Bangkok is the gateway into Asia, and I'd claim the whole world. It's so central that if you've gone from North to South, East to West, you've likely had a stop over in Bangkok.
But this city isn't just a stop over on a larger trip. Bangkok is a cultural, economic and social hub filled with delicious food to eat, historic temples, and a vibrant nightlife. Every phase of society exists in this city, from the locals hanging clothes to dry off on their balcony in a forgotten back street, to the wealthy in towering skyscrapers sipping cocktails over the city lights.
Bangkok is one of the places where you could throw down a spicy Pad Thai in a bustling market, quickly leave - jump on a scooter taxi, no helmet, weaving in and out of rush hour traffic to arrive at a mega club to begin your night. That is, after a day of exploring temples.
Things to do in Bangkok
With so many things to do, eat and experience - this list is going to be big. 48 hours won't be enough to do it all, but the good thing is, you won't run out of things to do. We'll cover the the famous things, and we'll add some secret gems as well - the contents are below, click/tap the activity to jump to the section.
- A Night Out on Khaosan Road
- Explore the Food at Rot Fai Train Night Market
- Watch a Professional Muay Thai Fight
- Explore the Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Lumphini Park Relaxation
- Nightlife Scene on Soi Sukhumvit 11
- Terminal 21 Food Court
- Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn
- One of the largest Chinatown's in the world
- Climb atop Golden Mount
- Try to Eat at Raan Jay Fai
- Cocktails at Sky Bar
- Shop at Centralworld or ICONSIAM
A Night Out on Khaosan Road
The famous street where beer is served by the tower, scorpions and tarantulas are being sold to eat by street vendors, an array of Thai and western food are available - it's an all round crazy place.
The bars battle each other with the weapons being the speakers - around 10-11 pm a crowd of people will be dancing to ear-piercing music in the middle of the street with a bar on each side playing different songs.
Explore the Food at Rot Fai Train Night Market
Delicious night of food, beer, snacks, and treats in this massive market located right next to the train station. Easy access via metro but you can also take a taxi or Grab.
The market offers more than just food, it has many vendors selling everything from clothes to small souvenirs. But going back to food for a second, the market has a very popular food challenge.
A tower of pork rib and spine, covered in lime and chilies - and I'm talking a tower. This thing is huge and you'd need at least 3 people to even come close to finishing this thing.
Just in general - here are some must try Thai dishes.
- Tom Yum Goong - A spicy and sour seafood soup that's quite unique and delicious.
- Pad Thai - The most popular noodle dish commonly either vegetarian with tofu, or with chicken.
- Pad Kra Pao - Stir fried rice, basil, chilies, and chicken/pork/beef, usually very spicy so beware.
- Thai Green Curry - Green chilies, Thai eggplant, pea aubergine, curry paste, all cooked in coconut milk to make a creamy curry - topped with chicken usually.
- Thai Red Curry - Red curry paste and vegetables cooked in coconut milk to create a creamy curry, topped with chicken but you can usually pick.
- Khao soi - Northern Thai specialty that is a noodle dish with a creamy broth topped with dried noodles - absolutely delicious.
Watch a Professional Muay Thai Fight
There are Muay Thai fights held all over the country, but in Bangkok you can experience top quality professional fights. These are hosted in New Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and Rajadamnern Stadium almost every day with tickets ranging from 400 to 2000 baht ($13-$66).
But - there's also a free option. Every Sunday, Channel 7 in Thailand plays a Muay Thai fight that's hosted in the Channel 7 Building near the Chatuchak Metro Station. This is an amazing find and you'll get an authentic experience as nearly all the audience are locals there to enjoy and bet on a fight.
Explore the Chatuchak Weekend Market
This market has everything from authentic foods, to bootleg clothing. It's a very popular destination for tourists and locals alike, you'll see a lot of families, and groups - it can get very busy but it's worth checking out.
Lumphini Park Relaxation
Go to this massive park in the morning/afternoon when the heats not harsh. It's great for relaxing, going for a run and even training at an outdoor gym for the experience.
The park is central to the most urban districts of Bangkok, so it's a great slice of nature in an urban jungle.
Nightlife Scene on Soi Sukhumvit 11
If you're looking for a great night out in the less rugged part of town, Street 11 in the Sukhumvit district is the place to be. With multiple nightclubs like Sugar, Insanity, Levels, and other, there's something for everyone.
The area has many western style restaurants, and other relatively higher end bars, especially compared to the gritty feel of Khao San Road.
Terminal 21 Food Court
Terminal 21 is one of the most popular malls in the city. Why go to a food court right? You'd assume that the food sold in smaller markets would be more authentic, cheaper and better - but counter intuitively, this place offers a lot of benefits including authenticity and cheap prices.
Not only is the food cheap, but it's good. If you're looking to escape the heat and find some air-conditioning for a few hours - you'll enter this place, and because of the prices and variety, you'll leave with a pretty big belly. It's on the top level of the mall and called Pier 21.
Wat Arun is right on the river, you can get there by taking a ferry from the east of the river at Tha Tien Ferry terminal, over to the west side - which takes 2-3 minutes and costs almost nothing.
You should go during the day to see all the detailing of the temple, and climb up to the top for a great view. But you should also cross back just before sunset to see it lit up for a beautiful site over some food and drink at one of the many perfectly located restaurants.
Other popular hot spots in the area:
One of the largest Chinatown's in the world
Eat an array of Chinese/Thai fusion cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Hong Kong cuisine and more. Shop around for cool souvenirs, electronics, clothes, and anything else you could possibly be looking for.
Climb atop Golden Mount
Just a short hike to this temple and you'll get to see a 360 degree view of Bangkok. This is one of the best places in the city to see the sunset.
Try to Eat at Raan Jay Fai
Jay Fai, an old lady who wears red lipstick, ski goggles, and operates a large wok on some hot coals, is a world renowned street food vendor that became a hit after she was given a Michelin Star for her amazing burrito sized crab omelette. Since then the popularity has spun this place into a battle royale to get a seat.
There is a line before the place even opens, for good reason. Michelin grade food is expensive, but in Bangkok terms and relative to other restaurants, this place is the cheapest Michelin grade food you'll eat. The crab omelette itself costs 1000 Baht (~$33 USD) which is objectively expensive, but relatively speaking, a crazy good deal.
Go in before it opens and try to get ahead of the line, no reservation required.
Cocktails at Sky Bar
This rooftop bar is located 830 feet in the air, looking over the concrete jungle that is Bangkok. This bar has a wide array of fancy cocktails, to match the amazing night time views that you'll get to see - the cocktails are pricey for Bangkok, but worth it for the view.
You'll also recognize Sky Bar from The Hangover Part II movie - it's gained some fame since then.
Shop at Centralworld or ICONSIAM
They're high end shopping malls and are ranked as some of the largest in the world. You'll come across all the brands that you know and some Thai brands as well - if shopping is your thing, then these should satisfy.
We both know that you're not going to do all of this in 48 hours but hey, at least you have a great list to choose from right? If you tick some of these off, your Bangkok trip is most definitely going to be an adventure 😎
If you're going to other places in Southeast Asia, check this out to make sure your budget is up to scratch:
And if you're planning on going to the Thai Full Moon Party - I've got you covered with this ultimate guide: