Bangkok! From your high palaces and temples towering in sunbathed golden magnificence, down to the dimly lit street food vendors with their mouth watering rich (and spicy!) flavors, this city has got it all! It was my first time in Bangkok and it was supposed to only last 4 days, but I found myself overwhelmed with how much there was to see and explore that I ended up staying for 8 days!
As with every new city, I always take the first few days to see and explore all of the cultural monuments and must see landmarks before i get down to the local level. I learned alot of lessons (and burned a ton of calories walking unnecessarily around!) and I wanted to share my suggested route for how to explore Bangkok’s cultural temples, palaces, monuments, parks, etc, in a very efficient manner. While I do suggest that you do this as a walking tour, you can always opt to take other transportation to these locations.
Here’s a quick preview of what to expect while doing your temple run in Bangkok:
As a tip for first timers arriving in Bangkok, internet is very important for maps on your phone so i highly suggest purchasing a SIM card at the Airport when you arrive. We purchased one from AIS carrier which was 199 Baht (About $6 USD) for 7 days of unlimited internet. The great thing is that my phone’s personal hotspot worked too so no need to get multiple if you’re with friends. (Your phone will need to be an unlocked phone for this to work. If you purchased your phone directly from a wireless carrier, it likely is locked only to be used with your carrier.)
Walking Culture Guide
When we first arrived we had a few places listed that we wanted to see, but after the first day went by we found that there was so many local cultural/historic places to visit and we found ourselves back tracking often to get each place accomplished. I’ve gone through and made a suggested 2 day tour plan for the cultural/historic attractions below in Bangkok.
Just to note, I added these as well for certain reasons – The Grand Palace for example fills up with people really fast which makes it impossible to get around. This is why i suggest to get there when it opens at 8:30 AM immediately so you have the best opportunity to see it without being crowded. The ones with less people are towards the end of the day instead.
- 830AM – The Grand Palace (D1.1)
- 10:30AM – Wat Po, Temple of the Reclining Buddha (D1.2)
- 12:00 PM – Lunch on Maha Rat (D1.3)
- 1:00PM – Boat Across Chao Phraya River (D1.4)
- 1:15PM – Wat Arun Ratchawararam, Temple of the Dawn (D1.5)
- 3:00M – Boat Back Across Chao Phraya River
- 3:30PM – National Museum (D1.6)
- 5:00PM Onwards – Chilax on Khao San Rd (D1.7)
- 9:00AM – Democracy Monument (D2.1)
- 9:30AM – Loha Prasat – Architecture (D2.2)
- 11:00 AM – Mahakan Fort (Walk by) (D2.3)
- 11:15 AM – The Golden Mount (D2.4)
- 2:00 PM – Rommanlnat Park – Active Park (D2.5)
- 3:00PM – Giant Swing (D2.6)
- 5:00PM – Uber/Cab to Platinum Mall (Not on the map as it requires a cab to get to)
Below is a map which I added each of the locations numbers to it for easy reference:
Where to Stay
I really suggest for you to stay nearby the temple area for at least 2 nights while you do your tours. This will allow you to make this an actual walking tour and save you money and headache on transportation around Bangkok.
If you want a quiet place to stay in a standard hotel, we stayed 2 nights in the Royal Hotel right nearby the Grand Palace. I booked right on Agoda easily for this place. It includes a breakfast buffet which was perfect to kick-start those early 8am mornings — I’m not a morning person 🙂
Below is a a description of each place, my experience and the photos that I took while at each of these locations above. You will find that there are so many more temples to go to even while walking around and if you want to visit more please do so. I also went to more places but I only added the ones which were in the best shape and beauty.
Grand Palace of Bangkok
The Grand Palace is the most famous landmark of Bangkok and served as the residence of the Kings of Siam(Monarchy of Thailand) and the Royal Government until 1925. It is now used for royal ceremonies and it’s grand history. It is surrounded by gleaming white tall beautiful walls and is open to the public daily from 8:30AM to 3:30PM for 500 Thai Baht (Around $16 USD).
