I’ve been to Bangkok several times. Ironically enough, it’s never been for much longer than a day. Although I’ve never had an extended stay in Bangkok, all of my short stays have given me a chance to see what’s really worth seeing. Bangkok is definitely worth exploring for a few days, but if you are pressed for time here are the things you can’t miss!
24 Hours in Bangkok
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is at the top of everyone’s “must see” list in Bangkok. Built in 1782, this multi-building complex was once home to the Thai King, the Royal Court, and many other high power government officials and state departments. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. Be advised: this place can get busy. I mean really really busy and crowded. Your best option to avoid the crowds is to go in the early morning.
Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Within the complex of the Grand Palace are several beautiful and unique buildings including The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in all of Thailand, the Emerald Buddha is carved from a single block of jade and dates back to the 14th century.
Because this temple is held in such high regard, a strict dress code is enforced for both men and women. Long pants and covered shoulders are a must. Not dressed appropriately? Have no fear! There is a an area near the entrance that can provide coverups for a deposit.
Pro-tip: The Palace is open daily from 8 am – 5:30 pm. If a local tries to tell you it is closed during those hours they’re lying. This is a common scam in Bangkok. They tell you it’s closed but offer to take you to another temple that is a long tuk-tuk ride away. Do not fall for this.
Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)
A short distance away from the Grand Palace you will find another temple iconic to Bangkok, Wat Pho, or the Reclining Buddha. The Reclining Buddha is exactly what it says it is, a giant (45 m long and 15 m high) gold Buddha laying on its side. Although the Reclining Buddha is no doubt the main attraction, Wat Pho also contains several chapels and a beautiful courtyard.
Wat Arun (Temple of the Rising Sun)
Across the Chao Phraya River, you’ll find Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Rising Sun. This temple looks much different from the others. In fact, it very much resembles the Khmer style of temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The 5 towers of the Wat Arun temple are hard to miss and look amazing from afar when lit up at night. However, as the name implies, it is best to see it in the morning. As the sun rises, it gives off a beautiful shimmering light that causes a reflection from the river.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is like no other road in Thailand. Widely regarded as the backpackers meeting ground, Khao San is overflowing with food carts, souvenir shops, Thai message parlors, restaurants, bars, and clubs blaring loud music at all hours of the day. Khao San is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want the full Bangkok experience you should at least stop by.
Indulge in a Thai Message
Get ready to have your world rocked, because Thai messages are on a whole other level. The best part is, depending on where you are, you can get an hour-long, most amazing message of your life for less than $10 American. Beware of places that advertise “happy-ending messages”.
Visit a Floating Market
There are several floating markets in the Bangkok area, but one of the most popular is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, made famous after it was featured in the 1974 James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. Since then it’s gone from being mostly a locals market to a huge tourist destination. Damnoen Saduak is located about 1.5 hours out of the city. Take the bus to Samut Sangkhram Ratchaburi province. Once you arrive you can walk along the passageway to the market, take a boat to the market pier, or even arrange for a tour.
Eat some street food and local fruit
Food in Thailand ranges from street carts to top of the line restaurants. If you’re not on the budget to dine at the fancy-smancy restaurants, have no fear! You can find some amazing, authentic Thai food right on the street. Pad Thai is always sure to please, but if you’re feeling more adventurous try out one of the many curry dishes. My favorite is the massaman curry. For your sweet tooth, try the so simple, yet so amazing, Thai Pancake, a doughy pastry fried and folded over with your choice of filling and topped with amazing toppings like Nutella, chocolate sauce and peanut butter. My go to was the banana peanut butter.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter and healthier, Thailand has amazing fruit available right on the street. I recommend mangosteen and jackfruit, and if you get the chance to try durian, or as it’s sometimes called: smelly fruit, do it!
Bonus: Chatuchak Weekend Market
If you’re in town on a weekend you do not want to miss the Chatuchak Weekend Market! It is the mother of all markets and will blow your mind. Because the Chatuchak is so big in size (over 15,000 stalls) it is divided into sections to help you better find what you’re looking for. If you’re trying to beat the crowds (which I suggest you do) plan to come early.