When planning a trip to Thailand, it’s little wonder you might not be tempted to spend much time in Bangkok itself, not with so many stunning beaches and islands awaiting you in the south and jungled adventures in the north (especially when there are elephants involved!). But just before you dash off to the sun or the hills, take a few days and experience the best of the country’s capital:
1. See Bangkok from the water
There’s a number of cruise options to take you out on the Chao Phraya river that flows through Bangkok, and of these, the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat not only offers unlimited rides throughout the day, but gets you close to some of the city’s biggest sights. Most spectacular to see from the water is the Wat Arun Temple, or the Temple of Dawn, which sits right on the river’s edge and whose famous Khmer-style prang spire is over 80 metres high. Hop off at the Maharaj Pier for the Grand Palace and at Tha Tien Pier for Wat Pho, where you can find the Reclining Buddha.
2. Feel like a king (or queen) at the Grand Palace
When you think of Bangkok, think bling. From the gilded walls and roofs of the Grand Palace to the 43-meter long Reclining Buddha in nearby Wat Pho temple, it’s hard to find a spot in historic Bangkok that isn’t shimmering with gold. Built in 1782, the palace complex is also home to the Wat Phra Kaew Temple, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha—Thailand’s holiest shrine and an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.
3. Grab lunch at Cabbages and Condoms
Yes, you read that right. Cabbages and Condoms is a group of resorts and restaurants, including one in Bangkok, which all exist to support an NGO called the Population and Community Development Association. While you enjoy fresh Thai food (and marvel at decorations made entirely from condoms), know that part of your bill will be going to support efforts in areas such as family planning, HIV/AIDS education, and rural development across the country.
4. Check Jim Thompson museum
The story of Jim Thompson is intriguing enough—he was an American expat who in 1967 had been living in Bangkok for the past 22 years but suddenly disappeared while on holiday in Malaysia. But Jim left behind more than an unsolved mystery; he was responsible for revitalizing Thailand’s silk industry. Today you can tour the Jim Thompson House for a fascinating look at Jim’s life and the silk that he loved—but also venture across the Saen Saab canal to see some of his original sources for the fabric. In the community of Ban Krua, it’s possible to visit small back shops like Ban Krua Thai Silk who still weave and dye their own silk—and of course, buy a yard or two to take home with you.
6. End the night with sky-high cocktails
After you’ve sailed down the Chao Phraya, soaked up the regal atmosphere of the Grand Palace and picked up some gorgeous Thai silk, what’s left before finishing your Bangkok adventure? Toasting your friends at 63 stories high, that’s what. Get a taste of the city’s swanky side at Sirocco, the world’s highest al fresco restaurant located at the top of State Tower. With a live jazz band every night, a circular Sky Bar, and unbeatable views of the city below, Sirocco might have you second-guessing your decision to leave Bangkok the next day. (For more on Sirocco see The Most Impressive Rooftop Bars in Asia.)
For flights to Bangkok visit our Flights page.