Bangkok offers up a great selection of attractions and activities to take in while visiting, and they cover a vast different type of spots. Most traditionalists and first timers will certainly want to take in the main tourist sights, like the awe inspiring Grand Palace, which happens to be the most venerated spot in the country as well. Nearby Wat Pho is also on the must see list, with its giant sleeping Buddha and renowned massage institute for resting those weary muscles, while the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) offers great views of the old city. While checking out the architectural wonders, definitely include a visit to the Jim Thompson House, and make sure to spend time walking around Chinatown checking out all the old shophouses, eating, and visiting the informative historical museum at Wat Traimit.
Sea Life Ocean World features fabulous marine attractions for the whole family, shoppers will want to make for the Chatuchak Weekend Market as well as the eating/dining/drinking mecca of Asiatique, and last, but certainly not least, make sure to take the whole family to the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm, where you will be educated and entertained at the same time.
Not only is Wat Traimit Chinatown’s number one attraction, it is the site of the world’s largest seated golden Buddha, five and a half tons of gold, actually the largest gold statue in the world, and worth some 250 million dollars! The statue’s origins are unclear, but it supposedly comes from the Sukhothai period and was made somewhere in the 14th Century. Thousands of worshipers come here daily, and the temple has a mystical aura to it, especially around holiday periods like Chinese New Year or the Vegetarian Festival. There is now an excellent new museum on the premises detailing the history of the Thai Chinese, well worth a stopover in addition to having a look at the golden Buddha.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Wat Traimit is Chinatown’s most “must see” attraction and worth a stop for its museum alone.
Dave’s expert tip: The easiest way to get here is to take the MRT subway to Chinatown.
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Both entertaining and informative, the Snake Farm is far from being the cheesy attraction one might take it for. The Queen Saovabha Institute which runs the place has a complex housing an exhibition area for 35 species of living snakes, a 100-seat arena for venom extraction, a museum and exhibition about snake evolution, anatomy, toxicology and snake bites first-aid, along with a highly developed research center and an outdoor serpentarium for snake exhibits and handling shows. The indoor museum is full of interactive demonstrations and the live handling show is excellent, with many of the most poisonous and largest snakes brought out for photo opportunities and a bit of playful bravado between them and their keepers.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Despite sounding kitschy, the Snake Farm is great family entertainment and education.
Dave’s expert tip: The snake handling show is at 11, and 2:30, while on weekends, there is no 2:30 performance, so plan your visit accordingly. Best reached via Skytrain to Sala Daeng and then walk up through Soi Thaniya to the Red Cross complex.
A former New York architect who came to Thailand as a soldier in WWII, Jim Thompson is known for re-establishing the Thai silk industry. His beautiful traditional home, renovated from several up-country buildings, house a fine and priceless collection of Asian art, silk, and pay homage to the man who received the royal Order of the White Elephant and who mysteriously disappeared in the jungles of Malaysia. His house, which has changed little since he vanished in 1967, is a series of six traditional teak wood homes, with curved roofs and naga mythical serpent motifs, set amidst pleasant gardens. The Thompson House also features an art center that has ongoing exhibitions, multimedia presentations, and guest lectures.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For a bit of history, architecture, and the arts, the Jim Thompson House should be on everyone’s Bangkok itinerary.
Dave’s expert tip: The Thompson House is best reached via the BTS Skytrain and is just across from the station at National Stadium. Guided tours of the mansion are compulsory.
Photo courtesy of Mystique Arom
Set along the Chao Phraya River, Asiatique should be on every traveller’s visit list during the holiday season, as it’s vibrant and full of revellers. It’s a dining, shopping, and attraction hangout all in one, and a great New Year’s spot for watching fireworks and counting things down. Boasting 50,000 square meters and 1500 shops, with parking area for over 2000 cars, everything is spacious at Asiatique. The market is housed in ten giant warehouses, each one having their own set of shops, restaurants, and bars. The warehouses are divided by districts such as the Waterfront, Factory, and Town Square, all easily navigable with large lit up maps that are conveniently placed in front of each warehouse.The theme throughout the market is retro and industrial, with plenty of giant sculptures of nuts, bolts, and gears hanging above and below. Narrow passageways run through each warehouse, with old trams, rickshaw statues, and fountains surrounded by park benches making for scenery other than boutique shops and eateries.
Aesthetics aside, not only will you find great bars, restaurants, and boutique shops at Asiatique, you’ll also find Bangkok’s biggest ferris wheel, a cabaret show, and a muay thai boxing show amongst the various forms of entertainment. You could spend hours here with all the attractions and shopping, so make an evening of it.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For eating, drinking, and shopping in one atmospheric fun location, Asiatique can’t be beat!
Dave’s expert tip: get here by taking the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and then the free shuttle boat from the Saphan Taksin ferry pier to Asiatique. The last boat back is at 11pm.
Siam Ocean World demands a hefty entrance price, but the kids most certainly will love it. Built underneath the flashy Siam Paragon Mall, this set of giant aquariums is home to over 30,000 fish and marine creatures from around the world, including sharks, piranhas, manta rays, dolphins, and much much more. The 7 zones here showcase everything from loveable water rats and otters to ugly lion and stone fish and plenty of deadly predators too. There are shark feeding, penguin feeding, and eagle ray feeding performances, a 270 degree underwater tunnel, and the amazing Open Ocean, Asia’s largest panoramic aquarium, home to a variety of sharks all swimming as if in your lap.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The sheer range of marine life on display makes Siam Ocean World worth its steep entry price.
