The sights and flavours of hectic Bangkok.

Spending just 72 hours in Bangkok seems hardly enough. This concrete jungle is packed with beautiful temples, hedonistic escapism, naughty nooks and consumer-driven crannies. The local food is superb; just stroll along worn-down alleyways and follow your nose. With amazing aromas bubbling away on every corner, you’ll know you’ve arrived at a great destination. This is urban excess in a friendly city. Where everything from high-end ritzy shopping to traditional old school massage is delivered with a friendly smile. Where glossy rooftop bars with sky-high prices blend effortlessly with the tuk-tuk journeys that got you there.

This is an action-packed 72 hours in Bangkok, a whiff of what the city has to offer. We sample local food, sip cocktails with a view and party with the kids on Khao San Road. We saunter through atmospheric temples, explore the amazing floating markets and collect big sights in this amazing city.

Morning Day 1 – Grand Palace & Wat Arun

Start your 72 hours in Bangkok by taking in the spectacle of the Grand Palace. Built in 1782, the palace remains a magnificent example of intricate Thai craftsmanship. It was originally the residence of Thai kings. Today it is used to host royal ceremonies and welcome the king’s guests. There are a number of buildings in the complex. Wat Pra Kaew – The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – is considered the most important temple in Thailand.  There is a strict dress code – no shoulder or leg flesh on display – to enter the temple.

After the Grand Palace, take the local ferry across to Wat Arun. Wat Arun was originally conceived by King Taksin in 1768 and was expanded many times since. The intricate and colourful detail on the temple spires is simply stunning. It’s location on the banks of the river make it a much-photographed sight in Bangkok. Make sure you spend some time walking around the local area and popping your head in some of the nearby temples.

Next, get back on the ferry and head to the Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad). The market services both the retail and wholesale sectors and is a delight to stroll around. I don’t think I’ve ever seen flowers presented quite like this anywhere else. There’s no plonking carnations in a vase here. Thai floral arrangements are intricate, woven details of gaudy displays of colour. The Bangkok Flower market is located on Chak Phet Road near Saphan Phut.

Afternoon Day 1 – Wat Pho & Massage

After the flower market, have lunch in the nearby Tha Tien area. It has a very local feel but remains a drawcard for tourists thanks to the nearby attractions. We liked Home Café Tha Tien for their old school Thai dishes, delicious sweet tea and no-frills service. (Tha Tian Alley, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon).

Once you’ve re-fuelled on some delicious food, head across the road to the impressive Wat Pho. This is a beautiful temple complex and a must-see attraction for any first timers to Bangkok. Wat Pho houses a very renowned massage school – said to be one of the best in the country. So, if you’re looking for a way to relax, you’re in good hands. Despite the reputation of the massage school, Wat Pho is best known for its reclining Buddha. At 46 metres long, this colossal statue seems to be squeezed into the building; hardly big enough for its mammoth occupant.

Round out the afternoon with a strenuous Thai massage. Either at Wat Pho, or at one of the nearby massage schools. We highly recommend Wat Pho and Chetawan Traditional Massage School (392/33 Maha Rat Rd). Lying on the floor getting prodded by generously shaped Thai woman is a fantastic – but sometimes vigorous – way to unwind throughout your 72 hours in Bangkok.

For more jaw-droppingly beautiful temples in Thailand, check out this stunning post to inspire you to see more.

Evening Day 1 – Roof Pars & Patpong

For the evening’s activities, take in another side of Bangkok by heading to Sukhumvit. Home to both the thriving sex tourism industry and the respectable city scene, Sukhumvit has something for everyone. Find a rooftop bar to spend an exuberant amount of money on a carefully prepared cocktail as you watch the sunset over the sprawl of greater Bangkok. We liked Vertigo Bar (21 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek) for their plush surroundings and fantastic views. It’s best to get their early to ensure you get a seat – doors open at 5 PM. They have a strict dress code, no shorts, bare shoulders or open toe shoes. You can, however, borrow a sarong. Four gin and tonics cost £60.

The rest of the night can be spent at the much more affordable bars around the Patpong Night Market in the Silom area. 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. Keep your wits about you and bargain hard for your purchases. Despite the girls and their shaking wares, Silom remains the gay area of Bangkok. Head to Soi 4 for a relaxing friendly beer or Soi 2 for pumping dance bars.

Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in the Bangkok, famous for its giant reclining Buddha.

72 hours in Bangkok
Morning Day 2 – Golden Mount & Jim Thompson House

After recovering from your hedonistic night out, redeem yourself this morning by visiting Wat Saket – Temple of the Golden Mount. The temple sits on top of an artificial hill in the centre of the old town, providing a unique view over Bangkok. The 300 steps to the top curve up the hill finally reaching the magnificent gold chedi for which the complex is named. From up here, Bangkok looks like a village, framed by glass and concrete high rises in the distance. Be sure to check out the unusual cemetery at the bottom which was the dumping ground for around 60,000 plague victims.

Once you’ve explored the temple, walk along the Phanfa Bridge to the Saphan Hua canal boat pier.  From here, catch the local boat to Jim Thompson’s house. Make sure you ask for the local boat – not the tourist boat – for a much more authentic experience. This service, regularly used by commuting locals, speeds down the canals at breakneck speed. As we were sitting on the side of the boat, we were obliged to hold up the plastic sheeting to stop the water flying in and spraying everyone. I felt like we were contributing to local Thai life.

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 the house by cobbling together six traditional Thai teakwood houses, transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Ban Krua. Filled with antiques and interesting art choices, it’s a fascinating look around. Sadly, Jim Thompson went missing from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967, but his legacy lives on in this interesting monument to his life.

