Touch down in Bangkok and prepare to be greeted by a sweet ‘n sour megalopolis of river boats, dubious spas, markets, traffic, street food, and new smells. However, amongst the chaos you’ll discover a word-class food scene, unbelievable hostels and pockets of peace in the glittering chedis (shrines), and hidden parks. There’s a sense of mischief in the air and for Bangkokians, every day is injected with a sense of of sà·nùk (fun) and playfulness. To help you decide on what to see in Thailand’s City of Angels, we’ve narrowed it down to 19 of the best places to visit in Bangkok. Expect the unexpected……..
Places to visit in Bangkok…
Join the Bangkok coffee tribe and head to the hip neighborhoods for coffee houses, local roasters and artisan cafés. You’ll find both classic and inventive brews made with beans from around the world. Head to Roots Coffee Roaster for flavoured cold brews, and Kaizen Coffee Co. make an irresistible Milo Mountain (iced chocolate topped with vanilla ice cream and Milo, and served in a chocolate-dipped cup).
? Roots Coffee by @juntamon & a Milo Mountain at Kazien Coffee Co. by @bkksaluja
2. Hell Garden
? Matthew Surline & @fleurie_pie
Are you a sinner? Then (maybe don’t) come on down to the Buddhist underworld, a garden of torture and pain! According to the Traibhumi Phra Ruang, there are 136 pits in hell and when a Buddhist dies, he/she goes before the Death King who decides your fate based on your good and bad deeds. It’s karma on steroids and hands down one of the weirdest places to visit near Bangkok!
? @chrsschlkx & @oodee_ka
In a city of 10 million, sometimes you need a bit of greenery, ya know?! This island is smuggled away in the middle of the Chao Phraya River, a little hard to find but totally worth the hunt. You can rent a bicycle for 100 THB at the pier and get lost in the tropical forest or Botanical Park and there’s even a floating market at the weekends.
If urbexing is your vibe, these abandoned shells of a 747 and two MD-82 planes are a must. One plane is a model from the fatal One-Two-GO Airlines Flight 269 crash at Phuket Airport in 2007. Oxygen masks and life vests litter the grounds, adding to the eerie atmosphere. Oh, and three Thai families live in parts of the scrap planes (which is where the small entrance fee goes to), so be respectful when their curtains are drawn!
5. Themed cafés
These WTF cafes are bordering on genius. Try the British themed Mr. Bean Coffee Shop with a dedicated Teddy shrine, the magical B Story café and Mr. Jones’s Orphanage in the Siam Centre. However, our absolute fave is the Unicorn café, where half used cans of rainbow paint go to die. It’s also a place where it’s okay eat rainbow spaghetti and get hyped up on E numbers.
Shark fins, bird’s nests and frog skins – oh my! Chinatown is like a fridge magnet for the weird and wonderful, and there are hundreds of foodie gems hidden in sois and alleyways on Yaowarat Road. The shopping is just as random. Need some fake fruit? A Pokémon pillow? A neon wig? Chinatown is the one. The Chinese community began residing here in 1782, and the south side is a peaceful area where you’ll find temples and gardens such as Wat Mangkon Kalawat. Read here about more cheap restaurants in Bangkok.
? karenbaka & brujitaolga
Yes we are biased but dang! The hostels are extra hot in Bangkok. Visit the 9.5 rated The Yard Hostel in hipster den Ari, a calm world of swinging hammocks and rooms with private gardens. If you’re after somewhere with as few tourists as possible, Heyyy Bangkok (above) is a new hostel on Phatthanakan Road, where their motto is ‘Stay East, Live Local.’ It’s in a low-key part of the city but Bangkok transports such as the BTS sky train means the city is always your oyster. WH Hostel is a colourful container hostel surrounded by super green lawns on Sumkhumvit Rd. Choices, choices, too many choices! Book your hostel here.
? Clockwise L to R: The WH, Spinning Bear Hostel, Bed & Bike, The Yard
The mother of all markets with 8,000 stalls selling everything from vintage Japanese clothing to hill-tribe silver to every food you can think of. It may be the size of numerous football pitches but Chatuchak is well organised and you can pick up a map at the entrance. The full market is on from 6am – 6pm every Saturday and Sunday, so if you only have one day go armed with water and prepared to face crowds of locals! If all else fails, escape to a back alley bar with a cocktail and people watch…
9. Lumpini Park
We would forgive you for thinking that this luscious oasis in the middle of the city was too good to be true. With palm gardens and grass lawns surround an artificial lagoon, locals come here to hangout, making it an epic place to just sit back and watch the world go by. Think roller bladders, aerobic groups, barbers cutting hair, cricketers, tai chiers and there’s even a weight area, Muscle Beach style! Tip: check the park schedule as there are often festivals and gigs by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.
