Most people traveling through Bangkok stay for 1-3 days. Many people don’t even stay that long and just skip over Bangkok all together (though we have no idea why and think this is a huge mistake!). Those that do spend a little time here tend to follow a similar itinerary (Bangkok temples, Khaosan Road, Patpong Night Market, the malls of Siam, maybe Chatuchak weekend market if they’re visiting over a weekend). In our opinion, Bangkok is one of the best and most interesting cities in the world and one that should not be missed. We definitely agree that whenever visiting any city, you should check out the most touristy and popular sights and activities (they’re popular for a reason, right?). Bangkok has a ton to offer though and if you have a little extra time or just like to get off the tourist track, here are suggestions for some other great ways to spend your time here. Some of these suggestions are a little out of the way or off the beaten path. Many of them are activities that expats partake in, so you’ll be able to get a sense of what expat life in Bangkok is like. All of them are definitely worth checking out (though this list is in no particular order)!
Fancy Movie Experience – Bangkok has some of the nicest, fanciest malls that we’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t like shopping (we don’t either), the malls in Siam are a must-see, as they’ll give you a sense of how the rich Thais live. If you have extra time, check out a 4D or Imax movie at Siam Paragon. This is one of the biggest theaters in Bangkok and the only one with a 4D option (though personally, I prefer IMAX). If you want to get really fancy, head over to Central Embassy or Emquariter and pay $30 per person for a private bed with food/drink service to watch your movie on. To get to Siam Paragon, take the BTS to Siam. You can walk right into Paragon from the train station.
Local/Old School Movie Experience – If you’d love to catch a movie but don’t feel like you need to blow your money on a 4D or IMAX, head across the street from Siam Paragon to Lido or Scala theaters (www.apex-siam.com) where you can see a movie for 100 baht ($3). The theaters are a little old school but they are still very nice, have huge screens, play the same 1st run Hollywood movies and blast the aircon. Take the BTS to Siam to get here. Lido is right across the street from Siam Center and Scala is a little further down the road, toward MBK.
Talat Rot Fai (Train Market) – This is a huge antique/vintage market off Srinakarin Road behind Seacon Square shopping mall. They have all the usual Thai market favorites (clothes, souvenirs, great food) but you can also find antique furniture, vintage cars, and many other unique items that you don’t typically see at Bangkok markets. They have tons of very cute/vintage looking bars to grab a drink and the usual selection of great Thai food. There’s also a good selection of Western options. Our favorite spot to eat is all the way in the very back of the market in the right hand corner. You’ll see a huge line of people waiting to get gigantic bowls of noodles. The market is a little out of the way, but you can likely find a bus to take you there (or a taxi).
Whole Peking Duck in Chinatown – Many people skip Chinatown on their visit to Bangkok because well, they’re in Thailand so they want Thai food. The Chinatown in Bangkok (and Yarowat Rd. in particular) is a great scene at night with tons of brightly lit signs and lots of delicious street food and restaurants. Our favorite is finding a street stall selling whole roasted duck (500 baht). The food is delicious and there’s great people watching too. If you’re staying near Khaosan Rd., a tuk tuk should be about 100 baht. Otherwise, you can walk to Yarowat Rd. from the Hua Lamphong MRT.
Bang Krachao Biking and Floating Market – Bang Krachan has been one of my favorite daytime activities in Bangkok. It’s very easy/cheap to get to and you can spend a whole day biking around Bangkok’s Green Lung through all the little sidewalks and alleyways. Make sure to go on a weekend so you can hit up the floating market for lunch and the huge market right next door, which has some of the best take home food selections we’ve seen. We left with 3 nights worth of dinners (we couldn’t help ourselves!).
Pool Party at a Fancy Bangkok Hotel – A lot of the hotels in Sukhumvit have nice rooftop pools and if you’re in town on a weekend, there’s a good chance that there will be a pool party going on at one of them. Check out BK Magazine to see what’s going on in Bangkok each weekend or the Facebook pages of some of our favorites (Sofitel So, Ocean Pool Lounge, Ambar). Even if you’re missing the pool party, you can still go hang at some of these pools for happy hour. It’s a great way to cool off on a hot day and many of them have great views of the city as well.
