Bangkok is a city of contrasts where the glittering temples and modern luxury shopping complexes comfortably sit side by side. It is heaven if you are a foodie and has some of the best street food in SE Asia, as well as an ever-increasing number of Michelin starred restaurants. To make the most out of a brief visit I’ve written a short guide on what to do in Bangkok for 2 days so that you can have 2 action-packed days in this awesome city.
What To Do In Bangkok For 2 Days
Day 1: Temples, a Palace and more Temples
Bangkok is a big city and with the best will in the world, you are not going to be able to see it all. It also depends on your style of travel. Would you rather immerse yourself in a few places or do you want to rush around to tick the main highlights off your list? I know many people who belong to the “ticking” category, but that’s not me.
I am going to give you an idea of what you can do each day and you can decide for yourself how much of it you want to do.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
I have to start with the Grand Palace as it is one of the iconic sights in Bangkok. It was built on the banks of the Chao Phraya River during the reign of King Rama 1. Construction began in 1782 and was only completed in the late 1800’s. It served as a home to the Thai royalty until 1925. Not all of the palace is open to the public, but there is more than enough of it to see to leave you in awe of its magnificence.
It is also one of the worlds most visited attractions estimated at around 8 million people a year, beating the Eiffel Tower by a million people. With that in mind be prepared to accept the fact that it will be crowded and there are often long queues.
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and is in the precinct of the Grand Palace. It is an important religious symbol and this is considered to be one of the holiest temples in Thailand.
The Emerald Buddha comes from India and not much is known about it. I was rather disappointed by it, but then I was looking at it simply and a statue without the religious significance. It is about 60 – 70 cm tall and located high above your head, in a glass box, so you can’t see too much and no photographs are allowed either. The photo below is of an exact copy of the Emerald Buddha and is in Chiang Mai. I know it’s not the real thing but it’s a good way of showing you what it looks like.
There is a dress code at the temple: Shoulders and knees must be covered. I usually carry a lightweight pashmina to cover my shoulders. You can rent clothes on site, but I prefer to be prepared.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawih or Wat Po as it is better known can be found just behind the Grand Palace. It is also the oldest and the largest temple complex in the city.
This is the home of a magnificent 46 meter long reclining Buddha. In this representation, he has reached Nirvana, after death. Don’t miss the intricate mother of pearl detail inlaid on the soles of the feet.
There are also more than 1000 images of Buddha throughout the temple. Most of them were brought from abandoned temples in places like Ayutthaya and Sukhothai
The quickest way to get to the temple is either by tuk-tuk or if you prefer by riverboat. Look out for the normal Express River Taxi, rather than the Tourist Boat which is far more expensive.
The Temple of Dawn, as it is also known is named after Aruna, the Indian God of the Dawn. I am sure that you will recognise this temple as it is on so much of the publicity you see for the city and is one of the most significant landmarks on the river banks.
It is built in the Khmer style so it may remind you of Angor Wat. The tower is decorated with millions of pieces of colourful porcelain that was brought from China as ballast for the ships.
The stairs on the side of the prang (a tower with a conical shape) are very steep, but if you are up for the climb you will be rewarded with a great view.
If you want the perfect photo op you will have to wait for sunset to capture the silhouette against the sky.
Street food in Chinatown
Bangkok’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the world. It’s also one of the best. Yaowarat Road comes alive at night as the vendors set up their stalls and the neon signs light the sky.
You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to eat. You will find everything from birds nests, to shark fin and everything in between. My advice would be to wander along the road and see what takes your fancy.
If you are not brave enough to go it alone you can book a street food tour, like the one I did with A Chef’s Tour. It was a perfect way of tasting the best food the area has to offer and it even includes dessert at a hawker’s stall that has been given a Michelin award.
An added bonus is that you won’t see many tourists around. It’s mostly locals who are around so it’s an inexpensive night out.
Read: A Chef’s Tour
In order to make the most of day 2, I recommend that you buy a Skytrain Pass for 1 day. It’s a quick and efficient way of getting around the city without having to worry about traffic. All of today’s destinations are easily accessible with the Skytrain. Just avoid using it during peak hours between 07h00-09h00 and 16h00 to 19h00 when it becomes crowded with commuters.
There are 2 lines, the SILOM line and the SUKHUMVIT line. Both of these meet at Siam Station.
Floating Markets – weekend option
The first time I visited a floating market I was collected really early in the morning and drove for ages to get to Damnoen Saduak.It was fun and I enjoyed seeing the countryside, but there is no need to go that far. There are options that are much closer to the city, like Khlong Lat Mayom which is about 20km out of town.
