Here’s what to do in Bangkok if you only have 48 hours
With 10.7 million people, Bangkok, Thailand is an incredible and massive undertaking of a city. A seemingly endless sprawl of low-rise buildings punctuated by massive skyscrapers and quiet temples, delicious food and lively bars everywhere, there are endless ways to spend your days exploring what BKK has to offer. Unfortunately, most tourism in Thailand consists of travelers who only stop in Bangkok for a few days to enter or leave the country. So what to do when you only have 48 hours in Bangkok?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Bangkok, so I know its ins and outs well. One of the main challenges in getting to know the city in a short burst is the sheer size of the place and the traffic that tends to flood it, making it difficult to get anywhere quickly unless it’s is not on a Sky Train route (more on the one below). However, travel to Thailand has dropped significantly since the pandemic, which has noticeably reduced traffic and crowds. In any case, it is important to take travel into account in your plans. To that end, here’s a solid two-day itinerary.
Where to stay in Bangkok
If you are planning to visit Thailand and want to stop in Bangkok, most tourists find a hotel or Airbnb in the area of Khao San Road or Rattanakosin in the center of the city. Most of the main attractions and temples are located here, as well as several streets with lively nightlife opportunities, so it’s a good option if you’re looking to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
However, I suggest staying in the Bang Rak section of Sathorn, an upscale neighborhood just south of the tourist areas. It’s both directly on the Sky Train route known as BTS and across the river at a ferry dock. Between these, you can reach all of the following recommendations in 20 to 45 minutes via public transport.
Visit Wat Arun and the Grand Palace
These superb temples (or “wats”) are a must in Bangkok. They are both stunning works of vibrant architecture that I would stack alongside any of the wonders of the world.
Seeing the two complexes in their entirety can take some time, but luckily they are essentially next to each other. If you’re staying in Bang Rak, a 20-minute ferry ride will take you to Wat Arun for 20 baht (about $0.60). From there, you just need to take another boat straight across the river to the Grand Palace on your own.
It’s going to be hot, so after Arun, I strongly advise you to take an ice cream break at Principality ice cream. When you’re done at the palace, you’ll have walked for several hours, so you’ll probably be hungry. Time to head just south to Chinatown. Here you will find a dizzying array of tasty street food options. My advice: Eat small portions from a bunch of different carts.
Bar hop through Watthana (and maybe Nana)
Watthana is a trendy and up-and-coming district located in the eastern part of the city, near the Thong Lor Skytrain stop. There are lots of cool bars and clubs there. I recommend Thaipioka to drinks before heading to 12×12 to see who is DJing.
If you’re feeling risky, head to Nana Plaza late at night. Essentially, it’s a red-light district under one roof. Originally a shopping mall, it is now home to go-go clubs, bars that double as brothels, and three hotels with hourly rates.
Relax at Mont d’Or
You may be feeling a little more uncomfortable today, so you need to start with a solid breakfast. Thai breakfast at Bang Rak Cafe (Not only) another cup is one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in several months across six countries.
You can spend a pleasant afternoon on the Mont d’Or, a hill in the center of the city surmounted by the Wat Saket temple. The path here is flanked by an array of small temples, art and statues. It’s a laid back, peaceful place to sweat all the stuff you did in Nana. The surrounding neighborhood also allows for quality explorations.
Go home to freshen up, then eat at Bang Rak Food Center, a collection of food stalls tucked away behind Robinson’s department store. There is something for everyone here. Alternatively, walk down Charoen Krung Road just opposite the department store and sample the offerings from the various food carts and stalls dotted along the way.
Shop and eat at Asian, then bar hop along the Rattanakosin River
As the sun sets, head south to a ferry stop for an evening of shopping and tasty food at Asian on the Riverfront. Presided over by a Ferris wheel and an old-fashioned sailing schooner, this trendy market offers an extremely wide range and is home to a few dozen very varied restaurants.
End the night by heading north (by ferry if it’s early, taxi if not) to the Rattanakosin Riverside, where you’ll find a slew of bars with great views of Wat Arun, lit up at night. Drinks tend to be a bit overpriced along this stretch, but you’re paying for the view. And besides, you’re on vacation.
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