There is so much to see in Bangkok I wouldn’t know where to begin. If you want to read about my crazy first day in Bangkok check out my post ‘One day in Bangkok: For Fast-paced travellers only!’. It was a hard first day and I was exhausted by the end of it as a first time solo-traveller but if you’re used to fast-paced travel, it’s a great way to see as much as possible in one day. I would recommend leaving a whole second day for the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Vimanmek Mansion and Museum.
The Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Vimanmek Mansion
There is a free tour of the Grand palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha in English everyday at 10.00am, 10.30am, 1.30pm and 2.00pm. Your ticket for the Grand Palace also gets you free entry into the Royal Coin museum and Vimanmek Mansion. While you are here it is worth visiting Wat Pho next door which is the city’s oldest temple dating back to the 17th century. It is famed for its school of massage. In 1832, Rama III built the chapel of the reclining Buddha. The feet of the Buddha have striking intricate mother of pearl images on the soles of the feet and when you walk along the far wall you can drop coins into the 108 metal pots along the wall symbolising the 108 lives of Buddha before he attained Nirvana. Scenes from the Ramakein are carved into the outer base and inner doors. There are stone statutes around the wat which were used as balancing weights on the ship used to transport it over to Bangkok.
There is a free bus from Sanam Luang to the Vimanmek Mansion but you may need to ask a few different people to make sure you’re getting on the right bus as it operates as a normal local bus route. Vimanmek Mansion is a beautiful building with wooden shutters at the windows, very European. At the Vimanek mansion you can see the Support Museum, Textile museum, and the King Rama V statue after visiting the mansion itself but bear in mind that these close around 4pm so you will need to get in early.
Women have to wear long skirts so I had to buy a sarong for 50 baht which was really annoying since I was already fully covered. I would recommend carrying a cheap sarong that is light rather than buying the thick tablecloth they sold me. The museum was really well done though and there was an audio guide for the whole museum. After that you could either take the bus to Siam Square or walk to the BTS and get a sky train to Siam square. Siam Square has lots of high-end shops and also laneways that have tiny stalls and cheap clothes. Don’t be surprised if shop ladies dress you and do up the buttons right to the top and lift it over your head like you’re a child. They consider it part of their job and especially if you’re a young woman they will insist on dressing you up to push the sale.
Wat Benchamabopit and Lumpinee Park
Alternatively you can go to Wat Benchamabopit which is a marble temple with a traditional Thai Roof. Not much to see inside the temple but it looks amazing glittering in the sun from outside. If you continue along this road you can walk past Chitralada Palace, the residence of the King and Queen. You can’t see much from the outside though so I would give this a skip and take a bus to the Victory Monument from Ratchawithi Road. On this note, getting a train in Thailand is a lot easier than a bus because there are clearly marked train routes and maps, stations are also clearly marked with signs in English saying which stop it is. The buses are a whole other story. I was lost coming back from Wat Arun and spent about three hours getting the wrong buses all over to the other side of the river. Stick to the train as far as possible. The bus from Ratchawithi Road to the Victory monument is pretty clear as it’s just a straight road. Around the victory monument are several shops and stalls, I bought lunch at one for 35 baht. You can then take a bus back to Silom Station and spend the evening at Lumpinee Park – or if you want to go a bit further out of the city, to Chatuchak Park. If you’re in Thailand during mid-January you might just see the Thai festival at Lumpinee park where there are Thai pop songs, lady-boys, plays and food stalls. Regardless of when you travel to Bangkok, Lumpinee Park is a delight in the mornings, with people jogging through the park, working out on the public exercise machines, women doing Zumba, and group Tai Chi.
Wat Arun and the Royal Barge Museum
Wat Arun is a bit hard to get to via public Transport. I would say the best way is to take the BTS to Saphon Thanon and then a ferry up the river for about 5 baht and another one across the river to Wat Arun. It was a steep climb to the top of the chedi which is decorated by thousands of porcelain plates. It’s called the Temple of Dawn as you can see the first light of the sun reflected off it across the river and because its namesake, the God Arjuna, is often symbolised by the rising sun. A relatively short walk away is the Royal Barge Museum which is actually within Military grounds. You will see a lot of soldiers on the way there so be careful not to trespass into Military property like I did. I thought it was a bit of a rip off but if you’re interested in the Royal Barges then go ahead and check it out. Also you’re not allowed to take any photos but I took a few sneaky ones.
From Chinatown to the Chao Phraya River
From Silom Road you can walk or take the sky train to Maha Uma Devi Temple which is a popular Hindu temple in Bangkok known for its brightly coloured carvings. I tried to find the cathedral on Convent Road but I couldn’t see it so continued on to the Temple which is on the corner of Silom and Pan Roads. Tamils founded this colourful hindu temple in the 1860s. The main temple is topped by a gold plated copper dome above a 20 foot high façade depicting various hindu gods. Went to a market across the road where I spent 40 Baht on Jackfruit and Dragonfruit. You can either buy the fruit whole or buy little bags of fruit that have already been cut up for you that you can eat with a toothpick. After leaving the temple you can take the BTS Sky Train from Chonsi Station to Silom Road and take the normal train to Hua Lampong station. I would highly recommend getting a three day train pass it’s well worth it.
From Hua Lampong station you can walk to Wat Trimitr the temple of the Golden Buddha which is close by and then walk along Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road in where you can see the General post office, Haroon Mosque, the French Embassy, The China House, Shangrila Hotel, Oriental Hotel on the banks of the Chao Praya River. Haroon Mosque is a little bit hard to find so if you do decide to go there it’s probably better earlier in the day or in the afternoon. I wouldn’t wander down the random lanes after it gets dark. Yaowarat Road has many gold and jewellery shops but I would recommend getting some local insights as to the quality of the jewellery before you buy anything.
A Museum that is often overlooked is the Suan Pakkad Palace. I got a BTS to Si Ayutta Road one morning and went to Suan Pakkad palace which is a teak wood museum, saw a lot on Thai history and amazing gardens.
There are still many things I did not see in Bangkok like the famous cat café, Jim Thompson’s historic house, and Muay Thai Boxing which is right next to Lumpinee Park. With such a busy and constantly changing city, I doubt anyone could ever claim to know Bangkok like the back of their hand. Its charm is in the layering of history, the coexisting of old and new buildings side by side, its laneways and local produce, and of course the famous hospitality of its people.