The Thai capital has a lot to offer but can be rather daunting at first, what with its chaotic traffic and hectic pace. Visitors who remain calm and curious will experience the exoticism of the East without too much discomfort, though.
Tack this short itinerary onto the beginning -- or the end -- of any trip to Thailand. You can also split it up: Spend time touring the city sites at the start of the journey and then use a day at the end to fill your suitcase with gorgeous handicrafts, silk fashions, or souvenirs.
Day 1: Bangkok's Riverside Sites
Start your tour of Bangkok at Central Pier, next to Saphan Taksin BTS, where you can hop on a fast river taxi or the more comfortable wide-berth Chao Phraya Tourist Boat.
Heading north along the S-curve of the river, you can hop off to visit many of the city's historical sites. The first stop should be Tha Tien, for Wat Po and the Giant Reclining Buddha. From there, it's a short walk to the Grand Palace and the famed Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the celebrated Emerald Buddha.
Take a lunch break to rest your legs and eyes; then you can carry on upstream to visit the National Museum, where you can easily spend a couple of hours delving into this proud nation's past. After visiting the museum, for a different type of sightseeing, wander north to Banglampoo and nose around Khao San Road, the vibrant backpacker strip.
This is a lot to see in a day -- but it does cover the city's unmissable sights and avoids traffic delays by using river transport. If you enjoy traveling on the river, you may want to end the day by taking a dinner cruise, on which you can see the city by night.
Day 2: Bangkok Shopping & Eating
Start your second day in Bangkok at Jim Thompson's House, home of the American who rejuvenated the Thai silk industry. It's right in the city center (near the National Stadium BTS).
The shimmering silks on display in the shop at Jim Thompson's should put you in the mood for a full frontal attack on the city's shops: About a 10-minute walk away from Jim Thompson's House is Mah Boon Krong (MBK), a multi-floor home to everything from funky fashion to phone accessories. Adjacent to the Siam BTS is Siam Paragon, a center filled with super-luxury boutiques and a huge choice of restaurants. If you still haven’t found that special something, continue to the funky, trendy stores found in the maze of lanes in Siam Square.
Have lunch a mall food court either at Siam Paragon or MBK. Dining at MBK is the more affordable, local experience of the two. Thais love food courts, and the experience is much nicer than a food court in the West. Next, drop off your shopping bags at the hotel and head off to enjoy Thailand’s famous massage. Thais believe regular massage is an essential part of a holistic well-being and foreign visitors are often shocked at how inexpensive treatments are (expect to pay $15 to $30 an hour). During Thai massage, a professional massage therapist will bend and stretch you, an experience many have compared to lazy man’s yoga. Healthland or Asia Herb are both major chains with top rate services.You should be feeling as light as a feather after this, but you’ll feel even lighter when you ride up to the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel, on Sathorn Road, to knock back a sundowner at Moon Bar while drinking in the city views in every direction. For dinner, if you want a sense of occasion, head around the corner to Nahm.
Day 3: Chatuchak & Chinatown
If it is Friday or Saturday, take the BTS to Mo Chit for a morning of treasure hunting at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Plan to arrive before 10am to beat most of the crowds. You'll want to grab a coffee before arriving since the options at the market aren't great. But while the java is so-so, the snacking possibilities are endless, so come hungry. You'll need that fuel to power through the thousands of shops. When you’ve had enough of the stalls, heat or crowds, head back to the hotel for a cooling dip in the pool. If it isn’t Saturday or Sunday, the market will be closed, so consider a morning stroll in leafy Lumpini Park where you can paddle boat and look for monitor lizards. Soi Polo is a short walk from Lumpini Park, and it’s home to the best fried chicken in Bangkok. Head there for lunch.
Next on the itinerary for the day is Chinatown. Wat Tramit is home to a golden Buddha with a very high net worth, and you'll want to catch the sunset from the Golden Mount aka Wat Saket. From there, it is time to eat. You won’t have time to wait in the four hour line get the famous crab omelet at Jay Fai, and that's okay because Krua Apsorn, right around the corner, makes a killer version that’s just as good. Next, head to Yarowat Road for more street eats and a great atmosphere. When you’ve had your fill, join the fray on Soi Nana where old is cool again, and 100-year-old shophouses (a tall, narrow home) are now great cocktail bars, like Teens of Thailand and Tep Bar. There is enough here to keep you happy, and drinking, until the end of the night.
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.