Forget what you’ve seen in the movies, Bangkok is vibrant city full of culture and slightly lacking in Hangover-style drama. My 24 hours in Thailand’s hotspot were packed with street food and sightseeing. If you’re wondering how to spend one day in Bangkok, I’ll gladly show you how…
Start the day off by soaking up some classic Thai culture by visiting some of the most beautiful buildings in Southeast Asia.
Wat Arun is probably the most well-known temple in Thailand, and for good reason. Reaching around 80 metres in height, this stunning temple is decorated with mosaics depicting Buddha and his journey through enlightenment. It costs just over $1 to enter this site – be sure to stay respectful and cover your shoulders and knees, or rent a sarong on arrival. To get there head to Saphan Taksin Station (Silom Line). Leave via Exit 2 and take a Chao Phraya Express Boat to Tien Pier (N8), then jump on a cross river ferry to Wat Arun.
If you’re feeling strong, had to Wak Saket – a stunning temple set over 300 steps into the sky, all through waterfalls and ornate statutes. Take small change and get ready to photograph everything. This temple combines the beauty of nature with spirituality, and is one of the calmest places within Bangkok. To get there, head to the Saphan Hua Chang Pier on the Saen Saeb Canal. Wait for the speed boat and ride it all the way to the end Panfa Pier station. Once you get off, make your first left down Thanon Boripaht, and you’ll be there in 5 minutes!
Another good visit is The Grand Palace – a beautiful building with a lot of history. Entry for this site is around $15 and you can see why! Don’t be put off by the ‘high’ price, this is one the most incredible places you can visit in Thailand. Built in the late 1700s, this site has housed many royals and is now famous across the globe. As always, cover up and be respectful. To get there, take the Silom Line and get off at Saphan Taksin Station. Take Exit 2, then, take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ta Chang Pier (No.9). The Grand Palace is five minutes walk from there.
Take small notes and get ready to haggle. The floating markets are a great way to enjoy the fun of shopping without having to move too much. Google ‘Taling Chan’ and get excited – this is one of the coolest ways to spend one day in Bangkok and is a great way to spend the morning. Head there before lunch to get the best bargains, and wear something comfy. You’ll be sat down but can hop on and off at little waterside eateries as you wish.
To get to Taling Chan market, head to the Siam BTS Station. From there, catch Bus 79 which is under the station and across the street from a huge shopping mall called Siam Paragon (you can’t miss it!). Tell the ticket person “Taling Chan” and pay your fare (should be less than 20 baht). The bus will stop right in front of the market entrance.
Thai food has to be some of my absolute favorite in the world – anything involving coconut milk and spices is going to be a winner for me. I like fragrant, aromatic food packed with veggies, so Thai food suits me pretty well. Bangkok is full of amazing restaurants and quirky little bars to head to for a lazy lunch.
There are plenty of options for the braver among you, with fried insects being a bit of a delicacy here! Get someone to film your first scorpion experience, as it’s unlikely you’ll do it a second time. Veggies and vegans, don’t panic – you get to skip the insects and enjoy tofu and fresh fruit and veg instead.
If you fancy grabbing lunch to go, wander down any street and follow your nose towards the many barbecues and food-bikes. The local food is often very cheap, especially when bought from a stall or passing bicycle. It’s impossible to go one day in Bangkok without packing your stomach with deliciousness.
For an amazing guide to Bangkok’s best street food, check out this lineup by Migrationology. He knows his stuff.
Get a Thai massage
I’ve had a fair amount of massages while I’ve been travelling – some of them in fancy spas, some with very loud Robbie Williams soundtracks (and even louder leather beds?!) and some in make-shift huts by the side of the road – but Thai massages hold a special place in my heart.
Step out of your hostel or hotel, and you’ll instantly hear people offering you a massage. If you fancy aircon, head to a nice spa and enjoy the peace and quiet. For me, getting a foot massage on the side of the road is one of my top recommendations for enjoying one day in Bangkok. You’ll get pretty used to seeing rows of semi-undressed tourists as you wander around. Thai massages are very cheap and are great for your body – the combination of various pressures and stretching works wonders for tired muscles.
Khao San Road and Nightlife
Probably one of Thailand’s most famous roads, its transition from day to night is wild, so do your best to see it in both lights if you can. This is a great spot to get your ‘The Beach’ kicks, and is one of the best ways to make the most of one day in Bangkok if you’re a movie buff…
Head here early in the evening to grab some delicious Thai street-food and start yourself off with a chilled Chang. The food is surprisingly good considering it’s all made on the side of the road, is devoured by foreigners and is ridiculously cheap.
Take a wander and enjoy the atmosphere – there are plenty of second hand book stores and interesting market stalls to browse while you get ready for a night on the town. There are heaps of hostels around Khao San Road too– I’d suggest saying somewhere nearby without being on the road itself, this way you can enjoy the wild night when you want to, without being kept awake when you fancy a quiet one.
At night, this is the place to really let loose, so enjoy the street dancing, cheap booze and buzzing atmosphere. The road is packed with bars blasting out loud music and offering endless Happy Hours. It can be pretty intimidating when you first arrive, so be sensible with your belongings and keep an eye on your drinks.
If you’re not into the backpacker vibe, you can try your luck at Sukhumvit Soi 11. This place is a good mix of expats and locals, and really pops during the night. It’s full of bars, hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, and all the other crazy things you can expect in a Bangkok night. Levels and Sugar are bumping every night of the week!
For a taste of more local nightlife, jump over to the RCA district. The nightlife here is very flash and show, and the dress code is semi-strict (no board shorts of flip-flops, that’s for sure). A good place to come and see how Bangkok’s local crowd spends a rowdy weekend.
If you’re after something spectacular and another dose of novelty, head to the Sirocco Sky Bar, made even more famous by The Hangover movies. No aggressive monkeys here, don’t worry, just incredible views and amazing cocktails. Dress smart, you’ll definitely want a photo of yourself wistfully staring over Bangkok’s captivating skyline.
Head to pastures new
Bangkok is a hub of activity, with an airport, bus station and train station. Grab a sleeper bus to your next destination or take a train ride somewhere for the day. Bangkok airport offers international flights as well as domestic – great if you fancy island-hopping the easy way, or want a city break between beaches. Weekend trips out of Bangkok are somewhat of a religion!
As you can see there is plenty going on in this city, but these are my favourite ways to spend one day in Bangkok. Soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the crowds and surrender to this lively city’s buzz.
If you’re heading to Bangkok and looking for somewhere to stay, this is a great guide that breaks down the different areas for you.