Photograph by Sylvain Sonnet, Photolibrary / Getty Images

 

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Bangkok, Thailand, has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world.

Photograph by Sylvain Sonnet, Photolibrary / Getty Images

 

Discover the Best of Bangkok

Plan your Southeast Asia getaway with top 10 tips.

A mega-metropolitan city with a vibrant street life and rich history, Bangkok captivates travelers with its Buddhist temples and a cosmopolitan city life of shopping, nightlife, and culture.

Wildlife

As one of Bangkok’s few green spaces (more than 140 acres), Lumpini Park is great for a bit of nature, and you’re likely to stumble upon its famed Lumpini lizards. The harmless monitor lizards have always lived in the park, but in recent years their population has surged to the point that the city has had to start culling the population.

Cultural Experience

Many tourists choose to visit the floating markets of Bangkok along the canals in the Thornburi district, but make a special trip down the more discreet Klong Bang Luang canal toward the Bangkok Artist’s House (Baan Silapin) instead. It’s like stepping back in time hundreds of years. The afternoon puppet shows are performed traditionally with folk songs and large puppets.

Best Day Trip

Once the largest city in the world, the Historic City of Ayutthaya is just a 90-minute drive north of Bangkok and a relatively easy day trip. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to thousands of archaeological remains including many temples. The historic city dates back to the 14th century and was one of the original capitals of the Siam Empire. Today, you can explore the remaining temples and visit museums to learn about the ancient empire.

Off the Beaten Path

Bangkok has a growing art scene. In 2008, the Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC) opened in the heart of Bangkok’s tourist shopping center at Siam Square, but the newer Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) opened in 2012 and features an impressive collection of Thai contemporary art in a modern, architecturally interesting building.

Most Iconic Place

While there are many worthwhile Buddhist temples in Bangkok that are suitable for tourists, Wat Pho is one of the most iconic. Known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is located just opposite the Grand Palace and features a gilded Buddha statute more than 150 feet long.

Late Night

Silom is a popular nightlife spot in Bangkok with a late-night market selling random goods, but also many bars, pubs, and clubs—including a handful of LGBTQ-friendly spaces where visitors can catch drag shows. Craft beer bars and Irish pubs are also scattered through the area, and an after-hours food market lines the street for when you’re leaving the clubs.

Historic Site

Bangkok’s Grand Palace was the official residence of the king throughout history (since 1782) and today is Thailand’s most popular tourist attraction and an important site for those interested in the Siamese dynasty and current royalty. The building complex is marked by their eclectic style built over centuries of different royalty. Because it’s still a working royal building, a strict dress code applies.

Local Quirk

Shopping, or at least hanging out at shopping centers, is a way of life in Bangkok. At many of the stops along the BTS Skytrain, small hangouts have popped up at the station itself and in the nearby surrounding streets. In the Phaya Thai District, the Ari BTS station features a quiet, tree-lined escape from much of the Bangkok street buzz with small cafes, restaurants, and craft shops.

Neighborhood to Explore

One of Bangkok’s largest throughways, Sukhumvit Road stretches from downtown out into the suburbs. The BTS Skytrain runs along most of the road and makes it easy to visit multiple areas. At its western end, the road is referred to as Rama I and you’ll find large shopping centers around Siam Square, but head farther east and many luxury hotels stand alongside side streets (called sois) with markets and ethnic quarters in-between. Walk along Sukhumvit Road from west to east and you’ll discover Bangkok’s throbbing street life.

People-Watching Spot

Siam Square, though touristy, is still very popular with Bangkok locals thanks to all the shopping centers and malls. The overhead walkways crisscrossing Rama I road below also offer a unique view into the hectic street life of the city with vendors hawking goods at all times of day. Wandering through the shopping centers, you’ll find affordable food market halls busy during lunchtime and upper floors with cinemas crowded in the evening; simply wander the air-conditioned malls for a taste of Bangkok’s constant buzz.