How to Spend Three Days in Bangkok

By Nomadic Matt | Published February 7th, 2011

When people tell me they hate Bangkok, I can understand. When I first went to Bangkok in 2006, I despised the city and couldn’t wait to get out. It’s not the best tourist city in the world. Outside of shopping and a few temples, there’s not much to do. It’s dirty, and it smells. It wasn’t until I lived in the city that I really fell in love with it. Bangkok is not a city that opens itself up easily, and most people just spend a day or two here before leaving to go to the islands or the jungle. While you may not need a week here, Bangkok has more than one day’s worth of activities. Spend three days here and fill your time this way:

Day One

The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok has a lot of temples. Start your visit to the city with a tour of the Grand Palace (Royal Palace) and neighboring Wat Pho, home to the famous reclining Buddha. Head across the river to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) and get stellar views of the city atop the temple.

Riverboat Tour
The Chaya Prao in Bangkok, Thailand
Take a tour of the Chao Phraya River, the central water artery of Bangkok. Seeing Bangkok from the river is a relaxing and beautiful experience. Don’t do an overpriced tour, though. You can ride the water taxi up and down the river for 20 baht (less than a dollar) and get the same views.

Temple Tour
Temple in Bangkok
Bangkok has a lot of beautiful temples. Hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the day to see the temples. Just make sure he doesn’t take you shopping along the way. Drivers get kickbacks if they bring customers into certain shops. They can be annoying about it, but they’re often the cheapest and most efficient way to see all the temples.

Go Shopping: Second only to temples, shopping is one of the best things to do here. There are dozens of malls to choose from. Start knocking some off your list and head to Siam Square to visit MBK (cheap phones, shirts, and DVDs), Paragon (upscale shopping), and Siam Discovery (normal-priced chain stores).

Watch the Siam Rush Hour: While you’re in the area, make sure you’re in the Siam BTS train station at 6pm. A unique cultural thing happens then. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I won’t tell you what it is.

Watch a Muay Thai fight
Muay Thai fight
Muay Thai is everywhere in Thailand, and Thais take the sport very seriously. Fighters train for years. Don’t bother seeing tourist Muay Thai fights on any of the islands. Spend a night seeing an authentic match with great fighters in Bangkok.

Day Two

Floating Market
The floating market
You can do a half-day tour to the floating market outside of the city. It makes for a filling morning adventure. Though touristy and a bit of a rip off, if you head out of the area where the buses drop you off, you’ll come across the more local part of the market. Moreover, you’ll find a lot of good fruit and meals here. I filled my stomach.

Visit Suk Soi 11
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Sukhimvit Soi 11, a street located downtown, is an expat and local hotspot and my favorite street in the city. You’ll find Cheap Charlie’s, a local watering hole where many expats and Thais spend their free time. (Also, my favorite bar in the world.) There are lots of clubs there, you’ll find amazing Indian food at Mogul Room, and there’s good Tex-Mex at Charlie Brown’s.

See a Movie: Seeing a movie isn’t that big a deal, but I recommend it for two reasons: 1. Thai movie theaters take the movie experience to the extreme. Theaters are quite luxurious. 2. Before each movie, there’s a special introduction to the Thai king. It’s a cultural moment that gives you an appreciation for the Thais’ love of their king.

Day Three

Chatuchak Weekend Market
The weekend market in Bangkok
The weekend market is one of the best things to see in Bangkok. It’s the size of many football fields and is crowded on the weekends. You’ll find everything and anything, from authentic jeans to their fake counterparts. There’s also a big dining area with good, cheap food. This is the place to shop until you drop!

Jim Thompson’s House
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Jim Thompson’s house is right near Siam Square. Thompson was an American spy and silk merchant in Thailand during the 50s and 60s. He made his traditional Thai-style home in Bangkok and decorated it with beautiful teak wood, a surrounding garden, and a traditional Thai design. He vanished mysteriously in 1967 while in Malaysia. Donations to the home go towards underprivileged kids.

Visit Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park in Bangkok, Thailand
Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s Central Park. This huge park is well worth a visit if you’re a people watcher. You’ll find people doing sports, walking around, practicing tai chi, or just relaxing at all hours of the day.

Chinatown: Chinatown in Bangkok is a culinary feast. You can go shopping here too and buy lots of useless souvenirs, but what I love about this area is the food. There are tons of good street vendors that sell food I hardly ever see anywhere else in the city. (I especially love this fried bread thing you see around!) At night, the area is a great place to go for some delicious seafood.

Visit Soi Cowboy
Soi Cowboy
This is the go-go area of Bangkok. Well, one of them. So why am I saying to go here? For good or bad, sex is an integral part of Bangkok and walking down this street will give you an idea of that industry. To understand a place, you need to see it all—the good and bad. These types of places aren’t my thing, but I love people watching and you won’t find more interesting people than here.

