When you think of Bangkok, what you see is pretty much what you get: it is crowded, it is a little crazy, it is very exciting, and it has something for everyone. You can visit ancient sites and in the same day go a modern shopping mall. It can be a bit overwhelming, which is why, especially if you have children, you need to go into it with a plan.
Bangkok serves as a central point for much of life in Thailand and for many vacations. You’ll be able to hop a plane, train, boat, or bus to just about anywhere else.
But when you’re in Bangkok proper? Here are some of the top things to do:
1. Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)
The giant Golden Buddha statue that many tourists visit isn’t here because people want it to be. In fact, in the 1950s, the East Asiatic Company wanted to remove the temple so they could build there. However, the Buddha, which was covered in plaster, proved to be too heavy for the crane that they were using. They dropped it and left it there. When they were trying to move it, a crack appeared. Since it was the rainy season, they couldn’t try for a long time. When some Monks walked by, the noticed that through the crack, they could see gold. They took the plaster off to reveal a 2.5 meter Buddha cast from 5.5 tons of solid gold.
No one really knows where the statue comes from, but most date it back to the Sukhothai period because it was common to conceal valuable figurines. The statue now attracts quite a tourist crowd.
2. Khao San Road
If you are looking for something that you don’t have to plan too much for, you might want to take a trip to Khao San Road. There is so much to see that kids love to meet people, look at the toys and souvenirs, and maybe eat some food. This part of Bangkok is beautiful, colorful, and packed with tourists from every corner of the world.
You will need to be patient because there are many people here and some lines can take a while, but it will be worth it when you taste authentic food and listen to the amazing variety of music. Make sure you are on the lookout for deals and for some things that are a little overpriced. What you’ll find is everything from cheap electronics to traditional Thai clothing.
3. Grand Palace
If historical sites are for you, there is one you definitely need to go to in Bangkok with your family, that is the Grand Palace. This is a compound that is so beautiful and decadent that you’ll be surprised you don’t hear more about it. It is spectacular and home to the Way Phra Kaeo, which is home to the Jade Buddha.
To avoid hassles, there is a Grand Palace tour that will explain what you are seeing, as it can be difficult to really understand what you are seeing. The tours do last for quite some time, so you will want to reserve half of your day to go here.
4. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
The Damnoen Saduak is a famous floating market that is just outside of Bangkok that will leave you with some unending memories. The popularity of floating markets in Bangkok can’t be overstated, but many of them have become tourist traps. This one, however, allows Bangkok to keep the “Venice of the East” title. There is a touristy tint here, but you can still get some good deals on delicious food and interact with the locals.
The best way to see this floating market is to go on a day trip from Bangkok, which can take anywhere between 5-9 hours, depending on the company.
5. Wat Pho
Located right near the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a great place to walk off some of the food you have no doubt eaten in Bangkok. This temple was built by King Rama I and it is the oldest one in Bangkok. Many go here to heal and look back on Thailand’s first university. You can get a massage or learn about the traditional Thai medicine. The prices here are a little high, but you are getting a world class experience.
Wat Pho is probably best known for the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which is a statue that is so humongously big that you cannot see it all at once. It is 45 m long and 15 m high, and you can’t really get far away enough to see it. His feet are particularly interesting as they are inlaid with precious stones.
6. Giant Swing
One of the most eye catching and beloved tourist attractions is right in the middle of a busy square in front of Way Suthat. It is a 27 m high teak frame that forms a Giant Swing. While this used to be the site of a religious ceremony every year to help bring in a plentiful rice harvest, they don’t do this anymore. Teams of three would take turns to balance on a narrow board and be swung 25 m or more off of the ground to go “up to Heaven” where they would then try to catch a bag of silver coins in their teeth.
This site is used for many public artists and performers for you to take in on a quick trip.
7. Wat Arun
If you climb to the top just before the sunset, you are going to get the most beautiful view of the sunset over the Chao Praya River. Make sure to bring your camera because you really won’t see anything like this again. You may have to do some climbing if you want to get the best view, so it might not be a great place for younger children unless you have something to strap them to your back.
8. National Museum & Wang Na Palace
The old Wang Na Palace stands just as it was as a testament to Thai history. You can see ceramics, games, weaponry, musical instruments, regalia, and more, which could take you hours alone just to see it.
9. Wat Suthat
If you go to the Great Swing, you will want to take a few steps more and go to Wat Suthat. This is one of the oldest and most beautiful Buddhist temples in Bangkok. There were three kinds that worked on its construction: Rama I, Rama II, and Rama III.
Many visitors love it for its architecture while some believe that it has a more peaceful feeling than some of the other temples around. It isn’t as popular with tourists so you are more likely to find that healing and religious experience that you are looking for when you visit a temple.
10. Chatuchak Market
The weekend market known as Chatuchak Market is the largest one in the world. Shoppers can find everything they want for themselves or for others – from some of the best street foods to beautiful jewelry to religious icons. There are well over 15,000 stalls that offer just about anything. It is a great place to go to see some of the local culture as well as see all of the tourists that meet here.
Walking around this market could take all day, so make sure you have enough time scheduled into your day.
Bonus: Safari World
Thailand is one of the best places in the world to go for up close and personal interactions with animals. One of the best destinations for nature and animal lovers is Safari World. In fact, it is so great that some people will travel just to see this attraction! There are multiple animal shows all day that focus on entertaining children. You can see them knowing that that these animals are well taken care of and loved by their handlers.
Of course, there are also plenty of opportunities for photos (including one with an orangutan!) and another with a tiger cub sitting on your lap. It has all of the things that you’ve come to expect from a zoo-type atmosphere including restaurants that offer worldly cuisines and tons of souvenir shopping.
No matter what, make sure to take advantage of all Bangkok has to offer. Your family will be able to enjoy things inside and outside that will make their vacation complete.