If you have two days in Bangkok and want to hit the highlights, here is a list of the top 10 tourist sites in the city:
1. The National Museum and The Grand Palace
Located in the historic area of Ko Ratanakosin (the veritable Vatican City of Thai Buddhism, filled with Thailand’s most revered and sacred sites), The Grand Palace is only used by the king for certain ceremonial occasions like Coronation Day (the king’s residence is at Chitlada Palace). The funny thing we encountered, The Grand Palace never seemed to be open when we tried to tour it! The last ticket is sold at 3:30 PM, which we did not realize on the first two attempts. The third strike was during the king’s birthday celebration; we were told by a very friendly Thai man that the palace was closed on said day until 2 PM and that we should take a promotional tuk-tuk tour of Bangkok for $1 and come back later in the day. We thought this was such a nice gesture, until we realized that we were being herded around to jewelry and clothing outlets so the driver could make a large commission (he got the short end of that deal, since we did not purchase anything).* Alas, I will have to visit The Grand Palace on my next trip to Bangkok.
2. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Also located in historic Ko Ratanakosin and within the grounds of The Grand Palace (i.e. one ticket for both attractions, cost is 400 baht or about $14 USD), Wat Phra Kaew (officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram) is deemed the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Buddha image was meticulously carved from one piece of jade around the 15th century AD. Again, this will be on the top of my priority list to see the next time I’m in Bangkok!
3. Wat Pho
4. Wat Arun (Wat Chaeng)
This Khmer style spire, a mosaic of porcelain tiles, is one of Bangkok’s most famous and quintessential landmarks. Legend tells of King Taksin arriving at this temple as dawn was breaking, after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya (besieged by the Burmese). He renovated the temple and named it Wat Chaeng, The Temple of the Dawn. We were able to view the strikingly beautiful temple from the Chao Phraya River but did not actually visit the temple. Adding this to my list of must-see spots when I return.
5. Jim Thompson’s House
Jim Thompson dedicated three decades of his life to the Thai silk industry revival, which was a dying art, and changed the industry forever. He mysteriously disappeared in the jungles of Malaysia, but he left behind a legacy, which shines and shimmers through his amazing collection of Thai antiques and art on display in Jim Thompson’s House and Museum. The house itself is a stunning residential enclave of six traditional Thai teakwood houses. My biggest regret was not seeing Jim Thompson’s House. Add it to the list for my return visit!
6. Explore Mae Nam Chao Phraya (Chao Phraya River) and its waterways
You can take an hour trip, as we did, or you can cruise the river and many canals of the “Venice of the East” for a half or whole day. Read more about our experience here.
7. Wander around chaotic Khao San Road, backpacker haven
This is the place where East meets West. This is the place where tourists and locals come to party. If you’ve seen The Hangover 2, you’ve seen this place. This.is the place.for nightlife.
8. Sample the commercial chaos of Chinatown
9. Soi Cowboy
The Vegas-meets-French Quarter red-light district, featuring a colorful neon-lit streetscape, is filled with go go bars, scantily clad girls, and Western tourists. (Similar: Patpong, Nana Plaza). We missed these areas during our stay, but they are noteworthy, indeed.
10. Floating Market
There are a few different floating markets to choose from in Bangkok, these include Ampawa Floating Market, Damnoen & River Kwai, Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Taling Chan Floating Market, and Tha Kha Floating Market.
Also mentioned in many must-see lists:
- Chatuchak Weekend Market – This 35-acre area of Chatuchak houses more than 8,000 market stalls and draws more than 200,000 visitors in a typical weekend. Anything and everything is for sale. If you have extra time in Bangkok and like to shop, it may be worth a day trip for the experience. We did not venture out there. To be honest, the thought kind of stressed me out!
- Biyoke Sky Hotel (highest building in Bangkok)- Take in Bangkok’s electric skyline while sipping on a cocktail.
*Check back for more on exploring Bangkok like a local, including: finding green spaces (parks), wandering the streets and canals, eating street food, and being swindled into taking a “very cheap tuk-tuk tour of the city” (oops, we didn’t read the guidebook warning until later… And we thought we got such a good deal!!) *
Thanks for stopping by!