The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Bangkok, Thailand (2020)

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Bangkok, Thailand (2020)

NOTICE: Your health and safety come first. Please adhere to the WHO recommendations and avoid any non-essential travel at this time. If travel is unavoidable for you, then you can check the Flatten the Curve website for information on global travel restrictions.
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Bangkok is one of those cities that never gets old. No matter how many times you’ve been, you’ll always discover something new and exciting to see, do, and eat.

It’s got a near perfect mix of food, culture, nightlife, shopping, and affordability that’s unmatched anywhere in Southeast Asia.

We’ve traveled to Bangkok so many times over the years that it feels almost like a second home. Such is the allure of the world’s most visited city for the last four years and running. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’re into. Bangkok will have something for you.

If you’re visiting Bangkok for the first time, then I hope this comprehensive travel guide can help you plan your trip.

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Erawan Museum, Bangkok, Thailand

GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Travel Restrictions
  2. Bangkok at a Glance
  3. Best Time to Visit
  4. Traveling to Bangkok
  5. Where to Exchange Currency
  6. Best Area to Stay
  7. Places to Visit
  8. Things to Do
  1. Day Tours from Bangkok
  2. Where to Eat
  3. Points of Interest (Map)
  4. How to Get Around
  5. How Many Days to Stay / Sample Itinerary
  6. Budget / Summary of Expenses
  7. Travel Tips

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Because of the global pandemic, travel guidelines seem to change almost daily. Our friends at SafetyWing created a helpful website that describes containment measures, testing and treatment information, and travel restrictions around the globe.

Before planning a trip to Bangkok, be sure to check the Flatten the Curve website for information on travel restrictions to Thailand.

BANGKOK AT A GLANCE

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and its biggest city by far. It’s a top tourist destination which is consistently ranked among the world’s most visited cities.

In fact, so popular and beloved is Bangkok that it was voted the “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine readers for four consecutive years. Spend a few days there and you’ll understand why.

Bangkok’s myriad attractions make it appealing to a diverse demographic of tourists. Are you into shopping? There are plenty of markets and shopping malls like Chatuchak Market and Siam Square to keep you busy.

Do you like cultural attractions? If so, then you can spend the day exploring the Old City and its must-see sights like the Grand Royal Palace and Wat Pho.

If good food is your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that CNN declared Bangkok as the world’s best street food city.

And don’t let budget concerns scare you away either. You can thrive on Khaosan Road, the backpacking capital of the universe, for as little as USD 10-15 a day.

In short, Bangkok has something for everyone. It’s an exciting, affordable city that’s much more than your gateway into Thailand. For many travelers, it’s the destination.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Like Manila, Bangkok enjoys a tropical climate so it’s warm year round with just two seasons – rainy and dry.

The dry season is from November-April while the rainy season is from May-October. March-May are typically the hottest months while August and September experience the most rainy days.

Because of the dry and cooler climate, November-February is considered the ideal time to visit Bangkok. However, it’s also peak season so expect higher prices during that time.

NOV-FEB: Climate-wise, this is the ideal time to visit Bangkok. It’s cooler, it rains less, and it isn’t as humid. It’s also the height of tourist season so expect bigger crowds and slightly higher prices overall.

MAR-MAY: These are the hottest months in Bangkok. The temperature often exceeds 40°C (104°F) so it isn’t the most comfortable time to visit. However, Songkran or the Thai New Year happens every April. This three-day festival turns the city into a big water fight, making it a fun time to be in Bangkok.

JUN-OCT: The rainy season in Bangkok typically begins in June and lasts till the beginning of November. This is considered the low season in Bangkok.

Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Bangkok

To help you better understand the weather in Bangkok, I’ve created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are indicated in orange.

Average Temperature
Average Temperature in Bangkok, Thailand

Annual Rainfall
Annual Rainfall in Bangkok, Thailand

TRAVELING TO BANGKOK

Bangkok is serviced by two international airports – Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK).

The former is the primary airport which services more international flights, so the majority of tourists traveling to Thailand will probably enter the country through Suvarnabhumi.

Here’s how you can get to downtown Bangkok from either airport.

From Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)

BY TRAIN: This is the best way to get to downtown Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi. You can take the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi to Phaya Thai Station (THB 45). From there, you can can transfer to the BTS line and take it to the station nearest your hotel. You can purchase tickets at the station but you can get a small discount if you buy it in advance through Klook.

BY BUS: You can catch the S1 bus from Suvarnabhumi to Khaosan Road. Departing from Gate 7 on the first floor of the passenger terminal, the fare is THB 60 and it runs every 30 minutes from 6AM-8PM.

BY TAXI OR GRAB: A taxi from Suvarnabhumi to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 400 (with airport surcharge and toll). Be sure that the driver uses the meter since taxi scams are quite rampant in Bangkok.

BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. You can book private transfers from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) to downtown Bangkok on Bookaway.

From Don Mueang International Airport (DMK)

BY TRAIN: There’s no BTS or MRT station at Don Mueang, so you’ll need to take a bus or taxi from the airport to the nearest train station, which is Mo Chit. If you’re going by bus, then you can catch the A1 bus just outside the terminal. The bus fare to Mo Chit BTS Station is THB 30 and it runs every 15 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. Once you’re at Mo Chit Station, then you can take the BTS to the station nearest your hotel.

BY BUS: You can catch the A2, A3, or A4 bus from Don Mueang to Victory Monument (A2), Pratunam and Lumpini Park (A3), or Khao San Road and Sanam Luang (A4). The fare is THB 30-50 and it runs every 30 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. We’ve never taken a bus in Bangkok but a common concern seems to be that buses tend to get full. For that reason, you may be better off taking it to Mo Chit and doing the rest of the journey by train.

