How to Spend One Day in Bangkok
Okay, let’s just be honest, it’s absolutely impossible to see and experience an entire city in a day. No matter where you are or what itinerary you’re following, there’s always more to do, but we are firm believers that seeing some of a city is better than just forgoing the experience all together. With a bit of planning ahead we feel that even with kids you can get a feel for Bangkok, a city of 14+ million people, in a day.
Our family of four arrived in the city in the wee hours of the morning on a red-eye from Shanghai. We took a cab to Hotel Airy ($27 USD/night…what?!) and promptly crashed for the night errrr…morning (our airport taxi tips below). We picked up our full day of exploring a few hours later!
Airport Taxi Tips:
- Every thing is negotiable (including taxis), so don’t just accept a quoted cost – haggle a bit!
- Depending on where you’re headed the fare will vary, however it’s usually ~200 – 300 Baht or so from the airport into the city. We paid 200bhat to transfer to Hotel Airy.
- Download the app “Grab” before taking off on your Thai adventure (it’s SE Asia’s version of Uber). If you can’t get a Grab car to pick you up mapping out the route first in the app is still advantageous as it will give you an estimate on how much you’re looking at paying for said cab. Additionally it will give you an idea on how much to haggle with tuk tuk drivers, taxis, etc.
- Only get in MARKED taxis. If the driver says “the meter is broken” find a different cab (it’s a scam).
Depart Hotel Airy
We checked out of Hotel Airy early and took an Uber to the Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station (cost for the transfer was 356bhat) to store our luggage (total = 200 bhat for 2 suitcases + 1 backpack) for the day. We would be departing from the station @1705 that evening to head to Surat Thani (our next stop) on the overnight sleeper, so this drop off ensured that we wouldn’t have to waste any time transferring back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Instead, they would be patiently waiting for us at the station for us to swoop in post-exploring and take off that evening! So, essentially from the time we left the hotel to the time the train pulled out of the station we had 8 hours in the city. Ready…set…GO!
Bangkok Hua Lamphong Train Station
After dropping off our bags at Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station we took a tuk tuk to Taling Chan Floating Market for brunch + shopping. Remember to haggle with tuk tuk drivers before agreeing to a price as they will always quote you a ridiculous amount initially and being taken advantage of is never fun (from the train station to the floating market we paid 260bhat).
Tuk-tuk Tip: Tuk-tuk rides are 100% negotiable so bargain! Many times the drivers will quote you a much higher price than you should pay. Before you look for a tuk tuk pull up “Grab” on your phone and figure out how much the ride from point A to point B would cost using a Grab car. Then approach the tuk tuk driver and ask how much a ride with him or her would cost. When they quote you something absurd tell them “No thanks, I will just hire a Grab car for —- (insert cost of Grab car here)” and walk away. In our experience the driver 99% of the time will agree to the price you have mentioned. This will cut down on the time you waste waiting for a Grab car (tuk tuks are everywhere!), gives you a really good idea of how hard to bargain, and heck, riding in a tuk tuk is more fun anyway!
With our bags stored we set off to explore Bangkok!
1. Taling Chan Floating Market
There is no denying that when you visit southeast Asia visiting a floating market needs to make the experience list. Starting in ’87 the Taling Chan Floating Market has been a place to grab a snack, purchase produce and with the flood of tourists pick up souvenirs as well. The market is small and very manageable, so it won’t take you long to navigate from one end to the other (read: don’t budget too much time for this stop).
As you stroll through the market you’ll pass various stalls selling all sorts of delicious + incredibly colorful + tasty + inexpensive food (y’all, we’re talkin’ a buck or two per dish! Insane, right?) and a variety of souvenirs. After you pass through the main walkway, there is a gathering of small traditional wooden boats floating in the water loaded down with produce with sellers waiting to fix you up something mouthwatering and delicious. So yes, come hungry and be prepared to indulge in #allthestreetfood while listening to traditional Thai music!
There are several floating markets in this area, so why pick Taling Chan?
- It’s a bit off the heavily traveled tourist path in Bangkok (notice we didn’t say *completely* off the path) as more visitors tend to venture to Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa. Making for a less crowded atmosphere with prices being a smidge better, too.
- It’s located close to the center of Bangkok (~12km) making it very accessible. We didn’t want to go anywhere that would eat up a lot of time in the transfer since we only had 8-hours! Additionally, we hired a tuk tuk to get to the floating market as it saved time, but you can also take public transport which would be much cheaper (we paid 260bhat from the train station to the market).
So our advice is to start your day here! Fill your belly and enjoy the sights and sounds of the market place before heading to the Grand Palace.
