Sawatdee khrap! Welcome to Bangkok! With just 1 day to explore this mesmerizing city, get up early and prepare for an exhilarating day full of eye-opening experiences. We’re about to immerse ourselves in a 1-day crash course in Thai and Buddhist culture. The one sight you can’t miss is, of course, the Grand Palace, and I recommend you allow a couple of hours to take it in. Dress light but be sure to wear long sleeves and no shorts or short skirts or you will not be allowed inside the Grand Palace or Buddhist temples. Wear comfortable shoes for walking, too.
START: Silom MRT or Sala Daeng BTS stations.
1. Tai Chi at Lumpini Park. For those who can manage it, there’s no better way to watch Bangkok wake up than by catching the locals at their early-morning exercises. From first light at dawn in Lumpini Park, you can join in or watch people doing aerobics or karate, jogging, cycling, and many other forms of sport. But the highlight is Tai Chi—especially popular around 6am. A crowd gathers and practices in silence for 1 hour. The gentle movement will invigorate your body and set you up for an energetic day.
Head to Chakkraphatdiphong Rd (off Boriphat Rd).
2. The Golden Mount (Phu Khao Tong). The hill was built from waste dredged from the canal in the 19th century, and the spire of the Golden Mount was for a long time the highest point in Bangkok at 78m. But don’t worry—the walk isn’t too strenuous. A stairway winds its way around the mount, passing small Buddhist shrines and gravestones along the way. There’s a cooling, small waterfall, and if it’s a cool morning you may catch the scent of the frangipani that lines the path. You might even find a mystic fortune-teller waiting for you at the top! A relic of the Buddha is said to be enshrined inside the chedi. While you catch your breath, you can take in the view of the Old City to the west. The Golden Mount is within the compound of Wat Saket, which used to be the city crematorium. Best on a weekday as early as possible.
Hop the Ferry: Tha Chang (N9).
3. The Grand Palace. Built by King Rama I as the royal residence of the new capital in 1782, the Grand Palace and its dazzling Buddhist temple, Wat Phra Kaeo, is Thailand’s most revered and celebrated site. Nowhere else can you see Thai art, architecture, and history brought together in such outstanding harmony. The royal family no longer lives here and the complex is essentially a tourist attraction nowadays, except on coronations and events of regal significance. It’s best to think of Wat Phra Kaeo as a Buddhist complex within the royal complex (the Grand Palace). Thailand’s holiest Buddhist site features glittering shrines and stupas, guarded by mythical creatures such as nagas (serpents), singhas (lions) and garudas (half-man, half-bird). Unlike other Buddhist temples, no monks live here. Go as early as you can to avoid tour groups (and the heat!).
4. Wat Phra Kaew Museum. There’s a small cafe for much-needed respite next to the air-conditioned museum. The museum doesn’t really feature much (robes of the Emerald Buddha and some white elephant bones), but it’s usually a good resting spot. You can get soft drinks, coffee and snacks at the adjoining cafe. Admission 50 baht.
When you're sufficiently refreshed, walk from the museum to the next stop, which is also within the complex.
5. Dusit Throne Hall. Built in 1784, this is a replica of a temple in the former capital, Ayutthaya. The tiers and awnings of this magnificent building are stepped up in layers and a golden spire reaches into the heavens as a triumphant testimony to Bud-dhist symmetry. Beautiful bon-sai trees around the lawn in the foreground make this the most photogenic stop of your morn-ing. Inside you’ll find the original teak throne of King Rama I. Chakri Maha Prasat. Also known as the Chakri Throne Hall and designed by a British architect in a fusion of Thai and European neoclassical styles, this glitzy and lavish building acts as a reception hall for distinguished foreign guests and houses the ashes of former Chakri dynasty rulers.
6. Siwalai Gardens. The king used these splendid manicured gardens in days of yore for entertaining his guests and ambassadors, as well as a recreation area for royal women and children. If you are tired from walking you’ll appreciate the tranquility of this shaded area. King Rama IV’s personal chapel is here, laid out in cool marble with blue-and-white glass mosaics.
