From simple customs outpost on the Chao Phraya River downstream to the ancient city of Ayutthaya to the world’s top tourist destination, the Thai capital’s rise has been meteoric. From prayer to the party, there’s a whole range of things to do in Bangkok. But before you begin exploring this land, remember to keep a Bangkok map handy with you.
Best time to visit: December to February is the perfect time to explore Bangkok.
Visa and immigration: Indian passport holders visiting Bangkok for not more than 15 days can avail the Visa on Arrival service from the designated immigration checkpoints.
How to reach
By air: The Suvarnabhumi Airport lies at 25km from the east of Bangkok, and the Don Mueang Airport lies 24km to the north. Suvarnabhumi Airport handles the majority of the international and domestic flights and connects with the city through various buses, taxis and Airport Rail Link. IndiGo now provides direct connectivity between Bangkok and Kolkata, Chennai & Bengaluru along with seamless connections to other cities in India.
Getting around: You can travel around Bangkok using tuk-tuk or auto-rickshaws, Bangkok subway, BTS Skytrain and taxis. Bangkok Subway and BTS Skytrain are probably the best means to move within the city whereas tuk-tuks are economical and convenient travel modes.
A unique culinary experience where you are explained the concept over a drink at the bar, before being led to a dark room where you are served by visually-impaired waiters (money from the restaurant goes to a foundation working with the blind), for a meal where you can awaken your senses.
Located by the Chao Phraya opposite the Grand Palace, the excellent al fresco setting is only matched by the superb seafood platters, shrimp cakes, soups and more.
Hailed as the best Japanese restaurant in town, Tsu offers fantastic sashimi, soft shell crab salad and uni flown in twice a week.
The best French restaurant in the city is, not surprisingly, located at Mandarin Oriental overlooking the river. Try the five or seven-course set menu, paired with excellent wines.
The softest BBQ pork buns, sausages, American pub grub and beer in a friendly environment make this a favourite hangout.
If you’re missing the familiar comfort of Indian food, head into the best Punjabi restaurant in Bangkok. The spiced cocktails perfectly complement the assortment of fish, meat, chicken dishes and curries.
A right place for Thai cuisine if you’re in Siam Square area. Try their steam fish, fried fish, shrimp cakes, pad Thai, green curry and sticky rice.
This is a no-frills, family-run Thai restaurant with value for money meals, a mean Thai green curry and an extensive vegetarian spread.
Teak handicrafts, elephant figurines, reclining Buddha statuettes, Thai silk, cheap clothes, high fashion, shoes; there’s a lot to buy here, and Bangkok seems to burst at its seams with shopping centres, department stores and street stalls.
Local shopping markets: The main shopping avenues are in Siam Park City and Ratchaprasong. On every shopper’s must-visit list is the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market, the fantastic Taling Chan Floating Market and the cloth covered stalls at Patpong Market. Another local institution is the Pratunam Market known for its wholesale prices, which is open 24 hours a day. Visit early morning, 4am to 9am for insane deals. The small alleys and streets of Yaowarat or Chinatown towards the riverfront is full of little shops while the backpacker favourite—Khao San Road is full of outlets selling travel gear and clothes.
Shopping malls: To shop in style and comfort, head into the various air-conditioned shopping malls in Bangkok such as the MBK (Ma Boon Khrong) Centre, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, The Emporium or The Platinum Fashion Mall. For high-end brands, there’s EmQuartier while at Terminal 21, each thematic floor represents a different city. The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale (15 June–15 Aug) is a good time to visit with excellent bargains.
There is no shortage of party spots in Bangkok.
Rooftop bars: Sky Bar at Lebua at State Tower, which featured in the film The Hangover 2, is a popular nightspot. Octave Rooftop and Lounge at Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is the highest party spot in town with a 360-degree view of Bangkok.
Silom: While in Silom, drop by Cloud 47 at United Center Building, the independent Tapas Room Nightclub or Maggie Choo’s at Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom Hotel.
Ratchada: RCA (Royal City Avenue) in Ratchada is the top party hub in town with clubs like Route66, Onyx and Live RCA that have live music and international DJs.
Sukhumvit Road: Sukhumvit Road, especially Soi 11 and Thonglor (Soi 55), has several clubs throbbing with EDM – Beam, Narz, Demo and Funky Villa.