? Kelvin Yee & Ryan Harvey via Flickr
You can always rely on Bangkok to take dining to the next level. Eat your noodles surrounded by condoms on the walls, hanging off lampshades, and birth control pills studded on a mannequins’ jacket. Whilst this might look like the work of a contraceptive obsessed maniac, C&C is run by family planning activist Mechai Viravaidya aka Mr Condom, and has contributed the acceptance of contraception in Thailand. There is even a Cabbages & Condoms hotel franchise if you are feeling extra risque! Or extra careful… 😉
11. Sathorn Towers
? John via flickr & @naii_bo
Another urbexer’s dream. This 49 storey tower is an eroding memory of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, where reckless investments made it impossible to ever complete. Inside the ruin there are said to be random objects such as lamps and mannequins, and it’s rumoured by locals to be haunted.
Note: It is now technically illegal to enter the building, but not impossible (at your own risk!)
? @ai.noor & @normabahri
Extravagant arrangements of jasmine, orchids, marigolds, chrysanthemums and every flora imaginable overflow onto the pavements and make for a kaleidoscopic adventure of colours and smells. The market is open 24 hours but comes alive after midnight: you’ll see the fresh flowers arrive via boats and trucks from all around the country as far as Chiang Mai. The Temple of the Reclining Budda is next door which features an an exquisite 15m gold leaf budhha. Jaw. Dropping!
Bangkok’s concrete jungle surprises us again with an actual jungle. You’ll find this pocket full ‘o trees and fauna on the eastern fringes of the city, all planted on a previously abandoned lot of land in Prawet. It’s an experiential lesson in forest ecology and continues to evolve and grow, literally.
14. Wat Traimit Temple
? chk121 & barbaraannah
Overwhelmed by temples, shrines and Buddha’s? If there’s only one temple you visit why not make it the one with the biggest golden statue in the world! Inside the marble structure sits a 5.5 Tonne, 3m high solid gold Buddha worth a flabbergasting 250 million bucks.
15. Rooftop bars
Amongst the grime of the city is the dazzling, dizzying heights of the city skyscrapers and rooftop bars. For a local vibe, head to Skytrain Jazz Club where the Thai students hang out on retro furniture and sip on classic cocktails. Sky & Moon Bar Bistro is set above the Vanilla Moon community mall and is almost totally local with regular gigs from local bands. In general, nightlife in Bangkok is pumping and you’ll always find bars and nightclubs in RCA, Sukhumvit and Khasoan road.
16. Amulet Market
Calling all mystics! This market is packed with traditional medicine stalls, and pocket-sized talismans made up of everything from human hair to particles from scared temples. Superstitious locals have been coming here for generations, digging for treasure to ward off evil or bring them good fortune. Mwahahaha!
17. Morbid Museums
We’ve already been to Buddhist hell, but Bangkok has so many more messed up things to offer. Visit the Bangkok Corrections Museum to learn about the history of Thailand’s harsh prison system. Not gruesome enough? Dare to enter the Forensic Medicine Museum aka the Museum of Death. You can get up close and personal to the real body parts of murder victims, hold a human brain and get grossed out by conjoined fetuses in jars. It’s not uncommon to see candy left in the museum near the bodies of the children, an offering for their spirits. And yup you guessed it, it’s haunted.
? Twang_Dunga via Flickr
In 1967 the American spy, silk merchant and Thai legend Jim Thompson went on a jungle walk on holiday in Malaysia and never returned. That same year his sister was murdered, and their deaths still remain mysteries to this day, shrouded in several conspiracy theories. Jim lived in Thailand for 25 years and collected parts of abandoned Thai homes and reassembled them, and for a small fee you can wonder around the legend’s home and view his Asian art collection and personal items. Admission fees to go to underprivileged kids 🙂
19. New World Mall
Welcome to the apocalypse, where carp have taken over the world! At least that’s what it feels like when you’re inside the charred ruins of this former mall. Rumor has it that it was deliberately burnt down in 1997 because the building’s height overshadowed the royal Grand Palace. The ground floor began to flood with the tropical season, and as a result, a pesky mosquito outbreak ensued. Koi to the rescue! Locals placed the fish here to eat the mozzies and voila! Everyone wins.
So that’s our favourite bits of the capital, but if you’re visiting the rest of the country, check out where to stay in Thailand.
Why not pin this article for later? ?
To read next:
- 15 cheap restaurants that prove Bangkok is a foodie paradise
- Responsible Tourism: What to do (and not do) whilst travelling through Asia
- 13 hostels in exotic locations you won’t believe exist
- Myanmar: Backpacking’s Best Kept Secret
- Why you need to add Malaysia to your Bucketlist IMMEDIATELY