BY TAXI OR GRAB: A taxi from Don Mueang to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 350 (with airport surcharge and toll). As advised, be sure the driver uses the meter.

BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. You can book private transfers from Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) to downtown Bangkok on Bookaway.

*Different websites have conflicting information on bus timetables so these are estimates based on what I’ve read.

From Other Ports of Entry

We flew to Bangkok but there are other ways to get there depending on where you are. I suggest checking Bookaway to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below.

WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY

The unit of currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). I read that SuperRich offers some of the best exchange rates in Bangkok and it seems to be true.

I exchanged a small amount of currency at Suvarnabhumi Airport and got a rate of 31.28. Later that same day, I got a rate of 33.05 at a SuperRich branch.

I suggest changing a small amount at the airport, no more than USD 100, just to get you into the city. You can then change the rest at SuperRich. Follow this link for a list of SuperRich branches.

If you’re worried about bringing too much foreign currency with you, then an alternative would be to withdraw THB from an ATM. The rates are comparable.

Just be sure to let your bank that you plan on using your ATM card abroad so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.

NOTE: Some ATM machines may give you the option of proceeding “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. Proceeding with conversion allows the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at terrible exchange rates.

BEST AREAS TO STAY

Figuring out where to stay in Bangkok can be challenging. It’s a big city and the subway system, while convenient, doesn’t service as many areas yet.

For that reason, I think it’s best to stay in a commercial area which is as near as possible to a BTS or MRT station. That way you have easy access to the subway and not have to be so dependent on taxis or Grab to get around.

There are eight popular tourist lodging areas in downtown Bangkok: Sukhumvit, Siam, Silom, Pratunam, Riverside, Chinatown, the Old City (Rattanakosin), and Chatuchak.

Because of Bangkok’s notorious rush hour traffic, international tourists coming in and out of the city at odd hours often stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport, so you count that as the ninth.

We’ve been to Bangkok many times over the years so we’ve stayed in most of these areas. If it’s your first time in Bangkok, then I think the Siam or Sukhumvit areas are ideal. They offer the best combination of shopping, food, and ease of transportation.

I’ve created the color-coded map below to help you visualize where all these recommended areas are. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)

RED – Sukhumvit
PURPLE – Siam
GREEN – Silom
PINK – Pratunam
BLUE – Riverside
YELLOW – Chinatown
GREY – The Old City
ORANGE – Chatuchak
BROWN – Suvarnabhumi Airport

Bangkok area map

SUKHUMVIT

I’m not sure if we’ve ever stayed in Sukhumvit but it has a reputation for being one of the most cosmopolitan areas in Bangkok. Popular with foreigners and expats, it’s home to luxury hotels and plenty of restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine.

If nightlife is important to you, then Sukhumvit is probably the best area to stay. It’s got a bustling nightlife, much of which is centered around Soi 11 which is one of Bangkok’s most famous party streets.

Both the BTS and MRT run through Sukhumvit so transportation shouldn’t be a problem. You can search for accommodations in Sukhumvit through Booking.com or Agoda.

SIAM

If you’re traveling to Bangkok primarily to shop, then Siam is the best area for you to be. It’s full of shopping centers, department stores, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars.

I don’t remember the name of the hotel but we stayed in Siam many years ago and our hotel was surrounded by shopping malls and connected to a BTS station. It was super convenient.

The BTS Skytrain runs through the Siam area so transportation won’t be a problem. You can search for accommodations in Siam through Booking.com or Agoda.

SILOM

Silom is Bangkok’s business district. We’ve never stayed here but it’s another popular area to stay in Bangkok, perhaps just a tier below Siam and Sukhumvit. It’s home to Lumphini Park, Patpong night market, and the infamous Patpong red light district.

Both the BTS and MRT run through Silom so getting around should be easy. You can search for accommodations in Siam through Booking.com or Agoda.

PRATUNAM: Baiyoke Sky Hotel

Ren and I stayed here years ago on our first trip to Bangkok together. At 88 storeys tall, Baiyoke Sky Hotel is the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia. The room we stayed in was huge and gave us an awesome view of the city.

What I liked about this hotel is that it’s close to many air-conditioned shopping malls in the Siam area like MBK, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon. I remember walking to MBK nearly everyday and spending most of our time there, either to shop or just to get away from the heat.

The hotel also has viewing decks on the 77th and 84th floors that offer spectacular views of the city. You can purchase tickets at the door or in advance through Get Your Guide.

You can book a room at Baiyoke Sky Hotel through Booking.com or Agoda. Be sure to check both sites to find the best deal.

If you like the Pratunam area but don’t think this is the right hotel for you, then you can check these sites for alternate listings in Pratunam: Booking.com | Agoda.

RIVERSIDE: Ideo Mobi Sathorn

Ideo Mobi Sathorn, Riverside, Bangkok, Thailand

The Riverside area is a relaxed, more upscale neighborhood offering great views of the Chao Phraya River. We booked an AirBnB at Ideo Mobi Sathorn, a residential condominium located right next to Krung Thonburi BTS station.

What I loved about staying here is that it’s in a residential neighborhood far removed from the chaos of downtown Bangkok. Krung Thonburi Station is just a minute away from the building’s main entrance so getting around was easy.

With that said, the Riverside area is a bit far from downtown Bangkok so you’ll need to commute everyday to get to the city’s commercial areas. It’s a great place to stay but it may not be ideal for first-time visitors to Bangkok.

The studio apartment we rented was clean with a complete kitchen, and the building has a swimming pool and gym which you’re free to use. The owners were a pleasure to deal with as well. As of this writing, this listing has a near-perfect 5-star rating with over 200 reviews.

You can book this same apartment through AirBnB. If you’re new to AirBnB, then you can get up to USD 43 free travel credit by signing up via this link.

If you like the Riverside area but would rather stay in an actual hotel, then you can check out Booking.com for alternate listings.

CHINATOWN

If great street food is what you’re after, then Chinatown is one of the best places to be. It’s home to lively Yaowarat Road which is one of the best and most famous areas in Bangkok for street food.

As much fun as it is to eat in Chinatown, it’s a hectic area and perhaps not the best place for people looking for a more relaxed stay in Bangkok. I believe there are only two MRT stations in the Chinatown area so transportation isn’t as easy either.

You can search for accommodations in Chinatown through Booking.com or Agoda.

THE OLD CITY: Khaosan Road

I haven’t seen it, but in the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo diCaprio, they described Khaosan Road as “the center of the backpacking universe”. That may be a slight exaggeration but it certainly feels that way when you’re there.

This is where I used to stay when I’d do solo trips to Bangkok twenty years ago. It’s a famous area teeming with bars, cheap restaurants, and guesthouses, which is why it’s such a popular choice among young backpackers on a budget.

If you’re young and like to party, then you’ll probably want to stay somewhere along Khaosan Road. It’s cheap and near some of the city’s most popular attractions like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

I used to be apprehensive about recommending the Old City because of its lack of metro stations, but not anymore. Thanks to a local reader, I was happy to learn that the Sanam Chai MRT station opened in 2019. It’s about a 5-minute walk from Wat Pho making it so much easier to get to and from the Old City.

You can search for accommodations in the Khaosan Road area on Booking.com or Agoda.

CHATUCHAK: Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao

Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Bangkok, Thailand

Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao is a 5-star hotel not too far from the Chatuchak Weekend Market. We were invited to stay here in 2018. The hotel is connected to the Centra Plaza Ladprao Shopping Complex and is close to Don Mueang Airport.

The hotel isn’t the most modern but it’s luxurious and very comfortable, with plenty of great restaurants to choose from including the fantastic Suan Bua Thai Restaurant.

Chatuchak is a little farther away from the city’s top attractions so I suggest staying in this area only if your main goal is to shop at Chatuchak Weekend Market or you need to be close to Don Mueang Airport.

You can book a room at Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao on Booking.com or Agoda. If you like the Chatuchak area but would rather stay at a different hotel, then you can check these links for alternate listings: Booking.com | Agoda.

SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT: The Cottage

The Cottage, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

The only reason for you to stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport is if you arrive late at night or have an early flight to catch the next day. It’s about an hour from downtown Bangkok so it’s too far to use as a base.

We stayed at The Cottage for one night on a previous trip to Thailand. We flew in from Chiang Mai and needed a place to stay near the airport to catch an international flight early the next morning.

The Cottage is a quick 5-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s walking distance to the Paseo Community Mall where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops. They provide free shuttle transfers to the airport as well.

You can make reservations at The Cottage through Booking.com or Agoda. You can also check Agoda for alternate listings around Suvarnabhumi Airport.



Booking.com

PLACES TO VISIT

1. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace is considered by many to be the single most important attraction in Bangkok. Built in 1782, it served as the official residence of Thailand’s Royal Family until 1925. The King now resides in Dusit Palace though the Grand Palace is still used for official events like royal ceremonies and state functions.

There’s lots to see at the Grand Palace so plan to spend a couple of hours here. It’s a large complex comprised of several ornate buildings, pavilions, courtyards, and manicured gardens.

One of the most important structures at the Grand Palace is Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It houses the famed Emerald Buddha and is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.

You can explore the Grand Palace on you own, but if you’d like to learn more about its history, then you may be interested in a booking a guided tour with Klook or Get Your Guide.
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keaw in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-3:30PM, daily / Admission: THB 500 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs

2. Wat Pho

Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is located just south of the Grand Palace. It’s home to nearly 400 gilded Buddha images, none more impressive than its giant reclining Buddha measuring 15 meters tall and 46 meters long.

Together with Wat Arun, Wat Pho is one of six temples regarded as the highest grade of first-class royal temples in Thailand. It was the country’s first public university and considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced at the temple today.

Because of its importance and proximity to the Grand Palace, you can visit both on guided tours which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 8AM-6:30PM, daily / Admission: THB 200 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

3. Wat Arun

Wat Arun is located directly across the river from Wat Pho. Aside from being one of the most important temples in Bangkok, it’s also one of its most beautiful, renowned for its striking riverside location and interesting design.

Getting to Wat Arun from Wat Pho is easy. Just walk to Tha Thien Pier and take a quick ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River for THB 4. You can also visit Wat Arun on a guided tour which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-6PM, daily / Admission: THB 50 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

4. Wat Saket

Wat Saket is an Ayutthaya-era Buddhist temple known for its striking gold chedi.

Also known as the Golden Mount, it sits on top of an 80-meter tall manmade hill about 2.5 km east of the Grand Palace. Climb up over 300 steps to reach the stupa on top and get great views of Bangkok in all directions.

There are no BTS or MRT stations near Wat Saket so it’s easiest to get there by Grab from the Grand Palace, or on foot from Wat Suthat. You can also book a guided tour that takes you to Wat Saket through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Wat Saket in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 7:30AM-7PM, daily / Admission: THB 50 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

5. Wat Suthat Thepwararam / Giant Swing

Located between the Grand Palace and Wat Saket, Wat Suthat Thepwararam is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bangkok. It’s classified as one of ten royal temples of the first grade in Bangkok.

Wat Suthat is a noteworthy temple though its biggest claim to fame may be the gigantic red structure standing just outside its gate. Measuring over 21 meters tall, the Giant Swing consists of two red pillars connected by an intricately carved crossbar.