There might not be a lot for tourists to do in Bangkok, but there’s more to the city than just temples, shopping, and traffic. It’s a city whose charm emerges slowly. Bangkok is best at night. Explore the night markets, bars, street food, and see the best of Bangkok. In three days, you’ll see the major and minor attractions, but you’ll have to live in Bangkok if you really want to get to know it.


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comments 56 Comments

Floating market looks great! Interesting!

Good article. Although actually, the floating market is the last thing on this list I would go see. It isn’t any good anymore, it is just a huge touristy mess. I’d stick with the floating markets outside Bangkok.

I also just posted an article at BootsnAll about three Bangkok itineraries for under $10.

charles

Excellent itinerary Mat, but as mentioned by Shelley, I would definitely skip the floating market. It is a totally a tourist trap. I would rather suggest to visit Chinatown, go people watching at Kao Sarn Road and take a foot or Thai massage along the way.
One other interesting option, not far from Kao Sarn, is to visit the Golden Mount. The view is amazing from the top.
By the way, Lumpini Night Market is closed now ( to my chagrin)!

NomadicMatt

Chinatown! How did I forget Chinatown! I love eating there. Good call! I will have to add that to my itinerary.

I know the night market was open a few months ago. Is it now finally closed and moved?

Patrick

Nice web site Matt i,am going to Bangkok for my first ever visit ,i hope somtime in the next few months,tell me how do you find a good guide to show me the sites,or do i just find a nice lady.It dose sound a very interesting City with the sites & smells that go with it ,just how i like it i,am not a beach bum i like to see hows the world ticks.

Javanesse Lady

Hi, i will be in Bangkok in 25 March – 27 March 2014 (First Time). 3 days!! (Backpacker Trip)
i will be arriving at 11 am. I dont know where to stay (best for backpacker) and how to get there from Suvarnabhumi airport. Please tell me the references of cheap hostel or dorm.
and I try to go to Maddam Tussaud, when its best to go there?

Thank you!!

APL
Jakarta.

NomadicMatt

I walked away from the tourists and crossed a few bridges and found it to be a lot better!

I loved Bangkok from the first moment I arrived. i don’t understand why some people don’t like it. For me, there are a lot of things to do. I was there three days and was not able to see everything I wanted.

I never really thought I would want to travel to Bangkok, but these photos and tips have me intrigued! Thanks for the post.

Great post! Would love to go to Thailand someday soon!

The first time I watched Muay Thai I was underwhelmed, maybe because the weight class (like 48 kg) was smaller than me (and I’m small. and female).
I always recommend Jim Thompson’s House to middle-agers, too. ;)

What a great list! I will definitely use this list when family and friends visit. You might want to remove the Suan Lum Night Bazaar from your suggestions, though. I can see the Bazaar from my condo, and I can confidently report that it is nothing but abandoned buildings and a growing pile of rubble, which is too bad.

regina

When did you research this?? The market Suan Lum has been closed for a quite a while…………

Ironically enough I went to BKK fully expecting to hate it for the reasons you mentioned. As it turns out, I instantly fell in love with the city and spent about two more weeks there than I originally anticipated. Fantastic outline of three days of activities though.

NomadicMatt

Thanks everyone for the update on the night market. Things in Bangkok can happen fast and the last time I was there, the night market was still open. I took it out and replaced it with Chinatown.

Great insights into the city. Definitely will help me frame my expectations better when I finally make it over there.

Great blog post! You definitely covered all of my favourite places to visit in Bangkok

Jim

Hated Bangkok when there 12 years ago. Just about asphixiated with car fumes. Cops on point duty with masks and gas cylinders.
Been thru many times since but never a stopove.
Hopefully you guys will convince me they’ve cleaned the air up enough to actually want to spend time there after reading and seeing all the neat photos.

NomadicMatt

The air is a bit cleaner than it was 12 years ago….but just a bit!

Hey, we’re staying on Soi 11, just arrived back in Bangkok and have never stayed in Sukhimvit. Looking forward to being in the cool spot for a change:)

NomadicMatt

Are you staying at the Suk 11 guesthouse? I love that place. Make sure you go to Cheap Charlies for drinks! I love that place.

Good ideas. My first stop is Bangkok next month and I’ll definitely use this article for ideas.

Great article, very helpful and useful. I was just looking travel blogs and i am lucky. After 2 weeks i fly with my wife to Bangkok! I just print now this article. I have small guide without pay ….:)

Floating market is nice to visit if it is your time visiting Bangkok. But Chatuchak Weekend Market is my all-time favorable.

