It’s not hard to understand why the Thai capital consistently ranks as one of the world’s most visited cities.
By Nada Atieh
Last year, international tourist arrivals in Thailand were on the up and up, reaching a record 35 million, about half of the country’s population, and generating more than $56 billion in tourism revenue, a rise of 12 percent from 2016. Thailand is ranked as one of the top travel destinations for international tourists and the Thai capital, Bangkok, was named the most popular city for international tourists in 2017.
Bangkok’s sights, attractions and affordable prices appeal to just about anyone. Visitors can stay in five star hotels for under JD100 a night. While royal palaces, temples, museums and diverse shopping and dining options are easy to get to thanks to a host of affordable public transportation options, including the famous Skytrain and tuk tuks.
From spirit houses on the corners of busy city intersections, to shrines and stupas standing in front of shopping malls, Bangkok is the perfect blend of ancient and modern, spiritual and secular, native and foreign. With over 8 million people who call this city home and only a short trip away from relaxing white sand beaches and natural sites, the city is crawling with sights to see and things to discover. Whether you’re exploring the city with friends, flying solo, or making memories on a family vacation, here are just a few spots to visit on your next trip to Bangkok.
1. Dinner cruise through the Chao Phraya River
Nicknamed “Venice of the East,” Bangkok originated as a small farming and trading community located in a meander of the Chao Phraya River. Today, that river is one of the most popular sites in the city. There are several points of interest along the canals –– the Grand Palace, Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), and Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) –– that spread throughout the city and visitors have the chance to see them all by taking river cruises. Cruises are wonderful alternatives to touring the city by car and allow people to get a glimpse of all Bangkok has to offer while escaping nefarious city traffic. I had a wonderful time on board of the Chao Phraya Princess Dinner Cruise but there are plenty of other cruise lines and boat canal adventures you can choose from!
2. Shop till you drop
There are so many shopping options to choose from in Bangkok that it’s difficult to know where to start and when to stop. The shops will thrill even the most discerning shopper. Trendy and glamorous shoppers have mall options like CentralWorld or Siam Paragon. For those who like to bargain, MBK mall is popular and affordable. There are plenty of restless outside shopping venues as well. Street markets like the night market or NEON market are lined with antiques, clothes and jewelry, electronics, and knickknack souvenirs. You will literally blow your baht!
3. Visit the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace’s size and graceful architecture is hypnotizing. Arguably Thailand’s most sacred site and complex, Bangkok’s Grand Palace was home to the king, his court, and the entire administrative seat of government for about 150 years. Although Thai kings no longer live in the palace full time, it remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom. It sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is divided into four main courts: the outer court, temple of the emerald Buddha, central court and inner court. All divisions are open to the public save the inner court, which is where the king’s royal consorts and daughters once lived. Make sure to bring a camera when you visit, you’ll definitely need it!
4. Temples, temples, and more temples!
No trip to Thailand is complete without visiting a handful of ancient and mystifying temples. Thailand’s temples, known as wats, are literally everywhere and each one has its own unique story and features. For example, Wat Benchamabophit is referred to as The Marble Temple because it was built with marble imported from Italy in the late nineteenth century under King Rama V. It’s a unique example of modern Thai temple architecture and offers a landscaped canal filled with lotus and Chinese-style footbridges. The Wat Saket is another famous temple that is commonly referred to as the Temple of the Golden Mount because of the 80-meter-high hill and the huge gilded stupa on top of it. It was built in the 1700s and was once the highest point in Bangkok. It also served as the primary crematorium during the eighteenth century’s plague epidemic. Each temple has a story. Look it up before visiting and you’ll appreciate your time and setting that much more.
5. Safari World
Located in Min Buri, just north of Bangkok, is Safari World, an open air zoo and animal park. The park is divided into two areas: an open space safari park, where animals roam free and visitors drive through in a car or a park bus, and the marine park. The safari park covers 480 acres of open field and offers a car cruise through an African-like savanna full of lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinoceros, zebras, cheetahs, ostriches, a wide variety of deer, and birds, lots and lots of birds. Visitors can feed giraffes and ride elephants as well. There are also many entertaining shows at the park like the tiger and lion feeding show, which is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, dolphin show, and the Orang Utan Boxing Show. It’s an all-day animal adventure!
6. Dinner at the Baiyoke Sky Tower
Enjoy a luxurious dinner and then take in the spectacular view of Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand on a 360-degree revolving observation deck of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel and Tower. Baiyoke Sky Hotel is a collection of hotels and also the tallest tower in Thailand. Plenty of international restaurants occupy various floors throughout the tower, and so does a karaoke space. There is plenty to do at the tower but it’s the 84th floor you’ll want to spend all your time on. Your eyes will thank you.
7. Arab Soi (Street): The Crossroad of Cultures
Arab Soi is a colorful pedestrian alleyway on the northern fringe of the Soi Nana in Bangkok. Walking through the sidewalks at this location feels like a stroll through downtown Amman, that is if downtown Amman had an inkling of Southeast Asian flare. There are plenty of tuk tuks and taxis to help one get around, pharmacies and stores with Arabic descriptions, and stores on wheels selling fruits, smoothies and some of the freshest coconut water in the world. These days, more Arab tourists show up to the tiny street to find Halal Thai cuisine and familiar Arabic and Indian snacks and dishes. It’s definitely an interesting and tasty mix.
8. Khung Kraben Bay Royal Development Study Center
Established by King Bhumibol in 1981, this one of six research centers around the country helps to preserve the coastal ecosystems in the mangrove area while providing work opportunities to local farmers. Visited by almost one million tourists a year, the center is a learning ground for anyone interested in how the Thai manage to preserve national resources and increase the number of marine animals living in the mangrove area. Visitors enjoy tours where they can learn about the activity of the farmers, try local products, and learn how to culture marine life. The drive from Bangkok to Chanthaburi takes a couple of hours but there are several buses that make the trip on a daily basis for an affordable price and private car options as well.