Walking around Bangkok, I’ve definitely experienced foul smells from remnants of food and oils coming from streetfood in puddles at the side of the road. This time however, the air pollution was definitely more of an assault on the senses. Earlier this month, Bangkok cracked the list of the top 10 cities with the foulest air on the planet. The smiling patterns on face masks couldn’t disguise the fact that fine particulate matter is particularly toxic. Needless to say, it’s not the foul smells of hot sewage nor the air pollution that lures people to Bangkok. It’s the cheap massages and night markets. It’s the outdoor restaurants, dimly lit bars and all their beautiful feels.
Yes! Bangkok’s charming side is undeniable, and I’ve rounded up a list of things to do in Bangkok that’s perfect for any kind of traveler.
1. Chinese New Year Celebrations
If you happen to be visiting Bangkok in February, then Yaowarat Road is a good place to check out for the Chinese New Year celebrations. A bucket list check for me, spending it in China Town Bangkok – the largest celebration that happens outside of China- was very festive!
Yoawarat Road, Chinese Red Lanterns, and Worshipers at a Temple.
For the celebration, expect to snack on lots of deep fried snacks and moon cake whilst watching Chinese acrobats and dragon dances. Marvel at the gilded light tunnels and Feng Shui wishing trees, as the entire street comes to life with crowds of worshipers, exploding firecrackers and street fanfare.
2. Take a walk and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Bangkok
East meets West at a Bangkok intersection.
What better way to get to know a city? In Bangkok, most streets have a little footpath next to them, so it’s conducive for exploration by foot. There’s always a hive of activity and lots to see and experience. From narrow lanes and wooden houses, Sino-Euro style shops and antique cafes – to vintage trucks and spicy scents. From yesteryear old pictures, nostalgic wall murals from a Thai old era and boat noodles from open sided vendor carts. To benches from old theaters and tourists buying tropical fruit. If it gets too hot, be sure to stop for a cold drink or a Matcha Thai or bubble tea at a 7-11 – there’s one at pretty much every corner.
Bangkok on foot brings to life a unique city where the familiar and the exotic collide. It’s definitely worth the smiles, the tree hugs and the traffic; but maybe not so much the the strong overpowering smells that often catch you unaware — like durian on steroids.
Chatuchak Park Bangkok.
3. Visit one of it’s many Temples
The best views aren’t always from up high. Ditch the shopping mall and visit one of Bangkok’s many temples with rich history from the past. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to enjoy the pleasures and artistic expression within the multitude of temples scattered around Bangkok. As is true Thai custom, be sure to leave your shoes at the door and walk barefoot across the polished teak floors. As many locals do, you can leave a garland of jasmine for prosperity and divine favour.
A temple with a Golden Mount that rises high above the rest of the temple grounds.
4. Visit the Asiatique Mall at the Riverfront
A ferris wheel, called Asiatique Sky and essentially a scaled-down version of the likes of the London Eye.
Take a boat ride at night on the Chao Phraya river as you witness the golden city of Bangkok shimmering in the background. Dock off at Asiatique open-air mall – a space that successfully combines 2 of the most popular shopping experiences in Bangkok city: a night bazaar and a shopping mall. It provides a retro ambiance and was designed to invoke nostalgia for the 1900s. A safe bet for a romantic evening out I would say!
the Riverfront houses souvenir shops, fashion stores, restaurants and a beer garden.
5. Take a road trip to Pattaya.
If you’ve come to Thailand in search of beaches and pool side lounging then Pattaya will not disappoint.
About an hour and a half away from Bangkok is Pattaya. Whenever people think of Pattaya what immediately comes to mind are ladyboys, risqué shows and drunk tourists. Or the infamous “Walking Street” considered one of the naughtiest streets in the whole of Thailand – and for good reason.
Walking Street Pattaya.
Aside from the many side streets full of bars, nightclubs, go-go bars, restaurants and beer bars, Pattaya does have a lot more to offer.
Such as crystal blue waters and bright sandy beaches and some of the best sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.
As this post comes to an end, I’m left reminiscing about Bangkok’s many contrasts. The sweet scents of this city mixed with its toxic exhaust fumes. The juxtaposition of old and new, the past and the present, hi-tech and spontaneous, sacred and profane. In a sense, typically emblematic of everyday life here – or perhaps anywhere else for that matter 🙂