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Things to do in Bangkok when you visit for the first time

It is easy to feel at a loss when you arrive in Bangkok. Here are eight tips for first-time visitors to this bustling and exotic capitol of Thailand. Whether you want to enjoy the view, try the street food or see grand architecture, we have the latest hot tips for you.

Bangkok: Exotic, strange and very very busy. You will love it. Credit: Vagabond Sweden

1. Boat trip on the Chao Phraya River

No trip to Bangkok is really complete until you have experienced the city from the water. The mighty Chao Phraya River cuts through the buildings as a cavernous artery. On the river there is always stuff going on, people commute, taxi boats plowing between the river sides, goods are sold on floating markets, things are transported and people live literally on the water. The river is also invaluable as a means of personal transport, it is simple and refreshing to move between city parts via water in the giant city.

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A view of the Chao Phraya River. Credit: Hasachai Boon-Nuang

2. Vertigo and Moon bar

Nowhere is the city so blisteringly beautiful – and refreshing  as when viewed from one of Bangkok’s many rooftop bars. The city is really at the top of the list when it comes to offering the visitor refined views as companion to your favorite cocktail. My first choice is always the Vertigo and Moon Bar located at the top of the fine hotel, Banyan Tree. Here you can sit for hours and sip your favorite drink and watch as the night takes over the city.

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A breathtaking and unforgettable evening view of Bangkok Photo credit: Vertigo and Moon Bar.

3. The culinary thrills

No city in the world is as good for finding delicious street food as Bangkok. Chinatown is a great area of course, but everywhere in the city there are places where you can eat great food without the frills. Districts and streets to circle on the map in your quest for street food are Banglamphu, Sukhumvit, Silom, Sathorn and SaphanLueng. Another favorite is just outside the Lumpini Park where food stalls are many and great.
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Street food stall in Chinatown, Bangkok. Credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

 4. The BACC

In all this historical splendor and urban frenzy, there are also small oases for those who are interested in contemporary art. The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, BACCis just such an oasis, maybe the best the city has to show. Here you will find exciting art, music, theater, film and design from the country’s creative elite. You can hang out in the cafe or restaurant after your round of the exhibitions, or check out the fine bookstore.

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Credit: The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

5. Chatuchak

If you are the least bit intrigued by bustling local markets, you will thrive at ChatuchakThe world’s largest market is so packed with things that you can walk around for hours and be both seduced and dismayed. Animals, souvenirs, food, jewelry, clothes and knickknacks are available from the many thousands of market stalls. Here you will, of course, find really good street food too. One should not rush through Chatuchak. The experience will be so much greater if you talk with the vendors, hang at the food stalls, roam a bit haphazardly. Don’t miss the art department where talented local artists display and sell their works.

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Chatuchak market in Bangkok, the biggest market in the world.

6. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace is really eye-catching, impressive with its gold draped architecture, no expense have been spared on this magnificent building. Wat Phra Kaew is the country’s most sacred shrineA good tip is to come here early in the day, before the tourist onslaught.

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The magnificent Grand Palace in Bangkok

7. Chinatown


Seething, flashing and bustling Chinatown is a must during your Bangkok visit. Here, you should intentionally get lost among streets draped with colored lanterns, bobbing rice lights, colorful billboards and through shops sumptuous with oddities and delights. Gold traders and merchants crammed in the frenetic heat that just rises as the hours pass. In Chinatown, you’ll find exceptional food as well, make sure to be hungry when you come here, so that you can eat your way through the streets.

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A typical market stall in Chinatown.

8. Wat Pho


When you visit the Grand Palace you should not miss the opportunity to also visit nearby Wat Pho. Wat Pho was built by King Rama I and is the city’s oldest temple. What most people want to see here is the sleeping Buddha, a 135 ft long and 45 ft high, dazzling and a bit clunky statue of Buddha sleeping. For a full understanding of this fascinating statue, it’s meaning and history you should really hire a guide.

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The giant sleeping Buddha in Bangkok