10 must do’s for your first trip to Bangkok

18th July 2015

The capital of Thailand is often dubbed the capital of Southeast Asia, because, due to its international airport, it’s where many travellers begin or end their travels in the region. Most people only end up staying for a few days, but it’s well-worth hanging around a little longer as there is simply so much to see and do.Warning: This post is going to include a LOT of photos because Bangkok is an absolute paradise to anyone who owns a camera! It’s a real buzz on your senses; there’s just so much going on and so much to photograph! 


1) Check out Khao San Road

After arriving at our hostel, James and I went out for some food before walking along Thanon Khao San. Although it is possibly the most hyped part of Bangkok for backpackers, my first impression of Khao San was not a good one. Hot, overwhelming, and flooded with half-naked pissed-out-of-their-brains Brits abroad. I felt like I was back in Kavos. This wasn’t Thailand!

A vest with the Chang logo: must-have backpacker attire

Though, I kind of knew to expect this of Khao San Road from what I’d read in guide books and heard from other travellers before we arrived. Clubbing isn’t really mine and James’ thing anymore, but we enjoyed strolling through the crowds of food vendors and tourists during the day, lingering at stalls selling everything from of bracelets and gifts to counterfeit CDs and elephant-printed trousers.

In the evenings, we preferred Soi Rambuttri, the road parallel to Thanon Khao San, which is slightly quieter but still has plenty of restaurants and boutiques. The pavements are framed by leafy banyan trees and the vibe feels more relaxed and local than on Khao San Road. There is an excellent pancake maker on the west side of Soi Rambuttri, as well as plenty of cheap pop-up restaurants where you can get some really good pad Thai for as little as 30 THB (around £0.60 GBP / $1 USD).

Strolling down Soi Rambuttri

However, on our penultimate night in Bangkok, we succumbed to the allure of cheap Chang and house music, and got very drunk. Crowds of dancing travellers spilled out of the bars onto the streets, where local upcoming DJs had set up makeshift decks on the side of the road. Vendors were selling fried scorpions, snakes and spiders, and 2 small Changs cost just 100 THB from street sellers.

Technically speaking, we are Brits abroad!

2. Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

The official residence of the Thai Royal Family since 1782, the Grand Palace is a site any first-time traveller in Bangkok must visit. it’s called the Grand Palace, but I don’t think the name quite portrays just how stunning the complex is.

The many buildings in the Palace grounds

The imposing halls of the Grand Palace

Statues… Everywhere!

The architecture of the temples and surrounding pagodas is simply remarkable and leaves you marvelling in awe. We had never seen anywhere like it!

Intricately detailed pagodas

Striking colourful murals

Top Tips for visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew: 

Wearing my borrowed blouse and wrap-around skirt

How to get there: 

Address: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Naklon, Bangkok, 10200

Admission Fee: 500 THB per person. You’ll be given a map at the ticket booth.

Opening hours: 8:30 to 15:30

Outside the main Palace building

3) Eat amazing Thai food

Part of the reason I love to travel is because there are so many authentic dishes to be tasted! 

A huge plate of pad Thai, with chopsticks = the best decision I have ever made while drunk.

Bangkok has so much good food (loads of dishes for vegetarians!) and the best part – the food is so cheap! You can get a Pad Thai from a street seller for as little as 30THB, and even in restaurants a main meal cost us around 80-120THB each.

Lunch at Chatuchak market: chicken & noodles for James, the veggie option for me

Lunch in a restaurant opposite the Grand Palace: a thai curry for James, tofu with egg fried rice for me

4) Wat Pho and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha

This was one of the highlights of our time in Bangkok. The complex was far less crowded than any other site we visited and the ambience was much more relaxed and serene. Visitors were a mix of tourists and locals.

Sitting by the fish pond outside Wat Pho

Well, we had to get a selfie with the Reclining Buddha!

We were blown away by the sheer size of the Reclining Buddha – at 46m long it is the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand!


I found the feet to be particularly impressive, adorned with beautiful mother-of-pearl illustrations.

What beautiful feet!

What beautiful feet!

Around the outside of the statue there are 108 bowls – you can buy a small container of coins and add these to the bowls for good fortune.

I’m all for good fortune! Wearing a stylish green kimono lent to me by the temple staff.

After seeing the Reclining Buddha, we enjoyed strolling around the grounds and were in awe of the beautiful buildings. We were lucky enough to see the monks’ daily chanting in one of the smaller temples too.

You should never ever point your feet towards Buddha; it’s incredibly disrespectful!

Dress code: Similarly to the Grand Palace, you should dress conservatively, however you can borrow necessary garments to cover up with free of charge.

Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200

How to get there: Walk from the Grand Palace (5-10 minutes, you won’t need a tuktuk or taxi)

Admission fee: 200THB (includes a 250ml bottle of water)

Opening hours: 08:00 to 17:00


5) Take the boat to Wat Arun

Just across the Chao Phraya river is Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. The distint shape of its central 70 metre tall prang (spire) is probably what makes it so unique from other temples in Bangkok.

