When I was a teenager I lived on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Do you know that in the entire 5 1/2 years I lived there, I never once visited Pearl Harbor? How ridiculous is that? As an adult, I look back on that time and realize it was such a missed opportunity. I now believe in the importance of seeing and experiencing all a place has to offer, especially if you live there.
I suppose that’s why in our 2 1/2 years in Shanghai we went on dozens of trips, booked countless local tours, and tried to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as we could. It’s fascinating to learn about another country’s history and culture. Now living in Bangkok, we have a blank canvas on which to begin our exploring again.
Recently I had a friend come to Bangkok for a visit. We only had one day to see all the highlights the city had to offer. I was excited to explore the city with her since I really hadn’t had a chance to get out there and see everything yet. We had a great day exploring, and learning about Bangkok’s history, and culture. One day is never enough to fully immerse yourself in the life of a new city, but if it’s all you have, then here’s what you need to see.
1. Chao Phraya River
This waterway runs through Bangkok and can get you to many of the places you will want to see. Water taxis and long tail boats are an easy and cheap way to travel along the river, allowing you to take in the city from an entirely different perspective. Temples, water vendors, and shops line the river making this a very interesting experience.
2. Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)
Easily accessible from the Chao Phraya River, this temple is one of Bangkok’s oldest and is absolutely stunning. Its white walls pop against the bright blue Thailand sky. As you get closer, you notice splashes of color adorning the temple. Pieces of Chinese pottery have been incorporated into the design of Wat Arun, making it a unique and colorful destination that you cannot miss. Make sure you check out the Cloister of the Seated Buddha which houses over 100 golden buddhas and is decorated with wallpaper that is 200 years old!
3. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
At 46 meters long, this gold artifact is the 3rd largest in Asia. Not only is the Buddha itself impressive, but the murals painted on the walls are a stunning example of historical life in Thailand. While here, purchase a bowl of coins at the entrance of the hall. Make a wish, keep it secret, and walk the length of the hall dropping one coin in each of the 108 bronze bowls located along the wall in order to make your wish come true.
4. The Grand Palace
By far Bangkok’s most famous landmark. If you like gold, and ornate architecture, this place is for you! Although it’s no longer home to the king, this location still remains the spiritual heart of local Thai people. The Grand Palace spans over a large amount of land and houses many different buildings, each commissioned to be built by a king. It’s interesting to note the differing styles of architecture each king appreciated. While here, make sure you see the Emerald Buddha, a relic dating back to the 14th century. Each season the King changes the robe on the Emerald Buddha, and it is considered Thailand’s most sacred site.
5. Jim Thompson House
The story behind this house and its founder is fascinating. An American who came to Bangkok after World War 2, Jim Thompson fell in love with the area and decided to make it his home. He immersed himself in the culture and built his house according to traditional Thai-style architecture. Jim was an avid art collector and adorned his house with many amazing pieces he collected around Southeast Asia. But perhaps Jim’s most important contribution was the 30-years he dedicated to the revitalization of the Thai silk industry. Although he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967, his house and the artifacts within remained and was opened to the public as a museum. The Jim Thompson House carries on Jim’s legacy and continues to sell high-quality silk items handcrafted here in Thailand.
How We Did It
Because neither of us really knew Bangkok, we decided to book a tour. I can highly recommend this tour company. They took care of all the details made our day stress-free, and taught us more about the sites we visited than we could have ever learned on our own.
Expat Holidays Thailand
Tel Thailand: +66 8 3301 2112
Tel USA: (781) 593-2873
How To Get Around
Overall, Bangkok is a very easy city to get around. There are many different modes of transportation available. I would say because traffic can be horribly bad at times, try to seek alternate modes of transportation when available. The Sky Train, tuk-tuks, water taxis, or long-tail boat are all great (and fun) options.
Thoughts and Things
- All the temples are very strict in their dress requirements. No bare shoulders or legs. Since Bangkok is so hot, I would suggest buying a sarong for about 100 Baht from a street vendor so you can use it as needed and not have to sweat even more than you already will be by wearing pants all day.
- The temples on this on this list require you to remove your shoes before entering. We wore tennis shoes but I wish we would have worn flip-flops as they would have been easier to take off and put back on.
- It may not seem like it, but this is a very ambitious itinerary to accomplish in one day. I say this mainly because Bangkok is so hot and many people aren’t used to being out in the heat all day. Make sure you incorporate a lot of stops into your day. Stay hydrated, enjoy a delicious Thai iced coffee, or some coconut ice cream to keep you cool.
One day in Bangkok is certainly not enough to see all this vibrant, cultural city has to offer. However, if that’s all you’ve got, make the most of it by visiting all of the places listed above. They will provide you with awe-inspiring architecture, a cultural appreciation for Thailand, and a unique way to see the city.
Also, make sure you’re even more prepared for your day in Bangkok by clicking here:
A special shout-out to Donna Bose who played the tourist with me for the day. I hope we can explore more of the city the next time you are here!