From air pollution to traffic mayhem, Bangkok has the ability to both frustrate and captivate the visitor at first glance. Still, exploring the Thai capital can be rewarding, as almost every aspect of day to day life can be experienced on the streets of this sprawling metropolis.
While forty eight hours may seem overwhelming to even scratch the surface of this magical city, with a mix of motivation and smart choices it can be easily done. This 2 day Bangkok itinerary, crafted for weekends, will help you explore the essentials of the city without having to tread on any of the tourist traps.
- If you are traveling to Bangkok for the first time, plan your trip between November and February, when the weather is pleasant and there are no chances of rain.
- Take a small amount of Thai bahts from your own country or change your money at any kiosk outside the airport. You will need cash for refreshments and transport.
- From the airport take the City Line or Express Line rail link and then metro or skytrain to your destination. The vending machines at the airport have English options as well.
- If you haven’t booked your room in advance and are not sure where to stay, the three most tourist friendly districts of Bangkok are Siam(commercial), Sukhumvit(nightlife) and Yaowarat, especially if you are a food connoisseur.
- Always ensure you have travel insurance. Be adventurous by all means, but don’t be careless.
Just as other Southeast Asian cities, Bangkok is safe so longer as you keep your wits about you. Apart from minor scams which occur in big places, chances of real danger are very low. Here are a few ways to ensure additional safety on the streets of Bangkok:
- Stay alert as a pedestrian
- Always carry photocopies of all documents.
- Keep an eye on your drink all the time or limit alcohol consumption.
- Never ask for or take drugs
- Don’t speak ill of the monarchy
- Never share private transport with strangers
- Travel in groups.
- Stay clear of sex tourism
GETTING AROUND IN BANGKOK
Traversing Bangkok may seem impenetrable at first glance but thanks to an improving transport system the traffic jams are now few and far between. Since you just have two days in hand, here are the options:
- BTS: This is probably the best mode of transport. These elevated sky trains run from 6am to midnight.
- MRT: The metro trains operate from 6am to midnight.
- TAXI: Bangkok taxis are comfortable and air-conditioned. A great bargain if they go by the meter.
- RIVER BOAT: An extremely affordable way of traveling in Bangkok. These express services operate from 6am to 8pm.
- CANAL BOAT: These boats ply on the narrow canals from 530am to 8pm daily.
- BUS: Cheap but service is erratic, slow and gets very crowded.
- MOTORCYCLE TAXIS: They form an integral part of the city’s transport network. Riders wear colored vests and can be found on the sides of the lanes.
- TUK TUK: These iconic motor rickshaws are not only good for short hops but offer visitors a unique travel experience in Bangkok. Notorious for overcharging so bargaining is a must.
TWO DAY PACKING LIST
Remember Bangkok is hot and humid during most months of the year, so light cotton clothes are preferred. Some of the favorite travel essentials for a short trip to the city are highlighted here:
- Money belt: Pickpockets abound in Bangkok. Make sure to wear a money belt to keep your cash and documents safe.
- Daypack: A lightweight daypack to carry your collapsible water bottle, snacks, umbrella and tissues.
- Multiple charger: If you are not traveling alone don’t ruin your holiday fighting over power points. Carry a multiple charging station instead.
- Travel adaptor: No matter which country you are coming from, a two-prong 220V adapter is a must.
- Power Bank: A great tool to have in your carry pack should you run out of battery.
- Insect repellent: Bugs are common in Bangkok. Protect yourself from viruses by using a spray.
- Sun screen: A must for the trip as the sun can be quite strong.
- Footwear: Quality flip flops for sightseeing and something fancy for the evenings.
- Shorts: Choose only light cotton or linen as you will be sweating all day.
- Sarong: Dress modestly ladies in public and remote areas. Use a sarong to cover the shoulders.
- Long pants: Made of breathable material for outdoor activities. Leave your jeans at home.
- T-shirts: Three pairs are enough as you can buy one anywhere on the street.
- Long sleeve shirt: Just pack one for any special occasion. Should be of a comfortable material.
- Travel towel: A fast drying and lightweight one can be useful during high humidity.
WHERE TO STAY
Location will play an important part, especially because your time in Bangkok is extremely limited. So plan your place and hotel of stay accordingly:
Budget Travelers: Check out the Evergreen Place Siam by UHG if you are traveling on a budget. At $20 for an air-conditioned standard double room with free WiFi the place is a steal. The hotel is a short ten minutes walk from the MBK mall on Phaya Thai Road. There is an outdoor swimming pool and free aerobic classes on offer for the guests.
Families: Holiday Inn at Siam Square has large family suites with special bunk beds for kids. The hotel enjoys an excellent location next to Central World and Thailand’s biggest aquarium in Siam Paragon Mall is just a covered footbridge away. Swimming pool, free WiFi and complimentary breakfast is included. A value for money hotel in Bangkok at $51 for a twin room.
