I like to live life to max, which means given the opportunity to spend a rushed 24 hours in Bangkok, I took it. Granted, I have since discovered that 24 hours in Bangkok is not really enough time to even skim the surface of this wild, pulsing sea of humanity, but now I know I want to return, so #missionaccomplished.
Should you find yourself in Bangkok with just 24 hours to spend, here are a few things I’d recommend you do.
1. Stay somewhere fancy, preferably near the river
As already noted, the price of luxury is much more within reach in Bangkok, than in the U.S. or other western countries, so take full advantage. Next time, I plan to save up my pennies and stay at the Mandarin Oriental – it’s the epitome of understate elegance and class. The beauty of being on the Chao Phraya River is two-fold, one, there’s always something to watch: from teeny tug boats pulling giant container-laden “train” barges, to little tourist boats zipping around at high speed. Two, see my next point.
2. Take a boat in Bangkok
The beauty of staying in a fancy hotel on the river, is that they have free river boats—in the case of the Peninsula, it’s a lovely wooden affair which makes you feel you’ve gone back 100 years in time. These vessels ferry you from one side of the very wide river to the other, either to other hotels or to the train station (which is the best way to get around). While the journey may be short, you still get to experience the joy of being on the water, and with only 24 hours, short is good.
3. Go To Chatuchak Market
This vast market, and by vast I mean 27 acres(!), is best reached by train. Don’t get off at Chatuchak Park, but Kamphaeng Phet, which disgorges you directly into the throbbing, lively, vibrant experience, that is Chatuchak Weekend Market. Oh yeah, it’s only open at the weekend, so you better visit Bangkok on a Saturday or Sunday. There is so much to see and do here, it’s completely overwhelming and if you decided to have a nervous breakdown right there, no-one would blame you.
The market really deserves its own survival guide, but as I only got to spend a few short hours there, I am not qualified to be of assistance in this endeavor. However, here are a few things we spotted and enjoyed, and I encourage you to seek them out as well. They are mostly food-related, natch.
- There is a lot of food theater to be found. From making Thai coffee to opening a coconut, or assembling a tasty snack. The dexterity and motor skills are to be marveled at and filmed.
- In addition to food theater, there is also food. Like all Thai food it’s a combination of spicy, crunchy, super sweet (too much for me), unidentifiable (sometimes), and completely seductive. I couldn’t resist this crispy, salty, fatty pork belly. It was insanely good.
- Oh and you have to get the coconut ice cream – it’s served in a coconut shell, which still has the meat inside, so not only do you get ice cream, you also get coconut! It doesn’t get much better than that. Oh wait, yes it does, the price includes includes a cup of coconut water!! So you get to cool down and rehydrate -brilliant. And you can choose toppings: the peanuts and coconut jelly thingies go really well.
- At some point, the only thing that you are going to want to do is get a foot massage. These little booths are mostly air-conditioned, and trust me you are going to be HOT, and of course, your feet are going to be killing you. Foot massages all across Thailand are 300 Baht, or about $8.50. Yes, you can afford it.
- You can basically buy anything you want here – from art to kitchen goods, shoes to spices, clothes to old telephones. Pro tip: expect to spend at least 5-6 hours here, not including the travel time.
4. Go to a temple in Bangkok
Thailand is a Buddhist country and I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating to understand the beliefs of other cultures. We went to WatPho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Like many (okay, all) tourist attractions, I recommend you get there really early, before the crowds arrive. We got there just after 8am on a Sunday and practically had the entire place to ourselves. There are hundreds of golden Buddhas to marvel at, but the pièce de résistance, is the Reclining Buddha himself. He is over 50 feet high and at least 150 feet long. I have dedicated a post to our visit there, it is breathtakingly beautiful and a welcome respite from the madness of Bangkok.