We’ve all listened attentively for years to the stories of first-time travellers setting off to Southeast Asia for a soul-affirming backpacking trip that sets the tone for all adventures to come.
Among the most common threads in these narratives is that so many itineraries feature the same starting point: Bangkok, the wild capital of Thailand. And it’s not without good reason!
Thanks to (or in spite of) nods from movies like The Hangover 2, Bangkok’s reputation more than precedes it. Of course, though, there’s far more to Thailand’s “City of Angels” than simply embracing its wilder side.
Whether you come to love it or hate it, here are 5 compelling reasons to travel to Bangkok (that don’t involve waking up in a daze with a shaved head or a face tattoo).
1) Historical architecture
At first glance, Bangkok’s not much to look at with its seemingly endless sprawl of high-rises and crowded streets. It doesn’t take much, though, to root through the noise and get dazzled by the city’s incredible historical architecture.
The most enduring architectural symbol of the city—and one of the absolute best places to visit in Bangkok—is undoubtedly Wat Arun, a uniquely Thai temple perched on the banks of Chao Phraya River.
Whether you’re witnessing the golden lights filled the river on an evening cruise or getting your heart pumping on the way to the top of its spire for some of the best views over the city, checking out Wat Arun and other nearby temples & palaces is a must for any Bangkok itinerary.
2) Street food
There’s no argument here: Bangkok’s one of the best places to eat on the planet. And if you don’t believe me, simple walk through the city where nearly every street corner and alleyway seems to hide a deluge of mouth-watering options.
To the uninitiated, eating street food may seem a little intimidating compared to sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned restaurant, but it’s a massive part of the Bangkok experience; this isn’t something you should miss out on.
Want to allay your fears of Bangkok street food? Just make sure your meal is cooked fresh before your eyes, pull up a seat, grab a beer to wash it all down, and enjoy!
3) Floating markets
One of the most quintessential experiences in Southeast Asia, visiting a floating market is an absolute must-do while visiting Bangkok and a must for any Thailand itinerary. Although floating markets have waned in importance within the city itself, the surrounding area is still home to a handful that are hugely popular with visitors from far and wide.
As you walk along the riverbanks of a floating market, expect a whole variety of everything from fresh fruits & seafood to clothing & fashion accessories offered up by a colourful mix of on- and off-shore vendors.
Some of the best floating markets around Bangkok to keep on the lookout for include Amphawa, Tha Kha, Damnoen Saduak, and Khlong Lat Mayom.
4) Thai massages
If you’ve ever skipped out on self-care in your home country because of its high costs, you’re in luck: Thai massages in Bangkok offer the ultimate in rejuvenation, all without the sky-high price tags you’ll encounter elsewhere!
Settle in and endure a little (sometimes uncomfortable) extended pounding & pulling for an experience that’ll ultimately loosen your muscles, reduce stress, and have you feeling like a million bucks for the next leg of your journey.
5) Rooftop bars
If the seedy backpacker bars of Khao San Road or the more “adult”-oriented clubs of Soi Cowboy leave a bad taste in your mouth, why not spend a little time admiring Bangkok from a classy rooftop bar?
Among the most popular rooftop bars in Bangkok is Lebua Sky Bar, a 63rd-floor rooftop bar with 360-degree views over the Chao Phraya River & city; Three Sixty, a jazz lounge on the 32nd floor of the Millenium Hilton; and Octave Rooftop Bar, a romantic three-level lounge perched upon the 45th floor of the Marriott Hotel in Sukhumvit.