During the Brahmin thanksgiving ceremony, young men would ride the swing up to 24 meters in the air to try and grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth. It was a precarious practice that was abolished in 1932.

You can visit Wat Suthat Thepwararam on your own but the easiest way to get there would be to purchase a Hop On Hop Off pass. Buses or tuk-tuks ply set routes and take you to popular tourist attractions around the city, including the Giant Swing.
Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9PM, daily / Admission: THB 100 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

6. Jim Thompson House

The Jim Thompson House is a museum located in the Siam area, about a 10-minute walk from the MBK Shopping Center. It houses the impressive Southeast Asian art collection of American businessman Jim Thompson, the man credited for saving Thailand’s silk industry in the 50s and 60s.

Aside from its interesting design, part of what makes the Jim Thompson House so fascinating is his disappearance. Jim Thompson disappeared while out on a walk in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967. His body was never found and his disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

You can visit the Jim Thompson House on your own or book a guided tour through Klook or Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).
Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, daily / Admission: THB 200 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs

7. Erawan Shrine

Erawan Shrine is one of the most popular Hindu shrines in Bangkok. Throughout the day you’ll find worshippers offering flowers, incense sticks, and fruit to a gilded statue of Phra Phrom. Phra Phrom is the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.

Erawan Shrine is located near the Skytrain’s Chit Lom Station. It’s in a busy commercial area straddling Siam and Sukhumvit so you can make a stop here while shopping in the area. Traditional Thai dance performances are held at the shrine throughout the day.
Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 6AM-11PM, daily / Admission: FREE / Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

8. Bangkok Art and Culture Center

The Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) is a contemporary arts center offering free exhibits spread out over ten floors. It’s an interesting space with commercial art galleries, cafes, bookstores, and craft shops.

BACC is located near the MBK Shopping Center and is accessible via the National Stadium BTS Station. It’s a great place to visit while shopping in the Siam area.
Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) / Admission: FREE / Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs

9. Erawan Museum

This is one of the most unique museums I’ve visited in Bangkok. It features a colossal bronze statue of a three-headed elephant weighing 250 tons and measuring 29 meters high (95 ft) by 39 meters long (128 ft).

It’s a short Grab ride away from Samrong Station, the last stop on the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit Line. It’s a bit hard to get to but worth it if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary in Bangkok. Check out my post on the Erawan Museum for more pictures and information.

You can purchase tickets at the gate but you can save on the cost if you buy them in advance through Get Your Guide. You can also get combo tickets through Klook or Get Your Guide that give you admission to both the Erawan Museum and the Ancient City.
Erawan Museum in Bangkok, Thailand

Operating Hours: 9AM-7PM, daily / Admission: THB 400 / Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs

THINGS TO DO

1. Go on a Food Tour

Bangkok is synonymous with street food. CNN called it the very best street food city in the world, and it isn’t hard to see why. No matter where you look, no matter what time of day, there seems to be something delicious waiting for you at every corner.

One of the best neighborhoods to go street food hunting is the area around Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. It’s home to some of the best and most iconic street food stalls in Bangkok.

It’s easy enough to eat your way through Chinatown but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you may want to check out these excellent Chinatown food tours by Magical Trip and A Chef’s Tour.

I love finding obscure eateries that don’t always show up on Google and going on a local-led food tour is one of the best ways to do that.
Bangkok food tour

2. Explore Bangkok’s Many Markets

Like street food, Bangkok is famous for its markets. From food markets to weekend markets to floating markets to night markets, there seems to be a market for everyone in this city.

Markets are such an important part of the Bangkok experience that no first-time visitor should leave without visiting at least one. Some of my favorites include Chatuchak Weekend Market, Or Tor Kor Market, and Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. For more suggestions, check out this excellent article on some of Bangkok’s most interesting markets.

Street food and markets go hand in hand so if you’d like to experience both with a local, then you may be interested in this Bangrak Market street food tour in Bangkok.
Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand

3. Go on a Chao Phraya River Cruise

The Chao Phraya River is an important feature of Bangkok. It cuts through the center of the city and serves as a viable means of transport for thousands of commuters every day.

For tourists, the Chao Phraya River is a great way to experience some of Bangkok’s most popular attractions like Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.

If you’d like to go cruising in Bangkok, then you may be interested in booking a Chao Phraya River cruise on Klook or Get Your Guide. Many of them are evening cruises that include dinner.
Chao Phraya River cruise in Bangkok, Thailand

4. Explore Bang Kachao on Bicycle

If the chaos of Bangkok’s concrete jungle becomes too much for you, then you may want to seek refuge in Bang Kachao, an artificial island formed by a bend in the Chao Phraya River.

Known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung”, Bang Kachao is comprised of 16 sq km of mangrove forests, palm trees, and jungle. It’s a peaceful area with no skyscrapers, just rustic wooden houses and elevated pathways over canals that are best explored on bicycle. It’s a true oasis in Bangkok.

Bang Kachao is easy to get to by longtail boat from Wat Khlong Toey Nok Temple. You can go there on your own and rent a bicycle on the island, or you can arrange a biking tour through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Bang Kachao Park in Bangkok, Thailand

5. Go Bar Hopping

We’re a little too old to party but Bangkok has great nightlife. It’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular tourist destination, especially for young backpackers.

There are tons of bars you can explore in Bangkok. As mentioned, Soi 11 is a popular area to go bar hopping in Sukhumvit. Khao San Road is another.

If you like rooftop bars, then there are plenty to choose from in Bangkok. We’ve been to Blue Sky on the 24th floor of Centara Grand and loved it. You can also refer to this guide for a list of the best rooftop bars in Bangkok.