Find Your Favorite Bangkok Food Truck – Food trucks are very popular in Bangkok right now. It seems like a new one is popping up every week. You can find these trucks all over the city and for pretty much every type of cuisine (Mexican, burgers, BBQ, Vietnamese, pizza, etc.). Look online for food trucks offering your favorite cuisine and go on a quest to find them. You’ll likely end up in a new area to explore and you’ll most certainly end up with a great meal.
Horse Races at Royal Bangkok Turf Club – It sounds like a pretty fancy place and even when we read about it online, people made it sound like a very hi-so (high society/high class) establishment. We dressed up, we wore nice hats, and when we arrived we were (pleasantly?) surprised to find lots of older Thai men drinking cans of beer. I guess we would have fit in even in our regular clothes. Either way, go check it out and place some bets on your favorite horses for a very fun day. They do have programs in English though they can be a bit hard to find (I’d suggest looking up how to say program or booklet in Thai beforehand). Races alternate every Sunday between here and another location in Dusit (which we have yet to visit). To get here, take the BTS to Siam and then walk down Henry Durant Road. *The entrance looks like it might be off the Silom line, but you cannot enter the stadium that way.
Ramkamhaeng Street Walk and Night Market – One of the biggest Thai universities, Ramkamhaeng University, is right off of Ramkamhaeng road, and because of that, this is an extremely happening and very local area. If you walk from the Big C down Ramkamhaeng Road toward the Rajamangala National Stadium you’ll find tons of street vendors selling pretty much everything and anything you could imagine. Once you get to the stadium, you’ll see a huge night market (opens 6pm) with even more clothes and food. We stumbled upon this market our first night in Bangkok and to this day, it’s my favorite. The whole area is an awesome scene and a great way to explore one of the more local areas in Bangkok. To get here, take the airport link to the Ramkamhaeng station and then any bus/songtaew heading down Ramkamhaeng road until you get to the big C (which you’ll see on your left). The left side of the street is best for walking, but the market is on the right.
Craft Beer Happy Hour – Food trucks are not the only trend happening in Bangkok right now. There’s also a hug craft beer scene sprouting up all over the city. There are tons of great/cute spots to get a great beer (Hair of the Dog, Beers Brews and Ciders to name a few) but the best happy hour we’ve seen is at WishBeer. From 5-7 they offer 200 baht pints and 120 baht half pints of all of their great drafts (which change weekly). It’s a very cool spot and in a great location to start the night, as it’s right on Sukhumvit, so pretty easy to get anywhere else in the city from there. To get there, take the BTS to Phra Khanong and walk toward Siam. The bar is right off Sukhumvit Road.
The Commons, Thong Lor –If you want to see where the hi-so Thais (and expats) are hanging out these days, go check out The Commons. The best way to describe it is as a big market for fancy/trendy restaurants. In the bottom level there are about 10 restaurants who have stands and are selling everything from pizza to BBQ to Mexican to sandwiches to cheese platters to fancy pastries and more. The best part is that you can order from as many different stands as you want and sit anywhere you want. If you want to get a taste of the fancier side of Bangkok (or are in the mood for a good Western meal) this is a great spot (though food is only served until around 9pm). While you’re there, you should also walk around Thong Lor, one of the fanciest/trendiest areas in the city. To get here, take the BTS to Thong Lor and walk about 15 minutes (or take a 5 minute motorbike ride) up Thong Lor to Soi 17. Turn left on Soi 17.
Clubbing with the Locals at DEMO and FUNKY VILLA –Whenever we ask our students about their favorite clubs in Bangkok, they almost always without a doubt mention DEMO and FUNKY VILLA. Located on Thong Lor soi 10, when you pay the entrance fee for one of these clubs you get access to both. You’ll find mostly Thais here but they’re always playing western music and both clubs are a very fun scene. The entrance fee is 500 baht per person (even for girls) but you can also get a bottle for around 1600 baht and then you don’t have to pay the entrance fee (so if you have 4 people it actually ends up being cheaper). All bottles come with a table.
Middle Eastern Food and Shisha on Sukhumvit Soi 3 (Soi Arab) – Soi 3 in Sukhumvit is also commonly called Soi Arab for its huge selection of Middle Eastern restaurants. Go check out this area and pick a restaurant for dinner where they offer shishas (hookahs). There’s no alcohol at these restaurants, so instead everyone smokes shisha. It’s a fun experience and you’ll get a great meal. Neffertiti Egyptian Restaurant and apple flavored shisha are our favorites. To get here, take the BTS to Nana.