First-time Bangkok: Must-Sees (and Some Quirks)

I have some exciting news: I’m going to Thailand this summer! I made the decision last week and couldn’t be any more excited about it. While I certainly want to check out the must-sees, I also want to see a quirky site or two, so I asked some friends for advice. Here’s the brief first-time Bangkok guide we came up with.

First-time Bangkok: Must-Sees in Old Town

Reclining Buddha, first-time Bangkok guide

Reclining Buddha photo by dborup via

Khao San Road

Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it can be dirty at times. Yet, my friends say the road must be visited at least once in your life. Cocktail bars, street food, knickknacks, and some of the cheapest hotels in Bangkok can be found among a sea of foreigners and Thai hustlers.

Wat Pho and Grand Palace

If you only plan to visit one temple during your time in Bangkok, they said, it should be Wat Pho. Not only is it the city’s oldest and largest monastic complex, but is also home to the famous Reclining Buddha: a 49-ft. high and 141-ft. long masterpiece that will sure leave you speechless.

Immediately next to Wat Pho is another must-see for any first-time Bangkok visitor: The Grand Palace complex. While visitors are only allowed inside the European-style reception room, Grand Palace Hall, and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the complex’s intricate architectural details are its main draws.

First-time Bangkok: Markets and Other Districts

Khanom bueang, first-time Bangkok guide

Khanom bueang by Ilya Plekhanov, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

The Riverside

Stilt houses, water taxis, and barges sprinkle Bangkok’s Riverside, giving us a glimpse of its past. In fact, some of the oldest neighborhoods of the city are found between Wat Arun (another must-see!) and Phra Sumeru Fortress.

Sukhumvit Soi 38

Rumor has it that this district has the best Thai street food in town. I can’t wait to stuff my face with thom kha soup, khanom bueang (sweet Thai take on a taco), and pat Thai (yes: we’ve been spelling it wrong all along!).

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Touristy but still authentic, this popular floating market is another place where I plan to get my foodie on. Local vendors stuff their boats to the brim with grills, kettles, and fresh ingredients. The result? Sumptuous boat noodles, seafood kebabs, and the like.

Soi Cowboy

This red light district is named after the cowboy-hat-donning African-American who opened the first bar here in the early 70s. There are also some trendy hotels nearby, namely the Citrus Sukhumvit 22 Bangkok. Colorful neon and questionable nightlife: I’m intrigued.

First-Time Bangkok: the Quirky

Cabbages and Condoms, first-time Bangkok guide

Cabbages and Condoms by Lauren via

Cabbages and Condoms

“Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy,” its official slogan reassures. How could I resist? Also known as C&C, the restaurant’s mission is to promote family planning. This is done not only through its educational decor, but also by donating some of its earnings to the Population and Community Development Association (PDA).

The Hell Temple (Wat Saen Suk)

While this somewhat-gruesome temple is actually not within Bangkok’s city limits, it’s an easy day trip from there or Pattaya. As its name suggests, the site depicts different scenes of what they believe happens in hell. Graphic, bloody “humans” are everywhere, so not recommended for the fainthearted.

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About Maria Alexandra

Maria Laborde, aka latinAbroad, is an open-minded, highly-energetic woman with the spirit of a child. A world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, carrier of an American passport. A passionate translator and writer, sprinkling Latin spice around the world!

6 thoughts on “First-time Bangkok: Must-Sees (and Some Quirks)

  1. Check out the Jim Thompson house as well. He was a very fascinating character and his estate is quite interesting.

    • because of the four-day meditation retreat I took, I wasn’t able to see it all and Jim Thompson’s house is one of the Bangkok attractions I missed! Hopefully I’ll be back to Thailand next year and I will have to see it when I’m in Bangkok then. Looks so interesting!

  2. Sat next to a guy on a plane who had lived everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Said Bangkok was by far the most fascinating city in the world. Such a crazy mix of the sublime and the dreadful, temples next to brothels etc. History, beauty everywhere. You’re going to have a blast!

  3. Hi Maria,

    Enjoy it!

    I know you’ll have a blast.

    We’ve visited BKK some 10 times or so; always a good time.

    Gotta visit Khao San Road because there’s so much to do, to see, to eat and to drink. Winning spot.

    Tweeting from Bali.


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