The imposing Wat Arun

What we loved most was the intricate detail of the decoration; each prang is encrusted with colourful fragments of porcelain and seashells – beautiful!

James admiring the porcelain detail

Unfortunately Wat Arun was having quite a bit of work done while we were in Bangkok so we were unable to climb higher than what can be seen here, though from what I know, you can climb up the central prang and see views of the river, Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

A striking, unique structure

You can also see the Buddha image in the orientation hall, which is a place of worship for Buddhists. In the surrounding area of the temple, there is a small market selling clothes, refreshments and gifts. As you get off the boat in Central Bangkok after visiting Wat Arun, you’ll walk through a local market selling produce and gifts.

On the boat crossing the river

Souvenir shopping on the way back to the pier

Admission fee: 100 THB

How to get there: Take the river boat from Pier 8 of Sapphan Taksin boat pier.

Boat price: 3 THB per person each way

Dress code: Modest, with shoulders and legs covered (I wore a scarf over my shoulders here).

Opening times: 08:30 to 17:30

Address: Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600

6) Take a stroll through Chinatown

With a population that first settled in Bangkok in the 1780s, the vibrant district of Chinatown is not to be missed and the best way to see it is on foot. 

Walking through a local produce market on the way to Chinatown

We really enjoyed walking through the market stalls and picked up a few souvenirs – we found the prices to be cheaper than in busier districts like around Khao San road.

So many trinkets!

How to get there: The main district runs along Yaowarat Road, so you could walk or take a taxi or Tuktuk here.

7) Wat Traimit: The Temple of the Golden Buddha

Located close to Chinatown is Wat Traimit, home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha image. Whilst the temple itself was not overly impressive, the 15-foot-tall image of Buddha is quite something and is worth millions in gold prices! For hundreds of years, the statue had been covered in plaster to cover its value from thieves. It was only in 1955, when the statue was being transported and was accidentally damaged, that the gold underneath was rediscovered. Crazy!

The temple of Wat Traimit

How to get there: 

Admission fee: 40 THB for just the Golden Buddha, an additional 100 THB to visit the museum.

Address: Thanon Mittaphap Thai-China, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100

The famous Golden Buddha

8) Pick up some souvenirs at Chatuchak weekend market

Visiting Chatuchak market is an great way to spend half a day if you’re in Bangkok over the weekend. With over 8000 stalls, you can buy just about anything: from antiques, furniture and gifts to clothes, plants and books – and is a great place to try out your haggling skills. It’s absolutely massive and therefore very easy to get lost – be sure to get a free map from one of the information stands.

Beautiful plants at the market

Top tips:

How to get there: 

Address: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok

Opening times: 09:00 to 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays; 18:00 to midnight on Friday evenings; plant sections open 07:00 to 18:00 on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Enjoying an iced coffee from Brew the Bean

9) See panoramic views of Bangkok at The Golden Mount (Wat Saket)

This temple is built on an artificial hill, where you can see beautiful views of the city. There are over 300 steps to reach the summit, but the climb is not too difficult as the path is well-paved and there are water sprays to cool you down (and water the plants!) There are many statues along the path and a patio where you can ring the bells.

Opening times: 09:00 to 17:00

How to get there: Wat Saket isn’t very close to any major transport connections so the best way to get there is by taxi (on the meter!) or by tuktuk (haggle!) We walked there easily with a map.

Admission Fee: 10 THB

Address: 1344 Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100

10) Visit a Floating Market

This is something we unfortunately didn’t get the chance to do while we were in Bangkok, but it’s our list for the next time we visit! 

Whilst they can be seen as a tourist trap, floating markets often have lots of fresh produce and are popular with locals, if you go to the right one!

Have you visited a floating market in Bangkok? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!


*** More useful information ***

Where we stayed: 

Safe, cheap and a five minute walk from Khao San Road. It was basic but clean, and has a common area where it’s easy to meet other travellers.  


Where to next?

Bangkok is the central hub for many travellers arriving, leaving and travelling through Southeast Asia and has fantastic flight, train and bus links for onward travel across the region.


Have you been to Bangkok? What was the highlight or your trip?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

4 responses to “10 must do’s for your first trip to Bangkok”

  1. Eden says:

    Great photos and tips — sounds like an amazing trip! I’d love to visit Thailand someday, it’s been high up on my travel bucket list. Those floating markets seem like they would be interesting to visit. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. Tiff K says:

    This is great information!! There’s so much temples I don’t know what to choose! We’ll only be there for 3 days so I really have to make it count.

    Thanks for the tips.

    • You’re welcome Tiff! 3 days is heaps of time – just make sure you’re organised with your itinerary! If I had to choose my favourite, I think the Grand Palace is a must, even if it is super busy it’s just beautiful. Wat Arun is so unique, I’ve never seen anywhere like it, and I really liked the Golden Mount too, it gives you a great view of the city! Have a great trip! 🙂

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I’m a travel loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.

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