Bangkok is a big and bustling metropolis and, for a first time traveller, it can actually get a bit overwhelming to take in all that the city has to offer.
The monuments, the Wats, the markets and the sheer grandiose of the (appropriately named) grand palace can leave even the most hardened travellers spellbound.
Of course, the humid weather, the traffic and the pollution does take some sheen away out of the whole experience, but that shouldn’t really stop anyone from experiencing this beautiful city in all its glory.
Bangkok has something for everyone to offer. If you’re interested in historical monuments, head straight to the Grand Palace. If you’re the religious type, start with the Wat Po and follow your instincts from there on. There is a shrine at practically every corner in Bangkok. If you’re in Bangkok for shopping, head straight to either the Jatujak/Chatuchak/JJ weekend market, Pratunam market or the various malls surrounding the Siam square. If you’re in Bangkok for pleasures of the more sinister kind, Bangkok will still not disappoint you, although you won’t get much help from me :-) Hint: Ask around for the Silom area of Bangkok ;)
Don’t let the traffic and the pollution stop you from enjoying this beautiful city. Bangkok is a very easy city to move around in, if you know how. I’ve written a post earlier on using the BTS in Bangkok and that should be of some help, I hope. In this post I’d like to lay out a short and sweet 5 day itenerary for anyone new to Bangkok. I hope that by the end of the 5 days you’d be able to see and love Bangkok the way I did.
Day 1: Arrive at Suvarnbhumi International Airport. Reach your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, exploring the areas close to your hotel.
Day 2: I hope you’re staying close to the BTS (Skytrain), as that is by far the most convenient way to travel in Bangkok. Take the BTS to the Siam square station. Enter one of the malls and spend some time lazing around. Eat some nice thai food and the MBK mall’s food court. Chat with some local shopkeepers about things to do in Bangkok and for directions to the Grand Palace as you’ll be visiting that the next day.
Day 3: Take a taxi/river ferry/Tuk tuk to the grand palace. Don’t listen (or even look at) any tout/agent standing outside the grand palace. The agents will most probably tell you that the palace is closed for the day and offer to take you around some other attractions for a small fee. The grand palace and the Wat Po next door is never closed. NEVER. Walk in, take your ticket and spend the next couple of hours admiring the palace. Come out and walk to the Wat Po (If you’re lost, ask for directions from a tourist, since you will never be able to make tell if an official looking guard standing at the entrance is actually a guard or an tout dressed like one.
The “Grand Palace is closed” scam is probably the biggest in Bangkok and all tourists invariably get hit by it. Just don’t listen to the touts and keep walking towards your destination, even if they sound and look angry.
A tip: Start your day early since afternoons are hot in Bangkok.
If you followed the earlier tip, you would be done seeing the attractions around this part by afternoon. Take your lunch at the small open air market next to the Grand Palace river pier. After lunch, you can visit the Wat Arun across the river or spend some time in an air conditioned mall :-)
Day 4: Take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to the Pratunam market and spend a couple of hours shopping for your near and dear ones. Bargain hard. If you’re a computer geek, get your fix at the Pantip Plaza, opposite the Pratunam market. For lunch, try the street food available all around the area. Pantib Plaza has a KFC too, by the way, in case you’re really missing home :-) Spend the evening at the Suan Lum night market. Shop some more, drink some beer at the open air beer garden, listening to some thai rock music (!). Eat authentic thai food for dinner or spend your dough at one of the many Italian, Indian or English food restaurants.
Day 5: Make sure that your last day in Bangkok is a weekend, so that you can experience the chaos of the wonderful JJ weekend market. It’s not everyday that one hears of chaos and wonderful in the same sentence, let alone being used to describe the same place. But that is the JJ weekend market for you. One can easily spend the whole day here or even more than a day, if one wishes to. The weekend market is an institution and a landmark in Bangkok and no trip to Bangkok can be complete without experiencing it.
If you’re done with your shopping spend your last evening in Bangkok spending the last of your money at one of the fancy fine dining restaurants at Siam Paragon :-)
Day 6: Take a cab back to the Airport. Have a nice flight.
Hopefully, you’d enjoy your stay in Bangkok as much as I did. A lot of the itineraries that I see floating around the net also include a trip to the Pattaya beach town as a part of a 5 day trip. I’d advise against that. Go to Pattaya if you have more time, but spend time in Bangkok and really get to know the city.