Sigh. I love Bangkok. Heart strings pulled.

top picks from your list:

Chinatown– best food
Lumpini Park– great yoga can be found there
Riverboat tours– crazy cool water neighborhoods

NomadicMatt

I took a Thai class when I first moved there for a months and then I just practiced as often as I could. Cab drivers are really great at helping you!

an9el

Cool… I have at least an idea where to go to on my visit next month. I will be staying at Jasmine Resort Hotel which is infront of the BTS station. Are the things to see you suggested here closer to my place? I am travelling alone for relaxing. Just want to be away from work stress =) for few days. And I choose BKK this time. Last month was in Kuala Lumpur and I had a great time on my visit. Hope BKK will also be a good deal. I love sight seeing,eating and shopping more not really much with a nightlife because Been There Done That. I am already past with it.

Great post… I lived in Phuket for 17 years and loved it. Six month ago, we decided to move to Bangkok and following the many past business trips I did in the past, this was going to be a horrible new life and I was seriously depressed. Of course everyone told me how great this was going to be, but I didn’t believe them. Guess what! after 2 months only i loved it! Bangkok is a treasure trove for a blogger, photographer and explorer, even beyond the classic place. I started a new blog about it called krungthep101 if you want to see some of the surprising places we discovered.

akbar keshani

we will visit thiland in 14days from now this is our second time i am with my family thanks for your informations .iranian people go to bangkok and pattaya a lot there are few flights from Tehran to thialand every day.isfahan is my city in iran .

Matthew

Just came back from Bangkok and I absolutely loved it!

I kept wondering what the ‘unique cultural thing’ happens at 6pm happens at Siam BTS station. We waited inside the station at 6pm but disappointingly, nothing happened. We even asked a local what would happen at 6pm but he didn’t know haha. A day later we were walking in Lumphini Park when we saw it happening! It was fun to see it happening when even those who are not sure what’s happening will also follow suit due to peer pressure haha.

We spend alot of our time walking and taking all types of public transports that were on offer including the trains, Chao Phraya boats, khlong boats in those smelly rivers, buses, and tuk-tuks. Didn’t manage the motorcycle taxi though. It allowed us to enjoy the local life. The locals are very helpful with directions and when we weren’t sure which route to take, they always go all out to help even to the extend of walking us to the right bus stop!

The photo of the temple under the subject ‘temple’, is that the temple near Ratchadamnoen road? Near the democracy monument? Do you know the name? It was quite beautiful at night. As for the floating market, we skipped the one at Damnoen Samduak and went for Taling Chan instead. Smaller but 95% of the shoppers were local. Watching a movie is a good experience but IMHO a bit pricey, with the exception of Lido with movie tickets at only THB100. You can certainly get almost anything at Chatuchak and the market is so BIG you get lost if you don’t move around systematically haha. Stuff were cheap! We had an Aaron Frankel’s map to guide us around haha. Soi cowboy was fun to visit and observe but wouldn’t take part in anything here for fear of being ripped off.

Apart from the usual places, we also took the trouble to visit unusual places like the Siriraj Medical Museum and the Phallic shrine. These places are hidden away and you have to look harder to find it haha.

All in all I loved Bangkok alot and there is more to it than just the normal cliche tourtist attractions. :)

The last time I went to Bangkok, I had just 4 hours to spend in the city and I spent them by taking the metro and strolling in the Nana Plaza. This post of yours will help me plan my next trip to the city in December :)

I was on Bangkok last years but only a few days for works, that’s not nice. Thus I just got a chance to MBK centre and Thai Tower. I wish I’ve got more time … :(

Tan

Thank you for sharing !!! Good information and you left out enough to allow me to explore. Exactly what I was looking for as I want more than just shopping and temples!! :)

Thanks for this info, i so much love this information age that i grew up in, coz as a child i remember my dad buying all tourist guides and zillion other books before travelling to any place for doing all the research & talking to everyone who has been there.. Its so easy now with travelers sharing experiences online.. Am all excited for a Thailand trip :)

Abbie

Hi matt, this list of things to do is really helpful. I’m going to Bangkok for a week in June with my mum. One thing that’s playing on my mind is she is allegic to peanuts… Highly allergic. We’d love to test out and experience the local cuisine. From your experiences can you advise if most/all authentic Thai foods are cooked with peanuts/peanut oils…? I have a feeling we’ll be stuck eating in the very westernised hotel restaurants for our trip. Also staying in Phuket for a week but that’ll be more cocktails and massages rather than food and shopping trip :)

Nicole Gonzalez from Costa Rica,America

Hi, thank you for the information. Im going to Bangkok next Monday, just for a week. This will be my first time at Bangkok and I am really excited. I cant wait to get there!!
I was just wondering somethings, besides chatuchak weekend market, what is the name or location of another great night market?
How do transportation works there? I can move most of the time by the skyline?

Hope to listen from you soon,
Thanks.