I highly suggest that you head to the Grand Palace as early as possible. We got there at 8:20AM (10 minutes before opening) and there were hundreds of people already lined up outside. The Grand Palace fills up with tourist extremely quickly as it is the #1 tourist destination in Bangkok so be sure to get there between 8-8:20AM to ensure you get in first so you can have less tourist in your photos.
We were absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer size of the buildings covered in both golden and other multi-colored clay/glass decorations. You can get lost in the Grand Palace grounds for 2-3 hours exploring all of the rooms. They have the grounds setup so you follow a path around the grounds making it easier for you.
I took a few 360 sphere photos which you can check below to get a picture of what it really feels like within the grounds.
Not only do the buildings themselves radiate royalty and beauty, but they are decorated with beautiful protectors including Lions, Elephants, Monkeys, etc. All made from stone, bronze and other metal/stone materials. Each with their own unique personalities and strength. I personally loved the blue elephants on the main throne hall.
Wat Po, Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Po is one of Bankok’s oldest temples and was build before Bankok was deemed as the Capital city of Thailand. It’s home to the 46m long Reclining Buddha which was larger than life to see! Wat Po is open to the public from 8AM until 5PM daily for 100 Thai Baht (Around $3.00 USD).
Wat Po is famous for housing an endless supply of Buddha statues and photos. Over time, Wat Po evolved from just a temple into an educational center and was the first public university specializing in religion, science and literature. It is now more well-known as a center for traditional massage and medicine.
Here’s a video I took from inside one of the buildings which was surrounded on every side with identical statues of the Buddha.
I took another 360 photo sphere for you to look around the grounds. Notice the big defenders on this photo at the gates of the complex. They’re so awesome! This place is kept in really great condition and is a must see after the Grand Palace.
Lunch on Maha Rat Rd
Right outside of Wat Po main entrance is a long street full of shops including clothing, meals, gifts, snacks, coffee, etc. Since the first two places will take most of the morning, you’ll likely be tired halfway through so I suggest to grab some lunch here. One bit of advice for Bangkok in general is to not judge a restaurant by the outside. We often walked by little shops on the street and they looked a mess, but they ended up having amazing food.
As an example below, this shop drew in our attention right away as it was flooded with foreigners but it didn’t look like a place that would attract that crowd. After getting our food, we tasted how delicious it was and it all made sense. The cost was just 60 Baht for the meal ($1.88 USD).
There are as well other restaurants here which you can try which are more traditional… But there’s no fun in that 🙂
Boat Across Chao Phraya River
Once you’re ready to head across the river to Wat Arun Ratchawararam temple, you’ll go down the side street “Thai Wang Alley” through all of the street vendors until you get to the dock area. The boat ride over takes less than 2 minutes to go there and costs just 4 Baht per way (Thats just $0.12 USD). You will need to take the same transport back and pay a return fee of the same.
Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun is a beautiful temple located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. It is open from 8AM to 5:30PM daily with an entrance of 50 Baht (Just under $2 USD) to enter.
This temple’s highest point raises over 70 meters and is covered in colored glass and porcelain pieces. It is beautiful throughout the whole day bathed in sunlight. I read online that you were able to climb to the top of the tower, however, when we visited this January 2018 it is no longer allowed to go past the second level.
Here’s another 360 Photo Sphere of Wat Arun from up close. Enjoy!
The Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai antiques, arts, and artifacts. The items donated by King Rama V as gifts past down from his father to him. The National Museum is open from 9AM until 4PM daily except for Mon/Tues it is closed with a cost of 200 Thai Bat (Aprox $6 USD).
There are good English descriptions of each item in the museum. A must see for the history/art buffs out there.
