Bangkok Tours and Travel Guide
Bangkok Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Travelers tend to either adore or revile Bangkok. Awash with exotic wats (temples), crisscrossed by busy klongs (canals), site of the amazingly intricate architecture of the Thai Royal Palace, and center of one of the world’s most beloved cuisines, Bangkok is also choked with traffic, beset with political protests, and home to one of the world’s most wide-open red light districts. In sum, it’s never dull, and, in the end, you have to experience it for yourself – a must-see on any Thailand tour.
The Thai name for Bangkok is a mouthful to say the least. But it’s something every local learns in elementary school: "Krung Thep Mahanakhon amon Rattanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok phoP noppharat Ratchathani Burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amon piman awatan Sathit sakkathattiya witsanukam Prast." Thankfully there is a short version: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (or Krungthep on some maps), which means means "City of Angels" in English.
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital, located in the southern part of the country, on the Gulf of Thailand. It’s gained a reputation for being one of the world’s busiest most vibrant cities, full of character - known especially for the nightlife and food scene. There’s a reason it remained as Travel and Leisure’s “World’s Best City” for 4 consecutive years.
In every part of the city, something different is happening, from a street full of Middle Eastern restaurants to upscale shopping. Crowded walking streets, among market stalls, street food, and various knick knacks for sale as motorcycles whizz by you, adding to the heartbeat of the city.
There is plenty to see and do in Bangkok even if you’re not interested in the bar scene. Hidden markets and shops down entrancing allies, food choices like you wouldn't believe, and tons of historical and cultural sights. Head to Rattanakosin Island in Phra Nakhon District to escape the crowds, or explore the Grand Palace as well as multiple other historical landmarks, including several Buddhist temples.
Bangkok Food Tours
Although Thai food is among the most popular foods in the world, travelers only usually know the staple thai dishes of green & red curry, pad thai, and thai fried rice. What travelers don’t know is that Thai food is very regional and highly varied. Going on a guided culinary tour will ensure that you get out of your comfort zone and learn more about Thai delicacies and traditional foods.
You will be connected with actual local people and restaurants out of the tourist loop, learning more not just about food and its origins, but the culture of the people who make and consume it.
Some tours also teach you how to cook the food you eat, which is a great way to really connect with the food, and interact with Thai people. It also means you will pick up new skills you can keep after returning home. Other trips might involve staying in a Bangkok homestay, or actually require you to hit the markets (floating or regular!) in order to get your ingredients.
No matter the shape of your Bangkok food tour, it is a great way to interact with your host city and experience Thai culture in an entirely new way.
Top Activities in Bangkok
Bangkok provides a great introduction to Thai culture. Regional art museums, theater, history, and a local food scene make this the perfect start on a tour of Thailand. And once you’ve had your fill of culture, you can enjoy a meal of street food before taking in the city's infamous nightlife.
1. Grand Palace - The Grand Palace of Bangkok has its beginnings in the late 1700s, when construction began. It served as a home for Thai kings for over 100 years, and today is a museum and historical landmark - still used for ceremonies and gatherings of the countries government officials.
It’s name certainly describes it well, as the palace is indeed quite grand, both in scope and decoration. There is a fascinating blend of international architectural styles, reflecting the many uses and important periods of Thai history the building has touched.
2. Wat Arun - Known as the “Temple of Dawn” this beautiful location has attracted visitors for centuries. Situated along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is made up of colorful spires and designed as a representation of Mount Meru - a significant Buddhist symbol. Many river cruises along Chao Phraya stop here for tours of the temples.
3. Floating Market - Thailand is known for its many markets, in particular the alluring floating market. Today, this is a bit of a tourist trap, and much less of a local market experience, however it’s still worth doing for the novelty. It’s great for travel photography enthusiasts as well. Every nook and cranny reveals something new, and many bright colors swirl around, reflected in the water.
4. Chatuchak Weekend Market - Perhaps the second most well known market in Thailand is Chatuchak Weekend Market. Especially notable for its size, the market attracts over 200,000 people a day, and has over 15,000 booths selling everything from food to crafts.