But for us, beer is best when paired with great street food. If you’d like to go on a street food bar hopping tour with a local, then you may be interested in this Siam bar hopping tour from Magical Trip.
Bar hopping in Bangkok, Thailand

6. Get a Massage or Spa Treatment

If you don’t feel like being too active and just want to relax, then one of the best things you can do is get a massage. Whether it’s a foot massage, a body massage, or a full blown spa treatment, it’s something we always enjoy doing in Thailand.

You’ll find spas and massage places everywhere in Bangkok (both legitimate and illegitimate), but if you want the best treatments, then you may want to book one in advance through Klook. They have dozens to choose from.
Massage in Bangkok, Thailand

7. Watch a Muay Thai Kickboxing Match LIVE!

If you’re a fan of combat sports and would like to experience a live Muay Thai event in Bangkok, then you can do so at Lumpinee or Rajadamnern Stadiums. They’re Bangkok’s two major Muay Thai stadiums.

You can buy tickets directly from either stadium’s website, but you can also get Rajadamnern Stadium tickets through Klook or Get Your Guide.

I’ve read many people say that second class seats give you the best vantage point to watch the fights. Ringside tickets are more expensive and put you too close to the fighters. You’ll find yourself watching the action from ankle level.
Muay Thai in Bangkok, Thailand

8. Take a Thai Cooking Class

We haven’t taken a cooking class in Bangkok but we’ve taken one in Chiang Mai and Phuket. It’s something we try to do on every trip because its a fun way of getting to know the local cuisine.

If going on a food tour is a good way of finding obscure hole-in-the-walls, then taking a cooking class is the best way of learning about the local cuisine. It’s like looking under the cuisine’s hood.

You can book cooking classes in Bangkok through Cookly or airKitchen.
Cooking Class in Bangkok, Thailand

9. Experience and Give Back with Backstreet Academy

Ren and I are Backstreet Ambassadors and are proud to recommend Backstreet Academy.

Backstreet Academy is a tour provider that focuses on impact travel, a movement that aims to provide tourists with authentic experiences while leaving an enduring social impact on local communities.

What this means is that tourists can experience things like learning how to fish from actual fishermen, or creating bracelets under the tutelage of a real silversmith, with up to 80% of tour revenues going back to the communities.

For more information, watch this video then check out this list of Backstreet Academy experiences in Bangkok.
Pottery in Bangkok, Thailand

DAY TOURS FROM BANGKOK

1. Spend the Day at a Floating Market

As described, Bangkok has many, many markets. There are several floating markets alone due to the city’s vast network of canals and waterways.

If you want an authentic local floating market experience, then I highly recommend Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market which is just outside Central Bangkok.

But if what you’re looking for is a huge floating market with hundreds of colorful boats on the water, then you’ll need to go outside of Bangkok for that. None are more famous than Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets.

I’ve read that these floating markets can get very crowded and touristy, but it should still make for an interesting day trip. You can book any number of floating market tours on Klook or Get Your Guide.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok, Thailand

2. Visit the Maeklong Railway Market

Have you seen those videos on social media where market vendors quickly pack up their produce to allow trains to pass through? This is that market.

Maeklong Railway Market is a train market in the province of Samut Songkhram, about 80 km west of Bangkok. It’s set up so close to active tracks that vendors and buyers need to quickly get out of the way to allow passing trains to get through.

It’s an interesting experience for sure, one that’s often paired with trips to Amphawa Floating Market. You can check out Klook and Get Your Guide for a list of guided tours to Maeklong Railway Market.
Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok, Thailand

3. Explore the Historic City of Ayutthaya

Established in 1350, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the capital of Siam. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries and became one of the world’s largest urban areas and a center for global diplomacy and commerce.

Sadly, it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767 and never rebuilt. Today, it’s ruins are among the most popular day trip destinations from Bangkok, with the Buddha head embedded in a banyan tree being one of its most recognizable attractions.

You can book Ayutthaya day tours from Bangkok through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Ayutthaya, Thailand

4. Lay on the Beach in Pattaya

Pattaya is a resort town on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s about 150 kilometers south of Bangkok, making it the closest major beach resort destination from the capital city.

Pattaya used to have a reputation for being a seedy beach town but not anymore. Today, it caters to families and couples and is better known for its white sand beaches and fun lineup of water sport activities like snorkelling, jet skiing, and parasailing.

If you aren’t moving to a beach destination after Bangkok, then you can check Klook and Get Your Guide for day tours to Pattaya.
Pattaya, Thailand

5. Visit the Seaside Resort Town of Hua Hin

To be honest, I had never heard of Hua Hin before until I learned about it from Chef Nutth of A Chef’s Tour.

As it turns out, Hua Hin is a gorgeous resort town less than three hours south of Bangkok. Chef Nutth said that the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej used to spend a lot of time at his palace in Hua Hin.

It looks like a great place to spend a few days but if you want to just get a taste of Hua Hin, then you can do so on a day tour which you can book through Klook or KKday.
Hua Hin, Thailand

6. Cross the Bridge on the River Kwai

You’ve probably heard of the 1957 film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. It won multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is set during the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. Also known as the “Death Railway”, this is the bridge referenced in the movie.

Built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II, the Death Railway gets its name because its construction led to the deaths of an estimated 100,000+ civilian laborers and Allied prisoners.

If you’re a war history buff, then you may want to take a ride on the Thai-Burma Railway in Kanchanaburi via a day tour from Bangkok, which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Bridge over River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

WHERE TO EAT

As described, Bangkok has amazing food. If you’re wondering where to eat, then you can check out our post on 12 must-eat restaurants and street food stalls in Bangkok. You may not have time for all twelve so I’ve listed five of our favorites below.
12 Must-Eat Restaurants in Bangkok, Thailand

1. Raan Jay Fai

You’re probably heard of Jay Fai, Bangkok’s queen of street food and holder of one Michelin star.

