Bangkok is arguably my FAVOURITE big city in South East Asia. Why? Well, it’s super cheap – you get literally anything that you could ask for, be it food or clothes or peaceful Buddhist temples. And it’s like a never-ending maze of exploration that still has me baffled at over 15 visits there. Whenever I land in Bangkok, it’s like this home feeling that I’ve lost. I’m originally from the UK and so SE Asia always feels foreign to me no matter how long I stay there. Somehow, Bangkok makes me feel at home. Top that up with the fact that people are, on the whole, super nice (Thailand is known as the land of smiles), and the weather is dope. What more could you even ask for?
So here’s my lowdown on what YOU can do in a quick trip to BKK. I’ve thrown in some suggestions if you’re there for a longer time period – and sensible connections if you’re planning out a whole trip to Thailand.
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Day 1: Shopping and Therapy
Whenever I land in BKK, it’s normally at some absurdly early hour in the morning. Or late the night before. I like to start my day early so that I can reach the shopping areas before the crowds come swarming in.
Though there are tons of awesome shopping options in Bangkok, my two favourites are Pratunam which is more local and the Siam area which is more upmarket, but between the two I find pretty much all that I need – be it clothes, food, electronics, or stuff that I’ve never seen before in my life!
9am: Pratunam Street Market
A lot of the street market vendors are open by 9am, and this is a good time to hit it up. The exact location of Pratunam market is pretty much the whole street area opposite Pratunam fashion mall. Check out the Google Maps point for this and walk around, as it’s best to explore this area on foot.
The street market in Pratunam is mostly clothes. Go here if you’re looking for cheap options – and be sure to haggle people down to a good price. A lot of the people here don’t bring down the price but if you’re buying multiple items, tell the shopkeeper beforehand to give you a good price! The best is to quote them a price you would pay, and try and bring them down by at least 100-200 THB.
I’ve gotten some super nice clothes from the street market, a bikini that fits me (really hard to find) in less than 10 GBP, and cool accessories.
As you’re walking around the market you’ll find so many small street food options! Be sure to try out the miniature coconut pancakes, fresh fruit, and roadside omelette and rice if you’re hungry. Thailand is REALLY BAD when it comes to plastic usage so please please please – bring your own bowl and cutlery so you don’t need to take plastic from them. And of course when shopping, don’t ask for plastic bags but rather keep everything in a cloth bag or your backpack. Every small action counts!
After you’re done here, head over to Pratunam Fashion Mall for other options. Here you’ll find possibly better items, maybe at a slightly higher price because it’s inside a mall, but a lot of variety as well. I find that between the mall and the street market I can satisfy all my cheap clothes shopping needs in Bangkok. And it’s great for both men and women!
If you haven’t absolutely stuffed your face at Pratunam, you’ll definitely be STOKED to see the food floor at Siam Paragon. Siam is one of the most Westernized areas of Bangkok – and a complete contrast to the more local area of Pratunam! Think – air-conditioned buildings and mostly any food you’d get abroad. And much more.
Siam Paragon is about 10minutes in a bike or taxi from Pratunam. When you enter the ground floor of Paragon you’ll find the food court. Depending on where you enter from, there’s one side which has all the big food places like Ben n Jerry’s, selected restaurants, and some street food options. As you walk towards the inside, you’ll find the more expensive and gourmet restaurants and stalls.
An arguable favourite is Tsujiri which has some of the most authentic matcha soft-serve (and also tea) I’ve found outside of Japan, and there’s also an Acai bowl place and tons of other eating options. If you’re looking for packaged items and things to take home including imported produce, then be sure to check out the Gourmet food market.
1.30pm: Siam Malls
If you are keen to check out some designer and also high street shopping, head on up in the Siam Paragon building. You’ll find electronics and a huge book store as well at the higher levels. If you’re looking for authentic electronic items then Siam Paragon is good – I got my tripod from Bic Camera, and my GoPro from somewhere there too. There’s also a Sony shop, where I got my camera lens cleaned (at a price). And there’s large phone service provider shops like AIS where you can get a new SIM card or renew an existing plan.
If you walk across from Siam Paragon (you can do so from within the building itself), you will hit Siam Centre. This building has more high street stuff on the ground floor, like Sephora, Pull & Bear, Lush Cosmetics, etc. and also some cheaper designer and boutique shops on the upper floors. There’s also a food court in this one if you want more options. I got some cool clothes from this place – mind that it’s a little expensive, so look out for sale items.