Give yourself ample time to explore - part of the allure to the Chatuchak market is getting lost among the stalls and appreciating the incredible diversity and craftmanship in products, as well as sample the many delicious food items.
5. Jim Thompson House - Commonly referred to as one of America’s first major entrepreneurs, Jim Thompson was a silk trader and art collector in the early twentieth century. He lived in Bangkok for a time before mysteriously disappearing in 1967 while on vacation in Malaysia. His home is set up a bit like a time capsule, with original furnishings and the large collection of art pieces he owned.
6. National Museum - Set in what was an ancient palace, the National Museum in Bangkok is generally regarded to be the largest museum in Southeast Asia. An impressive amount of artifacts fill the rooms, and the many exhibits are best experienced with a guide who can provide more extensive historical context.
7. Wat Pho - The “Temple of the Reclining Buddha”. This is a classic Bangkok attraction, situated right behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It features a 150 foot long statue of Buddha in a reclining position, covered in gold leaf. Truly a sight to behold.
The Bangkok “Backpacker District”
Bangkok, and to that end the entirety of Southeast Asia, has gained a reputation over recent years as a popular destination where travelers, particularly western travelers, come to live the backpacker lifestyle.
Many a life long traveler has stated that their love of travel began in this magical corner of the world, where cultures collide, friendly locals present a welcoming vibe, food and drink is cheap, and you meet countless other young and old travelers seeking all that Southeast Asia has to offer.
Bangkok is a bit of a capital in this realm. For a taste of the backpacker spirit, which is still very much alive and well in the wake of surging tourism to Thailand, head to Khao San Road. A concentrated area of hostels, bars, restaurants, and shops. This is a great place to come to meet other international travelers and learn some hidden secrets in Bangkok and Southeast Asia.
Photography Tips for Bangkok
There are three main areas you’ll want to focus in for Bangkok photography: Temples, Markets, and Nighttime.
Temple Photography in Bangkok
Temples often present challenging lighting situations as they can be dark inside, or heavy with shadows. Practice shooting with your flash or different settings in order to get the best possible shots.
You’ll want to have the best lighting possible to capture the many intricacies and details throughout the temple. Also know that many temples in Bangkok utilize large amounts of gold. When hit with sunlight, gold is extremely reflective - practice shooting in these conditions so you don’t get overly bright flares.
Market Photography in Bangkok
Markets are catnip for travel photographers. They reveal wonderful nuances, delightful “day-in-the-life” moments in time as locals buy their groceries or meet with friends. They are also full of bright colors, patterns, and craftsmanship.
Then you have the quintessential street food shot, the steam rising up from various pots serving delicious Thai delights, adding to the incredible ambiance. A photograph couldn’t capture the noise and the aromas, but it can present the look and feel.
To get the best photography in Bangkok’s markets, you first need to know which market you’ll be attending. Among the most popular market destinations is the Floating Market.
This incredibly unique space has been attracting tourists to Bangkok for years. Today the Floating Market is not really populated by locals doing their shopping, but if you give in to the touristy nature, you’ll get some spectacular photographs.
Be careful with bringing a lot of heavy or bulky equipment as your tour the canals and stalls. You’ll be on the water most of the time, in a very open boat, in close proximity to a lot of hands. The fewer items you need to keep an eye on the better. Natural lighting will give you the best photos - when shooting with a telephoto, optimize for the darker areas to get the many details.
Night Photography in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the best cities for night photography. The city come alive with activity, mystery and intrigue are everywhere. The many vibrant and busy streets of bars and restaurants and other establishments fill the streets with a unique population of travelers and local business owners.
Night photography is notoriously difficult, especially when the lighting is unpredictable. In Bangkok you’ll also have to contend with a lot of people, which can block the light you might get from doorways. Consider using a tripod and external flash with filtering so the photograph still picks up the details in the streets, visible to the naked eye, but not to the camera.
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