TL;DR – More than just Platinum mall.
Bangkok, also known as Krung Thep (City of Angels*), is the capital and administration hub of Thailand. It boasts an abundance of shopping centers, street markets, temples, cultural and historical sites, bars, natural attractions and many more.
Most Singaporeans love to travel to Bangkok over the weekends or during the holidays to shop, shop and shop. But, there’s so much more to the magnificent Thai Kingdom than just retail therapy! Here’s a list of ’20 things to do in Bangkok besides shopping’ for your next trip to the Land of Smiles.
The full name of Bangkok is actually Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit, which translates to,
The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.
1. Grand Palace
Every traveler coming through to Bangkok should definitely visit the dazzling Grand Palace filled with rich Thai history and beautifully intricate architecture. For 150 years, it was the Royal court, the administrative seat of government and residence of the Thai King. Within the huge compound of the Grand Palace is the famous Wat Phra Kaeo (Phra Kaeo Temple), which is home to the highly revered Emerald Buddha finely carved from a single block of jade.
2. Floating Market (Taling Chan)
Head on over to the bustling Taling Chan Floating Market, observe the locals go about their daily lives and enjoy feasting on freshly barbecued seafood (river prawns, squid, crab and huge fishes) while admiring the river view. You’ll get to see the local vendors selling their produce and goods from wooden long tail boats, which is definitely a rare sight you’ll never get to see in Singapore!
3. Traditional Long-tail Boat ride
Hop in one of these traditional long-tail boats and travel down the khlongs (canals) of Thonburi or also nicknamed as the Venice of the East. Don’t forget your cameras to capture one of the many spectacular attractions you’ll pass on the way down. This is definitely an interesting and economical way to explore the city. If you’re prone to being sea sick, it is advised that you take a travel sickness pill before the ride.
4. Mae Klong Market
Located on the outskirts of Bangkok and slightly over an hour’s drive out of the city is the extremely unique Maeklong Railway Market. There’s a plethora of vendors and stalls selling vegetables, fruits, seafood, meats, traditional desserts, flowers and clothes. The cool thing about this market is that there’s a set of train tracks running through the middle of it and a functioning train actually passes through several times a day! Just before the train is bound to arrive at the station, a loud fog horn will go off and warn the vendors to prepare for its arrival. The vendors would simply shift their products and goods out of the train’s way and then nonchalantly put it back into its original place after the train leaves again. Definitely an impressive sight to see!
5. Bangkok’s Historic Chinatown (Yaowarat)
Yaowarat Road (Chinatown) is the home of the Chinese community in Bangkok, renowned for lots of delicious street food, famous Thai-Chinese operated restaurants, jewellery shops, Chinese medicine stores and many more. For all the foodies out there, this is your food heaven!!! Mark this down as one of your “must-visit” spots on your food trail and a simple google search will link you to countless food spots worth-visiting around the Yaowarat area!
6. Cabaret Show
Your next visit to Bangkok wouldn’t exactly be complete without watching a highly energetic cabaret show featuring some of the country’s most gorgeous and talented transgender performers. With their flamboyant costumes, synchronised dance moves and huge smiles, it’ll definitely be a performance to remember!
7. Visit a Muay Thai Gym
If you’re a sporty person keen to try out something new, you should head into one of Bangkok’s numerous Muay Thai gyms and sign up for one-day Muay Thai course to test your strength, agility and endurance!
8. Wat Pho
Wat Pho is Bangkok’s largest, oldest and most revered temples because it is home to a spectacular 46-meters long gold plated reclining Buddha. If you are interested in learning the ancient art of the Thai massage, you could also sign up for a 5-day course at the temple.
9. Thai Cooking Class
There is no better way to understand a country’s culture than through its cuisine, and one of the best ways to learn about its food culture is by attending a cooking course. There’s no lack of cooking schools in Bangkok offering tourists with the authentic Thai cooking experience and allowing them to make their own Pad Thai!
10. Ko Kret Island
If you feel suffocated by the hectic pace of the concrete jungle, you could always make a quick getaway to Ko Kret which is an ‘artificial island’ along the Chao Phraya river located about 20km north of Bangkok. It’s not your typical island paradise or anything close to Sentosa, it’s is one of the enclaves belonging to the traditional Mon people – think kampong-style island! Ko Kret is an island well-known for its signature earthenware that is intricately and individually hand-finished, giving it the rich, matte orangish-brown texture. You can rent a bicycle to explore the tiny, 3km by 3km island and cool yourself down with an iced cha yen (thai milk tea) served in an earthen pot.