Great itinerary but where’s all the eating ;) Floating market will always be contentious. I wouldn’t recommend the Damnoen Saduak (possibly Amphawa) but there are some newer less touristy and cliched markets a short taxi from Bangkok centre. Taling Chan worth a visit (as here http://bit.ly/19AEcj9). I would also swap Sukhumvit 11 (slightly depressing expat scene) for the more local and youthful RCA area. Also Lumpini Park swapped for the smaller better kept Benjakiti Park (next to Phrom Phong BTS station). I’m slightly bias towards Sukhumvit.
I think Bangkok isn’t a hit with travellers because of the touristic aspects of the main sites and being forced to visit them in extreme heats. Also many travellers just like to shun the popular, well travelled destinations.
If you cover the main Bangkok attractions on the first visit then a return to Bangkok is so much better. No obligations, just relax, enjoy local life and eat amazing food.

I am not sure who I am replying to now but Benjasiri Park is next to Phrom Phong BTS station, the Benjakati Park is the next to the Queen Sirikit Centre and is accessible from Asoke BTS.

Benjasiri Park has free aerobics lessons in the evening and you can get to watch the Thai guys kick that little Rattan ball about, a sort of volley ball with your feet. You need to be young and have a lot of energy to do that.

mimah

I will be in bangkok and arrived at 11pm, what do you suggest? Sleep at the airport or just book a cheap hotel with airport pick up? Any suggestions please.

There is so much to see in Bangkok, but this article is a good starter for people on their first visit. The Chaophrya tourist boat is a great way to see the sights along the river and for $3 you can hop on and hop off all day, until you are tired. Or at least that is what they told me.

Amphawa floating market is about an hour out of Bangkok, it is a weekend market starting from 3pm to late. It is well worth booking into a little homestay place for about 1400 Baht on the riverside and experiencing the early morning. There are heaps of temples to visit and the place is less touristy than Damnoen Saduak, or at least the tourists are more Thais than foreigners.
One thing I really liked was the evening boat ride along the klongs to see the fireflies in the trees.

Gigi

What’s the best hotel to stay? Not too expensive

ThanhTran

Thank you!!
I really enjoyed your article. And it would be very useful for my next vacation!!!

Aaron

Headed to BKK to teach english in first week of November. Any advice for safe reliable temporary housing upon arrival is appreciated. Never been there before and need a place to stay for 2 to 3 weeks until I find work at a school.
Thank you.
Regards,
Aaron

Roj

Will be in BKK from Oct 1 – 5, can’t wait to do the things you had on the list! Thanks!

Stanley

Don’t miss Silom at night which is not mentioned here.

Is not there “Walking Street” in Bangkok? Or its name “Soi Cowboy”? I’ve been 3 times in Thailand, but I’ve never been directly inside a center of Bangkok. As I know there are 2 “Walking Street” in Pattay and in Bangkok. So, maybe “Soi Cowboy” – it is only part of Bangkok’s “Walking Street”. Am I wrong?

Dave

What is this cultural even that happens at 6pm? I have been to Bangkok twice, took the BTS a lot during rush hour and never encountered what you are talking about. But, I’m curious!

NomadicMatt

You’ve never noticed how everyone stops when they play the national anthem?

Stanley

Really ? Bangkok is my 2nd hometown and I never notice that. You mean the national anthem is played at the BTS at 6 pm ?

NomadicMatt

Yup! It was when I lived there and still was playing when I was there in 2012.

Stanley

You missed to mention CentralWorld, my largest and favourite shopping mall in Siam Square, walking distance from Siam Paragon. Another interesting new mall is Terminal 21 at Asoke Station, Sukhimvit Road, where every levels and toilets are different in design.

nana

Yay! Now, I’m feeling excited. I want May to come soon. I’ll be saving money na for this. How much do you think I’ll be spending per day on the average? For me to have an idea on how much I should bring with me. Thank you! Thank you! :)

Ninja1k

Great blog and great insight! My wife and I are visiting BKK for the seventh time and we are importers from North America. Another great shopping experience would Pratunam for the cheapest clothes and across the street at Pantip Plaza is an gamers wet dream from bootleg DVDs to high end electronics! Soi cowboy is OK but Nana Plaza is not as touristy and a little more back alley!

Thank you so much for all these tips! My husband and I are just starting to play a 3 week trip for this coming winter and this has been so helpful! Can’t wait!

Gregory Judd

Matt,
My wife and I want to travel to Thailand for about 10 days in Sept. 2014. My wife is NOT adventurous in terms of finding housing when we get there and free lancing BUT if there is an itinerary she would do the trip. Could you plan a medium trip speed for the two of us. Age 60 but very healthy. Can walk distances but wife wants some pool/seaside time. Dont like exclusive resort living but a couple nights isnt a big problem. Will be happy to find own airline tickets. Just need an itinerary from someone with experience. If you are in the country would love to meet you every couple of days and certainly pay for your insights. Let me know asap. Greg

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