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Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is one of the world’s top destinations. According to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, Bangkok was the most popular city for international visitors in 2017. The bustling city of Bangkok is the only cosmopolitan city in Thailand. This Thai capital had an estimated population of 8.28 million in 2016 which is over 13% of the total population of Thailand. Bangkok has so much to offer. Visitors have endless options there ranging from incredible temples to floating markets, Thai massage, street food, and nightlife. The city has very good public transportation so it is super easy to get anywhere you want.


Bangkok started out as a small peaceful village surrounded by wild plum trees on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. During that time, Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand (which was then known as Siam) and it lied 85 kilometers to the north of Bangkok. The importance of Bangkok grew in the 15th and the 16th century as it became a port for ships sailing up the river to the capital.

The Burmese armies attacked Ayutthaya and destroyed it in 1767, then King Rama I moved the capital to Bang Makok which means ”the place of olives”. Bang Makok soon became known as Bangkok. Chinese merchants and customs inspectors were the main residents of the Thai capital then. Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) was then constructed as the Chinese accepted the king’s offer to move to the area that is known as “Chinatown” today. The construction of more canals and moats helped to make Bangkok as glorious as the previous capital Ayutthaya.

When the constructions were completed in 1785, the city was renamed Krung Thep which means “the city of Angels”, however people continued to call it Bangkok. During the reign of King Rama III in the first half of the 19th century, many of the temples present today in Bangkok were completed. The next King focused on the construction of more roads, especially alongside the river, and added more railways.

In the 1850s, Bangkok became known as “Venice of the East”, thanks to its numerous canals and network of water-roads. The population was steadily growing over the years and the city expanded east and north in the 20th century. It was then occupied by the Japanese during WWII. Another invasion took place in the 60s and started the sex trade that can still be seen today. Although Thailand’s economy crashed in the 1990s, it started to bounce back and attract investment. It is now better off than that of the neighboring countries. Tourism is one of the main economic sectors as the city has become a major destination for international tourists.

What to do in Bangkok?

There are infinite treasures in Bangkok and so you will never run out of activities and things to do even if you are traveling on a budget.

1.The Grand Palace

This is one of the most famous landmarks in Bangkok and is a must-see for first-time tourists. The palace was used as the royal residence for 150 years as well as the royal court. However, the Thai kings have stopped living in this palace. The royal compound displays unbelievable architectural beauty and it also houses Wat Phra Kaeo (or the temple of the Emerald Buddha). The interior of several buildings are closed to the public.

The place is still used for important ceremonies and auspicious events and is considered to be the spiritual heart of the Kingdom of Thailand. Several visitors flock daily to this old dame to admire its beauty and intricate details. Due to the great significance of this sacred site, visitors should comply with the strict dress code of the grand palace and should demonstrate respectful behavior. They should dress properly, covering their arms and legs, in order to be allowed entry. A visitor can also rent coverups from a booth near the entrance if they are not wearing suitable attire.

Wat Phra Kaew (The temple of the Emerald Buddha)

The temple of the Emerald Buddha is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand despite its small size. It enshrines the image of Buddha carved from one block of Jade (not Emerald!) in a meditating position. This Emerald Buddha dates back to the 16th century and not much is known about it. The statue is kept in a glass box and is covered by a seasonal gown that is changed according to the season. Only the King of Thailand is allowed near the Emerald Buddha.

The style of the temple differs greatly from that of the palace despite their near distance to each other where the Grand Palace has a more European style than the temple that is very Thai. The temple also contains a small model of the famous Cambodian temple Angkor Wat. There are no resident monks in this temple.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is the oldest and the largest temple in Bangkok and is another must-see for any first-time visitor of Bangkok. This temple lies behind the temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is known for the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The area is a known healing place and is known for its pharmacy as well as Thailand’s first university. The temple houses one of the leading schools of massage in Thailand. Thus, you can get really good traditional Thai massage there (although the prices are a bit higher than what you can find in massage salons elsewhere, you can be sure you will get a quality massage). It may be a good idea to book your massage appointment a bit earlier to avoid having to wait for a long time.

Wat Pho houses a huge gold-plated statue of Buddha that is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. The soles of the feet, which are 5 meters long, display the 108 characteristics of the true Buddha. The statue has long earlobes referring to the noble birth.

The temple contains the largest number of Buddha images in Thailand (more than 1000 Buddha images) most of which are from the ruins of the previous Thai capitals. The Chetuphon road divides the grounds into two sections. There are four chapels with 394 gilded Buddha images sitting in the lotus position. Although the visitor may not be able to understand all the details, yet one can definitely enjoy the beauty of this artwork.

Wat Arun

It is known as the Temple of the Dawn. This temple is what you see when you look at the published images of Bangkok. The temple stands beautifully over the river with its colorful spires (prangs). It even gets more magical after the sunset when it is lit up. It lies on the other side of the river from Wat Pho and can be accessed by a boat ride from it.

The temple dates back to the battles between Siam and Burma. When the old Thai capital, Ayutthaya, was destroyed, the survivors plighted to march till the sun would rise again and build a temple at that place. The result was Wat Arun.

The temple has a massive prang that is more than 70 meters long surrounded by smaller spires. The visitor can climb the central prang before sunset to enjoy a spectacular view of the sun as it sinks in the Chao Praya River. The temple is best viewed from a distance. Visitors can also grab a meal at one of the restaurants on the opposite side of the river and watch the red sky sunset behind the temple.