Martha Stewart once called this 75-year-old, aviator-goggle-wearing badass “the best cook in Thailand”. Taste her crab omelette and you’ll understand why.

The thing is, you might have to wait up to 5 hours for it. Her shop has exploded in popularity ever since she was awarded a star, so it’s highly recommended to make reservations.
Raan Jay Fai, Bangkok, Thailand

Expect to Spend: About THB 1,000 per crab omelette

2. Pe Aor Tom Yum Goong

Pad Thai and tom yum goong are arguably the two most important dishes in Thai cuisine, and Pe Aor’s tom yum goong is considered by many to be the very best in Bangkok.

Featured on Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia, one of the things that makes their tom yum so special is the broth. It’s enhanced with fat from shrimp heads. That’s some serious yum in this tom yum.
Pe Aor Tom Yum Goong, Bangkok, Thailand

Expect to Spend: About THB 100 per bowl of kuay teow tom yum goong nam khon

3. Khao Gaeng Jake Puey

Bangkok is all about street food, and Khao Gaeng Jake Puey in Chinatown is one of the city’s most legendary street food stalls. They’re known for serving some of the best khao gaeng or Thai curry rice in the city.

Khao Gaeng Jake Puey is popular so expect long lines from the moment they open at 4PM. Be sure to know what you want as well because they have a reputation for being the “Soup Nazi” of Thai curry. Can’t decide what to order? Back of the line for you!
Khao Gaeng Jake Puey, Bangkok, Thailand

Expect to Spend: About THB 60 per plate of khao gaeng

4. Wattana Panich

This gigantic cauldron of stewed beef has to be one of the most beautiful sights in Bangkok. Have you ever seen anything like it?

When I told Chef Nutth of A Chef’s Tour that we had lunch here, his eyes lit up. “That’s my favorite restaurant in Bangok!” Not hard to understand why.

Wattana Panich is famous for their slow-braised beef stewed in this cauldron, which you can get in a bowl with noodles or served on its own with a side of rice.
Wattana Panich, Bangkok, Thailand

Expect to Spend: About THB 100 per bowl of kuay teow neau buai

5. Suan Bua Thai Restaurant

No matter how familiar you are with Thai cuisine, I’m pretty sure you’ve never had Thai food like this.

Suan Bua is the flagship Thai restaurant of Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao. They’re known for serving Thai court dishes derived from the royal kitchen of King Rama V.

We’ve had Thai food many times before but never quite like this. Check out my post on the Suan Bua Thai Restaurant for more pictures.
Suan Bua Thai Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand

Expect to Spend: About THB 5,000++ for a 25-course tasting menu

POINTS OF INTEREST IN BANGKOK

To make it easier for you, I created the map below so you get a better sense of where everything is. All the places recommended in this guide, that are within Bangkok’s city limits, are pinned on this map.

HOW TO GET AROUND

BTS Skytrain / MRT

I love cities with a great metro system like Seoul and Taipei. The subway takes you everywhere so you don’t need any other form of transportation.

While Bangkok’s BTS and MRT Lines are modern and efficient, they don’t service as many areas of the city yet. We often found ourselves taking the train to the nearest subway stop then either walking for several minutes or taking a Grab to our desired destination. You may wind up doing the same.

If you can, then I suggest staying near a subway station so you don’t become too dependent on taxis or Grab. On one trip, our AirBnB was right outside the Krung Thonburi BTS station which made it so much easier to get around.

If you think you’ll be using the Skytrain enough, then you may want to invest in a BTS One Day Pass or a BTS Rabbit Card. The One Day Pass gives you unlimited rides on the Skytrain for one day while the Rabbit Card is a stored value card similar to Seoul’s T-money Card or Hong Kong’s Octopus Card. However, neither card is valid on the MRT.

Grab

As advised, you’ll need another form of transportation to supplement the subway system. Even though it appears to cost more than taxis, I strongly suggest Grab.

Taxi and tuk-tuk scams are rampant in Bangkok. I’ve been scammed on previous trips before and those experiences have completely turned me off to them. People online say that it’s safe to hail taxis that are in transit, but I’ve been so put off by them that I’m afraid to even try that.

HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / SAMPLE ITINERARY

If it’s your first time in Bangkok, then I think 3-4 days is a good amount of time to spend in the city. You’ll see all the major attractions and have enough time for a day trip.

If possible, then it may be a good idea to stay over the weekend since some of the best markets are closed during the week. Here’s a sample 4D/4N Bangkok itinerary to help you plan your trip.

DAY ONE

• Wat Arun
• Wat Pho
• Grand Palace / Wat Phra Kaew
• Wat Suthat / Giant Swing
• Wat Saket
• Khaosan Road / Banglamphu
DAY TWO

• Chatuchak Market (weekends only)
• Or Tor Kor Market
• Jim Thompson House Museum
• Bangkok Art and Culture Center
• MBK Center
• Erawan Shrine
• Yaowarat Road / Chinatown
DAY THREE

• Erawan Museum
• Bang Kachao
• Food Tour or Chao Phraya River Cruise
DAY FOUR

• Day Tour

BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES

Bangkok isn’t an expensive city. Hostel accommodations can go as low as USD 5 a night and meals can be had for less than USD 2 a plate. Its budget-friendly reputation is part of its appeal.