And if you walk further across from Siam Centre, you’ll hit Siam Discovery. This is one of my favourites as you’ll find tons of random things that you didn’t know existed. For example, there’s a whole floor with a section called Loft which is basically tons of cool things imported from Japan. There’s also a floor called Ecotopia which has all manner of ecofriendly products like notebooks that grow plants (yes that’s real) and various health-food products.
Walking around these three can easily take the whole of the day – because there are literally SO many things to get lost in, no matter what you are interested in be it clothes or otherwise, it’s a huge maze. So I’m leaving out sunset for this one. In all reality, if you’re focusing on shopping today, it makes no sense to then run to another part of Bangkok given the Siam area is pretty huge in and of itself.
6pm: MBK Centre
If you’re looking for cheap and useful electronics, or even genuine ones, MBK centre is a heaven for this. It’s just across from the walkway from Siam Discovery, and the technology is located on the top floors. Whether it’s lenses for your phone, cheap Go Pro equipment, cables, tripods, filters for your camera, a tripod base – you are sure to find your item here in MBK. The centre shuts around 9pm, so fit this in somewhere in the beginning if it’s a priority.
8pm: Markets and Dinner
If you have extra time head on over to the road opposite Siam Paragon, where you’ll find cool street markets, more malls, and independent shops. There is literally no END to the shopping scene in Bangkok – and you could visit this same area 50 times and still not see all of it. And opposite Siam, you’ll also find a range of cheaper dining options. So grab a quick meal on your way out of Siam or in one of the restaurants opposite. Siam is super lively at night and it’s a pleasant experience walking around this place!
A lot of tourists end up at Khao San Road, which might be attractive if you’re a newbie gap year student looking to get drunk with people who probably went to your neighbouring University and do super touristy shit. Personally, I find Siam to be a better shopping and eating experience by FAR. So I’m leaving that out in the list, but yes, - a lot of people go there.
9.30pm: Thai Massage
After all that walking, you’re probably down to relax! And one of the biggest misconceptions that people have (especially Indian men) is that Thailand is basically a place to get laid. And that all massages have so-called “happy endings.” Um, FALSE? Super false. If you’re looking for the seedy stuff you’ll have to go to certain areas for that, and I would have no idea about that because you have to be super desperate and a total loser to come to Thailand to find whores.
Thai massages are actually very respectful. You are supposed to be clothed, and often they will give you clothing to wear. There is no oil involved and it involves a lot of twisting and stretching of the body, also hard pressure that’s so good if you’ve got a lot of muscle tension.
There are so many good massage centres opposite Siam Paragon on that main road and inside the small ones. I’m not going to recommend any specific one here you just go inside and check out the vibe. You can also get a range of other treatments like Oil Massage and Foot Massage – there is no dearth of legitimate and high quality massage options in this area!
Day 2: Culture
7am - Wat Benchamabophit
It’s a good idea to wake up for sunrise at least one of the days when you’re in Bangkok. It’s such a peaceful time of day to see a huge city being so still – and if you are outside a temple, you’ll see alms-giving for the monks. In fact, the monks are all over the city.
One of my favourite early morning temples is Wat Benchamabophit. You can go here as early as 7am and sit inside the main temple area where monks are often chanting. It’s a very calming energy and so different from the hectic city – definitely something worth experiencing.
The temple itself is very beautiful and a great place to get good Instagram shots during sunrise. It’s still not as touristy as the bigger temples like Wat Pho – so you won’t find any throngs of crowds here in the morning.
Be sure to shower before you come here and dress respectfully – Buddhist temples require you to cover your legs and chest, and not be sleeveless.
8am - Wat Pho
Wat Pho is one of the most famous and most intricate temples in Bangkok. Although it is a high profile tourist destination, I certainly wouldn’t miss out on it, and if you go upon opening you won’t be flooded with tourists. The entrance fee is around 200 THB per person. You need to be appropriately dressed or they won’t let you inside the temple.
One of the main attractions here is a huge reclining Buddha. And the rest of the temple is an architectural wonder. There are so many intricate patterns around the huge temple spires, and definitely some good spots to take photos.
When visiting a temple – be sure to actually connect with the spirit there instead of running around in a rush like a headless chicken just trying to take photos. A key feature of Buddhism is mindfulness – so take a few minutes to actually sit INSIDE some of the temple areas, close your eyes, and just be. Just sit and observe what’s happening inside you. Allow yourself to actually be in the temple presence without being distracted with anything.
Wat Pho also has it’s own massage centre as people come here to medically train in Thai Massage. It can be super crowded because it’s so famous – another reason you need to get here early if you want to do that!