Taling Chan Floating Market:
- Info: http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/taling-chan.htm
- Hours: Saturday and Sunday 0800 – 1700
- Admission: Free
2. Grand Palace
From Taling Chan Floating Market we took another tuk tuk to The Grand Palace (150bhat for this transfer). For starters this stop was HOT. We had been warned that Thailand was toasty, but 90degrees during December?! That’s taking it to a whole new level for us. There’s a good bit of history to indulge in though at this stop, so to us it was worth it, but with the heat and our tiniest adventurer squirmy we would most certainly recommend reading up on the palace prior to visiting and then simply taking in the sites when you’re there.
- Info: http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-palace/grand-palace.htm
- Hours: Daily, 0830 – 1630 (ticket office closes at 1530)
- 500 bhat/Adult (a bit pricey), Free/Children
- Audio Guides are available for an additional 200bhat or you can hire an official guide to take you around. Overall we prefer to read up on sites prior to visiting and then to explore on our own as our kids like to keep it moving, but to each his own!
Grand Palace Tips:
- If you want to go to the Grand Palace – go! Don’t allow a tuk tuk, Grab or taxi driver convince you into thinking it’s closed – because it’s not. Being a bit skeptical as you travel is the best way to avoid being conned into something you didn’t want to do. Be firm where you want to go. Don’t fall for this scam.
- The earlier the better. The mid-day sun in Bangkok is brutal (B.R.U.T.A.L.) and the palace offers zero shade. Try to beat the tour bus groups (as they all seem to include this stop and usually arrive mid-morning) and the scorching heat.
- Be aware of the dress code and respectfully follow it. At the Grand Palace this means no shorts (knees need to be covered) or sleeveless tops (hence the shawl with the sundress).
- Be ready for the heat. Be ready to sweat your way through the grounds of the palace (I wish I was kidding here!). Drink water (lots and lots of water), wear something that breaths easily, take a sun hat (goodness, I wish I had done this) or borrow an umbrella from the Palace (they are provided free of charge) AND apply #allthesunscreen! I was a sweaty mess by the end of our visit wearing a sun dress, a shawl to cover my shoulders AND our baby girl!
- Don’t plan on exploring every part of the palace. Say what?! Yes, don’t try to see it all. You (and your kids) will be miserable. It’s massive (the grounds are 2.35 million square feet!) and most of it is really crowded. Trust us, you’ll drive yourself crazy if you attempt to see every square inch. So, our advice? See what you can and when it becomes too uncomfortable (heat, kids, whatever…) move on to the next stop! We recommend cooling off with some coconut water and/or coconut ice-cream after!
3. Coconut Water & Coconut Ice-Cream
Once we exited the Grand Palace we walked south to nearby Wat Pho, the home of one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world. It’s not too bad of a walk (~0.5miles) and took us ~20minutes with an obligatory coconut water and ice-cream stop! I feel like this was a great re-set for all of us and a nice way to break up the walk (did I mention it was scorching?!).
4. Wat Pho
Although Wat Pho is less crowded than the Grand Palace you will still find a good number of tourists here as well, so don’t expect to be charting new territory here. However we feel that Wat Pho is still a very worthwhile stop on your tour of Bangkok! Like the Grand Palace, patience is most definitely going to be your friend. Lots of patience. If you’re interested in getting a massage here (we encourage you to do so…think the “Harvard of Massage Schools” and you’re there), we recommend after entering the grounds of the temple swinging by and putting your name on the list. Then taking the wait time to visit the reclining Buddha (15 metres tall, & 46 metres long!) in the interim. Swing back by a bit later and grab that 30min Thai Massage for 260 Bhat (~$8usd). You won’t regret it! While you’re out exploring the grounds of the 250year old temple (which was renovated in ’82) take the time to go through all the little pockets and seek out all of the details. We loved how intricate everything was!
- Info: http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-temple/wat-po.htm
- Hours: 0800 – 1200
- Admission: 100 baht/Adult, Free/Children
Wat Pho Tips:
- Be ready to take off your shoes before entering to see the reclining Buddha
- When inside viewing the Buddha you will need to have your shoulders covered and no skin above the knee showing
- Guides are available at the entrance for hire for ~200 – 400 baht. This is usually negotiable depending on how many people are in your group and how strong your bargaining skills are. We opted to wander around on our own.
Bangkok Hua Lamphong Train Station
We headed back to the train station via tuk tuk (cost 110bhat) to pick up our bags and board Surat Thani #83, an overnight train. If you decide to do this as well, make sure to pick up some eats prior to boarding as pickings are very slim on the train (there are some vendors in the train station). Bangkok, you were a great stop and the perfect start to our Thailand adventure! If you’d like to read more about how we spent the rest of our time exploring the beautiful country see our full Thailand Itinerary.