Bangkok is not only the most visited city in the world but also the most popular city for international tourists (https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandratalty/2017/09/26/bangkok-named-most-popular-city-for-international-tourists-in-2017/). For most first time visitors to Thailand, Bangkok is an important part of the trip plan. A typical first-time Thailand trip will include Pattaya along with Bangkok. Pattaya is a mere two-hour bus ride away from Bangkok and the two cities together make for a perfect 5 night – 6 day holiday in Thailand. In this case, one will spend two nights in Pattaya and three in Bangkok. A shorter plan will be of 4 nights 5 days which will make it two nights in Pattaya and 2 in Bangkok. If your plan is to visit Pattaya along with Bangkok, it is better to head to Pattaya directly from the airport in Bangkok. There are several options to go to Pattaya from both Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi Airports. You may read my article on Travel from Don Muang Airport to Pattaya or Bus Service from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Pattaya.
Bangkok in Three Days
Try booking your return flight from Bangkok. I suggest this because Bangkok is the place where you would like to do all your holiday shopping before wrapping up the Thailand trip. Let us plan our three days in Bangkok now…
1. Choose Hotel Wisely
Try booking your hotel in an area that is close to a Skytrain station. This will not only make your travel within Bangkok very convenient but will also save you a lot of money. Bangkok has another metro train system called MRT which serves different areas but is inter-connected with Skytrain. Read more about BTS Skytrain and MRT here. If you are tempted by the images of colorful tuk tuks in Bangkok, just know that a tuk tuk ride may be fun once in a while and that too for a short distance. Taking a meter taxi in Bangkok is always better and cheaper in Bangkok. You may read my article on Bangkok Tuk Tuk / Taxi here.
2. Buy a Rabbit Card
You will be travelling a lot by skytrain in the next three days. Consider buying a Rabbit Card – Bangkok’s equivalent of EZ-Link in Singapore and Octopus in Hong Kong. Rabbit Card can be loaded with cash once and can be used every time you want to board a skytrain. You will not need to stand in a queue to buy an individual ticket. Rabbit Card also gives the option of buying a certain number of trips and can save money in certain situations. Read more about Rabbit Card here.
3. Choose Attraction Types
Bangkok has something for everyone but the type of attractions that you visit will depend on your interests and / or the type of group you are in. For example if you have old people in the group, using express boats in the Chao Phraya river can become quite difficult for them. There are queues everywhere and very little time is given for people to board and alight from the boats. If you have children in the group, you will choose attractions that they are interested in. A group of single guys may like to visit a shooting range in the day and then go to Soi Nana / Soi Cowboy in the evening. In the following paragraphs I will try to suggest alternative attractions for all the three days so that tourists with different interests / requirements can plan their Bangkok trip.
On day 1, you will see Bangkok’s main riverside attractions – Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, and Khaosan Road. Later you will get to shop for some sterling silver fashion jewelery near Khaosan Road. The itinerary up to here will offer opportunities for some local Thai lunch or any type of food you like, and also for a relaxing foot or Thai massage. From Khaosan Road, a short taxi ride will bring you to MBK Shopping Mall which is attached to National Stadium BTS Station. Spend as much time as you like in the shopping mall, have dinner in the international food court of the shopping mall and then take a skytrain from the National Stadium Station to head back to your hotel. Alternatively, if you want to avoid MBK Mall on the first day, you may like to spend the evening in Chinatown.
Alternatives for the Afternoon of Day 1
(i) Khaosan Road + MBK Shopping Mall + Dinner in the Mall
(ii) Chinatown + Dinner Cruise on Chao Phraya River
(iii) Free Boat Ride to Asiatique The Riverfront Mall + Calypso Cabaret Show + Dinner at the Mall
(iv) Mix and match any of the above as per your preference
Details of itinerary of Day 1 …
In the morning, board the skytrain from your nearest BTS station and reach Saphan Taksin station (Read about BTS Link to Chao Phraya River here). Leave the station by exit number 2, go down the stairs and you will reach Sathorn Bridge Pier of Chao Phraya river. A very frequent express boat service operates from here with prices starting at 14 THB per person. You need to go to Pier No. N8 or Tha Tien Pier. Keep track of the piers going by because the boat conductor may or may not announce the pier name, or may announce the name in Thai language that you may not understand. Alight from the boat at pier N8. At this stop, you will be able to visit Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha, and Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn. Exit from N8 Pier and you can walk to the Reclining Buddha Temple and Grand Palace / Emerald Buddha. Temple of the Emerald Buddha is inside Grand Palace complex and you need to buy a single entry ticket for visiting both. For going to Wat Arun, you need to go to the other side of the river for which a river crossing ferry service is available from Pier N8. Detailed directions for visiting these three attractions / entry fee / timings, etc. are in this article of mine: Bangkok’s Main Riverside Attractions.
