, Michelin star restaurants, and luxurious 5-star resorts.
Once nothing more than a small village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, today Bangkok is destination with a myriad of sights and activities that attracts almost 16 million visitors a year and serves as the gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia.
Despite the uncomfortableness of its sticky hot climate, pollution and political instability, Bangkok welcomes its visitors with an explosion of scents, flavours and experiences that lure in travelers from all over the world. From budget backpackers to elite business travelers, this ornate city offers something for everyone.
CNN Travel calls it the World’s Greatest City backing up their claim with this eclectic list of 50 reasons.
Best Time to Visit Bangkok
The truth is, it’s always a good time to visit Bangkok! The temperature never falls below 30 degrees during the day and the sun shines brightly throughout the year. If heat is not your thing, plan to visit Bangkok in its coolest and driest seasons, from November to December, when daytime temperatures are still at a pleasant high and nighttime breezes sweep the city with a much welcomed cool air. March to April is the hot season, with daytime temperatures rising to 40 degrees. It’s the worst time to visit Bangkok, unless you plan to spend a lot of time in air conditioned mega malls, resorts and pools.
The wet season runs from May to October, and brings with it a risk of thunderstorms and downpours that can sometimes flood parts of the city. But it’s not all bad news, as the afternoon showers are often a welcomed relief on a sweaty hot day.
Top Things to Do in Bangkok
Sightseeing in Bangkok can be quite overwhelming, with many of its attractions scattered around the city. Bangkok.com covers the main tourist attractions in its article “Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok”, but the draws of this vast city go well beyond the Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, the floating market and the famous backpacker hangout on Khao San Road.
Now don’t get me wrong, Khao San Road is still one of my favourite places in all of Southeast Asia, not for its historical or cultural significance and not for the myriad of fisherman pants shops, dirt cheap massage parlors and $1 Pad Thai, but for the people that roams the area and the adventures that often end and begin on the curb side with a Chang beer in hand. I associate Khao San Road with the happiest of times. With the start of my first ever S.E.A. backpacking trip and with its end, with the evenings spent with new friends and old, with the feeling of freedom and adventure. If nothing else, Khao San Road is an great place to sit back, relax and people watch.
If your Bangkok stopover is a short one, here are 10 Bangkok sights you can cram in one day
If you do have a bit more time to explore the capital, spend it immersing yourself in day to day life of this buzzing metropolis. Grab a tuk tuk or a map and choose to spend a day exploring any of the hundreds of Bangkok’s Buddhist temples (Wats), getting cultured in many of its famous museums, or simply getting lost in the lesser known areas watching the locals go about their day to day life. Take a cooking class (choose from one of the Best Cooking Classes in Bangkok as rated by FlightCentre), a Muay Thai lesson (here are 4 Best Places to Learn Muay Thai in Bangkok), or a go on a bike/walking tour of the city to add another layer of flavour to your Bangkok experience.
Those looking to enjoy Bangkok’s nightlife should plan to spend an evening in one of the amazing venues listed in the CNN Travel’s Complete Guide to Bangkok’s Nightlife, enjoy the city lights on a cruise along Chao Phraya River, or for a more “Hangover” worthy experience, check out this Bangkok Hangover Tour.
If the timing of your visit is flexible, Travel +Leisure suggests Top 5 Festivals in Bangkok that can provide a whole new level of experiencing Thai culture and festivities during your stay in Bangkok.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Long gone are the days of Khao San Road domination when it came to accommodation options in Bangkok. Today, a lot of visitors choose to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the backpacker district near Khao San Rd and opt for a quieter stay in other more upscale areas of the city.
Riverside area is a good option for those that have outgrown the backpackers crowd and are willing to pay a premium for luxury accommodation. Siam Square, Sukhumvit and Silom are home to a lot of the city’s moderate and budget hotels. If you are looking for good value then Guardian’s list of Top 10 Budget Hostels Hotels and Apartments in Bangkok will serve as a good starting point. Telegraph suggests another list of Bangkok’s Best Cheap Hotels and Hostel Bookers offers their take on the Top Rated Hostels in Bangkok.
Those looking for a bit of luxury might enjoy a stay at one of the 20 of the city’s sweetest sleeping options as ranked by CNN Traveler.
If you are looking for the typical backpacker experience, consider immersing yourself into life on Khao San Road. There are dozens of hostel options and budget hotels in the area, many located just a few blocks away from Khao San Road itself and provide great value, comfortable amenities and the benefit of being located in the heart of the action.
Where to Eat in Bangkok
There is no shortage of great eats in Bangkok and Bangkok.com is a great place to start your search for the best meals in the city with their handy list of Bangkok Restaurants by Area. There are supposedly over 50,000 restaurants in Bangkok, ranging from high end international cuisine to incredible hole-in-the-wall culinary delights.
Sukhumvit area tends to have the biggest share of the best restaurants of Bangkok, though prices are a bit on the higher end. If budget is not a concern, Elite Traveler compiled a list of appetising and authentic Thai cuisine that can be found in Bangkok’s most splendid high-end restaurants.
But as the article suggest, “a tour of Bangkok’s finest food stalls … is certainly recommended – both for the quality of the dishes and the energetic atmosphere”, so don’t be shy to check out some of Bangkok’s finest street finds with this guide to Bangkok’s Top 16 Street Food Sanctuaries by Migrationology.
How Much Time Do You Need in Bangkok
You can easily spend a week exploring Bangkok’s fascinating sights, getting lost in its streets and market stalls and visiting its countless temples and museums. But trust me, you’ll be “templed out” and “shopped out” before you know it. When you do (likely 3-4 days into it), pack your bags and say good bye to Bangkok. It’s a great city, but there is so much more to do and see in Thailand that spending too long in Bangkok is simply not worth it.
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