Bangkok is a concrete jungle packed with beautiful temples, floating markets, tasty street food, bargain basement shopping and hedonistic escapes. Here’s how to spend 3 days in Bangkok.

Many travellers fly in and out of Bangkok as they make their way to sun-soaked beaches. But this is a tragic mistake, for Bangkok is a magical assault on the senses.

And by scratching under the surface of this busy chaotic city, you will find a quixotic mix of old and new. Colourful ancient temples, relaxing traditional massage techniques and floating markets tell the story of a bygone age. Towering rooftop bars, bargain basement shopping and endless pubs and clubs allow your hedonistic side to roam.

Add in the mouth-watering quality of local street food and the warm welcome from everyone you meet and you will be glad you spent 3 days in Bangkok. If you are visiting Bangkok as part of a longer Thailand stay, this 3-week Itinerary might provide some inspiration.

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3 days in Bangkok guide

DAY 1 AM / GRAND PALACES

Begin your morning at the Grand Palace, a magnificent example of intricate Thai craftsmanship and originally the residence of Thai kings. The palace is a sprawling complex; tucked inside is Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the most important temple in Thailand. It’s almost the icon of the city and one of the things that make Bangkok one of the best places to visit in Thailand.

Next, cross the river on a local ferry to the much-photographed Wat Arun. Its colourfully decorated spires stand majestically over the Chao Phraya River.

Hop back on the ferry to Pak Khlong Talad and wander around the flower market – a mass of intricately woven flowers offering a gaudy display of colour and a beautiful aroma.

Grab lunch perched on the pavement at Café Tha Tien for their great value old-school Thai dishes, delicious sweet tea and no-frills service.

DAY 1 PM / WAT PHO & CHINATOWN

After lunch head to the temple of Wat Pho, one of the many stunning temples in Thailand. Here a 46-metre long statue is squeezed into a temple building; hardly big enough for its mammoth occupant. It’s cramped and claustrophobic as you scrap for space to get the right angle for a photo. Your ticket includes a bottle of water and the right to be blessed by a monk who will spray you with holy water and, if it takes your fancy, beat you with a short witches broom.

Wat Pho is also the spiritual home of Thai massage and a massage school is located within the temple grounds. The massages are excellent but can get booked up in advance, so call ahead. If it’s busy, pop to the Chetawan Wat Po Massage School, a branch of the original, located a short walk outside the temple complex.

Feeling rested, head to the energetic bustle, neon lights and frantic street food of Chinatown. Centred around Sampeng Market and Yaowarat Road, you can buy anything from gold bathmats to spiritual offerings for the dead. For dinner, create your own culinary experience ambling around the stalls and grabbing a morsel from each.

DAY 2 AM / GOLDEN MOUNT & JIM THOMSON HOUSE

On day 2 of your 3 days in Bangkok head to Wat Saket – Temple of the Golden Mount. The temple is on top of an artificial hill with a 300 step climb to reach a magnificent gold chedi with great views over the city. Ring the bells that line stairs, get blessed by a monk and pay remembrance to the 60,000 plague victims memorialised in the cemetery.

Next, go to Jim Thompson’s house. By far the most fun way to get there is to hop on a local commuter boat. These boats fly up the narrow canal of Klong Saen Saep at breakneck speed as locals stop everyone getting drenched by clinging to plastic sheeting. Get on the boat at Phanfa Bridge pier and exit at Sapan Hua Chang pier, purchasing the ticket onboard.

Jim Thompson was Thailand’s most famous expat who revived the handwoven silk trade industry following the war. Deciding to settle in Bangkok, he built his house cobbling together six traditional Thai teakwood houses, transported from historic Ayutthaya and Ban Krua. Filled with antiques, it’s a fascinating legacy to a man that mysteriously went missing from Malaysia’s highlands in 1967.

