Top Bangkok Experiences You Should Not Miss + Tips for Visiting
Bangkok, a fascinating and unconventional city, has a lot to offer and the choices can be overwhelming for visitors. It is a city of opposites where all extremities seem to be present at the same time. You'll see riverside shacks on stilts next to modern skyscrapers, amazing and inexpensive street food, glamorous, uber-pricey roof top bars, giant barges floating past high-end hotels. Bangkok is serene and chaotic at the same time. It is polluted, congested and over-populated and yet twenty million tourists visit it each year. Read on to see the 20 top experiences in Bangkok that you should not miss.
#1 Eat some DURIAN - it's the king of fruit
You will probably smell the durian before you see it. The "king of fruit" is indeed famous for its pungent smell. People describe it as rotten shallots, old socks, or garbage - the qualifiers to describe it are rather unattractive, but all have a little bit of truth.
This nauseating smell is quite persistent, to the point that durian is forbidden in many public places, means of transport, hotels and businesses. You will find durians sold at the outdoor markets. Give it a try. The fruit tastes like sweet custard. If it is too much, go for the "queen of fruit," the juicy mangosteen.
#2 EXPERIENCE THE LOUD AND CHAOTIC EXPRESS RIVER BOAT
Hold tight! You are in for one of the top Bangkok experiences! The most fun way to explore the famous Bangkok waterways is by public transportation. The Chao Phraya Express Boat service moves around 40,000 passengers a day for a mere 15 baht per trip, no matter the distance. Savvy tourists can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to visit the city's most iconic landmarks and temples along the river, like Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.
These river boats make stops very quickly and there is little time to get on and off. The boat service staff members yell through loudspeakers to get on and off quickly, and to move and let more people in. The boats are packed most of the time and it is a bumpy ride going by major landmarks and local riverside homes but it is a fun and authentic Bangkok experience.
#3 VISIT THE SPECTACULAR GRAND PALACE
Of all the places to visit in Bangkok, the Grand Palace is the most famous and the busiest tourist site in the city. It is extremely crowded, but the grounds are huge and you will be able to move around easily. Even when it looks like there is a long line to get in, it moves fast. Seeing the striking palace is definitely one of the top Bangkok experiences.
The ornate structures and the intricate detail of the palace are simply spectacular. The palace is also where the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is located. The Lord Buddha sits on a golden throne and is dressed in one of the seasonal costumes that are changed three times a year in a ceremony presided over by the king.
Don't miss the Textile Museum that is on the palace grounds. The elegant gowns that Queen Sirikit wore during the six-month-long state visit to the U.S. and 14 European countries are displayed in the museum.
#4 VISIT THE ROYAL BARGES MUSEUM
Eight of the country's most unique and stunning vessels, the ornately decorated Royal Barges, are on display here. Each is carved from huge pieces of teak, engraved with mythical creatures, gilded, and decorated with small glittering pieces of glass. Rowed by up to fifty specially trained oarsmen, the boats leave their dry dock at festival times and important state occasions for spectacular processions along the river.
#5 Explore Bangkok's canals on a longtail boat
The ancient waterways and communities of Bangkok that still live on them, are right in the heart of this modern metropolis. It is a huge network of canals where hundreds of people go about their daily lives. The experience could not be more perfect than on a "James Bond boat" --longtail speedboat named for its appearance in the 1974 Bond thriller "The Man with the Golden Gun." Enjoy the high-speed ride, take in the views, spot the salamanders sunbathing on the shore, and buy some bread from the Buddhist monks to feed the river fish.
#6 VISIT WAT PHO -TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA
Wat Pho serves as home to the massive 46-meter long reclining Buddha, the size of which is simply breathtaking. The spectacular gilded statue is 15 meters tall and 46 meters long.
#7 EXPERIENCE THE COLORS AND FLAVORS OF A FLOATING MARKET
Visiting a floating market is one of the top Bangkok experiences for every tourist. Damnoen Saduak, only 60 km (100 mi) from Bangkok, is the busiest one. Here, exotic fruits abound, yard-long beans, lotus flowers, cheap souvenirs, knock off designer purses - you name it. Floating kitchens fill the air with delicious aromas and smoke and longtail boats carry masses of tourists trying to navigate the huge labyrinth of waterways. Go early to avoid massive crowds. It is not a place to shop but it is worth going there to see the controlled chaos in this busy market and to sample some flavorful Thai food. Read more here: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & Railway Market Tour
#8 VISIT THAILAND'S MOST DANGEROUS MARKET - THE MAEKLONG RAILWAY MARKET
Space is tight and the locals have to spread out onto the railway tracks to sell their goods. As far as the outdoor shopping goes, the Maeklong Railway market or the "folding umbrella market" may be the most dangerous in the world. About an hour outside of Bangkok and not far from the Damnoen Saduak floating market, the Maeklong Railway market is one of the biggest produce markets in Thailand and the commuter trains run directly through it. After a tourist posted pictures on social media about three years ago, the market became swarmed with tourists. The locals do their shopping there, right on the tracks. As the train approaches, vendors quickly pull the umbrellas and awnings which extend over the tracks and cover their produce with blankets, the train goes through, only inches from the produce, then everything is unfolded again and business goes on as usual. Read More here: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & Railway Market Tour
#9 TASTE SOME EXOTIC FRUIT
Thailand is abundant with various exotic tropical fruits- rose apples, juicy mangosteens, rambutans, longans that are sold by the bucket, guavas, papayas, huge jackfruits - you can find them sold on the streets and at the markets.
