Songs like Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok and movies like The Hangover Part 2 showcase Bangkok as a crazy fun city that you don’t need to spend too much time in (because it could get you in trouble). So the perfect place to honeymoon, right? Next stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world is Bangkok! If you missed our other Thailand posts, click here for Chiang Mai Part 1 and Part 2 and Phuket Part 1 and Part 2. Bangkok is an enjoyable city full of culture and nightlife but small enough that you can experience most of what it has to offer in a short duration of time. In this post, we’ll be covering transportation, hotel, temples, and nighttime activities.
We were flying domestic from Phuket Thailand to Bangkok Thailand and used Thai Air. The best part of the flight was the meal surprisingly. They served these hot-pocket style margherita calzones that were so tasty. For an hour-and-twenty-five-minute flight, we were surprised they fed us anything. Flights within Thailand are so cheap too! We only paid $37 USD per person. For that price, it’s absolutely worth it to see several cities, not to mention that it may be cheaper flying internationally out of Bangkok because it’s a larger airport hub than some other big cities in Thailand. Adding a few days’ stay in Bangkok may save you some dough in the long run on flights alone.
After the flight landed at 3:30pm, we took a train to our hotel. As always, it’s important to us that our hotel is close to public transit so we can avoid taxis. We booked the Hotel Solo Sukhumvit 2, which was walking distance from the train and sported a modern lobby and a spacious room.
- Although we were near transit, in hindsight, the biggest downfall was that we were too far from the attractions that we wanted to see. We had selected a hotel that was close to a train station, but if we had selected a hotel that was closer to the temples, then we wouldn’t have needed to go on trains at all. Our train rides didn’t take that long, but it was extra travel time that took away from us enjoying the city. So our major advice for Bangkok (or any city you stay in for about 48 hours) would be to stay in walking distance from your attractions, if affordable.
- The second downfall is that our hotel included a nice rooftop pool and we didn’t even have time to go in it. We only searched for hotels with pools, so perhaps there would have been more availability, cheaper rates, or options closer to the temples had we not filtered by that amenity. If you are visiting a city for a brief stay, just skip the extra search filters. You’ll hardly spend much time in the hotel anyway.
By the time we checked in, unpacked, and got ready for the night, it was already starting to sunset. I had learned of a riverside market called Asiatique The Riverfront that had dining, shopping, and some rides. A night market sounded like the perfect activity for our first night. We took public transportation there, which included two above-ground trains followed by a brief ferry ride. The total trip was about 50 minutes. The trains seemed older than the trains in China and Hong Kong, but it was actually really nice arriving by ferry over to the attraction, because the route was more scenic than if we took a taxi.
We were ready for dinner, so we went straight to the BKK Food Fest area. There were many vendors with booths of varying options. We first walked around to see the options and create a game-plan, then we got to work ordering and eating our small bites. We ate so many different things! Lots of little deep-fried sea foods, so hubby was happy, but there were all sorts of choices. The food was tasty, we left full, and we did not get food poisoning. Hubby had just recovered from a bad bout of food poisoning from Phuket, so we were super grateful that the newly introduced food didn’t bring the illness back. There there were some adventurous scorpion and insect options too, though we didn’t partake.
After we ate, we walked around the rides area that included bumper cars, a ferris wheel, a carousel, and other smaller amusement rides. Then we headed indoors to check out the shopping. There are some storefront options of chain stores, and then there are booths like a real night market. They sold all types of goods, so we picked up some souvenirs as we walked around.
We finished shopping and decided to go back the exact way we arrived. Since Asiatique was soon closing, there was a long line for the ferry to leave. We figured we’d wait so we could experience the river at night. It moved pretty fast, and soon enough we were on the two trains and then walking to our hotel. It was close to midnight when we arrived back and we were waking for an early start, so we went straight to bed.
Before our trip, I had done a lot of research on what there is to do in Bangkok. I read about the several main temples and attractions that, if timed out perfectly, you could see all in one day. So my mission became creating the most perfect one-day Bangkok temple itinerary!
Start your day with an early wakeup, and either eat breakfast at your hotel or on your walk to the attractions.