10am - Grand Palace and Wat Mahatat
Okay, so you’re now in peak tourist time. But if you want to cover all the main spots, you’re going to have to slot something in during this time period. Right nearby Wat Pho is the Grand Palace which is actually probably one of the most touristy places in Bangkok but I’d still say it’s worth a visit - because it’s super fascinating and there are so many beautiful things to see from a whole combination of cultures. The ticket here is quite expensive – be sure to cover yourself here because they are super strict about clothing here.
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And right next to the Grand Palace is Wat Mahatat – another beautiful temple which is way WAY quieter and a great place to actually sit in the peaceful environment and meditate. This is actually a Vipassana centre and there are many monks who live in the temple premises. The monks are super friendly and are generally okay to take pictures with you and will talk to you.
Visiting these two temples will easily take you at least 3-4 hours if you do them properly. So be sure to grab some breakfast or brunch in between Wat Pho and Grand Palace to keep you going! There are plenty of local food options nearby here.
3.30pm – Chao Phraya River
This is the main river which runs through Bangkok, and is formed from four different tributaries. You can easily take a boat trip across the river in the afternoon, stopping at certain places along the way – there are many different shopping attractions and also temple attractions apart from the ones mentioned here. Another great one to see along the river is Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the Emerald Buddha. There are four different types of boats you can take, and the tickets cost anywhere between 10-40 THB.
5.30pm – Wat Arun
One of the best places for sunset along the Chao Phraya river is Wat Arun. This temple is substantially smaller than other temples but the architecture is phenomenal. Again, another heavily Instagrammed place so if you’re serious about taking pictures here then morning is probably better. However, the vibe here is quite powerful. I actually spent half an hour outside the temple in the entrance temple where the monk was chanting and conducting some rituals. You can witness the sunset from across Wat Arun from the river, or from inside the temple itself.
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7.00pm – Night Market
Okay so there are tons and tons of night markets in Bangkok. One of my favourite ones is Ratchada Rot Fai Train Market, which from above, looks like a puzzle of multicoloured squares. You’ll find everything here from cheap clothes, accessories, food, and of course alcohol. Bangkok is super famous for its night markets. Some other good night markets include JJ Green Market, Chatuchak Market, Chang Chui Plane Market, and Patpong market.
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Day 3: The City
6am – Floating Market
If you’re down to wake up early, and even if you’re not, then a great excursion is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market located about 1.5 hours from the city. Although this is also a major tourist attraction, it’s one of the largest and oldest floating markets which will to some extent at least, give you an authentic experience.
If you are looking for something less touristy, some great options are Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, which is about 20km from the city centre and is filled with locals during the weekends. Taling Chan is another locally popular market which is not popular with tourists, and again is only 30 minutes by car from the city.
You are likely to have your lunch in the market and spending the whole morning there as they can be quite big and overwhelming. You can find plenty of local dishes in the floating markets like Pad Thai and fresh seafood items.
2pm - Chinatown
Bangkok is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. It is mostly located around Yaowarat Road, and is one of Thailand’s oldest Chinese communities. Apart from being an excellent street photography location, it is also FULL of cheap produce, local food, and cultural amalgamy.
Some places to check out in Chinatown include Sampang Lane, which is a small narrow street where you’ll get literally anything random at a super cheap price. Its fairly chaotic and is quite an authentic street shopping experience. If you haven’t had enough of temples, a few really cool ones are located here too. For example, Wat Mangkol Kamalawat and Wat Traimit – again, excellent for photography. A great museum to check out is the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre, which shares the whole history of immigrants and the development of Chinatown in Bangkok. Don’t forget to explore the range of street food options here.
A great way to explore Chinatown is by bike. There are even tour companies who will take you on a guided trip to explore Chinatown and the surrounding areas, visiting the most local and authentic places along the way. Chinatown is a maze and it can be useful to have a local guide who knows the place in and out.
5pm – Sky Bar
If you are in Bangkok, a great way to catch the sunset is from one of the many sky bars. The most famous one is probably the Sky Bar at Lebua Hotel in Silom – however, last time I went there was a cover charge of around 30 Euros! Not worth it if you want to just click a few pictures are leave. Some other great Sky Bars to check out include Octave, Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel, Redsquare Rooftop Bar, and Brewski at the Radisson Blu Plaza. But there are literally dozens of rooftop bars, so choose something that suits you in terms of location and price.
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Okay, so there’s my extensive guide to exploring Bangkok in 3 days for you complete! I’ve tried to keep it as short as possible (if you read my Instagram captions you know how that’s a total impossibility for me) – but my aim here is not superficial content, but rather details that I know will make the life of most people easier, who are visiting Bangkok for the first time.
And don’t forget to follow my Instagram @wanderingkamya to find out information like this in real-time and go through my real life experiences.