Here is our off-beat guide to the best of Bangkok.
Bangkok. Asia’s version of ‘The City That Never Sleeps’.
Love it or hate it, according to the latest Global Destination Cities Index, Bangkok has surpassed London as the most visited international destination in the world.
When you think about it, it’s not difficult to see Bangkok’s appeal.
The city caters extensively to both budget and luxury travelers. The street food scene is unparalleled. Thai massages are a dime a dozen, and for those looking for nightlife, the competing bars on Khao San Rd are difficult to top.
On the flip side, Buddhist culture pulses through the city’s many temples and palaces, and it’s easy to step away from the chaos and find serenity along the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
Ancient blends with modern. Asian influences mesh with international flavor.
For those who have visited or researched visiting Bangkok, you probably already know about the city’s main attractions; places such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and Khao San Rd.
Since those parts of the city are already so well known, this guide will focus instead on Bangkok’s lesser known sights and experiences.
Even if you’re a seasoned Bangkok veteran, hopefully this guide will provide you with something new to see on your next trip!
Where to stay in Bangkok
If you’re traveling on a budget, but still don’t want to compromise on basic amenities such as hot water, air con, and fast wifi, then there’s no reason to look any further than Lub d Hostel in Silom.
Often referred to as the best hostel in Bangkok, Lub d is a world away from the noise and congestion of Khao San Rd, yet just a short walk from the infamous Patpong Night Market and all of the trendy dining options along Silom Rd. To top it off, it’s also located near the sky train (get off at Chong Nonsi BTS Station), so there’s no need to take a taxi from the airport.
In terms of accommodation, you can choose between a private room or a dorm, and dorms can be mixed or female-only. The female-only dorms are located on their own floor with key card access, making them a perfect option for solo female travelers looking for a bit of added security.
All rooms are equipped with air con, and both private and communal bathrooms offer piping hot water with good water pressure (a luxury that can be pretty hard to come by in a Thai hostel).
The hostel boasts 24-hour reception, an awesome travel desk run by Backpacker by STA, and an on-site restaurant and bar. There’s also a vibey communal area that hosts a variety of social activities such as beer pong, pub crawls, and movie nights, and the hostel also has self-service laundry facilities.
Rates: Dorms start at just $13 per night, Private Rooms with a Shared Bathroom start at $38 per night, and Private En-suite Rooms start at $45 per night.
Location: 4 Decho Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok
What to eat in Bangkok
For good, cheap street food and local beer, head to Bangkok’s China Town District along Yaowarat Rd or to the area around Khao San Rd. There are also plenty of places to grab a quick bite along Silom Rd and the area around Patpong Night Market. Dishes typically range from $1 to $3 per plate (sometimes less!).
If you’re worried about food poisoning, a good rule of thumb is to only order from stalls that have a line or seem busy with a steady stream of customers.
For lunch or a quick coconut water, the laid back vibe at Madame Musur Bar and Restaurant just off Soi Ram Buttri (near Khao San Rd) is hard to beat. On a hot afternoon, it’s a great place to tuck in with a good book and relax for a few hours.
For dinner, make a reservation at The Bitter Deck Restaurant on Maha Rat Rd near Wat Pho. It’s a little on the pricey side for Bangkok (about $8-15 per person), but it’s right on the river and offers stunning views of Wat Arun.
If you feel like splurging on a nice evening out, Banyon Tree’s swanky open-air Vertigo Restaurant offers 360° views of the city, though dinner will set you back about $40-250 per person. If you’re on a budget, you can also opt to simply enjoy a cocktail at their Moon Bar and then head elsewhere for dinner.
Bangkok By Bike
If you do one thing while in Bangkok, sign up for Backpacker by STA’s Bangkok by Bike trip. Although it seems crazy to attempt to naviagte a bike through the madness of Bangkok’s streets, it will be an absolute highlight of your trip.
This half-day tour pairs you with a local guide and takes you through Bangkok’s backstreets, past hidden canals, and through local markets, with stops at several temples that you might not get to experience otherwise. You’ll have the opportunity to see a side of the city that hardly any visitors get to see and will get a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of the local Thai community.
Cost: 1,650 Baht (about $45 per person)
Bookings: Visit the Backpacker by STA Travel Desk at Lub d Silom
Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount)
If you’re looking to visit a temple that isn’t overrun with camera-waving tourists, head to Wat Saket in the cool hours of the morning. This temple is built on a hill and offers incredible views of the city from the top, though you’ll have to climb 300 steps to get there. If you arrive early enough, you may even catch the monks heading into the city to collect their morning alms.
Location: Between Boriphat Road and Lan Luang Road
The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American CIA (then OSS) operative during the second world war. After the war ended, he decided to settle down in Thailand, and built himself a beautiful Thai-style home in the center of Bangkok. He also started a silk company that is still well known and highly successful today.
In 1967, while traveling with friends in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, he went for an evening walk by himself and never returned. An offical 11-day search was launched, but no trace of him or any clues as to what may have happened were found. This has led to widespread speculation as to whether he was kidnapped, murdered, or simply wanted to “disappear”.
His house in Bangkok has been preserved and is now a museum that can be explored by the public (though you have to join a guided tour). While the tour focuses more on his artifact and antique collection than on conspiracy theories around his disappearance, it’s worth an hour or so of your time. There’s also a restaurant and silk shop on the premises.
Cost: 150 Baht (about $4.50)
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Location: 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok (near the National Stadium station via Sky Train)