Visitors to Bangkok tend to fall into two distinct camps; those that love the city and those who hate it. Bangkok certainly has its faults, but it also has a charm and vibrancy that can be compelling. The Thai capital can be bewildering for the first time visitor, but a little bit of planning, patience and understanding will help you get the most out of Bangkok. Get hold of a decent map (my personal recommendation is the outstanding Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok) or guide book and plan in advance exactly where you want to go and what you want to see. Don’t underestimate the heat and the effects of a long flight if you are staying in Bangkok (or Krung Thep as the locals call the Thai capital) at the start of your holiday. Take it easy and don’t be too ambitious in what you can cram in during a short stay. A trip to the Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak for instance, will take up most of the day.
What to See and Do in Bangkok
On many people’s must-do list when visiting Bangkok for the first time, Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace are situated within the same complex close to the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Opposite the Grand Palace complex, Wat Pho is home to the magnificent Reclining Buddha. As well as being the oldest temple in Bangkok, Wat Pho is the place to go for a traditional Thai massage. For an oasis of calm amidst the throbbing metropolis, be sure to check out Jim Thompson’s House and catch an insight into a bygone era and a traditional Thai lifestyle.
Take a day trip to the famous floating market. There are a number of these in and around the Thai capital, but probably the biggest and best known floating market lies just outside Bangkok at Damnoen Saduak. Despite the modernity of Bangkok’s transport system, the Chao Phraya River remains the main artery of the Thai capital. A working river that ferries commuters, freight traffic and tourists, the Chao Phraya also hosts a number of sightseeing cruises during the day and dinner cruises in the evening. Another recommended dining option is the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant. The profits go towards a very worthwhile cause and it’s also the only time you’re likely to be handed packets of condoms in place of the traditional after-dinner mints!
Palaces & Museums
Temples & Shrines
Food, Drink & Entertainment
Advice on Bangkok transport options »
If you are staying near a Skytrain or metro station these are two of the best ways to get around Bangkok in air-conditioned comfort. The routes don’t cover all of Bangkok so you may also need alternatives. Boats can be a convenient and cheap way of getting to some of the main sightseeing spots or alternatively you can use metered taxis or tuk-tuks.
Where to Stay
When is the best time to visit Bangkok? The standard answer given by most guidebooks is November-February. Whilst it’s true that the temperature and the humidity can be more bearable during Thailand’s cool season, it’s also the tourist high season and there can be distinct advantages to visiting during the rest of the year (including lower price accommodation and less crowded sightseeing). Although the table gives a breakdown of average temperatures and rainfall in Bangkok, visitors should be aware that at times the temperature can reach as high as 40-41°C during February-May and 37-38°C the rest of the year. It’s hot and humid year round in Bangkok, but the humidity levels are at their highest from April-June. Even during the rainy season (May-October) visitors can expect to see plenty of sunshine so don’t be put off by visiting during this time. When the rain comes down it can be torrential and there can sometimes be flash-floods, but the downpours are often short and sharp.