How to See the Best of Bangkok in One Day

Jennifer Arnow

Electric and chaotic, Bangkok is teeming with a dizzying variety of sights and activities. But what should you do if you're in the city only for a short time? Whether you've only got a long layover or 24 hours, here are our suggestions for quintessential Bangkok experiences that can all be done in one day. —Jennifer Arnow

Jennifer Arnow

Temples

The Grand Palace and Wat Po are the major temples on every Bangkok to-do list. But with overwhelming crowds throughout the day, they are victims of their own notoriety. You can still experience Bangkok's magnificent temples on a tight schedule by going a bit off the beaten path. Wat Suthat, a stunning temple in the Old City, is home to a bronze Buddha more than 25 feet tall. The main hall is impressively decorated in floor-to-ceiling murals that date from 1850 and depict the Jakata Tales, stories of the previous lives of Buddha. More than 150 smaller but just as spectacular Buddha statues decorate the cloisters surrounding the complex. When you’re ready to depart, don’t forget to admire the giant swing right in front of the temple.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Canal Tour

Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East, thanks to its winding network of canals. Known as klongs, these waterways used to be the main means of transportation in Bangkok and are still a back alley to local life. It's not unusual to see modest shacks next to modern townhouses as you cruise along the waterways. There are also temples, restaurants, and other sites that are accessible if you're looking to stretch your legs and explore. Wat Khuha Sawan, a temple just off Klong Bangkok Yai, is also a Buddhist monastery and offers a more intimate temple experience. Private tours are your best bet to visit the klongs; some hotels offer these tours as well.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Street Food

Bangkok is synonymous with street food, and for good reason. Everywhere you turn, there's a food stall hawking all sorts of mouthwatering dishes. From pad thai, som tam, and mango sticky rice, to more adventurous fare like balut (fertilized duck eggs) and durian, Bangkok has no shortage of options to sample. If you're shopping on Khao San Road, you might as well stop to grab a bite, as this street is just as noteworthy for its street food. Although vibrant at any time of day, Khao San Road really comes alive once the sun goes down, and that includes a multiplying bevy of food options. Venture over to Chinatown for appetizing delicacies that go beyond Thai cuisine. But don't limit yourself to these two locations; a turn down any street corner or bustling alleyway will yield busy food stalls offering satisfying culinary rewards.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Puppet Show

The ancient art of Thai puppetry is still an active tradition in Bangkok. Elaborately carved puppets are each manipulated by several puppeteers on the same stage. The puppets act out traditional folk tales, resulting in delightfully emotive storytelling that transcends any language barrier. Avoid the touristy theaters and check out a more unique experience at Baan Silapin Artist's House. This artist's collective space sits on Klong Bangkok Yai, in an open-air canal house with rustic wooden decor that, although renovated, is more than 200 years old. The intimate theater space hosts performances depicting tales from the Ramayana every day at 2pm (except Wednesdays).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Shopping

Bangkok is a shopping mecca, and even if you're short on time you can find great deals. Known as a bustling area where backpackers congregate, Khao San Road is packed with shops selling all sorts of cool and colorful Thai wares. Want to explore a night market? Then head to Asiatique. This open-air mall sits on the Chao Phraya River and is home to more than 1,000 stalls situated in four warehouse areas. Whether you're looking for clothing, jewelry, or souvenirs, you'll be able to find it here. Don't be afraid to haggle!

Insider Tip: Bangkok's shopping isn't all chaotic stalls and malls. Anyroom offers a less touristy, more relaxed shopping experience. Situated in the Jam Factory complex in Thonburi, this cute and contemporary shop sells housewares, furniture, and paper goods created by local artisans.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Tuk Tuk ride

A visit to Bangkok is not complete without an exhilarating ride in one of these unique vehicles. Essentially a motorbike with a colorful cabin for passengers behind the driver, these mini taxis zip along streets at a frenetic pace. Be sure to negotiate the rate and destination before getting in and don't let the driver make pit stops to other sights or shops. Oh, and hold on tight.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Restaurants

Bangkok is one of the top destinations for street food, but don't let that dominate your culinary experience. Bangkok also has world-class restaurants that serve anything from traditional Thai to haute cuisine. The Never Ending Summer in Thornburi is a perfect stop. This chic restaurant, set in a renovated warehouse space inside the Jam Factory complex, cooks classic Thai dishes that tourists might not know, such as ko mu yang (grilled kurobuta pork collar) and yum tua puu (wing bean salad with grilled prawns, minced pork, and soft boiled eggs). The elegantly plated dishes are a fantastic contrast to the contemporary industrial decor.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Rooftop bars

To really experience Bangkok in all its vast glory, you have to see it from up high. There's no better way to do that than with a cool cocktail in hand at one of the many rooftop bars, like Moon Barat the Banyan Tree Hotel. Sitting 61 stories high, this rooftop bar offers stunning 360 degree views as well as deliciously unique cocktails like the lychee ginger smash. If the weather suddenly turns you can head downstairs to the equally impressive Vertigo Too Lounge.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

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