There’s no way you’ll get to experience all the best things to do in Bangkok in just 36 hours, but it’s enough time to get a taste for this addictive city. I’ve actually been to Bangkok 3 times, staying a little longer on every visit. Like many travellers, I assumed Bangkok would be just a stop-over en route from South Africa to the islands, but Bangkok is a must-see destination in its own right.
Bangkok’s incredibly rich cultural history dates all the way back to the 15th century. Back then, the city served as a small trading post but these days, it’s a modern metropolis known for an incredibly vibrant street scene and excellent shopping. If you have an appetite for street food, Bangkok’s night markets will leave you dreaming of Thai flavours long after you return to home turf.
How to spend 36 hours in Bangkok
Bangkok is an electrifying city. The scent of street food bites cooking over the fire mingles with the smell of hot tar in the muggy air. It’s a frenetic, shiny, gritty, bright city that will keep you coming back again and again. As long as you do Bangkok right, you can’t help but love it!
Where to stay in Bangkok
There are well over 2000 hotels in Bangkok, ranging from intimate boutique hotels, to skyscrapers that tower over the bustling city below. I stayed in the Siam @ Siam Bangkok art hotel, which is within walking distance of the famous BMK mall.
Siam @ Siam Bangkok Hotel
The 4-star Siam @ Siam Bangkok design hotel is located within walking distance of the heart of the shopping district, complete with a rooftop infinity pool, free wifi, Malin + Goetz amenities, in-room Marshall bluetooth speakers and Nespresso machines and shower facilities where you can freshen up for your flight home, even after checkout. Their luxurious My Club privilege lounge offers breakfast, high tea and a cocktail happy hour. It’s the perfect base for millennial travellers who want to spend the day exploring before cooling off in a comfortable room in a unique hotel.
Where to eat in Bangkok
R-Haan Restaurant ( 2Michelin Star)
Michelin starred restaurant R-Haan serves authentic Thai flavours in a modern fine dining setting. What better way to explore the flavours of Thailand than in the dining room of a Michelin-recognised restaurant? The set menu encompasses flavours from all over the country, offering you the opportunity to taste many of Thailand’s most famous and traditional dishes. For me, food is the best way to learn about a country, and dining at R-Haan was one of my highlights of all of my visits to beautiful Thailand.
Sukhumvit Soi 38 Night Market
At the Sukhumvit Soi 38 night market, you can get a taste of traditional Thai street food staples like Pad Thai and mango with sticky rice in a unique street food market setting. I visited for the first time back in 2012, and I still dream about the food I had at a plastic table, washed down with an ice cold Singha beer, all those years ago. The night market was recommended by Thai food blogger Bangkok Glutton, and the journey through the Bangkok traffic was well worth it!
The Top 6 Things to do in Bangkok
With just a couple of days in the city, it’s best to plan ahead to make sure you have enough time to see the best Bangkok has to offer. These 6 highlights will give you a glimpse of the city that electrifies visitors and keeps them coming back for more.
1 Mahanakhon SkyBar Bangkok
The Mahanakhon SkyBar offers the absolute best views of Bangkok from the 76th floor of Thailand’s tallest building! If you don’t have time for a drink in the sky, head up to the Mahanakhon Skywalk, where you can step out onto a glass observation deck to view the city from a bird’s eye angle!
2 Suan Pakkad Palace Museum
This museum offers a look traditional Thai architecture and priceless historical artefacts that tell the story of Thailand’s history and heritage. The museum consists of eight traditional wooden structures, which were once the home of Princess Chumbon of Nakhon Sawan.
3 Bangkok China Town
Did you know that the Bangkok is home to the world’s largest China Town? Yaowarat Road, the main road that weaves through stalls selling thousands upon thousands of imported goods, was built in 1891 and is only 1,5km long. This stretch is known as “the dragon”, so-called because of the way it bends and snakes through the shopping district. There’s loads to eat, drink and of course buy, but be aware that the abundance of pretty much everything (including plastic in every form) can be overwhelming. If you’re willing to dip deep though, you can find some really lovely stuff – from woven handbags to trendy hair accessories.
4 Bangkok Floating Market
It’s best to hit the floating market early, before the crowds – and before the heat. Skipping breakfast also means that you’ll be able to indulge in some of the delicious food on offer – if only for the novelty of shopping from a canoe restaurant. The best way to get there is by taking a long-tail boat – a really fun way to explore the waterways and experience an entirely different side to the Bangkok region.
5 Bangkok Railway Market
This crazy market has to be seen to be believed! Along the Maeklong Railway, vendors sell their fresh fish, veggies and flowers from literally on top of the tracks. Several times a day, they pull their goods back from the tracks as the train passes centimetres from their produce – sometimes actually going right over it!
6 MBK Center
Whether you need a pedicure, a bite to eat or a Macbook Pro, you’ll find it at the 8-story MBK Center mega mall. Each of the 8 sprawling floors is dedicated to specific items like clothing and souvenirs (1st floor), gold and accessories (2nd floor) and electronics (4th floor). It feels quite maze-like, so if you see something you love, buy it, because you might get lost trying to find it later!
There is a lot more to see and do in Bangkok, but that’s how I’d spend 36 hours in the capital of Thailand.