Authored by Thijn van Helvoirt
Bangkok’s reputation precedes itself, but however you feel about the Thai capital, it is safe to say that it’s definitely not a boring place.
For me, it was a struggle to like the city. On my first visit I loved it, on my second I hated it. On my third and fourth I was a bit indifferent, and on my latest visit, in February 2018, love blossomed again.
Having spent quite some time in ‘the Venice of the east’ I feel comfortable writing that if you visited Bangkok without liking it, you probably had the wrong guide.
So to help you avoid developing an unhealthy and complicated relationship with Bangkok, here are some tips to make sure your visit to ‘the Sin City of Asia’ (damn, so many nicknames) is going to be a spot on success.
You can also use our three day Bangkok itinerary as a guide for planning out your trip.
Header Image: Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
How to Spend 3 Days in Bangkok
Choosing the Right Temples
Let’s get the big ones out of the way first. I bet that in everything you’ve ever read about Bangkok you were recommended to visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Probably in that order too.
I am not here to tell you those sights suck, but if you only have a few days in Bangkok you can definitely make better choices. If not, you will be temple hopping all day, every day, and miss out on the other incredible places throughout Bangkok.
Once you’ve visited your fifth temple, there’s certainly an unsatisfactory feeling that the shrines might be pretty, but it is a lot of the same. So which ones to pick?
Photo credit: Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Skip the Grand Palace
That’s right, probably the most visited of the lot, skip it.
The Grand Palace is beautiful but even though the grandeur and decorations of the buildings are similar, the Grand Palace isn’t as atmospheric as Wat Pho. And its busy. Very busy.
Add this to the sheer size of the complex and you will have a hard time not spending the better half of a day here. On top of that, it is five (5!) times as expensive as Wat Pho (it costs 500B!).
So instead of doing both, pick one, and pick Wat Pho. The shrines, stupas and buildings are at least equally beautiful, and you can see it all in two hours.
Third on the list of most recommended temples in Bangkok is Wat Arun, and rightfully so. The temple of the dawn is a sight to behold.
The renovations that took about a decade have very recently been finished meaning you can get way better pictures with the temple than those your friends, that visited last year, showed you.
Entrance is only 50B and you can get there by taking the river taxi (Chao Praya) right in front of the entrance of Wat Pho.
Photo credit: Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
One that is probably not on your list is the Golden Mount.
A long winding stair case curls around this man-made hill up to a big golden stupa at the top. Yep, hence the name.
Entrance is 50B and it is located close to the other temples so it’s very easy to combine. Also, it is not overly touristic and the mount gives you a great overview of the city’s riverside.
Pro-tip: If you come from the BTS station Praya Thai you can take the canal-taxi (20B) that stops right in front of the temple (the name of the stop is golden mount, easy enough right?).
From here you simply walk to Wat Pho and Wat Arun, a great way to kickstart your temple-hopping day and taking a couple of different modes of transportation at the same time (taking the canal-taxis is an attraction on its own!).
Chinatown is the place to go if you want to treat your taste buds to a feast. You’ll see dozens of street food stalls lined up along the neon-lit road called Yaowarat.
During the day, Chinatown is a chaotic and dirty place so make sure you arrive between 6PM and about 10PM to get the bustle but not the hustle.
A visit to Bangkok would not be complete without seeing some of its rarities. Pat Pong is at the heart of the red-light district but because it is so notorious, it actually became a safer place.
This is due to curious tourists that are interested to see the spectacle, but not in the services offered. If you want to see a ping pong show, this is the place you should go to.
But even if you don’t, just walking around the area, seeing all the neon, the go-go-bars and the girls in skimpy outfits offering free drinks to get into their bars, is a spectacle on its own.
The only rule you should really adhere to here is: don’t visit the area on your own, especially if you are a man. You will have a very hard time to get rid of all the girls who will think you actually came looking for more than just looking
There are many floating markets around Bangkok and they make for a very interesting visit. Unfortunately, they have become increasingly touristy and the biggest ones are about a 2-hour drive out of town.
