Bangkok for Beginners: A 3 day guide for First Timers

Bangkok was my first destination in my Indochina excursion, and first impressions of the city did not disappoint. Bangkok is a city of extremes, with a landscape dotted by solemn & spiritual temples by day, and a city of sin and pleasure at night, where every vice & desire can be quenched.

Getting around in the city is quite easy given the various transportation methods available. If taxis & tuktuks aren’t your thing, the Skytrain (Metrorail system) is easy to navigate, not confusing & close to most tourist attractions. If this still sounds mundane to you, then the Chao Praya Express boat is a good option.

Padthai, a must try in the city
Padthai, a must try in the city
Thai food is crazy hot!!!
Thai food is crazy hot!!!

My first stop on day 1 was Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply ‘Wat Arun’ for short. A Buddhist temple with distinctly Cambodian architecture that sets it apart from the other Wats in Bangkok, which can be easily accessed via boat ride on the Chao Praya river. I have heard other tourists say that if you have seen one temple, you have seen them all, but I beg to disagree. Each Wat or Stupa has a uniqueness of its own, in the same way each Cathedral or Church here in the Philippines is distinct with its own architecture, history & personality. After spending an hour there, I moved on to another temple, Wat Phra Kaew. The great thing about Wat Phra Kaew aside from the Emerald Buddha, which is a sight to behold unto itself, is that it is only a 5 minutes’ walk away from the ‘Grand Palace’. The Grand Palace in turn, is Thailand’s version of Malacanang, housing the kings of Siam since the 17th century. There is something eerily familiar with the building compared to our old style houses here, but I guess that adds to the allure of the place. I ended my day with a visit to Patpong during the night. Bangkok literally transforms into a different animal once the sun goes down J. It is also much easier to travel when the sun isn’t bearing down on your back. Patpong is known as a red light district for horny GI’s some decades ago and it still is, but it also has surprisingly turned itself into a family tourist spot with its thriving night market & restos abound. The market is littered with souvenirs & knick knacks to content the hungry visitor & for those hungry for something else, there are the countless gogo bars in every direction you take.

The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace
Inside the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Inside the Temple of the Reclining Buddha

I always make it a point to visit the national museum on every country I visit, & I fulfilled that promise on my 2nd day in Bangkok. I was a bit disappointed that their museum wasn’t air-conditioned like other museums considering the sweltering heat in Thailand, but you cannot deny the amount of artifacts on display showing the rich culture of the Thais. The museum exhibits art & history of the country, but majority of the displays are about lord Buddha, & his life & times. Next was Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This was the climax of the trip for me as there is no other image as iconic or representative of Thailand, as the giant golden Buddha lying down on its side, adorned in gold. Upon closer inspection, the level of intricacy on the statue is undeniably complex, as the Buddha is adorned with religious symbols too complex to describe. Wat Traimit was my next destination, where the main attraction is the world’s largest solid gold statue of Buddha. Unlike other statues of Buddha wherein he is only gold plated, the figure here is made with solid gold, so it appeals to both devotees of Buddhism & admirers of the precious metal. To end the day, I visited ‘Wat Saket’ or to foreigners ‘The Golden Mount’. Prepare your cardio as there will be a lot of climbing involved as the structure resembles a hill so there will be a lot of stairs to reach the top. On top of the mount is a serene altar to Buddha & a gift shop for tourists to remember their visit by.

Bangkok National Museum display
Bangkok National Museum display
The bottom level of the hill-high Golden Mount
The bottom level of the hill-high Golden Mount

On my last day in Thailand, I was curious to see the much talked about floating market, so I took a local khlong tour (canal tour) to go there. Colorful does not give justice as a description of the market as it was rich in food, entertainment, musicians & merchants, capturing the heart & soul of old Siam. I spent most of my time binge eating on street food & buying food stuffs as gifts back home. I suggest you make time in your itinerary to visit this place, since your trip would be incomplete without it. Later in the afternoon, I left for the Hualamphong train station, heading to Nong Khai, on my way to Vientiane, Laos.

The Floating Market
The Floating Market

Some final words before I end this guide for those planning on visiting the city: (1) The Thais love their king so DO NOT say anything negative about the monarchy! (2) It gets very hot in Bangkok, even hotter here in manila by 2-3 degrees so bring light clothing & cold water on your journeys. (2) If you’re a woman, remember to dress appropriately when visiting temples. The monks will provide skirts if you forgot & are wearing short shorts, but to avoid the hassle, just come prepared. (4) The ping pong shows in Patpong are a scam, there are no two ways about it. The bouncer at the entrance will say it’s just 1000 Baht, but when you bill out it will be up to 10,000 Baht, so do not enter!!! The reason is that there are hidden fees everywhere so beware. (5) Thai food is super spicy, so prepare your palette & gastrointestinal tract for it.

