You either find it beautiful and exciting or you hate it with a passion. Welcome to Bangkok, a city of thousands of different smells, three-wheeled beauties called tuk-tuks, SangSom Thai Rum, delicious but weird looking street foods, and so much more. I fall into the category of those people who are fascinated with Thailand’s hectic capital and its unique charm. From gold-spired temples to neon-lit urban strips and skyscrapers, there is plenty to look forward to when visiting the City of Angels. For me, a visit to Bangkok is like finally seeing color after living your whole life in black and white.
With around eight million inhabitants living within the city and millions of tourists visiting the city each year, it comes as no surprise that Bangkok is packed with activities and attractions to keep you entertained for at least a month or two. My list of things to do in Bangkok may not include all the tourist norms, but will definitely let you smell and feel the true Bangkok.
1. Khao San Road
The infamous backpacker district, Khao San Road is the melting point of various tourists. Here, you will find everything from expat bars and nightclubs to antique boutiques, massage centers, and clothing stores. This area also hosts a vibrant street food scene with everything from your ordinary Thai dishes to delicacies like fried bugs and scorpions. Whether you are in the mood for exploring the shopping bazaar of Thanon Khao San Market, partying hard in nightclubs like Lava Club and Gazebo, or enjoying city views from the Ghost Tower, this 1 km-long strip offers something for everyone.
2. Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World
The largest aquarium in South East Asia, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World is one of my favorite places to visit in Bangkok (especially after a long night on Khao San Road). This fabulous aquatic wildlife park is home to more than 30,000 sea creatures and offers plenty of attractions. You can dip your hand into a petting pond and touch starfish, get super close to jackass penguins or enjoy a little fish spa. Travelers looking for an adrenaline rush can dive into one of the shark tanks and get up close and personal with the most dangerous predators in the ocean. Although I recommend swimming with the sharks, if this isn’t up your alley, you can always admire marine life from a glass-bottom boat.
3. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Sprawling across 30 acres, Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the country. It is home to more than 8,000 market stalls and attracts around 250,000 visitors on a typical weekend. This weekend market offers a diverse collection of merchandise including everything from Thai silks and handcrafted furniture, to Buddhist art, hardware, and musical instruments. Besides shopping, Chatuchak Weekend Market is also a great place to score tasty food. There are more than 100 outdoor food stalls where you can have a full Thai Meal. My personal favorite is the TohPlue Restaurant where I usually order dishes like Fish Steamed with Lime or Fish Curry in Young Coconut.
4. Get Lost in Chinatown
Oh you’ve been to Chinatown before? But, have you been to Bangkok’s Chinatown? Yes, Chinatown in Bangkok is in a league of its own, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get lost and have a chance to explore this vibrant district at your own pace. This is actually the biggest Chinatown in the world and can easily keep you occupied for a whole day. This area is a great place to tease your tastebuds, experience some new smells, and of course purchase some great souvenirs and gifts for those back home.
5. Wat Pho
Besides eating great food and admiring sea life, I love the history of Bangkok and never miss the Temple of Reclining Buddha also known as Wat Pho. It is busy and a bit touristy, but rightfully so and a must see while in Bangkok. The Reclining Buddha is a huge statue covered with gold and unique murals that cover the temple’s interior walls. Oddly enough, you can actually get a massage in this area if you too feel like relaxing like Buddha.
6. Wildlife Friends Foundation
If at some point during your stay you need a break from the busyness that is Bangkok, take a breather and arrange a tour of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand Rescue Centre and Elephant Refuge. Located just a 2-hour drive from the city, this center cares for animals such as tigers, macaques, gibbons, bears, and loris. There are also many elephants to be seen and you can join them on their daily walks. Here, you won’t see elephants being forced to do tricks and entertain visitors as the rescue center truly values the elephant’s natural behavior.
7. Soi Cowboy
Good ol’ Soi Cowboy. An area built around a single bar that was founded in the 70’s by a cowboy hat-wearing African-American man, this is a great place to finish your Bangkok trip. Soi Cowboy is one of the most famous entertainment nightlife districts in Bangkok with roughly 25 go go bars including popular joints such as Baccara, Kiss A Go Go, and Sahara A Go Go. The bars are typically free of cover, have inexpensive drinks, and introduce travelers to a world of neon lights, mirrors and entertainment that’ll leave you with a lasting impression of this amazing city.