How to Spend 48 Hours in Bangkok
Busy and chaotic at times, Bangkok has been in the top three most visited cities in the world for most of the last decade. With lavish temples, busy street markets and contrasts in every corner, you don’t need to dig too deep beneath the surface to discover why so many visitors fall in love with the Thai capital.
A group of friends and I visited Bangkok for a whirlwind 48 hours, and managed to check some must-dos off our travel list, making this an unforgettable city break well worth the 12-hour flight each way.
Tour of the food night markets aboard a tuk-tuk
After heading over to our hotel to check in and refresh, we started our Bangkok adventure in style by joining a Street Eats by Tuk-Tuk tour. The tour incorporates two of the city’s must dos: ride a tuk-tuk, and eat the street food. Over two hours, we travelled around the busy streets of Bangkok, stopping at three different street markets and sampling various Thai specialties recommended by our local guide. He introduced us to the different dishes while sharing details about his culture, and even took us to a fruit and meat market so we could get an insight into local living. After the markets, we visited an unassuming restaurant where I had the best Thai green curry I’ve ever tasted, followed by another stop for pad Thai at a busy hole-in-the-wall spot. Before returning to our hotel, we stopped for a night visit at the illuminated Wat Pho, undoubtedly the city’s most beautiful temple.
The Grand Palace
After breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we headed out on a visit to the Grand Palace, the former royal residence and one of Bangkok’s most important tourist attractions. It is comprised of a conglomerate of buildings, built in different styles over a period of more than 200 years. Many of the buildings are decorated with colourful tiles and mirrors which glitter in the sunshine, and the rooftops are trimmed with gold leaf; the surrounding grounds are further decorated with towering sculptures of warriors and demon protectors, also copiously decorated with colour and glitter. The effect is overwhelming but strangely breathtaking, and the palace offers plenty of opportunities for taking postcard-perfect photos. Inside, you can also see precious artifacts, most notably the Jade Buddha which is adorned with three different wardrobes depending on the season.
After our visit to the Grand Palace, our guide took us over to Wat Pho again to explore the grounds during daylight. The temple is truly impressive, with colourful buildings and beautiful landscaped gardens. Wat Pho has a collection of 1,000 golden statues – each depicting a sitting Buddha in different sizes – as well as 2.5-metre-high stone statues originating from China. Aside from the beauty of the temple itself, Wat Pho’s main attraction is the 46-metre-long Reclining Buddha, considered to be one of the most graceful sculptures in the country. With a shimmery golden covering and mother of pearl adorning the soles of the sculpture’s feet, the reclining Buddha is truly a sight to be seen. Wat Pho is a working temple to this date, and monks can be seen walking around the grounds; if you’re lucky, you might even get to see them chanting inside the prayer hall.
Cruising the Chao Phraya River
After our busy morning, we took a ride aboard a traditional Thai longboat (an experience in itself!) along the Chao Phraya River and through some of Bangkok’s canals. The river has some stunning views of the city’s ever-expanding skyscrapers and extensive temples, while the canals, lined with a hodgepodge of crumbling shacks, expensive teak mansions and shiny temples, gave us a glimpse into daily life in some of Bangkok’s local neighbourhoods. The canals are also surrounded by an unexpected wild jungle, a welcome reprieve from the concrete of the city.
Cocktails with a view
To end our first day in style, we headed up to Skybar, Bangkok’s highest lounge located on the open 64th floor rooftop of the Lebua Hotel. The 360-degree views of the city from Skybar are breathtaking, only made better when accompanied by a handcrafted cocktail and live jazz music. Bangkok is a city of rooftop bars, so no matter where in the city you are, you will be able to find a great spot to enjoy a drink with a view.
Bangkok for the senses
There is no better way to experience Bangkok than travelling around the city aboard a tuk-tuk, a sensory overload of the city’s sights, smells, tastes and sounds which makes you really understand what the Thai capital is all about. On our last day in Bangkok we toured the megalopolis in just this manner, trying to experience as much as we could in our remaining time. We stopped in frantic Chinatown and walked around in search of tea vendors, visited the dizzying multi-story MBK super mall to check out their phone accessories, went to a streetside market to look at inexpensive clothes and souvenirs, and visited the colourful Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple. We then stopped for lunch at the famous Prachak Roasted Duck Restaurant in Silom to try their delicious signature ‘roast duck and yellow noodle’ dish, which was well worth the queue! After our busy day, we went for dinner at Cabbages & Condoms, a charity restaurant which has tasty traditional Thai dishes and refreshing cocktails.
48 hours in this hectic city is barely enough to see the main sights, but with a well-planned itinerary and a little determination, we made it work!