As one of the central hubs in Southeast Asia, there is a good chance you will fly into Bangkok to start your trip to Southeast Asia. To acclimate yourself to life in Southeast Asia, we recommend spending at least three days in Bangkok before moving onto your next destination. Here are our recommendations for what to do after getting rid of your jet-lag.
Figure out the BTS (and take a taxi from time to time)
In order to get the most out of three days in Bangkok, one of the first things you should do is figure out the public transportation. While taxis are cheap and tuk-tuks are everywhere, it can be a lot quicker to avoid Bangkok’s horrendous traffic and ride the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System). Thankfully, the good folks at the BTS made it really easy for travelers to use.
You have a few options when it comes to buying tickets for the BTS. For 140 Baht ($4) you can purchase a day pass at any of the station’s ticket offices, which will get you unlimited rides for the day.
If you would rather purchase tickets for single rides, you can use one of the three Ticket Issuing Machines (TIM). These machines are easy to understand and while fares depend on how far you plan on traveling, the single ride tickets we purchased usually cost 28-50 Baht ($0.70-1.50) each.
For detailed instructions on how to purchase BTS Tickets, check out the Ticket Issuing Section of their website. We also recommend downloading the Bangkok City Guide in the Lonely Planet Guide App which includes an easy to read BTS transit map.
Get Lost Shopping at the Chatuchak Weekend Market
Thailand is known for their outdoor markets. Usually full of handmade-goods, traditional clothing, and delicious food, visiting markets is a great way to learn about a country’s culture. So why not start with Thailand’s largest market (and one of the largest markets in the world), the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Located not far from the Saphan Khwai BTS stop, the Chatuchak Weekend Market sells everything from clothes to household pets.
The desire to see everything can really suck you in; we spent most of our Friday here, getting lost over and over again (pro tip: use the clock tower as a landmark!) Later we realized that the market is actually very organized and split into sections: books, home decor & ceramics, antiques, clothing & accessories, pets and of course food.
In order to beat the crowds we recommend going in the early afternoon; but with Bangkok’s hot and humid days, it might be better to head there in the late afternoon once the sun begins to set (however, expect larger crowds). Also, don’t forget to haggle! Chances are if you look like a foreigner, you will get foreigner prices.
Our best haggling tips include: separating your money so it seems like you don’t have as much and to not be afraid to stand at your offer and begin walking away if they won’t accept it (most of the time they won’t let you take 5 steps before accepting your price…as long as it’s reasonable).
Spend some time relaxing at Queen Sirikit Park
When you decide you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, we recommend taking a few hours to relax at Queen Sirikit Park (which is located a short walk from the Chatuchuk Weekend Market or just off the Mo Chit BTS Station).
Queen Sirikit Park is a botanical garden inside the larger Chatuchuk Park Complex, which also houses Chatuchuk Park and Wachira Benjathat Park. Inside you will find many paths which weave through gardens, as well as several bridges that take you across the park’s water features.
Our suggestion is to wander through the park and let your intuition guide you. Doing this, we were able to find a wide range of wildlife and shrubbery (our favorite findings included an Asian Water Monitor and some bushes shaped like elephants!).
After relaxing for an hour or so, head over to Chatuchuk Park and ride one of the swan boats. For 40 Baht ($1.12), you get a half hour to pedal through the sizable waterway of the park. For an extra 20 Baht ($0.56) you can get a bag of food to feed fish as you go.
Things still on our Bangkok Bucket List
Since it was the first stop of our trip, we spent the first of our three days in Bangkok slowly acclimating to Southeast Asia. Because of this, we ended up missing out on a lot of attractions on our Bangkok bucket list.
Visit the Historic District – Visiting the Historic District is one of the most popular activities for tourists when traveling to Bangkok. Almost everyone visits The Grand Palace and Wat Pho + Wat Arun, all of which can be done in one day.
Watch a Ladyboy Show – Attending a Ladyboy Show is definitely something we plan on doing before the end of our Southeast Asia trip. We just didn’t get around to it yet.
Explore a Floating Market – Rather than sign up with a tour group to visit one of the floating markets, we decided visiting the Chutuchak Weekend Market was enough for us. However, it is something we wouldn’t mind doing on our next trip to Bangkok.
Spend a Night at Khao San Road – Known as the Backpacker’s Mecca of Southeast Asia, Khao San Road offers cheap accommodation and a wild night life scene. With a lack of interest in focusing on night life, we chose to skip Khao San Road this time around. But it is something we would like to give a try for at least one night, just to say we did it!
Have you traveled to Bangkok before? If so let us know what your favorite things to do were in the comment section below!