Floating Markets

Bangkok is famous for its floating markets. You can buy some fresh food and coconut juice from the boats piled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Some local food is also cooked in floating kitchens and sold. Damnoen Saduak is a famous floating market that is 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok. It is a massive market with plenty of boats. Visitors can try a cruise and enjoy this floating market shopping experience.

Colorful boats move in narrow canals with wooden homes standing on the banks. Visitors can try the coconut pancakes sold there. When visitors step off the boat, they walk in busy stalls with vendors selling some souvenirs and fruits. Visitors can see what life used to be like in Bangkok.

However, most transactions now focus on tourists and not locals, so visitors should use their haggling skills or join an organized tour to have a smoother experience. Although the place may feel less authentic because it is no longer a real local market, yet it is a unique shopping experience visitors can get in Thailand.

Damnoen Saduak is not the only floating market there. Some other floating markets exist. However, they are not as big, have fewer boats and cruise may not be available in all of them. That is what makes Damnoen Saduak the most famous floating market despite the distance from Bangkok.

Khao San Road

This 1 km long neighborhood is a backpacker’s paradise that lies in central Bangkok. Travelers from all over the world enjoy staying in the numerous budget guesthouses of that area. The name “Khao San” means “milled rice” because this street used to be a major rice market.

This is a very busy district with glaring neon signs that light up during the night. There are busy market stalls, restaurants, travel agents, used bookshops and massage salons.

Party animals can enjoy the fabulous nightlife in several pubs and dance clubs in this area, some of which sell drinks for a reasonable price. There are several options there to suit the different preferences of the partygoers. If you think this busy street may be overwhelming for you to stay in, it may still be worth a visit. You can spend the night there chilling or the morning shopping.


If you are more into modern neighborhoods with trendy restaurants, dance clubs, bars and shopping malls, then you may choose to stay in Sukhumvit. This area is full of tourists and is also a business district that is supported by the BTS train, which will make it easy to go anywhere from there.

Sukhumvit is one of the longest boulevards, not just in Bangkok, but in the whole world. It is where the luxury villas, hotels and apartments are. This area also used to be mainly rice fields till the second world war.

You can enjoy shopping in this street starting from items sold on the pavement, roadside stalls to huge shopping malls such as Emporium mall and Terminal 21. If you enjoy going off the beaten paths to find more authentic experiences, then you can check out Khlong Toei Market. This fresh food market caters to the locals and so you can have a truly local experience, in addition to saving some bahts.

Sukhumvit road is also a great choice if you intend to party. In addition to the fine bars and dance clubs, the area also includes few of the most famous red-light districts in Bangkok such as Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza with their go-go bars. You can check the different sois for the different pubs and dance clubs, or you may check out the Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza if you’d like to see the dark side of the nightlife in Bangkok!

Soi Cowboy

Soi Cowboy lies right behind Sukhumvit road and generally offers a more laid-back atmosphere than that in Nana Plaza. It lies just across the street from Terminal 21 mall. Tourists and expats can be seen there at night along with some sexily dressed girls. Flashing pink neon lights can be seen in this street. It has several bars next to each other. There is no entry fee there and drinks have fixed prices. Bars usually keep going up till 2:30 am and sometimes even 3:00 am. They usually get really busy during weekends that it may be hard to find a seat in some of them.

Nana Plaza

This is a three-story notorious red-light district that has more “adult” scenes. It does not suit families or slightly curious tourists but is for those who are looking for extreme experiences. If you are very curious and decide to have a look, you can just walk down soi 4 from Sukhumvit road. You will come across several street vendors with papaya salad and even fried insects! You can rest assured that the place is highly secured by the Police and so all tourists can have a safe experience. Some bars even have some amazing ladyboy shows such as G-spot Casanova and Temptations.

Bangkok is not just about sacred places and vibrant nightlife…

If you are interested in the medical sciences and you are looking for an unforgettable experience, you should check out Bangkok forensic museum. This museum lies in the Siriraj hospital next to Thonburi train station. This museum is not for the faint of heart and so it is not something every tourist should check out. In this museum, you can see dissected real whole bodies, as well as parts of bodies and even babies preserved in glass containers. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about the different diseases with some amazing audio guides that play as you move around.

If you are interested in celebrities, you can visit Madame Tussauds Bangkok. This museum has amazing wax exhibits that you can touch and interact with. This is a fabulous place to enjoy and have some great photos to share with your friends when you go back home. You can exercise with Beckham or Dance with Michael Jackson. This museum has 70 wax figures of celebrities that include royals, presidents, world leaders, actors, artists and sports superstars.

If you are interested in aquariums, then you can head to SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World. It is one of the biggest aquariums in Southeast Asia. You will see over 30,000 creatures in this attraction such as sharks, glowing jellyfish, and Penguins. You can also enjoy their 25-minute virtual movie at their 4D theatre with its amazing effects.

Bangkok is one place where you can find it all. When you go to Bangkok, make sure to make the best use of every single minute. Check out the different temples for an amazing spiritual Buddhist experience and to see the incredible architecture and attention to details. Spend some time at the floating markets to see what life was like in Thailand in the past. Go for some more modern experiences such as visiting Madame Tussauds, or Sea life and if you are interested in medicine; go for Bangkok’s creepiest Museum, Bangkok forensic museum. Do not be scared to visit some of the fast-paced busy streets such as Khao san road or to check out the vibrant nightlife spots in Soi Cowboy.

Enjoy the street food and even consider a cooking class if you fall in love with the Thai food. Make sure to grab some souvenirs back and even check out the elegant shopping malls if you are interested in high-end shopping. Bangkok has endless diverse experiences to offer all visitors which make this city a unique destination for millions of tourists every year.