Bangkok is a very popular tourist destination – both for foreign and domestic travellers – and it is also a gateway for many international tourists who arrive to Bangkok before exploring other parts of Thailand and the Indochinese peninsula.
Cruises & boat trips
Cruises and boat trips on the canals is a great way of experiencing the city without having to deal with the, often congested, car traffic. Many of the comparatively old buildings in Bangkok are located along the canals, so you get a change to see architecture that is different from the one created after the investment-boom of the 1980s.
Examples of museums in Bangkok:
- The Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace. This former royal villa is the largest teak building in the world.
- The Jim Thompson House in central Bangkok. The big garden is filled with jungle plants, and the villa itself houses Jim Thompson’s collection of South East Asian art.
- The Bangkok National Museum
- The Royal Barge National Museum
The Grand Palace
This building complex is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. It was the official residence of the royal family from the 1780s, but is today only used for certain official events and royal ceremonies, as the current royal family lives in another palace.
Major temples and shrines
Examples of major temples and shrines in Bangkok:
- Wat Phra Kaew (Buddhism)
- Wat Pho (Buddhism)
- Wat Arun (Buddhism)
- Erawan Shrine (Hinduism)
Shopping in Bangkok
The shopping opportunities in Bangkok are huge, ranging from ambulatory street vendors and small stalls to open markets, department stores and large malls.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The largest of the markets is The Chatuchak Weekend Market (JJ Market) on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road. There are over 15,000 stalls here, divided into 25+ sections. On an average market day, 200,000 to 300,000 people visit this market, to buy things such as fresh and dry food, plants, animals, antiques, clothing, books, cosmetics, ceramics, furniture, interior decoration, and consumer electronics.
Taling Chan Floating (Weekend) Market
The Taling Chan Floating Market is found on the canal Khlong Chak Phra, in front of the district office, and is a day market open on weekends. You can buy things such as fruits, vegetables and fish here – all sold from boats.
This floating market was created in the 1980s to celebrate the king’s 60th birthday and honor the old traditional markets of Bangkok. Floating markets of this kind used to be common in Bangkok once upon a time, but by the 1980s they had long since vanished as Bangkok had “modernized” and become more focused on roads and less on canals.
Today, several other floating markets have been created in Bangkok, including Wat Champa Floating Market which is situated on the way to Khlong Bang Ramat.
Pak Khlong Talat
This is the primary flower market in Thailand. You’ll find it on Chak Phet Road and its adjoining streets, not far from Memorial Bridge. The market is open 24 hours a day, with the busiest period being right before dawn when boats and trucks arrive with fresh flowers from the countryside, and eager buyers flock to get the first pick.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road has a lot of budget accommodations, bars, food places, shops, and entertainment that cater to backpackers. It’s a 410 meters long street located in central Bangkok, about 1 km north of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
The accommodation here ranges from three-star hotels with private rooms to very cheap shared hostel rooms and “mattress in a box”-style places.
Since it attracts so many backpackers, Khao San Road has also become a hub for transport to other destinations. From here, you can take a shuttle to other popular backpacker haunts in Thailand, and there are also travel agents dotted along the road that can be hired to arrange visas and transportation to nearby countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia.
Internationally, Bangkok has a reputation for being a major sex industry destination and is sometimes referred to as the “Sin City of Asia”. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, but widespread corruption and poverty has kept the industry alive despite this.
Festivals and events
Here are a few examples of the many festivals celebrated annually in Bangkok. Some of them are tied to holidays celebrated throughout the entire country, while others are specific to Bangkok.
- The Chinese diaspora in Bangkok has big Chinese New Year celebrations in January or February, especially in Yaowarat.
- The Thai Kite, Sport and Music Festival is usually held in March. The epicenter is Sanam Luang.
- The Red Cross Fair is held in early April at Suan Amporn and the Royal Plaza.
- Songkran, on 13-15 April. Traditional rituals (e.g. merit-making), public water fights, and more. This is the Thai New Year celebration. Major streets are closed to traffic and used for water fights.
- The Royal Ploughing Ceremony takes place at Sanam Luang in May.
- The current Queen’s birthday is celebrated on 12 August. This is the Thai version of Mother’s Day. Celebrations tend to start on the eve before.
- Wreaths are laid at King Chulalongkorn’s equestrian statue in the Royal Plaza on his Memorial Day (23 October).
- Loi Krathong, usually in November. New Year Celebrations. Typically combined with the Golden Mount Fair. One of the largest events take place in front of CentralWorld.
- The current King’s birthday is celebrated on 5 December. This is the Thai version of Father’s Day. Celebrations tend to start on the eve before. The Royal Guard parade on 5 December.
Bangkok can trace its root back to a small trading post that was present here during the 1400s AD. Eventually, a city emerged, and this place has been the site of two previous capitals: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782.
In the 1960s, Bangkok started growing at a rapid pace, and the Asian investment boom of the 1980s sped up the process even more. In the 1980s and 1990s, many large multinational corporations placed their regional headquarters in Bangkok, and the city grew into a major South-East Asian hub for business and finance.
There was little urban planning to manage Bangkok’s growth from the 1960s and onward, and this has led to a haphazard cityscape and a road network that suffers from frequent accidents and congestion.