My disclaimer on 36 hours in Bangkok is that no sane person should ever attempt to see Bangkok in 36 hours. You certainly won’t be able to get through the aggressive timeline that I lay out below even if there was no traffic, heat or throngs of tourists to deal with. That being said book a few extra days to see this remarkable city and learn the in’s and out’s of the city’s mass transit system because bypassing it will immediately change the way you feel about this Asian metropolis. In fact if you really take the time to enjoy Bangkok you will find quiet wat’s off the beaten path and tree lined neighborhoods that provide a much needed respite from the chaotic city that surrounds you.
1) RELEASE THE BIRDS
Visit Wat Indrawiharn and the 32 meter (over 100 feet) standing Buddha, which is the largest Buddha in the world. To get your weekend off to a good start you can release birds, which is supposed to increase ones positive karma in this life thus leading to a better life in the next incarnation.
2) GOLDEN MOUNT AT THE GOLDEN HOUR
A visit to Wat Saket known as the Golden Mount for sunset offers you a 360 degree panoramic view of Bangkok. This popular mount was once the highest point in the city and is worth the climb to the golden chedi for which it is named.
3) GRAB A BUCKET
After a quick introduction to the city take a tuk tuk to Khao San Road and experience the neon signs and cheep drinks in this tourist mecca. The food is affordable and the people watching is second to none, you can even take in the sights while listening to some of your favorites from Johnny Cash and the like.
4) GRAND PALACE GRANDEUR
Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace are an obligatory stop on everyone’s Bangkok tourist itinerary for good reason. This incredible temple complex has so much gold you might want to bring your sunglasses. The main attraction is the ornate Temple of the Emerald Buddha (that despite it’s name is actually made of Jade), which was initially the Royal Chapel of the Chakri Dynasty. Allow enough time to explore the entire complex, you might also consider hiring a guide at the entrance for more explanation on what you are seeing. Appropriate dress (shoulders covered and pants or long skirt for women; no shorts for men) is strictly enforced. Admission: 350 baht. Ferry stop: Tha Chang (N9).
4) RECLINING BUDDHA
Wat Pho is just across the street from the Grand Palace and is another inevitable stop on any tourist itinerary. It is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It houses more than a thousand Buddha images and one of the largest, taking in the massive reclining Buddha is humbling as the mother of pearl feet alone are 15 meters high. You could spend an entire day exploring the 100+ pagodas of Wat Pho or getting a Thai massage at their world famous school, but Bangkok has a lot more to see. From the Grand Palace walk around the block and take three left turns from the entrance, open daily 9am to 5 pm, admission 30 baht.
5) SISTINE CHAPEL OF SE ASIA
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is one of the best kept secrets in Bangkok. The admission for this incredible site is included in the ticket for the Grand Palace yet many tourists skip it as we had the entire place to ourselves. The jewels in the throne hall are unbelievable and the frescoes rival those of the Sistine Chapel. Do not miss this site! Appropriate dress (shoulders covered and long skirt- you can’t wear pants for women; no shorts for men) is strictly enforced. They do sell wrap skirts for 40 baht at admission.
6) A LITTLE CULTURE
The Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center should be included on any traveler’s itinerary if for no other reason than to enjoy the architectural marvel that it is while taking advantage of the air conditioning. The exhibits are free and the art is a true reflection of the ever evolving Thai culture. We particularly enjoyed the artists in residence as well as the shops that make this more than just a museum. Free admission Siam Square stop on the Skytrain.
7) FOOD COURT DINNER
In the United States eating at a mall food court would be the fast track to obesity, but in Asia some of the best and most affordable food can be found in the mall. After your trip to the Arts and Cultural Center just walk next door to Siam Paragon and take in the upscale stores of this shopping behemoth before grabbing dinner on the ground floor. You’ll need to purchase a card with credit as none of the vendors take cash, but don’t worry you can get a refund for what you don’t spend.
8) A FRAGRANT MARKET
Colorful and captivating, the Pakklong Flower Market is best seen at night when the vendors are busy and new shipments arrive. Taking in the sights, smells and sounds of this nightly market is a sensory experience.
9) WAT ARUN
Named for Aruna, the Hindu god of dawn this is the perfect early morning visit. The distinctive 70 meter prang is embellished with ceramic tiles and porcelain. The steep, white knucle climb to the top of the prang affords you with a fantastic view of the Chao Phraya River. Admission is 100 baht and it is located at ferry stop: Tha Tien (N8).
Locally known as Yaowaraj, Chinatown is home to one of the most dynamic and vibrant commercial districts in Bangkok. Just trying to make your way down the sidewalk packed with vendors is an experience. At the end of Chinatown you will find Wat Traimit, which is the only major temple in this area. It is home to the giant golden Buddha a three-meter, five ton, 700-year-old Sukhothai style seated gold statue.
IF YOU GO:
The Green House in Bangkok is a great place to stay and about as affordable as you’re going to get. It runs about 600 baht a night with a private bathroom, air conditioning and free wifi. It is right in the heart of the action on a street that runs parallel to Khao San Road.