The first stop will be the Grand Palace which opens at 8:30am daily. I recommend you arrive 15 minutes early to get in the queue to purchase tickets, which are free of charge for Thai natives and ฿500 TB ($16.30 USD) for foreigners. These tickets provide access to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.
The site was very busy in the morning. Lots of tourists like ourselves trying to start their morning with the Grand Palace. But don’t let that scare you away though. I’m sure it’s just as busy all day long, because it was definitely worth the stop. The site is massive. There are many buildings and beautifully manicured garden areas to explore and take photos of. We first stopped at the Emerald Buddha, which is a large meditating Buddha made from a solid piece of green jade, clothed in gold and diamonds. This attraction was the most crowded. We took our shoes off, walked in, saw the buddha, and then exited. It was very unique from the rest of the buddha figures we had seen in Thailand though. Had it not been so crowded inside, we may have spent more time looking around.
Just after seeing the Emerald Buddha, it started to downpour, and the rain did not let up for a short while. We took refuge in one of the open structures and waited out the storm. The storm definitely helped to lessen the crowded morning rush, because after it stopped there were so many less people on site. We continued to walk around and explore the grounds. The Grand Palace that was once lived in by kings has fantastic architecture and garden courtyards. We didn’t go inside any of the Palace buildings, but it was still neat seeing them up close.
Next stop was the Queen’s Textile museum which showcased many outfits Queen Sirikit had worn, with photos of her at outings wearing them. I loved seeing all the vintage outfits, hats, and bags. While we were visiting, the Textile Museum had a special exhibit celebrating the 200-year-old friendship between the U.S. and Thailand. We hadn’t known what the exhibit was when we entered the museum, but it was cool we got to experience something so relatable! Not sure if they do this for all exhibits, but don’t miss the interactive area on the first floor left side. If all exhibits are as wonderfully done as the one we experienced, this museum is a must-see! It’s totally indoors and a nice air-conditioned break from the heat. We spent around an hour in the museum alone, but in total you could spend two to three hours at the Grand Palace. Had we not been rained out, we probably would have spent more time exploring the grounds.
Next stop was to the Wat Pho Temple which was a 17-minute walk from the Grand Palace.
Wat Pho Temple or Temple of the Reclining Buddha opens daily at 8:00am. Upon arrival, you will wait at a ticket booth to purchase your ฿100 TB ($3.26 USD) ticket, then you are allowed entry into the large property. We first got in the queue for the large golden reclining Buddha. This was my favorite temple of the day, because the Buddha was so large: 160 feet long to be exact! It made for some really great photos. The line snaked us through the building, and along the way you had many opportunities to snag some sweet pics of every angle of the structure. Since you were always walking along the railing, you had unobstructed views for photos. The line brings you down the front then up the back of the long Buddha body.
Although the Reclining Buddha is probably what brings most people to this property, there is so much more to see. We walked around for another good bit of time taking pictures. There were other buildings, statues sprinkled throughout the gardens, and sweet sleepy kitty-cats everywhere (photos at the end)! We spent almost two hours at the property.
Next, we walked right across the street about a minute’s walk to a restaurant called the Tha Tian Store City Lodge. It was a small place but was busy, so we figured they must have some good food. We found the food to be tasty and the service to be good and fast. We didn’t want to spend too much time at lunch, so it perfectly worked into our schedule. Looking at this restaurant’s reviews on Google, I see now that it has mixed reviews. We had a fine time, but if you wanted to check out other options, that whole street is lined with food options. Don’t veer too far, because the ferry is close by and also our next mode of transportation. I’ve read good things about these other options: Krisa Coffee Stop, Krua Khun Kung, and Old Town Café.
This next stretch of time was spent walking from the restaurant down a side street to the ferry, purchasing our ฿4.00 TB ($0.13 USD) ticket, waiting for the boat, boarding, and riding directly across the Chao Phraya River to the next temple. With no waits, this trip is 10 minutes. I have some more notes in the transportation section below to help you speed up the process of finding the ferry.