Chidlom: Chidlom in Central Bangkok has several hotels that have clubs in the basement or rooftops. Try Mixx Discotheque at the InterContinental Bangkok basement and Love F Bar also in the same hotel.
Other famous nightclubs: Other options include the swanky Club 87 Plus at Conrad Bangkok while Falabella nightclub at Royal Bangkok Sports Club in Ratchadamri is where the posh crowd turns out to party. To drink and dance with locals to some Thai rock, head to Coco Walk, an entertainment hub with pubs, bars and live music venues near exit 2 of Ratchathewi station in the shopping district of Siam. While there, check out Spasso at Grand Hyatt Erawan.
InterContinental Bangkok Lumpini One of the largest hotels in the city, the centrally located luxury hotel on Phloen Chit Road overlooks Lumpini Park. Don’t forget to make time for a meal at the excellent Fireplace Grill & Bar.
Tints of Blue Residence Sukhumvit A small boutique hotel in a quiet lane off Sukhumvit Road in Central Bangkok, it has a rooftop pool, garden and a terrific Western or Asian breakfast.
AriyasomVilla Sukhumvit An old Thai villa, offering 5-star luxury in a traditional Thai setting, with wood-floored rooms decorated with gorgeous fabrics, hand-made tiles and antique furnishings.
Phranakorn-Nornlen Boutique Hotel Phranakorn A quirky, nicely-decorated boutique hotel with a laidback vibe and handy services like in-house Thai and foot massages, besides workshops on Thai cooking, fruit carving and tie-dye.
Jim Thompson House & Asiatique The Riverfront: The Jim Thompson House is the perfect example of traditional Thai architecture that features a collection of Asian artefacts. At Asiatique The Riverfront, spend an evening at the shops, restaurants, bars, and giant Ferris wheel, in addition to the live Muay Thai, shows and terrific riverfront scenery. Other Bangkok points of interest include the Siam Paragon shopping centre, which even has a Madame Tussauds.
Safari World: A fantastic place to visit with your family and friends. It is Thailand’s most sought-after zoo, divided into two parts. The first part is a safari park, home to several animals from all around the world. Some of the major attractions here include Orangutan Boxing Show, Eggs World, Jungle Cruise and Bollywood Cowboy Stunt Show. The other part is a Marine Park that houses a varied range of marine animals. Do watch beautiful shows by birds, dolphins and other trained animals.
Wat Traimit: You can’t leave Bangkok without visiting Wat Traimit that is home to the largest gold Buddha statue measuring about 10 feet high and weighing over 5 tons.
There’s a lot to do in Bangkok for the daring and adventurous. From Muay Thai kickboxing lessons at Buddy Lodge, a 6-Hour Siam Ratree Night Bike Tour of Bangkok to an Evening Food and Tuk Tuk Adventure tour; there’s plenty of choices out there. Go on a romantic cruise on the Chao Phraya river at night – try Banyan Tree’s Apsara Dinner Cruise or River Star Princess Cruise with live music and dancing. Get a Thai massage at Wat Pho or Hot Stone therapy at the RarinJinda Wellness Spa in Ratchadamri. Drop into Khao San Cooking School for lessons in Thai cooking or go on an Old Town Food Tour. Get a suit tailor-made at Rajawongse, but you don’t have to wear it when you head out to paint the town red. Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and Patpong are the main naughty neighbourhoods with go-go bars, karaoke dens and massage parlours.
Head out of town to Nakhon Nayok province for some rappelling and zip lining with Khao Lon Adventure Centre, ATV rides with Sarika Adventure or white-water rafting on the Nakhon Nayok River. At Scenical World, there’s a range of adventure activities and amusement park rides for those that want to add some excitement to their itinerary. Go on a wine tasting trail at Nakhon Ratchasima province to Gramonte Vineyard and PB Valley Khao Yai Winery. If you’re looking for something more rustic, make your way to Farm Chokchai, an 8,000-acre dairy farm, where you can enjoy a rodeo show and pony rides or visit the petting zoo. Famous weekend getaways from Bangkok include Pattaya, Krabi, Phuket, Khao Lak Patong, and Phi Phi Island. Hua Hin is yet very popular for destination weddings among Indians.