This part of the trip can easily take 3-4 hours depending on how much time you spend at each of the places. There can be long queues for entering Grand Palace, so plan keeping that in mine. Several Thai and a few international restaurants are scattered in this area and one of those can be your lunch stop.
After seeing these attractions in the first half of the day, you may choose any of the afternoon attractions as suggested above. Please read my following articles for further guidance:
- Bangkok’s Main Riverside Attractions
- Free Boat Ride and Asiatique The Riverfront
- Calypso Cabaret Bangkok
- Dinner Cruise in Chao Phraya River
Come back to Pier N8 after seeing Wat Arun; and
– From there, if you are going towards Chinatown, you may take a meter taxi to Yaowarat Road which is in the heart of Chinatown.
– If you are planning to go to Khaosan Road, board the Express Boat again from Pier N8. You need to go to Pier Phra Arthit (N13). Exit the pier and either you can walk about 15-20 minutes to Khaosan Road or take a taxi. If there is a Tuk Tuk around, you may board that but clearly tell the driver that you want to go to Khaosan Road only. Agree on the price upfront which should be around 100 THB. If you are walking, after exiting the pier, turn left and walk until you reach a road crossing with traffic signals. From there you need to turn right and walk again. At that crossing you may ask someone about the way to Khaosan Road to be sure that you are going in the right direction.
– If you plan to go to Asiatique The Riverfront, take the Express Boat and return to Sathorn Pier (Central Pier). From there you will get the free boat to Asiatique. Asiatique is an interesting shopping mall and has a nice selection of Thai as well as international food. Calypso Cabaret is located in this mall complex.
– For dinner cruise, do a booking for the cruise first and the booking agent will tell you the boarding point somewhere along the river.
A half day trip out of Bangkok on your second day may be just what you need to experience more of Thailand. This trip, to Damonen Saduak Floating Market, will include a road trip, a ride in a boat, some shopping for souvenirs, and an authentic local lunch perhaps cooked for you in a boat. The trip starts early in the morning and you come back to your hotel after lunch, by 2.00pm or so. Pickup and drop from and to your hotel are included in the tour. This particular trip is the one that you should not attempt to do on your own. Rather book a tour with a reliable travel agent, sit back and relax. You are on a holiday. The tour is not expensive, with per person prices starting at approximately 600 THB. You may read more about it in my article on Damnoen Saduak here. Damonen Saduak is the kind of a trip that every member of your group, young or not so young, will love. Just be careful not to buy too much stuff because some tour agents push tourists into over-priced shops selling gemstones or Thai handicrafts. You will get to do all the shopping you need on Day 3.
After an out of town experience in the morning, the rest of the day better be spent in ‘Bangkok’. Hop on to a BTS train and go to Chidlom BTS Station. At the station, ask someone about which exit to take for the Erawan Shrine. You may have to walk for 3-4 minutes to reach the shrine. It is a famous little place with a Hindu temple and traditional Thai dancers to make your prayer to the lord special. Later, you need to get back on to the bridge that connects Chidlom BTS station with Siam BTS Station. Its a short 5 minute walk. Once near the Siam BTS station, you will find the way to enter Bangkok’s best known shopping complex – Siam Paragon / Siam Center / Siam Discovery.
