12 things to do on a stopover in Bangkok

So you have “One Night in Bangkok” and the world (or at least the town) is indeed your oyster. Once you’ve finished singing that line to yourself, it’s time to get down to making the most of your stay in the Big Mango. Unless you have the stamina of Wolverine and the speed of The Flash, you can’t treat these 12 Bangkok treats as a checklist…but you can pick the bits you like best to make your stopover memorable.

Search flights to Bangkok

If you’re a shopper…

Wander the night markets

Since you don’t get to choose which 36 hours or so you’ll spend in your stopover, you might wind up there when most shops are closed. But when other towns roll up their streets, Bangkok fills them with stalls selling everything you could possibly want to buy. From clothes, to jewellery, to electronics, to gifts for the kids, you’ll find it in the maze-like warrens of the night market scene.

Lights out in #Bangkok. Spent the evening roaming night markets. Off to the beach in the morning!

A photo posted by Sarah Mo (@samohsen) on

Chatuchak Weekend Market

This is the biggest, baddest, twistiest, turniest market in the country and an absolute winner for anybody who regards shopping as part science, part sport. Search and haggle and buy in the labyrinthine passages and come home with a great deal and a good story.

If you’re a foodie…

Eat the street food

It seems like any space in Bangkok with three square metres free has somebody offering satay, dumplings, durian, noodles, fruit and other treats. Buy from a busy stall – the locals prefer it for a reason. If you have a few spare hours, learn the hows and whats of what these stalls do best with a local cooking class to bring home a gift that keeps on giving.

Treat yourself

Some of the best restaurants in Asia hang their mise in Krung Thep. Nahm serves traditional Thai dishes developed by Australian author and chef David Thompson, and topped Pelligrino’s list of Asia’s top 50 restaurants for 2014. It fell off the top spot this year, replaced by Indian fusion restaurant Gaggan – also a Bangkok fixture. This is at the opposite end of the dining spectrum from a stand-up meal from a street cart, but in your stayover here try to give yourself both.

If you’re travelling with kids…

Lumphini Park

Stroll along safe, traffic-free lanes by waterways where huge monitor lizards bask, swim and hunt. See ducks and colourful birds, enjoy the coolness of the green spaces, then ride a swan boat in the lagoon. The park also has a complex playground surrounded by benches where you can rest while the little ones make local friends.

If you’re all about culture…

Visit Wot Pho

It’s the biggest and most important operating temple in Bangkok, and worth the visit even if it only held a reclining Buddha larger than many homes. But that’s only one part of the architecture and icons to be seen. A must visit for anybody who loves this kind of urban exploration. If you plan to visit Atthuthaya (see below), come here first so you can see a living version of the ruins you’ll explore there.

Watch the Muay Thai Fights

It’s not paintings on walls or crumbling ruins, but Muay Thai is as much a part of Thai culture as Buddhism. Catch a seven to ten fight card at Lumpinee Stadium or at Ratchadamneon Stadium (they alternate nights), and watch the stands for the ferocious betting action that starts on the third round of any fight.

If you like the wild side…

Patpong Road

This is a family site, so we’re not going into details. Just know that the stuff going on here would make a Vegas native or a California porn star blush. If that’s your idea of a great time, treat yourself to a few hours on board what can only be described as the “mother ship” for adult entertainment.

Ride a Tuk Tuk

These iconic motorised tricycles get up close and personal with the local traffic as they rip through the crowded streets at slightly less than the speed of light. It’ll get your heart racing.

If you don’t mind a road trip…

Visit Attuthaya

A one-way cab ride to this UNESCO heritage site will cost you one hour and 1,000 Baht (about $40). You’ll choose from several sites of what was the centre of the Thai empire and the world’s largest city at its height. Pick one or two for a half-day experience, just one if you want to get back to the city and other options.

Damneon Saduak Floating Market

The oldest and most touristy of Thailand’s floating markets is an hour’s drive away and feels like a theme park about floating markets. It’s open 7 a.m. to noon daily. Other floating markets are closer in, and can feel more authentic despite being imitations of what is now a bit of a tourist trap. Kha market is also a morning gig, open weekends and select weekdays. Amphawa and Taling Chan have longer hours and are similarly outside of town.


Thai Massage

For as little as $2, you can spend an hour getting all the kinks of your plane flight and your explorations worked out in a style of massage unlike those from other parts of the world. Ignore the reputation of Thailand and massage parlours – these are on the up-and-up, completely relaxing, and the perfect way to end your quick visit to Krung Thep.

Just like the Big Mango offers more to do than is possible in a stopover, it offers more than we can write about in a single article. We didn’t even get to the National Museum, Jim Thompson House, the Zoo or any of the smaller temples. No matter what you choose from this list, you’ll leave Bangkok wanting more.

Cheap flights to Bangkok


(Feature image: Mike Behnken)

7 people you see on Bangkok’s Khao San Road

7 people you see on Bangkok’s Khao San Road

Khao San Road is considered a backpacker haven with a ton of cheap-to-mid-range accommodations. But despite its reputation, backpackers on...
L. Bautista
How to do Bangkok on a hangover

How to do Bangkok on a hangover

Bangkok remains Southeast Asia’s favourite playground, filled with exciting possibilities that may or may not involve soaking up the views...
L. Bautista
Things to do in Shanghai on an 8-hour stopover

Things to do in Shanghai on an 8-hour stopover

If you’re going to spend eight hours anywhere in China, Shanghai isn’t a bad choice. It’s certainly more of an...
Jason Brick
Travel Tips See all
11 cities where hostels are your best bet

11 cities where hostels are your best bet

Once havens for budget-conscious backpackers, more and more travellers are turning to hostels as their homes away from home, particularly...
Lauren Mack
QUIZ: How savvy are you at finding a cheap flight?

QUIZ: How savvy are you at finding a cheap flight?

Are you a flight-finding pro or could your searching skills use an upgrade? Take our quiz to find out whether...
Amanda Festa