DAY 2 PM / CHATUCHAK MARKET, ROOFTOP BARS

Time for some shopping. Walk across to Mah Boon Krong shopping mall where teens flock for the huge range of shops, great bargains and air-conditioning. But, at the weekend, a better option than the mall is the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s a simple metro ride to this rambling, shopping destination on steroids. Picture narrow laneways packed with everything from club wear to fighting fish; amazing plants to 1970’s record players. Allegedly there’s a system to help you navigate this 35-acre site, but we never quite worked it out. Grab a snack at any of the food stalls packed with locals.

For the evening head to Sukhumvit, home to both the thriving sex tourism industry and the respectable city scene. Start at Vertigo Moon Bar, an outdoor rooftop bar sitting on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Drinks are pricey but it offers a glorious sun set over Bangkok and a chance to mingle with the cool and trendy. If you want a seat arrive an hour before sunset.

Next amble over to Patpong Night Market. With fake Louis Vuitton on the stalls and girls shaking their wares in the go-go bars flanking the market, it’s a deliciously naughty night out. A few streets east grab a seat on the pavement, in the main gay area of Bangkok, and watch the on-street drama as it unfolds.

DAY 3 AM / TRADITIONAL FLOATING MARKET

On the last day of your 3 days in Bangkok, head to a floating market. Here locals seated in dugout canoes sell all manner of vegetables, fruits, fried fish, leaf-wrapped pandan rice and so much more. It is a bustling, energetic yet traditional scene that is great for photos and even better for an early lunch.

There are a few good floating markets, each with a different atmosphere. You can find all the information and opening times here.

If you go to Damnoen Saduak leave early as it gets very busy. It’s great for photos, but the market has become touristy with higher prices and more scammers. Many now consider Khlong Lat Mayom, just on the outskirts of town, the best floating market in Bangkok.

DAY 3 PM / KHAO SAN ROAD

Returning to Bangkok, spend the afternoon hanging around the Khao San Road area, one of the places you need to know about if you’re backpacking in Asia.

Infected with backpackers and soul-seeking tourists, Khao San Road, and the slightly quieter – but still crazy – Soi Ram Butri is lined with budget accommodation, massage parlors, tattoo joints, peddlers, internet cafes and endless bars. Have a foot massage, buy a cheap t-shirt or simply sit and watch the myriad of tourists.

As the sun drops head to Phra Nakhon Rooftop Bar; a local hangout situated 4 floors above the noise where the atmosphere is more chilled.

If you’re a foodie, have dinner at Raan Jay Fai, the first and only street food stall in Thailand to be awarded a Michelin star. The 73-year-old owner and chef Ms Jay Fai prepares her signature crab omelet and other delicacies. You’ll see a long trail of hopefuls forming a queue so make sure you reserve well in advance. Even with a reservation, the wait to eat can be long and dishes relatively expensive. But it’s good.

If you decide against Raan Jay Fai or can’t score yourself a seat, there are a number of other eateries nearby. Pick one sit down and try the Yen Ta Fo, a pink noodle soup that tastes better than it looks.

WHERE TO STAY IN BANGKOK?

It’s a good idea to stay a short walk from the Khao San Road area, but not too close to the busy streets of Khao San Road itself and Soi Ram Butri. We stayed at the excellent Old Capital Bike Inn. It was convenient for getting to many of the sights and the service, breakfast and hospitality were excellent.

If you’re travelling with family, here is an excellent resource featuring the best family hotels in Bangkok.

GETTING AROUND BANGKOK

International flights arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport and at Don Mueang Airport. Upon arriving ignore the touts and get a public metred taxi into town, making sure you ask them to turn the meter on.

Tuk-tuks are an easy and cheap way to travel short distances in Bangkok. For longer journeys use taxis or the metro. You can find all the places we visited on our 3 days in Bangkok on the map below.

If you have any extra days there are many excellent cheap day trips from Bangkok, just a an hour or so from the centre, which are well worth exploring.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


BEST TIME TO GO TO BANGKOK

The rains come to Bangkok in September / October and the temperatures can reach over 30 degrees from April to June. December to February are the coolest and most pleasant months, but tourist numbers can be high. Mid-November to mid-December is optimal.


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3 days in Bangkok guide

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