Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. This city, fondly refer to it as Kreung Thep (or City of Angels) by its 14 million inhabitants was originally founded as a trading post some time in the 16th century. According to the 2016 MasterCard Global Visitor survey, it’s the world’s most visited city. So if your next holiday includes some time in this vibrant, noisy city, you’ll soon start to understand why it’s so popular.
If your time in Bangkok is limited you’ll want to plan your stay carefully in order to ensure that you make the most of it. Here are some of our favourite ways to fill in a day in Bangkok.
5am: Put thoughts of breakfast aside for an hour or two and head to Pak Klong Talad flower market. Bangkok’s largest wholesale and retail flower market is open 24 hours a day, but a pre-dawn visit is particularly memorable as that’s when the wholesalers bring in truckloads of fresh supplies and retailers come to buy their stock for the day. There’s plenty of noise and action, so come later in the day if you want to see it in a more tranquil and orderly state.
8am: Thai food doesn’t really adhere to Western ideas about breakfast. This is great if you love Thai food as it means you can eat your favourite dishes at any time of day without feeling out of place. If you do want to try something typically Thai, look for a street stall selling Khao Neow Moo Ping. This is a kind of Thai omelette made fresh on demand, often with minced pork and various vegetables, and served on a bed of rice with a side garnish of chilli sauce. If that seems a bit heavy-going for this time of the day, you may prefer Patongo, the Thai version of a doughnut. They’re light and fluffy, but with a savoury or mildly sweet flavour unlike its more sugary Western cousin.
10.30am: No visit to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to one of its ornately beautiful temples. Just along the river from the Flower Market you will find Wat Pho, which is the site of the world-renowned Reclining Buddha, a 15 metre high, 45 metre long gilded statue that dates back to the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Another crowd favourite, slightly further along the same river bank, is the Grand Palace, which is a complex of buildings that includes the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha itself only stands 66 cm high, but it is carved from a single block of jade and has great spiritual significance to the Thai people.
1pm: Time for lunch. First-time visitors to Bangkok may be wary of food from street vendors, but if you choose one that looks busy and is well-frequented by locals, you’ll probably be very happy with the result. A bowl of noodle soup or an authentic dish of Pad Thai will only cost you a couple of dollars but your taste buds will tingle. If you’re prone to experiencing a “delicate” stomach, we recommend sticking to hotels, or restaurants recommended by concierge.
2pm: Its a good idea to escape the hottest part of the day. Some may choose the air-conditioned comfort of one of the many large shopping malls that are dotted around the city, but we think it’s a great opportunity to try a traditional Thai massage. Whether you long to be cocooned in a luxurious hotel spa or you prefer to have amore authentic cultural experience of a local massage shop there’s plenty of choice. There’s even a Thai massage school within the grounds of Wat Pho, so you really have no excuses for coming home tense.
6pm: By day, you may think that the Chao Praya River, which flows through the centre of Bangkok, does not seem particularly picturesque. But as the sun starts to sink, there is no better vantage point from which to watch it disappear than from a boat slowly making its way upriver. Because road traffic in Bangkok can become quite congested, the river provides an easy, less-cluttered transport alternative. You can choose your preferred method of transport: everything from a long-tail to a fast ferry. But at this time of day, we recommend a dinner cruise on a converted, antique rice barge.
9pm: Bangkok is a shopper’s delight, offering high-end shopping malls, price-savvy street vendors, and everything else that lies between. But after dark, there’s no better option than the night markets. One of the newest and most family-friendly options is Asiatique. Home to 1500 boutiques and 40 restaurants, you’re bound to find something for everyone here. And if you’re not in the mood to shop, there are two shows to enjoy. But be warned: Asiatique is open until midnight so you really can shop until you drop!
Spending a day is not nearly long enough to experience even a fraction of what Bangkok has to offer. Should you be inspired to stay longer, your personal travel manager will be happy to provide even more ideas of what to see and do.