Our next stop was to the Wat Arun Temple or Temple of the Dawn, which opens daily at 8:30am. When you get off the ferry, you will need to purchase a ticket to enter the grounds for ฿50 TB ($1.63 USD). The way it was built in a tall, towering structure reminded me of the pyramids from Egypt. Unlike some of the other colorful Thai temples we had seen, Wat Arun from a distance looked very white, but as you got closer you began to realize the backdrop of the temple is white with a very intricate pattern of red, blue, green, and yellow mosaic tiles. I found this temple exterior to be the most beautiful. We spent about an hour walking around the grounds.
When we left Wat Arun, we took a ferry back across the river to where we had started, then we transferred to a different ferry line that would take us farther south toward our next destination. There were several stops along the way, so the ride took a little bit of time, but I’ll never complain about a nearly free boat ride!
Next, we headed to the River City Shopping Complex, which is a huge mall that specializes in antiques. We weren’t really in the market for antiques, but our next activity was a dinner cruise that left from the waterfront of this shopping center, so we decided to head there a little early and hang out in the mall. We explored some of the stores which really did sell all types of antique items, and then we stopped at their pharmacy to pick up some essentials we had been running low on.
Then we were ready to cap off the night with a Princess dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River. They suggested you arrive 30 minutes early for the 7:30pm departure. We walked back downstairs pier side, and it was a sea of people! Apparently, our Princess dinner cruise wasn’t the only company leaving from this pier. It took us a few minutes to maneuver through the crowd and find our actual boat. There were these ornately dressed, overly-pleasant hosts that greeted us. They asked for our ticket and in exchange they provided us with a purple orchid and greenery corsage pin and an orange sticker. Each boat company did the same with a different color flower and sticker. Later as they would check everyone in, this would help make it easy to board: wrong flower and sticker, wrong boat! Next, the host took a picture of us. Then, we were welcomed to take a seat and wait for boarding.
The website states that “The River Star Princess Cruise will take you to enjoy the beautiful night scenery on both sides of the Chao Praya River in our cruise seat. The captain of River Star Princess Cruise will be leading the boat up to Rama 8 Bridge and then, you will have an unique opportunity to get some snapshots of two most wonderful night spots in Bangkok, Wat Arun The Temple of Dawn and the Grand Palace & Wat Pra Kaew -The Temple of Emerald Buddha. Time for your dinner under the candle light with “Live Music” in a romantic atmosphere. Delight the Thai & International cuisine in a superb buffet. Enjoy the Thai classical dancing performance and disco on the cruise.”
I recommend you arrive early so you can guarantee a seat right on the water. Hubby and I were seated at a table with other people, but we arrived first, so we sat across from each other and took the river seats. This allowed us to get unobstructed photos without heads or the boat in them. For ฿1,400 TB ($45.66 USD), everything was pretty much included. We had drinks, a huge yummy international buffet spread, live entertainment, and the cruise itself, which allowed us to see all the temples we saw during the day all lit up at night and a great vantage point for photos. We really enjoyed ourselves. While we were eating dessert, the host delivered our framed photo in a cute red frame. While we were dining, they must have printed them and got them all ready as included souvenirs. This was very unexpected and a nice touch to end the evening.
The only disadvantage of the cruise was waiting for a taxi to get back to our hotel. As you can imagine, all the cruises arrived back at the same time, so it was another madhouse on the pier. The taxi stand was an absolute wreck! It took us forever to find our car (hailed via a Thai version of Uber or Lyft) and leave. If I could do this over again, I’d either take a ferry back toward Wat Pho Temple or walk several blocks away from the mall to call a taxi on the street.
By the time our taxi found us, we were exhausted, and just wanting to go back to the hotel to crash. The ride back wasn’t too bad once we were in the car. In hindsight, this was our only night to go and enjoy the rooftop pool, but we were exhausted and just wanted to crash. Walking temples all day and eating a big meal will have that effect on you.
Alternatives for the Itinerary:
- There is definitely a chunk of time between our temples and the dinner cruise—however, you really can’t plan down to the minute because you’ll want to have enough time to walk through each temple property without being rushed. You may take more or less time than we did. So leave some wiggle room and maybe have a backup activity to fill the gap and maximize time if your temples finish fast.
- To fill the gap, you could add an activity such as a longer nice sit-down lunch, a short Thai cooking class, a massage parlor, the National Gallery Bangkok, or a Jim Thompson House tour.