Walk along the northern wall of Wat Mahathat, the shaded boulevard of Phra Chan Road. Here you'll find the:
7. Amulet Market. Bangkok’s best-known area to buy Buddhist amulets and lucky charms. Vendors line the street with miniature Buddhas, astrological icons, pendants, ivory, gems, and other assorted paraphernalia for the religious, the superstitious and the curious. Buyers study antique amulets through magnifying glasses while housewives haggle over marble pieces for their mantelpieces. There are even amulet magazines for devotees to scan. You too might like to buy a few souvenirs or an amulet to bring you health, wealth, protection from danger, or even a new baby in the family!
Walk to the river pier stopping at 102/1 Phra Arthit Rd, Banglamphu.
8. Baan Phra Arthit. Your feet will undoubtedly be feeling the pinch by now. Time to find a little air-conditioned diner with coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches, cakes and light meals.
Head next to the west bank of Chao Phraya River (south of Phra Pinklao Bridge) where you'll find the
9. Royal Barges Museum. If it’s before 4pm, you still have time to visit Thailand’s famous historical royal barges, which have been housed at this museum under the care of the Royal Thai Navy since 1932 when Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. The 50m-long boats have participated in royal ceremonies since the 18th century. They were damaged by bombing during WWII, but caught the eye of current monarch HM Bhumibol who lovingly restored them to their former glory. Like everything connected with the monarchy in Thailand, much pomp, pageantry, and solemn respect is displayed. You can see the king’s own barge, Suppanahongse, which is carved out of a single teak tree. Its bow is adorned with a golden swan. The best opportunity to see these majestic boats on the river (complete with trumpets and 30 oarsmen) is during the Royal Kathin Festival, which takes place every few years at auspicious times.
Take a cross-river ferry from Tha Tien pier (N8) to Wat Arun pier.
10.Wat Arun. If it’s just before sunset, catch the splendor of Wat Arun, the "Temple of Dawn." This Khmer-style stupa looks somewhat grey from a distance. However, once you get up close you’ll see the walls of the temple are actually a mosaic of glass cuttings, Chinese porcelain and ceramic tiles. In the morning or sunset light, the pieces glisten and the temple sparkles, often appear-ing to be shades of orange or purple. The architectural design of Wat Arun is inspired by Hindu mythology. In the temple’s niches you’ll see the Hindu god Indra sitting astride Era-wan, the three-headed elephant. And if you look closely you’ll see there are tridents of Shiva on top of each spire. The temple itself has high vertical stairs, which can be daunting to climb. If you do manage to scale them, you will be reward-ed with wonderful views of the Bangkok skyline across the river.
Head to 9 Surawong Rd. You can take public transportation if you like: Sala Daeng BTS or Silom MRT station.
11. Jim Thompson Thai Silk. You’ve taken in temples and Thai history all day; now it’s time for some shopping. And what better way to remember Bangkok than with some fine silk products? For the best in quality silk shopping, visit the main retail outlet where you can buy clothes, curtains, pillow-cases, scarves, or just the fabrics themselves. The silks are irresistible and your friends will love you for buying them such a present.
End the day in:
12. Patpong. There’s no getting away from the fact that Bangkok is synonymous with the sex industry. Sex tourism is undoubtedly a thriving business in this city and certain areas (Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy and Patpong for starters) are lined with door-to-door go-go bars, sex shows, prostitution, mas-sage services, and the like. Despite the seedy nature of this underworld, many tourists can’t resist having a peek at what goes on there. Two roads, Patpong 1 and Patpong 2, are probably the most tourist- and female-friendly. The streets have a nighttime market selling souvenirs and kitsch, so female visitors should not feel particularly unsafe or unwanted. In fact, many couples and groups of gals like to visit the go-go bars. King’s Castle and King’s Corner are two of the most reputable joints on Patpong Road, where female visitors and foreign couples are com-monplace. You can sit quietly at the back and nurse a beer while entranced men ogle go-go dancers from around the stage. Warning: In the street, touts will approach you and invite you to see their seedy shows, which involve nudity and sex acts. Even if they say it’s free, you will have to pay a cover charge for these shows and you may also get an extortionate bill for drinks. Bars above the ground floor level have a particularly bad reputation for ripping off tourists and are best avoided. However, there’s a galaxy of open-air bars and cafes where you can soak up the atmos-phere and watch the red-light district in action without getting involved.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.