Bangkok is a city of contradictions, where huge modern shopping malls tower over small traditional Thai houses and food carts sit perched on the sidewalk in front of high-end restaurants. The contradictions are what make Thailand such a unique and fascinating place. It also allows for visitors of all types and budgets to have a great time in this bustling city. Having lived in Bangkok for almost two years, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tourist activities and local hangout spots. So book one of the cheap hotels in Bangkok near one of the city’s transit stops and hit the humid streets of Bangkok.
Peruse Chatuchak Weekend Market
Photo by 246-You via Flickr.com
One of the most iconic attractions in Bangkok is the Chatuchak Weekend Market. With over 8,000 stalls, Chatuchak is one of the largest outdoor markets in the world. From 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday you can literally shop until you drop from either heat or exhaustion. You’ll find everything imaginable at this thriving market – from incense to tourist knick knacks or mango wood cutlery to gorgeous contemporary art. You can enjoy fresh coconut ice cream or hot-off-the-range Thai food. My personal favorite section is the second-hand clothing. For an in-depth market tutorial, check out this Chatuchak post.
Visit the most Popular Temples in Bangkok
Photo by david baxendale via Flickr.com
Most people are immediately taken in by the gold, red, and green temples known as ‘wats’ in Thai. One of the most famous in Bangkok it Wat Pho, where you can visit the giant reclining buddha and images depicting the supposed origin of Thai massage. Stroll the stunning grounds before heading over to the Chao Phraya River. Here you can take a small, inexpensive boat to the other side to a very different temple. Wat Arun is built in the ancient Khmer style, using brightly colored tiles and unique symbols instead of traditional colors. Climb the frighteningly steep stairs to the top and enjoy breathtaking river views.
Hit the Rooftop Bars
Photo by Thibad Saintin via Flickr.com
One of my guilty pleasures in Bangkok is to visit the rooftop bars. With strict dress codes and inventive menus, you’ll want to wear your best outfit to these joints. For less than you would pay in any metropolitan US bar, you can sip artisanal cocktails and eat world-class food in the cool evening air. The best part, however, is the stunning night views of ever-bustling Bangkok. It’s a unique dining experience that is difficult to replicate elsewhere, so get yourself gussied up and hit that top floor elevator button. My personal favorite is the Peruvian-Thai fusion bar Above Eleven.
Get a Heavenly Massage
Photo by I-Ta Tsai via Flickr.com
Another guilty pleasure of mine is weekly massages. In the US, massages are often so expensive that it’s tough to afford even a yearly visit. However, one can experience luxury for a fraction of the price in Bangkok. Whether you want to brave the more intense Thai massage (the non-flexible beware) or indulge in a spa treatment, you’ll find reputable shops that won’t break the bank. One of my personal favorite chains in Bangkok is Urban Retreat. Get pampered with soft robes, fresh tea, and a soothing shower before your massage even begins.