- Our hotel was too far to go there and back between temples and the dinner cruise. It would have been nice to get all dolled up for dinner. Perhaps if you select a hotel closer to the attractions, you can run back, relax poolside, or take a honeymoon siesta, then get freshened up before you head out.
- Even though you may think 8:30am is too early to be at the first temple, and if you have room you can shift everything later, DON’T! It’s literally so hot, you guys – SO HOT IN THAILAND. The earlier in the morning you go, the cooler it will be. We arrived at the shopping mall at the peak of heat for the day, and the air conditioning was welcome.
We woke up and packed up the room. The end of Bangkok was quickly approaching. The next stop on our honeymoon was to a city called Sanya, located on the island of Hainan in China. Due to us flying international, we wanted to be at the airport three hours in advance. Our flight departed at 4:00pm, so we arrived by 1:00pm.
- The Bangkok Skytrain (known as the BTS) and the Bangkok Subway (known as the MRT) are the two most convenient ways to travel around Bangkok. Trains were good, but in my opinion it’s not a large system with enough lines. In comparison, the BTS and MRT in Bangkok only jointly have 5 lines, whereas Beijing and New York City have 20+ lines.
- Ferries were also a great option if traveling along the riverfront. They make multiple stops along the way, so it’s not that quick, but it was nice being on the water. The trickiest thing about the ferry is finding some of the entrance booths to purchase tickets and get on. It’s not as commercialized as you would think. There is not a lot of signage, and some of them sort of look like you are entering a tin shopping or food hut (like a night market booth), not a ferry terminal. We always pre-download maps of the cities we are visiting, so we used Google maps (which was surprisingly reliable and accurate!) to help us find the exact locations of the entrances. We took ferries to get to Asiatique and our dinner cruise.
- Taxis are expensive, but tuk-tuks are even more expensive. There is an Uber/Lyft-like app you can download called Grab. For us, it said “five minutes until pick up” but that easily turned into a 30-minute wait. Maybe it doesn’t take traffic into consideration? if you don’t mind waiting, the Grab app is the cheapest kind of car transit. I recommend you download it before your travels.
- Walking in May just wasn’t an option for us. We tried to walk where we could, but it was so hot. If you visit Bangkok at a cooler time of year, then stay as close to your attractions as possible and walk. It will save you money as well as time waiting for transportation.
- Women must cover up shoulders and knees while visiting sacred temples. It was so hot in May that I decided to wear a sleeveless, below-the-knee dress and then brought a t-shirt along with us that I threw on whenever we were going inside a temple. I just couldn’t bear the heat, being so covered the entire day, so adding the t-shirt layer worked perfectly.
- Sticky mango rice is life. We didn’t eat it nearly enough times in Thailand, and you can hardly find it of the same quality back in America; when you find it, it tastes totally different. I don’t even eat coconut, but I LOVED this dish.
- To avoid illness, don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Only take ice when it has the hole in the center. This is a sign that it may have been processed and purified. If you have access to airport lounges, stock up on a few water bottles that will tide you over until you can purchase bottles at a convenience store.
- The largest market in the world, called Chatuchak Weekend Market, exists in Bangkok, but it’s only open on weekends. We missed it since we visited on a Thursday and Friday and didn’t have a full weekend day to explore. If you visit on a weekend, then maybe add in a day just for shopping and exploring this area of town.
- Bangkok is also known for having fun full-moon rooftop parties. Unfortunately, we weren’t visiting during a full moon, but if you are then definitely look into if your hotel or a local bar is having a party you can attend.
- Be cautious if wanting to purchase Buddha memorabilia. You will see it sold everywhere you turn, but Buddha is a sacred symbol and there are fines or jail time if you are seen to be disgracing the symbol or not following the strict exportation of Buddha rules.
Bangkok is a great stopover if you are headed to a destination in Asia and want to spend a few days in an additional city. We were able to experience multiple iconic temples, enjoy an exhibit on Thailand and American friendship, and have two nights out on the town. Although short-lived, we enjoyed our jam-packed 48 hours in Bangkok.
…Ending on some temple animals for your viewing pleasure…
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