Assuming you’ll be staying in Bangkok for 4 full days and sharing mid-level accommodations with one other person, then a daily budget of around THB 1,500 per person should be enough. This takes into account your accommodations, transportation, entrance fees, meals, drinks, and pocket wifi rental. Here’s a quick breakdown of expenses:

ACCOMMODATIONS

This depends on many factors like hotel preference and number of travel companions. On our most recent trip, we stayed at a lovely AirBnB close to the Chao Phraya River for less than THB 1,300 a night. Expect to pay much less if you’re staying at a hostel.
MEALS

Again, this is subjective, but based on our experience, I’d say around THB 250 a day per person is enough. Many filling meals can be had for THB 100 or less.
ENTRANCE FEES

Entrance fees for all the attractions listed in the PLACES TO VISIT section of this guide add up to THB 1,500.
POCKET WIFI RENTAL

If you’re sharing the cost with one other person, then you’ll each be paying about THB 75 per day.
TRANSPORTATION

The most you’ll spend on a single journey on the BTS is THB 55. But as advised, you’ll probably be taking a taxi or Grab a few times as well. I think around THB 150 a day per person is adequate for transportation.
TOTAL

This comes out to about THB 1,500 a day per person. Keep in mind that this baseline estimate doesn’t include tour costs or shopping. Be sure to add the cost of any tours to this amount. Ren and I are middle of the road travelers who enjoy good food and drink, so the recommended budget is a good baseline for travelers like us. Adjust accordingly based on your own travel habits.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel or ViaHero

SYGIC TRAVEL: If you like planning every detail of your trip like I do, then Sygic Travel will be useful to you. It’s a free trip planning app that helps you make efficient itineraries. You can pin points of interest on a map then grouping them together by location. It’s available for free on iOS and Android.

VIAHERO: If you don’t enjoy travel planning as much and would rather have a destination expert do it for you, then you may be interested in ViaHero. ViaHero is a travel planning service that links travelers with local experts to create custom itineraries to different destinations around the world, including Bangkok. If you’d like to try them out, then you can get a 5% discount on their services if you use our link.

2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device

Having a reliable wifi connection is a must when traveling. It’ll allow you to navigate, translate signs and menus, and do last minute research. We never go anywhere now without renting a pocket wifi device first.

You can stay connected in Thailand by renting a pocket wifi device or buying a sim card. We always rent pocket wifi devices with unlimited data because we find it simpler to use, but sim cards are fine too. They’re actually cheaper. You can rent a pocket wifi device or buy a sim card through Klook or KKday.

3. Dress Appropriately

When visiting the Grand Palace and any of Bangkok’s temples, it’s important to dress appropriately. Please take note of the following dress code:

  1. Short skirts, shorts, or shortened trousers are prohibited. Skirts that fall below the knee are allowed.
  2. Tight fitting trousers or leggings are prohibited.
  3. Any clothing with holes like ripped jeans are prohibited.
  4. Tops without sleeves are prohibited, even if your shoulders are covered with a scarf. Sleeves must always be rolled down.
  5. Any type of sportswear, including sweat shirts and sweat pants, is prohibited.
  6. Sandals and flip-flops may be acceptable but it’s best to wear closed shoes.

4. Beware of Scams

Scams can and do take place anywhere in the world, and Bangkok is no exception. Listed below are some of the scams we’ve encountered through the years.

AIRPORT TAXI SCAM: Taxi drivers will try to charge you an exorbitant rate to take you into downtown Bangkok. Ignore anyone who approaches you. Instead, fall in line at the proper taxi queue at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang Airport, and get a legitimate metered taxi. Any taxi driver who refuses to use the meter is a scammer.

“IT’S CLOSED” SCAM: This is the scam that’s completely turned me off to taxis and tuk-tuks. You hop into a waiting taxi wanting to go somewhere, and the driver will tell you that the place is either closed or not open yet. This is an outright lie. He’ll then try to convince you to go to a gem shop or a tailor instead, where he gets paid for every sucker he brings in. When a driver tells you this, just get out of the car and use Grab instead.

FRIENDLY LOCAL SCAM: Our friend Natt pointed this out to us when we were riding the BTS. A friendly local will approach tourists who look lost and pretend to help them. Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll try to take you to a gem shop or tailor.

SEX SHOW SCAM: This happened to me and a friend over two decades ago and the memory of it still stings. We were taken to one of those Thai ping pong sex shows by a local who had befriended us. I don’t remember what the lure was, but it may have had something to do with cheap drinks. Once you try to leave, which is what we did after one drink (I swear!), you’ll see a sign saying that the club has an entrance fee, something exorbitant like THB 10,000 or something. The sign is hidden on purpose so you don’t see it walking in. I remember the guy shaking his fist at me and threatening violence if we didn’t pay. We couldn’t pay the full amount because we didn’t have enough, but we wound up losing a lot of money that night. Never again.

5. Check for Discount Passes

There are many websites that offer travel vouchers to tours and services. In Bangkok, I suggest going through Klook, KKday, Backstreet Academy, and Get Your Guide. They’re all reputable companies that we’ve been partners with (and customers of) for many years and have never had any problems.

6. Get Travel Insurance

As we get older, we buy travel insurance more often but it still isn’t something we get before every trip. It depends on where we’re going and what we’ll be doing.

If we’re just visiting Bangkok for a couple of days to eat street food and shop at a few night markets, then we may not get it. But if we plan on doing more active things like hiking or bike riding, then we’ll definitely pick up a policy.

On our last trip to Bangkok, we continued to Chiang Mai where we visited an elephant sanctuary so we did feel the need for travel insurance.

We buy insurance from World Nomads or SafetyWing. They’re both trusted travel medical insurance providers often used by digital nomads. Check out my article on why we buy travel insurance for a closer look at the two. You can follow the links to get a free quote from World Nomads or SafetyWing.

7. Bring the Right Power Adapter

Electrical outlets in Thailand typically feature two-pronged round or flat sockets, either Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type F. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.

8. Eat for Cheap at the Basement of Suvarnabhumi Airport

I always eat at airports, even when I’m not hungry. It’s my thing. The problem is, the food at airports is often subpar and overpriced, a shame in a country like Thailand where there’s so much good cheap food to be had.

If you’re flying out of Suvarnabhumi and looking for one last decent Thai meal, then head down to the 24-hr food court located in the airport’s basement.

You’ll find plenty of food stalls there selling good inexpensive Thai food. Just take the walkalator down to the bottom floor then head all the way to the left.
Suvarnabhumi Airport Food Court, Bangkok, Thailand

Have fun!

We’ve been to Bangkok many times over the years but I still don’t consider myself an expert. With that said, I do hope that you find this post useful because I’m only sharing the things I’ve learned from our trips. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please let us know in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.

Thanks for stopping by and have a delicious time in Bangkok!

OUR GEAR

These are some of the things we brought with us to Bangkok. If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Disclosure

This article contains affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

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There are 30 comments for this article
  1. Glorias at 3:23 pm

    Wow! Amazing insights 🙂 I am a big addict of Thai foods and I cook too. Whenever I think about Thailand the first thing comes to my mind is food. I love Thai foods to such an extent. I use to visit Bangkok in the mid of Jan but this time I couldn’t go 🙁 So, I planned to visit by July. I would like to see the beauty of Thailand in a Rainy season.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post guys!

  2. theelitechi at 11:46 pm

    so far this is the most detailed blog – – – from the airport to the food stuff…i love it so much! this is very helpful to future first time travelers ??

  3. Andrew Comte at 9:32 am

    Sawatdee krup! I can really tell a lot of work has been put into this. Thailand is now my home away home after marrying a Thai woman. Lots of knowledge on your page and it provides an excellent resource to readers both experienced in Thailand travel and those who have yet not been. Bravo!

  4. Kieth Walter at 9:03 pm

    Dear JB & Renee,

    Just want to highly commend this very informative, fun and helpful blog! I had been to Bangkok on 2016 and be back again on March 2019 and this blog really helped us a lot on deciding where to go, stay and all that fun!

    My partner saw this blog and our excitement in going to BKK never stops since then. This is really a helpful, detailed and very accessible information for all who wish to visit BKK.

    I commend you on this. Keep it up!

  5. JB & Renée Macatulad at 10:43 pm

    Thanks so much for the kind words Kieth! We really appreciate it and we’re happy you found it useful. Hope you had a wonderful time in Bangkok! It’s such a delicious and exciting city to visit. Definitely one of our favorites. All the best and happy travels! 🙂

  6. Jessica at 2:39 pm

    Thank you for this well-elaborated blog post! It has been a really long while since I last visited Bangkok and I am aware that some things have definitely changed since my last visit thus, I was on a hunt on blog reviews on what to check out there and here, I came across this article.

    I can’t wait to share this link to my boyfriend and looking forward to my visit to Thailand in May! Can’t wait to check out things that I’ve missed out from my previous visit as well.

    God bless! x

  7. JB & Renée Macatulad at 8:20 am

    Happy to hear that Jessica! There are so many things to do in Bangkok that every trip can feel like it’s the first. Have a wonderful time there! 🙂

  8. Stefan Arestis at 12:18 am

    Really thorough article guys! We absolutely love Bangkok and have been many times, itching to return soon. We also got scammed in the same way with the “hidden” entrance fee…!

  9. JB & Renée Macatulad at 2:59 am

    Thanks guys! Bangkok is great, so many things to do and good restaurants to visit. But yeah, the scams can get annoying. All the best! 🙂

  10. Irish at 4:46 am

    I really appreciate how this is so detailed!!! You write so well! Thank you! This is a huge help cos we’re flying to Bangkok this July

  11. Linda Lee Hui Ying at 2:30 pm

    This info really help me a lot, I am planning to go Bangkok this coming july! Thankyou so much.

  12. Maria Pangaliman at 7:03 pm

    Hi. Hindi ba kami mahihirapan mag change ng php to thb sa super rich moneychanger? Thank you.

  13. Jennifer W at 8:38 pm

    HI,

    Thank you for your guide! It’s really helpful, complete and easy to read.
    I found myself scrolling through the page excitedly.

    Looking forward for our first family trip to Bangkok!
    Definitely will rely on your guide.

    Best,
    Jennifer

  14. Julie Kiwanuka at 4:53 am

    This is real detailed and has already reduced my anxiety . I and my best friend will be traveling to Bangkok for the first time on 28 December, this may be my reference book . I can assure you that I will provide feedback.
    Thank you so much

  15. Vivaan at 11:07 am

    Very relative and complete blog about Thailand. Loved reading your blog.

  16. Sorin at 3:58 pm

    Bang Kachao is definitely on my list to do next time in Bangkok; just to escape the populated area of Bangkok. I wanted to do it last time but I forgot the name of the place – now I know it again.
    Cruise is a must to while in Bangkok – I did it last time with Shangri-la Cruise; worth it evey penny paid!

  17. Asirameth Nakornthab at 7:41 pm

    Wow! As a Thai person I’m very impressed with the details and the accuracy of this guide, you guys even updated the new train stations! Although I think you might wanna add that there is a MRT station(Sanam Chai) located right in the old city now, just 5 minutes walk to Wat Pho and a few more to the Grand Palace!

  18. JB & Renée Macatulad at 10:50 am

    Thank you so much Asirameth! That means a lot coming from a local. 🙂

    And that’s so great to hear about Sanam Chai. That was the one drawback about staying in the Old City we thought, the absence of a metro station. This changes everything. Thank you!!

  19. Rinri at 3:23 pm

    I love Lumphini park and Bangkok has so much to offer.

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