Bangkok is Thailand’s massive capital. Obviously you’ve heard of it so I won’t bother with a lengthy background, but suffice it to say the city is larger than large. Looking out from one of the [many] rooftop bars, you can literally see buildings in every direction with no end in sight. I first visited Bangkok in 2012, at which time I covered all the obligatory tourist stuff. On my second visit I was a more experienced traveler in search of more unique activities (and in search of areas devoid of aggressive backpackers).
Bangkok is overwhelming, both to visit and write about, so I’ve selected just a few of my favorite things to include. Here are a few highlights that are slightly less touristy than say, Wat Po or Wat Arun…
Located down by the water, tucked into a dank underground mall-type area opening into the street at points precariously close to the main tourist thoroughfare, is Bangkok’s Amulet Market. Vendor after vendor, stuffed into small cement stalls, sells amulets of all designs, shapes and sizes off tables adorned with dusty red clothes. Some of the amulets are cheap and not special; mass-produced metal. Some are much more unique, varying in size and design with prices that reflect they must have some inherent value, although I have absolutely no idea what that value might be. I’m into beading so I spent hours rifling through the amulets alongside some intense men using magnifying glasses and scopes to really examine them. I’m not sure exactly what they were looking for as I am not the world’s foremost authority on amulets, but it seemed serious. I wish I had a photo of the market, but I was yelled at 5+ times for trying to take one so eventually I just gave up. Which [amu]LET me focus on browsing.
Who doesn’t want to check out old underwear? What about old sporting equipment? Musical instruments? I visited Nightingale Olympic and saw many items from back in the day (I would specify what day, but the details surrounding when this place shut down are a little hazy at best). This defunct department store, which is still open to the public for browsing, is very interesting. Everything inside is preserved in its original state from the building to the goods, and you can enter and browse around. Just don’t take any photos in there. You’ve been warned.
One of my top travel sights, the airplane graveyard is, as it sounds, a field of abandoned airplanes outside of Bangkok. Check out my dedicated post to learn more!
Khlong Toei Market [Sukhumvit Road Area]
There are always so many markets, and Bangkok has no shortage. On our 2nd stop in the city we stayed in the Sukhumvit Road area, at which point I discovered a HUGE market after my morning run in Benchakiti Park. I spent hours here and was the only tourist in sight, as it’s more of a wet market than anything else. People might have looked at me weird as I sweatily wandered around 3 mornings in a row, and a lady seemed alarmed when I tried to buy 1kg of sticky rice, but it was cool.
Browsing & Shopping
There are tons of malls and markets scattered all around the city. Shopping ranges from wildly upscale to super local, so you can find any and everything you need or want…and everything and everything you don’t. I suggest just wandering around and seeing where the stalls (or massive several-story escalators) take you.
24-Hour Flower Market
Officially named Pak Khlong Talat, this market is open 24/7 (I did not believe it at first, either, but a 12am visit proved me wrong). It’s a market of flowers, which you have likely already figured out, and it’s busier and more exciting at night. This is the market where all the hotels source their flowers, apparently.
Khao San Road
OK, this one is 100% touristy. It’s probably the most touristy thing in Bangkok. But I have a cool photo from here so I’m including it. Khao San Road is THE quintessential backpacker street. It’s also crazy. Vendors sell all the standard tee shirts, hippie/elephant pants and related items by the truckload. By night, the street bustles as people pack into plastic stools outside cheap pad Thai vendors and raucous bars (these vendors aren’t nearly as cheap as those in areas outside Khao San Road). We’re talking thousands upon thousands of backpackers (many of whom are dirty and also young), partying all night, people acting in a manner one might consider inappropriate.
Kinda touristy, I know, but sky bars abound in Bangkok! We visited Octave this time around, catching the sunset at happy hour. To be clear it’s pricey and I’m a bit ashamed to write about it as it’s definitely not a budget travel activity. But if you get 2-for-1 drinks and you also haven’t purchased food in days and have been spooning peanut butter, well hey maybe you can afford it too.
So there you have it, just a very few things to do in the big and busy Bangkok!