11. The Commons
Located within the Thonglor neighbourhood (otherwise known as the Beverly Hills of Bangkok), The Commons is an open-plan, four level community-mall that houses a number of quality restaurants, dessert cafes, an art studio, a culinary kitchen and many other stores. With the large selection of cuisines to choose from (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai etc.), you’d be thoroughly spoiled for choice. It’s a great place to just wind down with a book over a nice cup of cold brew coffee or to meet up with your friends for some wine and brunch.
12. Truelove Cafe (Husky Cafe)
If you are a dog-lover and can’t seem to get enough of man’s best friend, then your next stop should definitely be to the Truelove Cafe. It is a farm-transformed cafe that has 17-fully grown Siberian huskies, serves good drinks, food and dessert. The huskies are mostly kept out from the vicious Bangkok heat and placed in a purpose-built, air-con enclosure for a large part of the day. Customers are allowed to get up close and personal for an hour with the huskies about five times a day, where the dogs are allowed to interact with people. You’ll definitely fall in love with these fuzzy big dogs!
13. Yunomori Onsen
Head on over to Yunomori Onsen located in the Sukhumvit area where you can rejuvenate your skin and soak in a hot, cold, jet-equipped or carbonated bath with water that is sourced from a hot spring in Ranong province, Southern Thailand. Aside from the fact that the onsen is in Thailand and not in Japan, customers are still expected to strip down fully to get into the onsen. Men are required to go commando and the ladies are given the option of wearing disposable undies into the onsen. After soaking in the onsen, you could opt for a Thai massage or an aromatherapy massage.
14. Khao San Road
The bustling, infamous backpacker street Khao San Road was made even more popular as it was featured in the Hollywood film, ‘The Beach’, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. You could retrace Leonardo’s steps and take a stroll through the main street of Khao San, where bright neon signs light up the street with endless rows of sidewalk vendors trying to make a quick buck, drunk backpackers dancing on the street and loud mainstream music reverberating through the stereos of different bars, makes it an exceptionally intriguing experience.
15. Bangkok National Museum
The Bangkok National Museum is home to an extensive collection of antiques and ancient artifacts like bronze objects, Buddhist sculptures in bronze, terracotta and stone, manuscripts, Neolithic tools and painted pots founded throughout Thailand. The massive collection has been categorized according to its time period from the old kingdoms (Khmer Kingdoms, Sukhothai, Srivijaya, Ayutthaya, Dvaravati) and the pre-historic eras to the current Rattanakosin era. There’s even a free guided tour conducted by volunteers in several languages like English, Chinese, French, German and Japanese.
16. Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park also known as the ‘Green Lung of Bangkok’, is the inner-city haven of fresh air, shade and tranquility filled with gorgeous local flora and fauna, which offers refuge from the hectic bustle of the city and connects people with nature instead. There are always ongoing activities and events held at the park like outdoor classical orchestra concerts, free aerobic sessions, yoga classes, outdoor gyms, family picnics, paddle-boats on the lake and many more.
17. Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar @ Banyan Tree Hotel
Perched high up on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel on South Sathorn Road is the Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar, which offers a spectacular, unobstructed 360-degree view of the Bangkok cityscape. Enjoy a tipple or two with some delectable grilled dishes and a gorgeous night view to die for.
Another place that allows you to admire the gorgeous skyscrapers of Bangkok and overlooking the Chao Phraya riverfront is Asiatique. It is a dual combination of an expansive open-air mall and a night bazaar with a giant ferris wheel that has now become the landmark of the place.
19. Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre
Learn more about Thailand’s rich heritage and culture through this exotic Thai puppet performance. A variety of ancient myths and stories are reenacted and retold by puppeteers whom appear together with the puppets and create life-like, highly animated movements which enables the puppets to gracefully dance around.
20. Vimanmek Mansion
Visit the three-storey Vimanmek Mansion that was built in 1990 and was once the royal residence of King Rama V or better known as King Chulalongkorn. The mansion is the world’s largest teak architecture that was constructed entirely with golden teak and it is the main building situated within the compounds of the Dusit Palace.