Luxury: The Siam Kempinski Hotel features luxurious two bedroom suites with a working kitchen, dryer and washing machine and three flat screen TV’s. Located at Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan and offers direct access to the Sam Paragon Mall. Three fine dining restaurants and a world class spa are the other amenities on offer. There are complementary soft drinks and local beer in the mini-bar.
DAY ONE (MORNING)
Pack some water, don a hat, dress modestly, forgo your free “ahaan chow”(breakfast) at the hotel and move fast if you want to partake in the early morning delicious street food scene of the city. There are some Thai foods like jok(rice porridge) and khao tom(rice soup) enjoyed best at this time of the day only. To avoid the massive tour group rush, remember to reach there before they do.
Don’t linger long after breakfast as morning time is best for sightseeing, before the city heats up. River taxis are a quick and economical way to take in the sights of Bangkok. Depending on where you are staying there are many piers in the city, or you can catch one from the Sathorn Pier, near the BTS skytrain station. Since you have just two days, get the best attraction in Bangkok out of the way first as the weather may turn sour.
An interesting ride on the blue-flagged tourist boat on the mighty Chao Phraya river will bring you to Tha Chang Pier on the steps of the ornate Grand Palace built in 1782, well before the gates open at 0830 hrs. The palace grounds are vast and it will take several hours to explore them thoroughly. The temple complex of Wat Phra Kaew inside the Grand Palace is home to the Emerald Buddha, a 26″ tall Buddha statue,carved from a single jade block, seated in a yogic pose, and is said to be the most revered object of worship in Thailand.
There are many other interesting artifacts inside the Wat Phra Kaew complex which are worth a look. On the west side of the temple is a bronze statue of a hermit known as the Healer. While the original Library was destroyed in a fire, the replica phra mondop has the Canon of Buddha- some sacred scriptures in it. A perfect replica of the Angkor Wat temple of Cambodia and some mural paintings depicting the Thai national epic Ramakian are also housed here and the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall, the former residence of the kings.
In close proximity to the Grand Palace, but on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya river lies Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. The exterior is of white porcelain with nice decoration and can be admired from close quarters. Just next to the temple is the Ordination or Ceremony Hall, guarded by two massive demons.The temple is small and can be visited in just half an hour.
Your last temple visit of your first morning tour should conclude with Wat Pho or The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, a 150 feet long gold plated statue of Lord Buddha. Wat Pho is said to be the birthplace of Thai massage and one can opt for a quick one on the complex grounds. Other features are 91 small stupas, four chedis, a central shrine and gardens.
An exhilarating half day of sightseeing is bound to make one hungry and luckily there are plenty of restaurants in the vicinity to try out some delicious Thai food. Located in an alley behind Wat Pho is Baan ThaiThien which serves some amazing local dishes including Pad Thai. Be warned even though the cuisine is spicy, the restaurant is popular with foreigners and food sells out fast. You can easily rest your feet for an hour here.
Begin your afternoon trip with a visit to the Jim Thompson House, easily accessible by a five minutes walk from the BTS sky train stop of National Stadium. The museum is a top attraction in Bangkok and can get quite busy at times. The building is made of antique wood, collected from different parts of the country and pieces together in Bangkok to form the Jim Thompson House. The house is set among beautiful and lush gardens, full of antiques, which were a passion for the American. A must visit on any itinerary for Bangkok.
DAY ONE (EVENING)
A great choice for an early evening stroll is to see the local life in one of the few open spaces in Bangkok, the Lumpini Park. Take a Grab taxi from Wat Saket and soon you will see locals exercising or doing aerobics. There are plenty of shaded spots along the maze-like paths where one could relax and unwind.You can get there by riding the MRT train to either Silom or Lumpini stations, located on either side of the 500,000 square metres park or by taking a Grab taxi from the National Stadium.
It is now early evening and you should prepare yourself for the most exciting part of the day. Return to your hotel and change into something formal for paying a visit to the mesmerizing Siam Niramit Show. For an ultimate end to an eventful day with a Thai touch add a buffet dinner after you witness the 1000+ performers in their characteristic costumes doing amazing breathtaking stunts which will keep you on the edge of the seats. The theatre door opens at 730pm and dinner is served from 5pm to 8pm. A perfect end to a perfect fist day.
A visit to a floating market is on top of the agenda of almost every visitor to Bangkok, so we once again recommend you skip your hotel breakfast as the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located an hour out of downtown Bangkok in Ratchaburi province. Since this is your last day, take a taxi to reach the market well before the canals get jam packed.There is a lot of fresh fruit and seafood sold on the boats for a wonderful Thai food experience right in the midst of the market madness.