If you don’t pick the right market, chances are you end up disappointed. If you use a travel agency you most certainly will be.
I wholeheartedly recommend seeing the less touristy Khlong Lat Mayom market, which can be visited by BTS and tuk-tuk. You can book a 50B boat tour on the spot which not only visits the market itself, but also a couple of minor local sights.
Your 3-day Bangkok Itinerary
Day 1 in Bangkok
Get up early, have breakfast at your hotel and take the BTS Sky train to Praya Thai. Switch to the Canal Taxi which brings you to the Golden Mount. After your visit walk along one of the canals to Wat Pho and get a glimpse of the everyday life of the Banglamphu area residents.
Visit Wat Pho after which, you will be probably be very hungry. Find a nice street side stall (or restaurant) before visiting Wat Arun, which is located at the other side of the river.
By now, you will be exhausted so it’s time to relax. Either head back to your hotel, to lazy at the side of the pool, or head over to Khao San Road (but really actually to Rambuttri road, two streets away and way more atmospheric and cheap) to make the most of happy hour.
When the sun is down, make your way to Chinatown and spend the rest of the evening sampling Thai, Indian and Chinese street food.
Day 2 in Bangkok
Have an early breakfast (yes again!) to see the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. Take the boat tour and see the local sights.
Afterwards head back into the city centre, get some street side lunch (no need to recommend a place, all the food throughout Bangkok is delicious) and find a place to have a nice relaxing massage.
Pro Tip: You’re most probably still acclimatising to the heat and yesterday was a busy day so a slow pace today will do you good.
Once you have finished the complimentary post-massage tea, head over to Khao San Road or your hotel (as long as you choose the other option from what you chose yesterday) to prepare for the night.
After the sun is down, head over to Pat Pong to see what all the talk is about. Before heading over to the go-go bars and ping pong shows you can also check out the Pat Pong night market. Nothing special, but a nice place to buy some ugly souvenirs you don’t want and to muster up courage for the real thing.
Pat Pong will probably leave you with so many impressions that it is safe to say that you will be glad that this is the end of the itinerary. Since you skipped dinner you might want to head over to the 7-11 for a toastie (they toast it on the spot!) before calling it a day.
Photo credit: Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Day 3 in Bangkok
Sleep late and use the rest of the day to get to your next destination or to see one of the sights that you missed out on day 1. Or if you have energy left, check out the next paragraph for some extra tips.
What Did this 3 Days in Bangkok Skip?
A lot actually, which is a good thing. If you leave Bangkok now you will leave on a high note, feeling as though you still have lots to see and be excited to return.
You’ve had a slow pace and diverse itinerary which will keep you stress-free throughout your visit, but somehow you managed to see Bangkok’s prettiest, wildest and most relaxed side. And there was even time to shop for souvenirs!
On your next 3 days in Bangkok you might want to go see the Lumpini Park, one of the huge malls, a sky bar, Jim Thompson House, a Muy Thai match, the green heart of Bangkok or do a cookery course.
Or see the Grand Palace after all..? Anyway, that’s for next time! Nice. Already looking forward to it!
Photo credit: Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
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Hey thank u I’m going to bkk this November only for 3 days
You’re welcome, I’m glad we could set you up with some ideas and tips before your visit. Have a fabulous trip!
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple.
Absolutely Zahid, beautifully written :)
So bright and beautiful, I love it and so mụch detail. I havent, but it’s gorgeous Mapping Megan.
Hope you have the chance to travel at some stage soon, definitely incredible colors throughout the temples :)
Thailand is on my list of places to visit, slowly getting there.
Awesome! The issue with my list is that it grows faster than I can travel lol :D
I super agree with the above suggestions. Also try a sunset dinner cruise. Phra Athit Road and Khao San are worth checking out too.
Glad you enjoyed the post Tyrone, thanks for the sunset cruise suggestion. Will make sure I include Phra Athit Road and Khao San on my trip to Bangkok too :)
My opinion, Bangkok is always worth the time for a first time tourist visit.
Absolutely agree with you :)
My favourite City in the world, plenty to do and see, fantastic food and craft beer venues, Love Bangkok.