Just remember that you are not there for shopping yet. This afternoon and evening, just enjoy the sights & sounds, have some great food in the food courts, restaurants, and fast food joints, and let your kids play. There are numerous entertainment options in that group of buildings including South East Asia’s largest aquarium – Sea Life Ocean World, and Kidzania that offers education plus entertainment for kids. Plan your time carefully – if you are interested in going to a kids’ attraction in the Siam complex, do not spend too much time at the Erawan Shrine.
Have dinner in the food court of Siam Paragon and head back to the Siam BTS Station for your train back to the hotel.
The day of shopping in Bangkok has finally come and you have more options than you can visit in a day. If your third day is a Saturday or Sunday, you may like to start with a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market. If it is another day, better start with Pratunam Market. Go to Siam BTS station and from the road down below, take a taxi (50-60 THB) or a tuk tuk (100-150 THB) to get to Pratunam Market.
Pratunam Market and the area around there gives you the real Bangkok street shopping experience. You will find fashion clothing, Thai souvenirs, and some cheap and fancy ‘Made in China’ stuff. If you buy at least three pieces of the same article / dress, etc. you get what they call a “wholesale price”. Usually the prices quoted by the vendors initially is inflated by about 30%, so you can bargain a little. There are similar shops inside Indra Square Shopping Mall too (its in the heart of Pratunam) where you can shop in air-conditioned comfort. The quoted prices in the shops may be 10% more than what you will find on the street outside but possibility of bargaining is still there. Indra Square has a small food court too with Thai and international food.
Platinum Fashion Mall & Pantip Plaza
After you find yourself getting tired of the street shopping, find some food and possibly a foot massage somewhere in that area. Later start walking back towards Platinum Fashion Mall. Its nearby, just ask someone for directions. Platinum Fashion Mall is better than the street shops and Indra Square. Platinum Fashion Mall is where you will find clothes for everyone at the prices that you can afford. The quality is good too. There are separate wings and floors with shops for different categories of fashion. I believe this is where you should do all your shopping for fashion. The same “wholesale price” rule works here too.
For electronics / computer / mobile phone stuff, there is Pantip Plaza located next to Platinum.
Big C / Central World
Later, walk to Big C. You will be walking in the direction of Chidlom / Siam BTS Stations. Ask someone for directions to Big C. Everyone knows. Probably you saw it on your way to Pratunam. It is a really nice departmental store for buying Thai curry paste, instant coffee powder (its cheap in Thailand), instant ginger drink powder (Hotta brand), and whatever else you like. Big C has a food court too.
Opposite Big C, you will see Central World – Bangkok’s largest shopping mall. Its a place for high end shopping.
Return To Siam Paragon
If you spotted something earlier in the Siam complex, go back there. After all, shopping is all you have to do today.
**Tip For Real Wholesale Shopping in Bangkok**
The “buy three pieces and get wholesale price” is actually just a gimmick. The price you pay will still be retail price only. If you are looking to buy clothes or ‘made-in-china’ stuff at actual wholesale prices, you need to go somewhere else in Bangkok. This is the place not many people will be able to tell you about. Hop on to an MRT train and go to Hualamphong Station. From outside, get into a meter taxi and tell the driver to take you to Bobae Tower. It should cost 60-80 THB by meter depending on the traffic. Bobae Tower is the place in Bangkok where shopkeepers buy their stocks from. In Bobae Tower and the area around, you will find not just fashion, but some useful everyday stuff too. You may have to buy a dozen pieces of the same article to get the best price but you came to Bobae Tower because you wanted wholesale prices, right? Of course, even on three pieces you will get a special price. After you spend an hour inside Bobae Towers, Pratunam Market will start looking like a scam to you. The only thing, this area is not fun. Many tourists do not go there. Its just for business, not fun. The shops in Bobae Towers close early, by 5.00pm. They open early too. The timings suit the out of town shopkeepers who come to Bangkok for buying their stocks.
Read for more info on Bangkok Shopping …
- Pratunam Market / Indra Square
- Central World
- Big C
- Shopping in Pratunam / Ratchadamri Area
- Buying Prepaid SIM in Nana / Asoke
- Buying Vegetarian Curry Paste in Bangkok
- Bangkok Travel Blog
Please write a comment below for more info / clarifications. I will be happy to help.