The Best Things to Do in Bangkok, Thailand: Two Days in the Big City
I’ve been to Bangkok many times in the last few years and have grown to appreciate it more each time. You’ll pass through it if you’re spending any kind of time in Thailand / Southeast Asia and it’s also a worthy destination in its own right. I think two days in Bangkok is the perfect amount of time. It gives you a chance to experience the best things to do in Bangkok including the famous temples and get organised for your expeditions further afield. Wondering what to do in Bangkok during your next trip? Keep reading to find out!
Things to do in Bangkok: Day 1 — Temple Hopping
There are three temples / temple complexes and in my opinion they are the best places to see in Bangkok. The fact that they are close to each other means you should be able to see them all in a day. The Grand Palace is home to Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the emerald Buddha. The whole Grand Palace complex is pretty amazing and is worth the steep 500 Baht entrance fee. The details and colour of the various temples, stupas, statues and palaces are sure to impress, but you’ll have to share it with a lot of other tourists, which does get annoying.
Next up is Wat Pho (100 Baht), a group of incredibly detailed stupas and a massive reclining Buddha. This gold giant is hard to capture in photos, so you’ll get a nice surprise when you see it for yourself. The grounds of Wat Pho are fun to wander and as a bonus there’s a bottle of water included in your entrance fee. It sounds like a good deal but then you see massive marquees and signs advertising the water company, which kind of takes away from the ambiance.
A quick 2 Baht ferry ride from the pier near Wat Pho will take you over to Wat Arun (50 Baht), one of the most important temples in Bangkok. It was covered in scaffolding when we were there but it was still worth a visit. We tried to see the sunset but kind of missed it — I think you’ll need to head further downriver to get a good photo of it.
Thewet Pier, just down from the Rama VIII Bridge, is a great place to watch the sunset in Bangkok. You can watch it from the docks or there are a couple of bars which give you a better view.
If you only have two days in Bangkok and you aren’t heading further into Thailand you should seriously consider a day trip to Ayutthaya, which is a couple of hours away by train or bus. It’s better if you spend a night or two in Ayutthaya, so a day trip to this ancient city is really only for those who have a very short time in Thailand.
If you’re staying in the city you’ll want to head to Chinatown on day two. There’s lots of bustle, good food and a few historic buildings scattered around. Chinatowns are always entertaining places to visit and the one in Bangkok is no different. This would also be a good time to do some shopping in Bangkok — it’s one of the main reasons a lot of people visit the city (I’m definitely not a shopping fan though, in case you were wondering).
There are plenty of other things to do in Bangkok, from cycling around a rural island (Koh Kret) to shopping at the massive malls downtown. It’s also fun to wander around the Khao San Road area, where you’ll find lots of bars, souvenir stalls, massage parlors, fake ID sellers and pretty much anything else you can think of. You could also check out Lumpini Park, an oasis of green surrounded by skyscrapers.
If you happen to be in Bangkok on a weekend you should consider a half day trip to Amphawa. The main attraction is the floating market but even if you’re not into shopping it’s a really nice little town to walk around and there is some excellent street food to be found. We spent a night in Amphawa but you really don’t need to — half a day (try and hop on a minivan at around 11 am) is enough.
Finishing the day at one of Bangkok’s rooftop bars is definitely one of the best things to do in Bangkok. They often have dress codes though so if you’re backpacking around Southeast Asia and don’t have dressy clothes, your best bet is the casual Cloud 47. The view is excellent but you’ll pay for it with overpriced drinks. If you’re on a quick city getaway to Bangkok you’ll probably want to head to a more upmarket rooftop bar, apparently Vertigo and Moon Bar is one of the better ones.
Two days in Bangkok: Tips
- Don’t fall for the tuk tuk scam: I shouldn’t admit this but I’ve actually fallen for this scam…twice. As far as scams go it is pretty tame and will cost you time rather than money. A tuk tuk driver will spin you a story that the place you want to go is closed or too busy because of an event. They’ll then offer to take you to some other temples and you’ll only have to pay a tiny amount (20-40 Baht, or sometimes no money at all). They’ll take you to the temples (they are average and can easily be missed) and then to a tailor shop and a gem shop. The driver apparently gets free petrol for taking you there. It’s all pretty harmless and doesn’t take you long, and if you’re really short on money it’s probably not a bad way to get to where you need to go, assuming you negotiate a drop-off point beforehand. It’s probably easy to get out of it — just refuse to go into the shops and leave the tuk tuk (and don’t pay them), but I’d only recommend that if you have Google Maps or know where you are.
- Stay near Khao San Road: If it’s your first time in Bangkok this area is a great place to stay. You’ll want to avoid Khao San Road because of the noise but there are a few streets nearby where you’ll get some peace. You’ll find all sorts of food and accommodation in this area and it’s a good place to organise day trips and meet other travellers. It’s also close to some of the top attractions. Don’t be scared off by people who say it’s a backpacker black hole — all kinds of people stay close to Khao San Road, and if you only have two days in Bangkok there really is no better place to base yourself.
- Use public transport: Riding the “river metro” is a great way to get around Bangkok. There’s a station close to Khao San Road and for around 15 Baht per journey you can get to Chinatown, Wat Pho / Wat Arun, the Grand Palace and the downtown area, where you can take the Metro to wherever else you want to go. It’s a nice way to get around and obviously there are no traffic jams. We took the bus once in Bangkok and it was easy enough (and really cheap).
If you’re planning on spending two days in Bangkok you’ll find plenty to keep you busy, or you could just relax, get a few massages and get fat on street food.
Are these the best things to do in Bangkok? If you’ve been before and know of something cool that I’ve missed leave me a comment!