Dave’s expert tip: If you purchase tickets online on the website, you can save 20%. Additionally, those foreigners living in Thailand are eligible for large discounts with proof of ID.
The Golden Mount, also known as Wat Saket, which is the name of the temple located at the site, is a small hill which gives great views over Bangkok and is reached via a 300 step winding staircase. There is a golden chedi at the top, and views to Wat Arun are excellent. Historically, this spot was used to bury the dead during cholera plagues when the city had no proper burial place, but now is a local favorite to escape some of the heat and watch the sunset.
The Golden Mount is also the site of a large temple fair every year in November during the Loy Kratong holiday, when thousands of locals pack the Wat Saket grounds and carry candles up to the top to make merit and pay homage to a Buddha relic that is enshrined here. There are giant golden Buddha statues, beautiful bells, and large gongs found en route to the top of the temple. The Golden Mount isn’t as popular as many other tourist sites in Bangkok, but is well worth a trip for its views and fresh breezes overlooking the city.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For a view of Bangkok and great bit of exercise while touring Rattanakosin Island, the Golden Mount is certainly unique.
Dave’s expert tip: The easiest way to get to the Golden Mount is to take a public boat on the Saen Sab Canal, which departs from the central Pratunam Pier just up from Big C and across from the Central World Department Store.
Wat Pho (now also called Wat Phra Chetuphon) is the largest and oldest (although it has been completely rebuilt) temple in Bangkok, and it is famed for its giant reclining Buddha, which is over 150 feet long. The giant sculpture is completely covered in gold and is noteworthy for its giant feet, which have the 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha inlaid in mother-of-pearl. The spacious grounds of Wat Pho contain over 1000 Buddha images, many from the ruins in the ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.
Wat Pho is also home to one of Thailand’s most esteemed schools of traditional massage. Many of the country’s rich and famous have come here for treatments, and you can follow in this tradition, with an invigorating body rub down or foot reflexology treatment to relax with after a long hot day of sightseeing.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: if only for a relaxing massage, Wat Pho should be on your visit list.
Dave’s expert tip: A massage at Wat Pho will cost THB 250 an hour, and don’t forget to leave a 50-100 baht tip. The best way to reach Wat Pho is by using the Chao Phraya River ferry to Tha Tien Pier, and walk up from there.
While it took a big hit during Covid, Chatuchak has reopened, and for the city’s best outdoor shopping, head here from Friday night through Sunday. Originally a flea market started in the 1950’s by a former prime minister who wanted to put a flea market into every town in Thailand, Chatuchak, more affectionately known as JJ Market, is now the largest market in Thailand. Over 5000 stalls vie for business, selling everything from clothing to pets, antiques, plants, amulets, and plenty of food and drink. The market is now a highly touristed affair, hot, crowded, and no longer dirt cheap, yet it is still a great place to people watch, find something you don’t have to buy, and the latest addition of impromptu cafes for sipping a cappuccino or having a cold beer and watching the world go by make it worth an afternoon.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For the ultimate in people watching and shopping, Chatuchak is a Bangkok institution.
Dave’s expert tip: The back section of the market is probably the most interesting, as fairly illegal things such as cockfighting and various animal (some endangered some not) species are to be found, but don’t get too pointy with your camera back here, as the merchants may be suspicious of your motives.
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Bangkok’s Chinatown is full of history, mazes of tiny alleyways to get lost in, find great food, markets, temples, and one of the few places in the city where it is actually pleasant and preferable to walk. Highlights include the giant Wat Traimit Temple with its 700 year old 5.5 ton Buddha image, the largest in the world, along with Wat Mangkon Kalawat, Chinatown’s busiest temple. consistently filled with incense smoke and worshippers waving joss sticks. Besides this, there are old shophouse lanes, the outdoor seafood restaurants on the corner of Yaowarat and Soi Padungdao, the Sampeng Lane alley market and the Trok Itsaranuphap wet market with produce and spices.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: for tradition and great food, Chinatown is an absolute must visit.
Dave’s expert tip: If you ever come through this area at night especially around any festival time, there is a high chance you will see local Chinese opera troupes performing streetside, a beautiful, but seemingly dying art, as the audience consists only of old folks.
This is Thailand’s most venerated and glittering sight, the Grand Palace, which is home to the country’s most visited temple, Wat Phra Kaew, more commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Built by King Rama I, it is the most revered spot in Thailand, and packed with merit making locals on weekends. Make sure not to miss the Emerald Buddha. It may only be 31 inches tall, but it is the most worshipped statue in the country. You can buy joss sticks, candles, and gold leaves if you wish to join the pilgrims in the temple making their offerings. Proper attire is required, appropriate attire is required, no singlets, shorts, skirts, sandals, or revealing clothing of any nature is allowed,although if you forget there are sarongs available for use.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The country’s most venerated sight is also its prime attraction and a must see.
Dave’s expert tip: Beware of tuk tuk drivers or local con men, often dressed in official-looking clothes, who will try to convince you that the palace is closed and that you need to buy tickets from them. Just go straight to the entrance and purchase a ticket inside.