24 hours in Bangkok? What to do?

Tips | 16.10.2019
Bangkok, the epicentre of Asia's backpacking circuit, the heart of the world's street food scene and a buzzing metropolis crammed full of temples. There is so much to see and do in Bangkok that you can't just spend one day exploring it.
But, what if you had just 24 hours in the "Land of Smiles"? We asked full-time travelers, The Travel Scribes, to put together a jam-packed itinerary for one day in Thailand's biggest city, Bangkok.
Take a look at
Yaowarat. Like most cities in Asia, Bangkok has a frenetic Chinatown district, called Yaowarat, where you'll not only find Chinese-influenced temples but also even more delectable street food. In this area you can visit the Sampeng market to get some breakfast dumplings and sample an egg omelette or two, see the world's largest seated Buddha at Wat Traimit and check out Chinese Buddhist temple, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, also known as the "Dragon Lotus Temple".
The Sky Bar. Famous as the bar from The Hangover Part II, there is no better way to take a look at the Bangkok skyline than from the observation deck of this renowned hotspot. Actually, there is more than one Sky Bar in the building, so make sure you charm the hostesses at the door to take you to the "real deal". Drinks here aren't cheap, in fact a beer will set you back around 20 US dollars but you'll be rubbing shoulders with Bangkok's elite, with the twinkling city laid out before you. This is the best spot for sunset in town.
Stroll
Khao San Road. Immortalized in Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal in the film, The Beach, Khao San Road brings you the best and the worst of Bangkok, all in one crazy, frantic and fascinating stretch of street.
You'll find people trying to sell you custom-made suits. And vendors hawking freshly roasted spiders, worms and scorpions, to name a few.
You can try a lot of things or just simply walk down the Khao San Road to take in the bustle of Bangkok or sit down at one of the quieter spots with a soft drink and watching people pass you by. It's a fascinating look at the seedier side of Bangkok, as well as great tourist-watching!
Chatuchak Market. If you're in Bangkok at the weekend, this is the place to be. While it's a food market, we wouldn't say it's the best in the city (read on for that!), but when it comes to arts, crafts and souvenirs, you are spoilt for choice at Chatuchak.
This behemoth of a market has over 8,000 stalls and attracts nearly 200,000 visitors each weekend so it's a veritable maze to walk about. That said, you can find the most beautiful handicrafts and really burn through your stash of Thai baht with a visit here.
Not in Bangkok at the weekend? You can get your shopping fix in at MBK, the city's 8 storey shopping mall which gives you everything from mobile phones and drones, to trousers and toiletries. All at ridiculously cheap prices, but make sure that you're ready to barter. It's part of the culture.
Visit
Wat Phra Kaew. You'll be doing quite a bit of temple-hopping in your 24 hours in Bangkok but at least they are all in easy distance of each other. The first must-visit stop is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, handily located within the Grand Palace grounds. The Buddha statue itself isn't that large – it's only 66cm tall – but it is made out of a single jade stone, which makes it hugely impressive.
Wat Pho. Around the corner is Wat Pho, renowned for it's giant reclining gold Buddha. It's the biggest and oldest temple in Bangkok, plus doesn't always attract the same hordes of tourists that the most famous Phra Kaew and Arun does, so you might just have the place to yourself. If you're really looking for that solitude though, it's best to head to the Golden Mount Temple (or Wat Saket), a quiet temple with magnificent city views and generally only a handful of visitors each day.
Wat Arun. Just a speedy boat ride across the river from Wat Pho is Wat Arun, known as Temple of the Dawn. It's usually best visited in the morning but just as spectacular at any time of the day. The boat ride itself – which only costs 10 THB or 0.33 USD – is an experience in itself since you can take some lovely photos as you sail up to the temple. It's a must on any Bangkok itinerary.
Have a bite to eat at
Krua Apsorn. A stone's throw from the manic Khao San Road is an unassuming little restaurant that offers up some of the tastiest food in all of Bangkok. The place won't win any prizes for its décor – think aluminium tables, basic flooring and paper napkins rather than anything vaguely comforting.
But pick almost anything off the menu and you'll be served some of the most delicious food you've ever tasted at some insanely cheap prices; the reason that Krua Apsorn is not only listed in the Michelin Guide but now has four locations across the city.
Anything from the seafood list is worth a taste but the crowning glory is the prawn curry, alongside the crab meat omelette. You'll be able to dine in for under 400 THB (13.50 USD / 10 GBP) for two, so your taste buds and your wallet will thank you!
Or Tor Kor Market. Tourists going to Bangkok usually flock to the usual food markets – Wang Lang or Chatuchak if they are there on a weekend. An insider's tip? The best market in all of Bangkok is literally next door to the more famous Chatuchak.
The Or Tor Kor market was established by the former king of Thailand as a way to promote the best produce from the entire country, and provide a platform for farmers from Northern Thailand who were struggling to sell their wares. The result? The finest fruit, vegetables, spices and meals from the entire country is sold at Or Tor Kor, at affordable prices. This is the perfect place to try street food if you've never done so before.
Wander the aisles and pick up fresh mangosteens and lychees, or munch on Pad Thai or green curry in the central food court. Even try the deadly durian if you dare!
Tips
  • Thailand, like much of South East Asia, doesn't offer Uber as a taxi option, instead using ride hailing app, Grab. Download it and connect it to your credit card when you're in Bangkok – you'll find the Grab fares are far cheaper than taking a local tuk tuk, plus safer too.
  • On the subject of tuk tuks, be careful when hopping into one. Make sure you negotiate the price upfront – if needed, show them the price of a cab on Grab and use it to lower their offer. There are also some tuk tuk scams about, where the driver will force you to stop at a souvenir shop or a store owned by a family member or friend. If they do, refuse to get out of the vehicle until your final stop.
  • Thailand is definitely geared for tourism and understanding of Western cultures. That said, it's important that you respect the customs of the nation, including that it can be quite conservative. If you're visiting the Thai islands, it's acceptable to wear more revealing clothing but in Bangkok it's highly recommended that you cover your shoulders and your legs. This is even more true in temples when your skirt or trousers should reach your knees, and your shoulders must be entirely covered, ideally until the elbow.
  • Don't be afraid to bargain in Bangkok. In fact, enjoy it and do it with a smile! Vendors love to haggle prices and this is part of the selling experience. Remember that a store seller will never knowingly undersell an item to you, so whatever price you settle on will be fair to them.
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