As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is known for its eclectic blend of charming historical sights, delectable cuisines, amazing shopping malls and markets, and a super vibrant nightlife scene. There’s just so much to see that a day tour is not enough to do the complex city justice. (See more: Living like a Bangkokian)
To get a glimpse of the historic capital, a highly recommended area to start is Rattanakosin Island in Phra Nakhon District, known as the oldest part of the city. It’s home to Wat Phra Kaew, arguably Bangkok’s most remembered landmark, which is located inside the complex of the Grand Palace (Na Phra Lan Rd., 02-623 -5500, Mon-Sun 8:30am-3:30pm). As the most sacred temple in the country, the temple is also known for the iconic 5-meter giant statues, beautiful Thai murals of the epic tale of Ramakien, Rattanakosin-style pavilions and three spectacular pagodas.
Right next to the palace is Wat Pho (2 Sanam Chai Rd., 02-225-9595, Mon-Sun 8am-5pm), home to the third largest reclining Buddha in the world, and is also said to be the birthplace of the famous Thai massage that is definitely worth the long wait.
History junkies will want to make a visit to Museum Siam (Sanam Chai Rd., Tue-Sun 10am-6pm), an interactive museum that will take you through the history of the people of Siamese Kingdom, with exhibitions and quirky events held throughout the year. Another highlight is the National Museum (4 Na Phra That, Wed-Sun 9am-4pm). Built in 1782, the former viceroy’s palace has recently turned its front hall into a world-class gallery, exhibiting Buddhist artefacts that date back to the Ayutthaya period.
For a quick break away from the sun, there are notable restaurants that take advantage of the spectacular view of the river and the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) – the most well-known being sala rattanakosin (39 Maharat Rd., 02-622-1388, Mon-Sun 12am-11:30pm) and The Deck by Arun Residence (36-38 Soi Pratu Nokyoong, Mon-Sun 8am-10pm).
Charming shophouse-size cafes and restaurants have also mushroomed in the area over the last few years, such as Elefin Cafe (Sanam Chai Rd., Tue-Sun 10am-6pm), Food Route (392/10 Soi Penpat 1, 02-622-1921, Tue-Sat 10am-5pm), Err: Urban Rustic Thai (294/35 Maharat Rd., Tue-Sun 11am-10pm) and Blue Whale Cafe (392/37 Maharaj Rd. Mon-Sun (closed on Thu) 10am-8pm).
A trek further down will take you to Ratchadamnoen Avenue, modelled after the Champ Elysse around the period of King Rama V which is a wonderful sight both day and night. Along the avenue, you’ll be greeted with the Democracy Monument, Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center (84 Ratchadamneon Klang, 02-422-8827, Tue-Sun 10am-7pm), Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall (100 Ratchadamnoen Klang, 02-621-0044, Tue-Sun 10am-7pm), and the Mahakan Fort. Right behind the white concrete walls is home to the recently established Living Heritage Museum (Sat-Sun 9am-4pm), filled with well-preserved wooden houses that date back to the reign of King Rama 1. A small local community still live and work there today.
We recommend climbing up to the top of the Temple of the Golden Mount (344 Boriphat Rd., 093-258-4028, Mon-Sun 8am-6pm) before the day comes to an end for an alternative view of Phra Nakhon district.
But if old town charm is not your thing, the trendy side of Bangkok also has a lot to offer, and it’s not just about cheap drinks around Khao San Road or hi-end luxury hotels either. With its notable craft cocktail bar scene, new contemporary art spaces and revitalised neighbourhoods that have filled the city with hipster cafes and weekend markets, it’s definitely a thriving Southeast Asian capital that has everything for everyone.