Looking for a quick guide to Bangkok featuring some of the top attractions to help you plan your visit? Read on.
Bustling capital city Bangkok began as a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and is now the economic and administrative centre of the Kingdom of Thailand. Its name means “City of Angels” and it echoes some of the glamorous hedonism and excess of the American “City of Angels”, Los Angeles.
However, Bangkok has a distinct Thai flavour and the glittering modern world of affluence orbits around a serene traditional core. Bangkok offers glitzy shopping malls and open-air markets, smutty red light districts and holy temples, hectic traffic jams and barges floating peacefully down canals. Once you overcome the dazzling strangeness of Bangkok, you will become addicted to the way this city seems to force you to live in the moment.
Bangkok is also becoming a popular location for Digital Nomads, a new brand of entrepreneurs and freelancers who use the internet, social media, and technology to work remotely from anywhere in the world. These champions of the unconventional lifestyle are attracted to the cheap rent and cost of living and convenient position of Bangkok in the centre of the Asia Pacific region.
There’s so much to see and do in this city that you could spend months here and barely scratch the surface. However, in this quick guide to Bangkok I’ll touch on a few of the most famous attractions.
Quick Guide to Bangkok Facts
Climate: Tropical Wet and Dry – One of the hottest cities in the world, the temperature stays in the 20s and 30s (degrees Celsius) all throughout the year. The hottest recorded temperature was 40.8 degrees.
Currency: Thai Baht
A Quick Guide to Bangkok: Top Things to Do
Wat Pho – The Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok and home to the famous large reclining Buddha statue. This glowing gold plated landmark is 46 metres long and 15 metres high and is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay on his eyes and the soles of his feet.
The site of Wat Pho was established as a centre of education for traditional Thai medicine and was the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. The complex is divided into two different walled compounds. The northern compound is where you can find the massive reclining Buddha and the massage school, and the southern walled compound contains a working Buddhist monastery with monks in residence and a school. You can get a massage at the temple or even sign up for courses to learn Thai massage yourself!
A fascinating peek into Buddhist religion and culture, and an impressively beautiful example of large scale sculpture, Wat Pho is a must see landmark.
The gorgeous performers of the Ladyboy cabarets in Bangkok have long, sexy legs, flawless complexions and killer cheekbones and are dressed to kill. The only thing is; they weren’t born as women! They are known as ‘Katoeys’ or ‘Ladyboys’ and are mostly accepted and even embraced in the very tolerant society of Thailand. Some even believe that ladyboys bring them good luck. Certainly, Thailand is one of the best places in the world to be transexual, as gender reassignment surgery is done to incredibly high standards and is relatively cost-effective.
The Ladyboy shows of Bangkok showcase these performers in a glamorous and spectacular high-energy setting. These cabaret-style shows feature everything from disco dance numbers to impressions of popular celebrities as well as traditional portrayals of mythical creates and legends of the Orient. Lavish costumes, elaborate dance choreography, and over the top songs create the ultimate party atmosphere. The ladyboys are flawless and highly skilled performers and they never fail to get a laugh and to engage the attention of the audience.
If you have never seen a cabaret show, treat yourself to a night out of entertainment you will never forget!
The Floating Market
Bangkok is referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, due to its maze of inland waterways. These canals and rivers used to be the main thoroughfares of the city, and are still important to life in Bangkok. The ‘Talaat Naam’ or Floating Markets are where sellers gather to peddle their wares from small boats. While exploring these marketplaces, you are sure to see lots of beautiful local handicrafts for sale, as well as merchants wearing colourful traditional Thai clothing.
Damnoen Saduck Floating Market is the largest of these types of markets and one of the more famous. If you want to really see it at its best, get there as early in the morning as you can while the market is still waking up and the crowds of tourists have not yet arrived. Visiting earlier in the morning will also help you avoid the heat later in the day. Lose yourself in the chatter and commotion of the lively marketplace atmosphere, check out all of the interesting things for sale, and try your hand at the art of bargaining.
Khao San Road – Hippie Backpacker Ghetto
No quick guide to Bangkok would be complete without a mention of Khao San Road. The name of this short street in central Bangkok translates as “milled rice”, and it was once the main rice market of the city. Now, this neighbourhood has become paradise for the young budget backpacker looking for a cheap place to stay. It is also one of the cheapest and most diverse places to eat in all of Bangkok, with ethnic food from many countries such as India, Italy and more. Street carts on the road also sell mouth-watering dishes such as pad thai, falafel, and hummus.
Khao San Road is known as the centre of art, dancing and partying, especially around the Thai New Year Festival in April. Often, the festivities turn into a huge water fight known as Songkran in the middle of the street. Good times.
Are you tired and a bit sweaty from running around all day in the exciting hustle and bustle of Bangkok? Why not take a moment to relax in Lumphini Park? Open public green space is rare in Bangkok, and so this oasis offers a welcome respite from the action of the city. Stroll along the 2.5 km of paths, or rent a boat on the artificial lake. The park is very well kept and spacious and is hardly crowded on most weekdays. In the early mornings you will see groups of people practicing the ancient art of Thai-Chi.
Lumphini Park was created in the 1920s on royal property by King Rama VI, and you can see his likeness in a statue at the south-western end of the park. The park also contains the first public library and dance hall in the city. Lumphini Park is where the winter Concert in the Park Festival is held, where the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra play classical favourites.
The Grand Palace
This architecturally impressive complex of buildings, built in 1782, served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. This is one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks and most photographed sites, with good reason as its intricate and elaborate facades are visually spectacular. In the Wat Phra Kaew building of the temple, the Emerald Buddha sits serenely, made of green jadeite and clothed in gold.
Don’t forget that visitors are required to adhere to the strict religious dress code, which includes long pants, shirts with sleeves, and no bare feet. Inappropriately dressed visitors will not be allowed to enter the temple, although you can acquire clothes to cover up with at a booth near the entrance for a deposit.
There are so many other fantastic things to see in this city, but this is meant to be a very quick guide to Bangkok – just enough to get you started!
We think Bangkok is one of the coolest cities in the world, but why not have your own adventure there and see for yourself? If you have any tips to add to this quick guide to Bangkok, please let us know in the comments below.