Where to Go
Bangkok’s most important historic sites are located within easy distance of each other in this, the oldest part of the city. Visitors to the city should make this one of their first stops, as it’s here that you’ll find the stunning Grand Palace and Wat Pho, as well as some important museums and idyllic green spaces.
Ko Rattanakosin, enveloped by a curve in the Chao Phraya River, overflows into Bang Lamphu to the north, which also houses some of the country’s most important cultural destinations, lots of cheap places to eat and sleep, some charming, unpretentious restaurants, and an increasing number of high-end boutique inns.
This neighborhood is at the northern edge of central Bangkok, flanked by the Chao Phraya to the west. With fewer tall buildings and many residential neighborhoods, Dusit feels like what the rest of the city would have looked like had it not been for the amazing economic boom over the past few decades—less international and less convenient, certainly, but much more Thai than modern Bangkok.
Though there are just a handful of sights here, Vimanmek Teak Mansion and the National Assembly Hall (Ananta Samakom Throne Hall) are worth going out of your way for, as is the fantastic food on Nakhon Chai Si Road.
To the east of Ko Rattanakosin is Charoen Krung Road—the major avenue through bustling Chinatown, lined with shops and markets of all kinds—which ends just near Hua Lamphong, the city’s main railroad station. If you get off the main roads and wander the alleys and markets, you’ll find traditional ambience, delicious snacks, and lots of people.
Though most visit the neighborhood for shopping and eating, it is home to Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat, a Mahayana Buddhist temple worth visiting for its beauty and the striking contrast it offers from most wats you’ll see in the city.
Silom and Sathorn
The Silom area, one of Bangkok’s main business districts, is full of tall office buildings, gridlocked rush-hour traffic, and international hangouts, but also some of the nicest green space in the city and plenty of charming noodle shops. It’s also a very convenient neighborhood for tourists, as it has good Skytrain and subway service and is close to the river.
This neighborhood is home to some of the city’s biggest shopping destinations—if you head to Siam Square and Pratunam, you’ll be able to find anything from a Ferrari to inexpensive, locally-designed fashions. Though this part of the city is slicker and more international than other parts of the city, Wat Patum Wanaram, nestled between two shopping malls, is proof that downtown Bangkok is still Thai through and through.
Downtown is the most convenient neighbourhood for public transportation of all kinds, and everyone should take at least one canal boat—catch it at one of the many stops just south of Petchaburi Road.
In the shadows of the aboveground Skytrain, busy Sukhumvit Road is one of the city’s main arteries and is full of inexpensive guesthouses, massage parlors, and tailors. Travel farther east and Bangkok begins to feel a little less touristy and a little more like the foreign city it is. Here you’ll find plenty of restaurants, some good shopping, and great street food.
Though Bangkok on the other side of the Chao Phraya feels less international and bustling than the center of the city, the extension of the Skytrain across the river has made it much more accessible and convenient. On the water’s edge are some of the city’s most beautiful wats and some lovely places to see Thai cultural performances or get a casual dinner overlooking the water.
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition