Bangkok in 2 days (for first timers)
Updated: Jul 24, 2018
A lot of times Bangkok serves as transit city on the way to other Thai destinations. If you are planning a trip to Thailand and have only few days for Bangkok and want to see the best of Bangkok, here is my itinerary including 'must see' while having only 2 days in Bangkok. Which is what I did, so it is doable - we had 2 full days and an evening. It is going to be intense two days but you will see a lot!
Day of Arrival - Evening - Jim Thompson House - we were lucky to live just 2 streets down from Jim Thompson House. Our hotel LiT Bangkok (see my review in a separate post) was also conveniently situated next to a Siam Center/Siam Square and MBK (shopping insanity - Mah Boon Krong) shopping mall. I was not interested in that; however it may be a handy information for some. Now back to Jim Thompson House; the museum has its name after American businessman and architect, who also was the museum designer and former owner. It was built in 1959 and it is housing the art collection of its previous owner. After relocation to Thailand for business, Thompson also became a major collector of Southeast Asian art, which can be admired in the museum today. There's also a restaurant there and as it was our first evening, we did not know any other place so decided to have dinner there. It was good, and cost us a lot compared to what we were paying later during our trip. Nonetheless, it was the poshest restaurant we dined at during our trip to Thailand.
Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha - undoubtedly city's most famous landmark and it goes without saying that if you are in Bangkok you must visit Grand Palace. It is a magnificent building with incredible architecture and design. The complex is huge and you will need good 3- 4 hours to see it (even that is not enough if you want to visit in great detail, but let's agree 3-4 is enough). It has been a royal court and home to the Thai King for 150 years. The complex remains the spiritual heart of of the Thai Kingdom saluting to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people (who build this grand complex). Few interesting facts about Grand Palace (you may have seen that on my Instagram already, but I just think they are cool to know):
a) it was inspired by Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand
b) surrounding walls are more than a mile long
c) due to shortage of materials and economic resources, the complex was mostly built by wood
Travel tip: make sure you have adequate clothes to visit the Palace as shorts and mini skirts are not allowed, (for men - vest are not allowed either). Trust me they are very strict on that; I saw a guy trying twice to get in, he was wearing shorts (knee-length and a vest) and was refused twice so he bought T-shirt and pants)
What Pho - home of the biggest reclining Buddha and a nearby school of Thai massage. It is on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya river to the Grand Palace. If like me, you take a boat taxi it is only one stop by boat. (I do recommend that mode of transport as apart from conveniently connecting all the important sites, it is also a great breeze and cool down when it's hot).
Floating Market - if you are visiting Bangkok over the weekend and you want to do some shopping head to Chatuchak Market. Much more interesting and fun and slightly mad (compared to e.g. London) and easy to get to - yes, Sky Train!
If you are visiting during the week, there are some other markets to visit, we went for a floating market in the canals of BKK. We took a boat tour of the canals, and then all the way to Grand Palace.
Additionally, for 150 Bhat we had 1.5 hours of tuk tuk ride around Bangkok with visit to two temples, wizz by Democracy Monument and back to Grand Palace. Again tuk tuk ride is a crazy experience, but so worth doing. We managed as well to take 40 minutes to climb up the Golden Mount which is a mountain in the city with a temple at the top.
I cannot recommend enough a glimpse of the Erawan Shrine. It's a magical, beautiful, busy, bustling shrine (yes, on the corner of a massive intersection and underneath all the looping Sky train tracks above) and a magic glimpse into Bangkok life. Very often there are traditional Thai dancers there (someone is thanking Phra Phrom for granting their wish/prayer, and so they've returned to "donate" a dance to him) - so you get a mini Thai dance performance. You can buy candles/flowers/incense to place on the shrine... or even a little cage of birds to release to make merit. It's easy to get to, free to enter, and is generally on the way to/from somewhere!
Thai Massage - it is a must! Like eating fish & chips in London, smoking cigar in Cuba, or eating tacos in Mexico :-) You simply must have a Thai massage in Thailand! From my experience, I had a Thai massage here in UK at a very reputable spa in a 5* hotel, performed by Thai therapist. The Thai massage I had in Thailand feels nothing like the one I experienced in London - Thai massage in Thailand was simply amazing! It's hard to describe in words, you have to experience it. It made me feel so relaxed after very hectic day sightseeing and walking a lot, a Thai massage is a bliss and gives you energy for the next day of walking and sightseeing.
Day started with half a day trip to Ayutthaya - I really wanted to visit Ayutthaya but of course it is your choice as you will be loosing at least half a day. Ayutthaya is a former capital city of Thailand and the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is only an hour away from Bangkok. You will not be able to visit all the temples within half a day but you can expect to reasonably cover the major ones.
We came back by river cruise all the way to Bangkok, which was a nice way to experience the river and see all the sites from river view e.g. Grand Palace looks so different. I would recommend that trip as well, unless you are not interested!
China Town - we were very lucky to be in Thailand during Thai New Year - Songkran - and when we visited China Town the festival gave us China Town at its best. Of course, we got a bit wet on the way (as during Songkran you are being poured buckets of water over your head - for luck!) but humidity got us dry very quickly. It is a food heaven where Chinese and Thai influence mix and give you the street-side cuisine. It is extremely busy, and I heard that after sunset a lot of tourist come to this part of town to eat out. Saying that day time is also busy.
Have a cocktail / diner at one of the city rooftop bars - it is all about the views! When you compare those bars to e.g. London rooftop bars - they are very similar - modern, chic, with a great crowd, and same price tag for cocktails. But seeing Bangkok from 50 something floor gives you a whole new perspective.
We went to Banyan Tree Bangkok (off Silom/Sathorn road) for a cheeky cocktail - the views are awesome, and the cocktails are delicious! We didn't have to book earlier which was great as we rocked up there just when we finished our day sightseeing.
*Food tips, from a BKK local, now my colleague:
3 Sukhumvit Soi 11, Sky Train stop: BTS Nana
A really good Thai food, in a lovely environment (you can sit inside the converted house - aircon! - or outside in the garden areas)
Cabbages & Condoms
10 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Sky Train stop: BTS Asok
Yes a gimmick, but it has been there for years and years and years - good Thai food - and a good cause!
And my local BKK tip on eating out: "- remember, I'm well rusty when it comes to BKK restaurants. A tip - don't go to the ones that all the "fahrangs" (foreigners) go to, they'll be Westernised Thai food - blech!" - Thank you Isabel for this invaluable tip, I had the best food from the street vendors! Love xx
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