#10 GET A BITE OF DELICIOUS STREET FOOD
Every busy road has street vendors selling their products - rice wrapped in banana leaves, sticky rice and mango, fish balls, shrimp, grilled octopus, pad thai, noodles with tangy lemongrass and cilantro.
Bangkok has around 20,000 street vendors and many Thais choose to eat their meals on the streets rather than cook at home. Pull a plastic chair and prepare to feast for 20-50 baht.
#11 VISIT THE SPECTACULAR WAT ARUN - the temple of dawn
Wat Arun is easily one of the most recognizable and stunning landmarks of Bangkok’s skyline. The most spectacular view of the glittering monument can be seen from the river at sunset when the temple is lit and sparkles radiantly over the water.
#12 HAVE A DRINK AT A ROOFTOP BAR
The Sky Bar atop the Lebua Hotel (featured in Hangover 2) may be the most stunning rooftop bar you’ll ever see, and according the hotel, the world's highest. The views are magnificent from this dizzying height.
Expect to pay for the view--a glass of champagne is $100, a martini around $60. Go for the sunset views, you'll not be disappointed.
#13 HAVE SOME REFRESHING YOUNG coconut water
Coconut water from the young, green coconuts is the ultimate thirst quencher in hot Bangkok and has more vitamin C than orange juice. Ask the vendor to cut the coconut open after you've finished the water, get a spoon and and scoop out the flesh.
#14 SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP AT ICONSIAM
The brand new, dazzling IconSiam is a new and shiny shopping center right on the river, that cost $1.65 billion to build. Many hotels and IconSiam itself have a complimentary shuttle boat service to and from the shopping center. Here, you will find high-end luxury brands and street fashion, the legendary Japanese Takashimaya department store, a movie theatre, more than 100 dining options, and even a floating market that they have created on the ground floor. Shop 'til you drop, have some street food at the floating market or a dinner with a view at one of the restaurants.
#15 CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET
The enormous Chatuchak Market with over 8,000 stalls is only open on the weekends. It is very busy and attracts 200,000 visitors a day but getting lost in the maze of stalls selling everything imaginable – from edible insects and live roosters to art and antiques – is pure entertainment. Read more here: Visiting the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok
#16 ride the skytrain
There is no better way to get around Bangkok faster than by BTS Sky Train. This elevated train with two lines (one going to the Chatuchak market) is a convenient way to get around and avoid Bangkok's notorious traffic. Get in the line with the locals, board the train and enjoy the ride. Just watch out for the scammers who are pushing tourists to take a tuk-tuk to their uncle's store, telling them that the train service has stopped!
#17 spend an evening at asiatique waterfront
Asiatique is a large open-air mall and night market, only a few minutes by boat from the Saphan Taksin BTS Sky Train station. Free shuttle boat service takes you right to the front. If the line is long, take the 30-baht paid service from the other end of the Saphan Taksin pier. Asiatique has over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants in a huge warehouse complex from cutting-edge fashions to quality restaurants and street food.
#18 HAVE SOME STICKY RICE AND MANGO
It is probably the most famous Thai dessert made with steamed glutinous rice mixed with thick coconut cream and palm sugar, and paired with perfectly ripe sweet mango. It is served with some extra coconut milk on the top and sprinkled with crispy yellow mung beans. The rice is often colored in hues of green, yellow, pink and blue - it is safe to eat - the rice gets its vibrant hues from edible colorful flowers. Ask your concierge or tour guide where they buy their sticky rice and mango. Some vendors use instant coconut milk instead of fresh.
#19 visit the Bangkok flower market - Pat Khlong Talat
This flower market close to the Memorial Bridge is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. Here, you will find colorful marigolds and orchids not only for decoration but also garlands intended as offerings to spirits and religious deities. It can be a little chaotic in this jasmine-scented space with narrow alleyways but it is well worth a stop and wandering around the perfumed flower stalls.
#20 TAKE A SUNSET CHAO PRAYA RIVER CRUISE
The Chao Praya river is the lifeblood of Bangkok and taking a boat trip down the river is a fascinating way to see the iconic landmarks lit at night. Many hotels offer sunset cruises with canapés and drinks.