It’s a noisy experience, with vendors calling to attract your attention, and boats forming a traffic jam. It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat from one of them. Look out for the banana and coconut fritters and try them if you see them. They are divine!
If you plan to visit the market get the hotel to write the name down for you in Thai to make it easier for the taxi driver.
How to get there
Take the BTS Skytrain to Bang Wa station on the Thonburi side of Bangkok. From Bang Wa, jump in a taxi, tell the driver that you want to go to Talad Nam Khlong Lat Mayom and it will take about 15 minutes to get to the market and cost about 80-100 THB
Jim Thompson House
There is a mysterious tale that surrounds Jim Thompson, an American businessman and established the Thai Silk Company.
He bought 6 historic teak houses in Ayutthaya and had them dismantled and shipped to Bangkok. Some of these houses are hundreds of years old. They were joined together to form a mansion for him to live in. No expense was spared with the fixtures and fittings. There are beautiful collections of art and porcelain on display as well.
The rich and famous were frequent visitors to his mansion with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham spending time at the mansion.
In 1967 when Thompson was visiting friends in Malaysia he went for a walk in the forest and was never seen again. Even though there were extensive searches not a trace of him was found. What happened is still unknown to this day.
How to get there
SkyTrain to (W1) National Stadium Station (Silom Line). Take Exit 1 and go straight ahead to the end of Soi Kasemsan 2, Jim Thompson’s house is on left side
Shop till you drop
No visit to Bangkok would be complete without a bit of retail therapy. It’s usually blisteringly hot in the afternoon so it’s a great excuse to head to the air-conditioned comfort of the malls. My first stop is usually Siam Paragon. It has a great selection of smart shops, restaurants and a branch of the Tokyu department store. If you are looking for foodie gifts you can’t beat the Siam Paragon Gourmet Market. I always come away laden with goodies.
It’s a short walk to another of my favourite shopping centres, MBK. There are 2000 shops here to tempt you to put a severe dent in your credit card. There is nothing glamorous about this centre, but you will find, for example, an entire floor selling IT related goods, cell phones and accessories and camera equipment. It’s also a great place to shop for the more touristy items as there is a large selection available. If you are looking for the type of items you see in the markets, like printed t-shirts and clothes for the kids you will find them much cheaper here.
Bangkok is packed with sky bars that all offer views to die for. Some of the most well know are Vertigo, Octave, Moon Bar and Sky Bar at the Lebua.
The Sky Bar is billed as one of the highest rooftop bars in the world. It’s about on the 64th floor and is at a height of around 250 metres. It offers spectacular 360-degree views.
Be warned that you will pay for the view. The drinks are not cheap and a cocktail at the Lebua can set you back US 25.00. If you do a bit of research there are others bars that are more affordable that also have a view of the city. Check the dress code as well before you arrive or you may be disappointed.
How to get there
Either the Saphan Taksin or Surasak will do, but Taksin is closer.
Asiatique, The River Front, was a new discovery for me on this trip. It is on the Charoen Krung Road in the Bang Kho Laem district, on the east bank of the river.
It’s in what was once an old shipping port. The warehouses have been converted into more than 1000 shops, many of which are very small. There is a choice of 40 restaurants and most of them offer al fresco riverfront dining.
The big draw card for me was that I heard there was fabulous street food available. There is an excellent choice of food including scorpions on a skewer. There are more locals around than tourists around and this is reflected in the prices. Much to my husband’s disgust I even found a durian ice cream.
There is also a Ferris wheel that you can see from miles away, Muay Thai, a puppet theatre and a cabaret to entertain you. There is more than enough to keep you busy for the evening.
How to get there
Take the BTS Sky Train to Saphan Taksin station on the Chao Phraya river. From the Central pier there is a free shuttle boat that runs every 30 min between 16h00 and 23h30. Look out for the Asiatique branding on the shuttle. The traffic in the area can get quite congested so this is a much easier option. If you decide to use a taxi check that the driver switches the meter on.
Best time to visit
The best weather is between November and March when the days are sunny and the temperatures are milder. The biggest factor for me at this time of the year is that the humidity is much lower. Towards the end of March, the temperatures start rising steeply. The rainy season starts in May, but it does not rain every day. If you don’t mind the rain it’s a good time to visit because many of the hotels offer discounted accommodation during this period and you can find some excellent bargains.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Here’s my selection of trendy boutique hotels for all budgets
If you have managed to do everything on my “what to do in Bangkok for 2 days” list you will have seen many of the highlights the city has to offer. It will have also been a bit of a whirlwind tour, but when you are pressed for time you have to make the most of it!
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