Nothing is left for me to say except, enjoy the Las Vegas of Asia!

day time duration activity destination description of activity description of location
day 2 11:50PM 02:00AM 1hr 10min travel Bangkok hub hostel commute from airport to hotel
day 2 02:00AM 07:00AM 5hr rest sleep
day 2 07:00AM 07:30AM 30min explore familiarize with area
day 2 07:30AM 08:00AM 30min meal breakfast
day 2 08:00AM 08:30AM 30min travel Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) travel to Wat Arun via taxi
day 2 08:30AM 10:00AM 1hr 30min sightseeing Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) explore Wat Arun Also known as the Temple of Dawn, is an iconic temple at the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, right next to the Navy Base. The temple is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm and the entrance ticket costs 50 Bath (Thai people don’t pay).
day 2 10:00AM 10:15AM 15min travel Wat Phra Kaew travel to Wat Phra Kaew via MRT
day 2 10:015AM 11:45AM 1hr 30min sightseeing Wat Phra Kaew explore Wat Phra Kaew The temple’s compound is opened from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, the entrance ticket costs 500 Bath (Thai people can enter for free) and it allows you to visit both the temple and the Grand Palace. If you want to visit the Wat Phra Kaew remember that shorts and sleeveless t-shirt aren’t allowed. If you do arrive with short pants you’ll be forced to rent some clothes at the entry. It’s not expensive but you may lose around five minutes on the queue.
day 2 11:45AM 12:30PM 45min meal lunch
day 2 12:30PM 12:35PM 5min travel The Grand Palace travel to the grand palace
day 2 12:35PM 02:00PM 1hr 25min sightseeing The Grand Palace explore the grand palace A complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782.
day 2 02:00PM 02:30PM 30min travel Bangkok hub hostel travel to hotel
day 2 02:30PM 03:30PM 1hr rest sleep/rest
day 2 03:30PM 04:00PM 1hr travel any impromptu destination travel
day 2 04:00PM 06:00PM 3hr explore any impromptu destination explore
day 2 06:00PM 07:00PM 1hr meal dinner
day 2 07:00PM 08:00Pm 1hr travel Bangkok hub hostel travel to hotel, end of day
day 3 08:00AM 08:30AM 30min meal breakfast
day 3 08:30AM 09:00AM 30min travel The National Museum Bangkok travel to national museum
day 3 09:00AM 10:30AM 1hr 30min sightseeing The National Museum Bangkok explore national museum The main branch museum of the National Museums in Thailand and also the largest museum in Southeast Asia
day 3 10:30AM 10:40AM 10min travel Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) travel to temple of reclining Buddha
day 3 10:40AM 12:30PM 1hr 40min sightseeing Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) explore temple of reclining Buddha Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived. Home to more than one thousand Buddha images.
day 3 12:30PM 01:30PM 1hr meal lunch
day 3 01:30PM 01:45PM 15min travel Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) travel to temple of golden Buddha
day 3 01:45PM 03:15PM 1hr 30min sightseeing Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) explore temple of golden Buddha The world’s largest solid gold statue, with a weight of 5.5 tons (5,500 kilograms). It is located in the temple of Wat Traimit
day 3 03:15PM 03:30PM 15min travel The Golden Mount (Wat Saket) travel to wat saket
day 3 03:30PM 05:00PM 1hr 30min sightseeing The Golden Mount (Wat Saket) explore wat saket Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan is a Buddhist temple (Wat) in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district, Bangkok, Thailand.
day 3 05:00PM 05:30PM 30min travel Bangkok hub hostel travel to hotel
day 3 05:30PM 06:30PM 1hr rest sleep/rest
day 3 06:30PM 07:30PM 1hr travel any impromptu destination travel
day 3 07:30PM 08:30PM 1hr explore any impromptu destination explore
day 3 08:30PM 09:30PM 1hr meal dinner
day 3 09:30PM 10:30PM 1hr travel Bangkok hub hostel travel to hotel, end of day
day 4 07:00AM 07:30AM 30min meal breakfast
day 4 07:30AM 08:00AM 30min travel The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall travel to ananda samakhom hall
day 4 08:00AM 09:30AM 1hr 30min sightseeing The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall explore ananda samakhom hall a former reception hall within Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It now serves as a museum and is from time to time employed for certain state occasions.
day 4 09:30AM 10:00AM 30min travel Khlongs of Thonburi travel to khlongs of thonburi
day 4 10:00AM 11:30AM 1hr 30min activity Khlongs of Thonburi ride khlongs of thonburi Ask to explore Khlong Mon, Klong Bangkok Noi and Klong Bangkok Yai, and also the Royal Barges Museum, which contains splendidly decorated boats and barges completely unique to Thailand. Sound tricky? Try the Khlongs Tour or the Canals Route Tour instead – they’re hassle free and include pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.
day 4 11:30AM 12:30PM 1hr meal lunch
day 4 12:30PM 02:15PM 1hr 45min travel Kwan-Riam Floating Market travel to kwan riam market
day 4 02:15PM 03:45PM 1hr 30min shopping Kwan-Riam Floating Market shopping at floating market one of the central floating markets of Bangkok. It is open Saturday and Sunday and on public holidays from 7 a.m – 9 a.m.
day 4 03:45PM 04:45PM 1hr travel Bangkok hub hostel travel to hotel
day 4 04:45PM 05:45PM 1hr meal dinner
day 4 05:45PM 06:45PM 1hr travel Hualamphong train station travel to the train station
day 4 06:45PM 07:45PM 1hr travel book train ticket