Glad to hear you had a fabulous time too!
3 days in Bangkok. Yes!
Glad you enjoyed the post :)
Your probably want at least 3 full days in bangkok maybe even four.
Totally agree Tracee, there’s so much to see and do you could probably easily spend a couple of weeks! But 3-4 days is a good amount of time I think for one trip :)
Totally agree on Wat Arun. This is easily one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The best time of the day for visiting Wat Arun is morning. The sun shines nicely on white tempe and the reflection is perfect, giving a nice look to the temple and souroundings.
Have taken note to visit in the morning when I get to Bangkok myself. Thanks for the tip Nikola :)
We really loved the Grand Palace but it really is an entire day trip, so you’re probably right that it’s not the best choice if you’re there with limited time. It really is a beautiful temple so it’s definitely a shame to miss it, but you’re right, there are tonnes and tonnes of tourists.
Glad you enjoyed your time despite the crowds Peter. No question it’s a beautiful site, it’s sad that such large volumes of tourism can ruin the experience though.
I would add that it’s important to dress appropriately with shoulders and legs covered when you’re visiting any temple. There’s a booming elephant pants economy that exist outside the Grand Palace to come in.
Absolutely J, fantastic advice. Haha I didn’t realize they sold elephant pants outside the Grand Palace, in a way it’s sad that tourists not having enough cultural awareness has sparked a booming business, but good on the locals for recognizing a business opportunity!
Thanks for this itinerary, I might just copy and paste. Planning done :D!
You’re welcome Susan, go for it! Have a great trip :)
Interesting that you had a mixed feeling of emotions on each different trip to Bangkok. How one specific trip plays out really can alter your perceptions of a destination at large, so it’s good to hear that you were open to giving Bangkok another chance. Glad you came back to loving it again after having a couple of rocky experiences in there. I would love to go.
Hope you have the chance to visit soon Racheal. And I agree, a destination can be a totally different experience on the second and third trips, so it’s definitely often worth being open to giving somewhere another chance even if the first trip was a bit mixed.
I like that your recommendations are well paced. I’m always packing far too much into my days :/
I’ve come to find that a slower itinerary usually makes for a more enjoyable trip, because you can take each day with a certain level of flexibility, and really enjoy being in each moment :)
The Golden Mount really is a hidden treasure, fabulous to see it make a first timers itinerary. The place to go if you want a 360° view over the entire city. Visited this place in April 2018 and it was very good, there are a number of steps to get to the top but worth the walk and steps.
Our ticket cost B20, or under $1. The temple at the top contained dozens of Buddhas made of various materials and sizes. The view from above was extensive. The HUGE Golden Mount at the top was certainly meant to make a statement.
So glad you had a fabulous time Kurt, it’s definitely on my list for my first trip! It sounds like the view is quite incredible, thanks for sharing your experience :)
We were lucky enough to be able to see Wat Arun both by day and night. By day, we visited the grounds and took our time visiting the buildings and climbing the central monument. We went to Tha Tien pier and then took the ferry over directly to Wat Arun for only 20 baht each.
The stairs on the central prang are very steep and one must be very careful when climbing and descending. the steep stairs do have meaning though- they represent the difficulties of reaching higher levels of existence. The view of the Chao Phraya river and the rest of the grounds is very beautiful when you do get up there. Also, the popular view of Wat Aurn, as seen from the river appears on the ten baht coin. there are 4 other minor prangs that flag the central prang.
It is amazing as you walk around the grounds and look closely at all the prangs and see all the small pieces of ceramics and porcelain that were used to complete this amazing temple.
If you get a chance to see this exquisite beauty lit up at night like we did on our river cruise, take the chance, it is incredible.
Thanks for sharing your experience Salsajo, glad to hear you had a fabulous time! Yes, everyone has been raving about Wat Arun so I’m really looking forward to organizing my own trip to Bangkok :)
Thanks for the tip on taking a river cruise, sounds like a great way to spend one of the three nights!
Such beautiful photos.
Thanks Jennifer – a mix of photos from both Thijn and Twang Dunga :)