Being a weekend, another open market experience awaits you at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This market lies at the opposite end of the city, but being a holiday a taxi can whisk you there from Ratchaburi in about one and a half hours, bringing you there by mid-morning. Once there you can leisurely stroll through the hundreds of stalls selling everything from art to buying a new wardrobe. Arm yourself with a free app from the information booth as getting lost here is easy. Coconut ice cream is a delicacy here and you will find many vendors retailing it.
Shopping in Bangkok is a non-stop activity and goes far beyond a casual walk in many of the malls in the city. BTS and MRT are the best ways to get to Chinatown from Mo Chit/Chatuchak Park stations. A good part of the day spent here is an adventure on its own, especially for camera buffs as the place is full of stunning temples just imploring to be filmed. A great stop on the MRT Hua Lampong station is the shrine of Wat Traimit, housing the largest gold Buddha statue in the world. Sampeng Lane is another alley just off Chinatown where you can buy anything from christmas trees to flip flops in the narrow pathways.
Thai boxing or Muay Thai fighting is not only a national sport but showcases an important part of Thai culture. For an exceptional performance head to the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium on your Sunday evening to watch an official match not exceeding five rounds, with each round of three minutes duration. One fighter wears blue and the other red.You can also watch female fighters here.The stadium is centrally located, close to Khao San Road.
No trip to Bangkok can be deemed complete without having an experience of its nightlife.The rooftop bars of Bangkok are in a class of their own as you can admire the views of the skyline of the city after dark while sipping a cocktail in one hand. Sirocco Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of the State Tower has an extra special atmosphere and is highly recommended. The bar has a very strict dress code, so remember to wear that outfit which you had packed for such an occasion.
SOME MORE OPTIONS
If there are some things which you want to skip on this itinerary, there are plenty of other options for your forty eight hours trip to Bangkok. Every evening after 5pm the entire Silom neighborhood comes alive. The night market here is definitely worth a visit if you can squeeze in some time or decide to skip sleeping for one night. Bars, tasty street food and souvenir shopping are the main draws here. Regardless if you buy anything or not, the night market is a wonderful place to stroll through.
If the heat of the day bothers you, cool off with an early evening cum dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river. The trip starts as early as 6pm and lasts for two and a half hours, allowing you to view the splendors of Bangkok both by day and night. Apart from watching the sunset from the deck of your boat, a delicious six course Thai spread with live music awaits you after dark.The cruise starts from the Taksin Pier.
SOME GUIDED TOURS TO CONSIDER
If you do not want to cover the attractions on your own here are some package tours to consider that may enhance your sightseeing experience in Bangkok.
#1 Bangkok half-day tour of the old city
This immersive tour of the best of old Bangkok is a great draw with tourists as it covers most of the popular landmarks in company of an English speaking professional guide. The tour features a visit to the Grand Palace complex as well as Wat Phra Kaew to see the sacred Emerald Buddha. Next on the tour is a round of Wat Pho to see the sleeping Buddha. A foot or Thai massage is optional. The tour includes all transportation costs, admission fees, guide charges and the best part is-no forced attempts to visit shops enroute.
#2 Bangkok nightlife tour
If you want to experience the vibrant nightlife of the city take the Bangkok Hangover Tour.This excursion takes visitors to the lively bars of Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and the oldest red light district of PatPong. From Thai boxing to visiting a fetish club, this private tour displays the famous nightlife of Bangkok without the hassles of touts and scamsters. Tour includes hotel transfers, guide charges and a few free drinks are thrown in for good measure.
APART FROM BANGKOK
Luckily there are tons of places in the vicinity of Bangkok to suit your taste, but visiting them would mean giving up on some of the iconic landmarks in the city. Having said that, many people like to combine the chaotic capital with a visit to Chiang Mai, some 700 odd kilometres apart. This major tourist hotspot is a brief one and half hour flight away from Bangkok’s domestic terminal at Don Muang Airport from where there are over 50 departures to and fro each day.This means you can easily spend a full day in Chiang Mai and return to Bangkok the same day.
A historic landmark, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the old city of Ayutthaya, said to be a powerhouse in the world during the 14th century is a great place to visit, providing you have a full day to spare. Travelers can board an air-conditioned bus from the doorstep of the hotel which covers the distance of 80km or for some local flavour take a fast train from Hualamphong railway station which takes about 77 minutes to reach Ayutthaya. The station is at a distance and you will need either to board a ferry or bargain with a tuk tuk driver to show you around and drop you back at the station for your return journey to Bangkok.
You must have understood by now that two days hardly gives any justice to Bangkok as there is so much the city has to offer. Who knows, what you may have inevitably left out now may bring you back to the Land of Smiles again and again.
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