Afternoon Day 2 – Chatuchak Markets

Next, walk to the nearby Mah Boon Krong shopping mall. This sprawling shrine to consumerism is one of the busiest in Bangkok, mostly with Thai teens escaping wherever they should be. People flock to this place for the huge range of shops, great bargains and functioning air-conditioning. Being a quick walk from Jim Thompson’s house it’s in a very convenient location. However, if you are here for a weekend you could go to Chatuchak Weekend Market instead. The train station to get to the weekend market is right beside MBK. Of course, if you’re an avid shopper, there’s nothing stopping you doing both.

The Chatuchak weekend market is a rambling, intense shopping destination on steroids. Picture narrow laneways packed with everything from club wear to fighting fish; from souvenirs to home appliances. The fake designer bags are an obvious hit. Allegedly there’s a system to help you navigate this 35-acre site. Something about a circular laneway, numbered alleys, and 27 sections. Good luck. Even if you get utterly lost, it’s a fantastic way to spend some time on your 72 hours in Bangkok. Weekends only.

Evening Day 2 – Chinatown

In the evening, lug your shopping haul back via Chinatown, an energetic bustle of neon signs and frantic street food. In Chinatown you can buy anything from gold to rubber bathmats, and – on the fantastic Trok Itsaranuphap – spiritual offerings for the dead. Another highlight is Sampeng Lane, a long narrow chaotic street cluttered with more goods than you could imagine. You could easily spend a few hours just deciphering what is actually being sold here.

Once you’ve spent some time strolling around all the lanes, head to Yaowarat Road, the backbone of Chinatown. Yaowarat is possibly one of the best street food destinations in Bangkok, if not the world. The aroma of freshly prepared dim sum, seafood, noodles and authentic Thai dishes follows you down the strip. It’s a taste sensation. But don’t feel you need to pick one. There’s nothing better than trying a little bit from a selection of stalls, eating your way down this interesting street. Bliss.

72 hours in Bangkok Temple of the Golden Mount

The monks in their colourful orange create a fantastic atmosphere at the Temple of the Golden Mount.

Morning Day 3 – Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

To start day 3 of your 72 hours in Bangkok, head out of town to experience the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. (Weekends only). It’s not the most authentic floating market and it’s certainly not the quietest. But it is amazing. For a fantastic, bustling and atmospheric floating market with photo opportunities at every bend, it’s well worth the trek out. The easiest way to do it is via an organised tour, but you could also haggle with a taxi driver to make your own way there. It’s around 1-hour from Bangkok and it’s best to leave as early as possible, around 7 AM. Once you arrive at Damnoen Saduak, you can either hire a boat to take you through the narrow waterways, stopping at various sellers, or you can stroll around the area on foot. Either way, it’s a fantastic experience.

Once you’ve had an explore, grab some lunch from one of the ladies cooking up a storm on their boats. Slightly off the waterway itself, you’ll find everything from snake charmers to performing monkeys. Most of the organised tours from Bangkok annoyingly stop at tourist-geared souvenir shops on the way back. It’s best to avoid these tours if you can, so try and ask up front. If you can’t, it might be better to get a taxi driver to take you out. The market is open from 6 AM to 11 PM, Saturday and Sunday only. Tours from Bangkok arrive at 9 AM which is when it is most crowded. To avoid any boat-jams it’s best to arrive earlier if possible.

Afternoon Day 3 – Khao San Road

Once you get back to Bangkok, spend what’s left of the afternoon hanging around the Khao San Road area. Infected with backpackers and soul-seeking tourists, Khao San road is lined with budget accommodation, massage parlours, tattoo joints, peddlers and internet cafes. But the main attraction is here is tourist-watching. Seeing newbies getting the first taste of Thailand is people watching at its finest. You’ll find most of the partying kids hanging outside bars advertising “We Don’t Check ID” as the main selling point. Treat yourself to another massage here which will set you back around £8. Great if you don’t mind relaxing to the sweet sounds of pissed tourists revelling in holiday frivolity.

If like us, your idea of going crazy is having a second gin & tonic on a school night, escape Khao San Road and head to the nearby Soi Ram Butri. Just a block away from Khao San Rd, this little brother is trying desperately to catch up but hasn’t quite made it. Instead, it’s full of friendly but busy cafes in a nice street catering to exhausted travellers. Spend some time relaxing here and grab a cheap foot massage from one of the many places with rows of chairs lined up ready to go. The Khao San Road market is also nearby with hilariously labelled t-shirts sprawled out on the ground.

Evening Day 3 – Michelin star street food

For your final evening on your 72 hours in Bangkok, head to Phra Nakhon Rooftop Bar. There are many rooftop bars in Bangkok each with amazing views and staggering prices. Phra Nakhon is different. More of a local hangout than a top-end hotel bar, Phra Nakhon Bar serves regular drinks at regular prices. Being only about 4 floors up, the views aren’t staggering but the atmosphere is great. Looking out across the neighbourhood below with the Temple of the Golden Mount in the background is a relaxing way to start your final night in this amazing city.

For a dining experience to remember book ahead at Raan Jay Fai. The street food in Thailand is everywhere, and everywhere it is amazing and cheap. The exception to the cheapness is Raan Jay Fai, thanks to it being the first and only street food stall in Thailand to be awarded a Michelin star. You’ll see a long trail of hopefuls forming a queue around the corner to get a plastic chair here, even with bookings.

If you can’t score yourself a seat at Raan Jay Fai, there are a number of other eateries on Maha Chai Road, near the corner of Soi Samran Rat. Pad Thai is the speciality in many places, served in the signature Bangkok way with a casing of thin omelette. The best bet is the gauge the length of the queue against your willingness to wait and pick your place. The other interesting dish to try in the area is Yen Ta Fo, a pink noodle soup served with a variety of accompaniments.

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