There is a long history behind the Democracy Monument which goes back to 1932 when the military took over the country in a coup by overthrowing the King at that time. The Democracy Monument was then built in 1939 showing the Thai military as protectors of the people. Although the images portray different battles, luckily the coup was without bloodshed, taking place while the reigning monarch at the time, King Prajadhipok, was on vacation. Eventually the King was exiled and simply abdicated the throne.
Now that the bit of history is out of the way, the monument stands in the middle of a busy roundabout on a main highway, so you usually will just take pictures from the pedestrian crosswalk. If you want a photo with no cars, expect to stand there for a while waiting for the perfect gap in between cars. You can approach the monument but I found it hard to cross the street due to the heavy traffic. Etched into stone on the monument is a copy of the constitution as well.
Wat Ratchanadda – Loha Prasat
Wat Ratchanadda was a good find while walking to the Golden Mount from the Democracy Monument. It is not as popular of a temple to visit, however, I found it to be one of the most interesting ones.
The temple entrance was unmanned with a box that said by donation only of a suggested 20 Baht ($0.63 USD). I did not see any hours listed and it was very quiet and had few visitors which I personally enjoyed.
The 36 m high tiered structure consists 3 levels, the bottom one has 24 spires, the middle one 12 and the top level has 1 spire. There is a beautiful spiral staircase that seems to go on forever leading to each of the levels.
On each level there is a maze of corridors with framed photos and metal plaques containing information about the history of the temple. I usually don’t get into reading historical documents much, but this structure was so unique that I found myself engaged in reading its history.
The Mahakan Fort is one of 2 forts that survived until today out of a total of 14 forts that used to encircle and protect the Royal City. This is only a walk-by tour on your way to the Golden Mount.
The Golden Mount made me very excited seeing it up on the top of that little man-made mountain until i read the sign that said 344 steps to the top! It is open from 9AM to 5PM daily for just 20 Thai Baht ($0.63 USD).
We got here during mid-day and the sun was shining down on you no matter where you were. The climb to the top isn’t so bad as there are different resting areas along the way. You can also ring all of the bells on the way up that line the stairways.
There is a cafe halfway up if you want lunch, coffee, or a drink. Upon reaching the top of the tower there is a huge golden temple. I was a bit put-off upon first reaching the top as there are vendors inside the top of the temple with their storage out in the open next to the Buddha statues. Although i understand people need drinks due to the long climb, I wished they had proper areas for storage which do not take away from the beauty of the place. Nevertheless I was still very impressed with the beauty of the Golden Mount and the panoramic 360 view of the city.
It is important to also understand the history of the Golden Mount as it served as the capital’s crematorium in the 18th century as the country faced a terrible plague with over the course took more than 60,000 lives. On the climb up you will see the signage which explains the history.
This park we just stumbled upon while walking through the city and we weren’t expecting anything special but were instantly surprised. The park we found out is about 5 years old and built on the grounds of an old city jail.
The incredible thing about this park is that it offered not only the standard playground and basketball courts but it had an outdoor weight lifting/workout area with actual gym equipment. It was loaded with tons of locals and foreigners working out. If I lived in Bangkok I would definitely workout here (and did I mention, it’s FREE)
Here’s a link to the 360 view of the workout park.
This leads us to the end of our tour of Bangkok with a walk past the Giant Swing which is at the entrance of the Wat Suthat temple. The swing is currently under renovation at the base, but I still got a shot without the ground included 🙂
Interestingly enough this swing used to be used during festivals, but was decommissioned due to a few unfortunate deaths from falling. I was unable to go into the Wat Suthat temple, however, I would highly suggest for you to go as it is said to be a beautiful temple with hand painted walls inside.
Tell me about your experiences in Bangkok!
Whew! I know this blog entry turned out to be very long, but I hope you can follow along and try it out when you also go to Bangkok. I really loved all of the temples within the city and will be grabbing a few friends and coming back soon!
Please feel free to tell me how your experience of Bangkok was and if you have any places that I missed by either commenting below, emailing me, or on Facebook.