Bangkok is a city that always feels alive with non-stop action. There's something new around every corner-  new sights, smells, sounds and food to taste. It's a city where the very old blends in with the very new seamlessly; temples sit in the middle of city blocks lined with high-rises. Not only is it a city filled with busy streets and tall buildings, Bangkok has many waterways. It's nicknamed the "Venice of the East" due to its numerous canals and the Chao Phraya River that cuts through the center of town.

Bangkok is Thailand's capital and it's likely that any visit to the country will start here. While it's not a city filled to the brim with tourist attractions, it's a great city with many wonderful and worthwhile sights. I had heard mixed things about Bangkok before I visited and wasn't sure what to expect. However, I'm happy to report that I absolutely loved the city! Sure, Bangkok is big, busy, crowded and can be very hot, but it also offers some of the best cheap eats, the prettiest temples and the coolest markets chock full of interesting finds. 

If you're planning a trip to Thailand to visit the beaches or hang out with elephants, make sure to plan for a few days in its capital, you won't be disappointed. A great hotel I highly recommend for your stay in Bangkok is the Shangri-La. It's a huge, beautiful hotel situated on the picturesque Chao Phraya River, where you can take water taxis to some of the city's best sights. Ask for a river view room and wake up watching the boats sail by. The Shangri-La also has a gorgeous pool right on the river and a delicious breakfast buffet that's included in some room rates. Aside from it's beauty, the hotel is centrally located and within walking distance, or a short boat ride, to some of the places on my must-do list, including the Sky Bar, Patpong night market and Wat Pho.

Here are my 10 must-dos while you're in Bangkok

See the city from above
Rooftop bars are a big thing in Bangkok. It makes sense, the city's a bustling metropolis and being high in the air gives you a sense of calm and serenity that's hard to find in the busy streets. There are lots of rooftop bars to choose from in Bangkok and I visited the highest one, Sky Bar at Sirocco on top of the Lebua State Tower. Sky Bar is the world's highest open air bar located on the 64th floor of the State Tower. It's definitely pricey (one cocktail can run you upwards of $20 USD) but in my opinion it's worth it. The situation of the Sky Bar is perfect to get the money shot of the river winding through the city and while pricey, the drinks are inventive and tasty. Make sure you arrive right when the bar opens to see the sun set and take pictures. If you're looking to have a full night at one bar, Sky Bar may not be the place for you, but for a drink as the sun sets and scoring a beautiful photo I recommend it. (This is also the bar that The Hangover Part II filmed at!)

Wander around Chinatown 
Bangkok's Chinatown was settled by Chinese merchants in the 1780's and is still home to a bustling Chinese community. It's a winding labyrinth of tiny alleyways and corridors filled with amazing food shops, stalls and stores. It's a destination for gourmands with a vibrant street food culture.  Also, adjacent to Chinatown is Wat Traimit, home to the largest gold Buddha in the world.

Eat all the street food
The street food in Bangkok is out of this world amazing, and it's just as cheap as it is tasty. Thailand's street food history dates back to the sixteenth century when the items were sold on the city's canals.  A trip to the capital wouldn't be complete without sampling some of Thailand's best and most authentic eats. Food carts are scattered throughout the city, so you don't have to try too hard to find one. We sampled a ton of street food on our trip and my favorites were the vegetable spring rolls, pad thai cooked into an omelet, sticky rice in bamboo and fish cakes. I also couldn't get enough of the sweet and refreshing Thai iced tea that pairs perfectly with the spicy cuisine. 

Get a massage
There's no place like Thailand when it comes to amazing and affordable massages. Almost every block has at least one spa offering a full menu of massages for well under the typical prices in America. Thai massage is especially relaxing because it focuses on pressure points and aims to balancing the body's energy. Throughout our time in Bangkok I loved popping in to neighborhood spas for a quick 30 minute foot massage in between sightseeing.

Cruise around a floating market
Visiting a floating market was a highlight of our time in Bangkok. While a little touristy, we really enjoyed cruising around the canals, shopping at the stalls via boat and sampling local food sold out of boats. It's certainly a unique experience you can't find in many other places. There are a few floating markets around the greater Bangkok area that all have their own pros and cons. We visited Damnoen Saduak, which is Thailand's best known floating market, but also the most touristy one. It's also pretty far outside the city and requires a good half day (at least) to experience with the travel time. Amphawa is another floating market option that's also far outside the city, about an hour. It's less touristy but only open on weekends. Taling Chan is another option, and this one is close to Bangkok which makes it easy to swing by for a quick lunch. This market is also only open on the weekends.

Visit temples
Bangkok is home to more than 400 temples. The three most famous ones are Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). It's important to remember to dress appropriately when you visit the temples or you either won't be let in or will need to pay to get scarfs to cover yourself. Clothing should be below the knees and shoulders covered for both women and men. I'd also like to note that a well known tourist scam happens around the temples. For this scam a local who speaks good English will come up to you and tell you the temple is closed for a few hours and only opened for Thai nationals. He'll try to sell you a tuk-tuk tour to visit other temples during the closure time. This happened to use at Wat Pho and we fell for it. Luckily we didn't pay to take his tuk-tuk tour, but we did go to a cafe and wait until the "closure" was over, so we missed out on an hour or so of sightseeing. 

Explore a night market
Aside from the floating markets I mentioned above, Bangkok is also full of fabulous regular markets that really come alive at night. The night markets are exhilarating after dark experiences that feel almost carnival like with bright lights, tons of food and stalls to buy souvenirs. Rot Fai is a huge market located in Srinakarin, in the eastern suburbs, that sells everything from retro memorabilia to rare collectibles to everyday clothing and goods. Patpong is right in downtown Bangkok and filled with stalls selling clothes, bags and accessories. It's important to note that Patpong market runs parallel to one of the city's red light districts, which may make it a pass for you.

Cruise down the river
The Chao Phraya River runs through the heart of Bangkok and is the city's lifeblood. It's Thailand's major river and runs from the north to the south of the country and into the Gulf of Thailand. A series of water taxis, dinner cruises and sightseeing boats run up and down the river catering to tourists. We took a water taxi from our hotel, The Shangri-La, to Wat Pho and loved getting to see the city from the water.

Ride in a tuk-tuk
Tuk tuks are ubiquitous to Bangkok and a ride on one is a must. The vehicles originate from an old-fashioned rickshaw during World War II, and a tuk-tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a small engine fitted in. While they're a staple on the city streets, they aren't a super practical way to get around. It's worth it to ride in one a short distance, but if you're going a long way opt for a regular taxi.

Have lunch at a food market
Sampling bites at a food market is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Bangkok. Or Tor Kor is THE food market to visit in town. It's big and vibrant, filled with sweet smelling fruit stalls, colorful vegetables and some of the best authentic Thai bites we had on our trip. Go hungry, because almost every stall we visited offered us samples in addition to the items we bought to eat.

Have you been to Bangkok? What are your must-dos?


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