Bangkok itinerary: How to plan an epic three days

Think of a Bangkok itinerary and jewel-encrusted temples, authentic floating markets, and sky-scraping towers spring to mind. And they should. Yet, the city’s appeal is also in its street food restaurants with plastic chairs, scattered along narrow sois, side-streets branching off major roads. 

It’s hot and humid, but underneath the smog and commotion, this metropolis awaits with an endless list of things to do in Bangkok. 

View from Chao Phraya sky park

The air is filled with tantalizing aromas of spicy noodle dishes and sticky calorie bombs. Cabs, tuk-tuks, and motorbikes zip past below the rumbling BTS train, the elevated mass transit system. 

When travelers think about where to go in Bangkok, the question of how many days in Bangkok always comes up. We believe three days is long enough to dive into a world where water transport still plays a role in daily life. And short enough not to disturb your Thailand itinerary, which usually involves a south trip.

Here is your epic three-day Bangkok itinerary, so you can do it all yourself and won’t need to shell out for any Bangkok tours.

Day 1 – Cruise along Chao Phraya and discover the riverside

The riverwalk on Bangkok’s Thonburi side

Now that you’ve checked in and dumped your luggage, it’s time to ride the sky train to BTS station Saphan Taksin and explore what to do in Bangkok near Chao Phraya. After all, this is where the big city’s roots lie. 

Hop on the Orange Flag Line boat for a flat fee of 15 baht ($0.45) and get off at Yodpiman. Steps away is a flower market of the same name, open around the clock. Also called Pak Khlong Talad, Thailand’s largest flower, fruit and vegetable market opened in 1961.

Roaming this non-air-conditioned maze of stands selling marigolds, orchids, and plenty of other flowers, you’ll catch the scents of fresh red roses, jasmine, and basil. You can get roses for 50 baht ($1.55) or a bunch for thousands of baht.

Another city oasis is just a stone’s throw from the Yodpiman flower market. 

The Chao Phraya Sky Park is on the 280m-long Phra Pokklao Bridge, built on the unfinished Lavalin Skytrain’s basic framework. You can use it to get to the Thonburi side and hear exotic birds twitter as you saunter past purple orchid trees and fountain grass galore.

Chao Phraya sky park

When you’ve arrived on Chao Phraya’s western banks, be sure to amble along the river to the little-known, 240-year-old Kian An Keng Shrine. 

Kian An Keng Shrine

Sandwiched between the Santa Cruz Church and Wat Kalayanamit, this corner is where Chinese, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians have coexisted peacefully for over 250 years. 

The Bangluang Mosque is also close to this Hokkien-style shrine featuring woodcarving and ancient, powder-colored murals telling the story of three kingdoms.

The Santa Cruz Church

Once you’ve got your fill of oohs and aahs in admiration, jump on the ferry from Wat Kalayanamit to Chao Phraya River’s eastern banks. Using the Orange Flag Line boat from there, you can get to Phra Arthit Pier, which is within spitting distance of Khao San Road. Whether you spend a few hours there or party the night away, this backpacker street never sleeps.

Khao San Road

Day 2 – Cycle around Bang Krachao, Bangkok’s green lung

A smiling local of Bang Krachao

As for what to do in Bangkok, Thailand, that gets you out of the city’s mayhem, try a day trip to Bangkok’s off-the-beaten-path green lung. 

Hop on a rickety longtail boat at Klong Toey Nok (Pho Thong) pier, and you’ll be traveling to a bygone era. You won’t see any high-rise buildings or factories in Bang Krachao. It’s also called Bangkok’s green lung due to its greenery and bucolic wooden houses amid palm trees, giving the place the charm of a rural Thai village.

You can rent a bicycle for 30 baht ($0.90) per hour or 100 baht ($3.05) per day and tour this other side of Bangkok, where time stands still. But ensure you don’t fall off the edges of the narrow, elevated paths as you take in the views of enchanting flowers, ponds, jungle, and both Hindu and Thai temples. It’s a world away from Bangkok’s traffic noise.

Bang Krachao compares favorably with Lumpini Park

There are numerous walkways for lovey-dovey time in Botanical Gardens and viewpoints for breathers. Don’t miss Bang Nam Pheung for a floating market that’s kept its authenticity, so you can tick that off your bucket list of things to do in Thailand. 

If your stomach rumbles, you’ll also get your money’s worth at one of the few restaurants serving Thai food. Lastly, you can get some trinkets and other souvenirs, should you want to take a piece home from a different side of Bangkok.

Getting back to modern Bangkok when twilight falls is simple. You can hail a cab or a tuk-tuk at Klong Toey Nok pier and head for the sky-brushing Moon Bar at Banyan Tree, which often ranks among the world’s top ten rooftop bars. Its sweeping 360-degree-views of Bangkok’s skyline as you sip on a tasty cocktail are well worth the ten-minute ride from the pier.

Moon Bar, Banyan Tree Bangkok

Day 3 – Hit the shopping malls, Asiatique, and Sky Bar at Lebua

MBK is in the heart of downtown Bangkok

Your Bangkok itinerary wouldn’t be complete without visiting MBK, Siam Center, Siam Paragon, Central World, and other colossal shopping complexes. After all, Bangkok is famous for its giant shopping malls with over 2,000 shops, cafes, restaurants, and department stores. 

Dig out your credit cards and shop till you drop in Bangkok’s concrete jungle before heading to Thailand’s south. You’re sure to find some cool, stone-washed jeans or a telling t-shirt you’ll want to wear in Phuket or Koh Samui.

You can spend hours discovering posh modern malls like Siam Discovery and marvel at Madame Tussaud’s life-sized wax replicas of American luminaries. But when the sun sets, the street food mecca of Bangkok beckons.

Head to Chinatown, one of the oldest parts of the city. Situated on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya River from Wat Arun, the pyramidal, Chinese porcelain and glass-covered Temple of Dawn towering 70 meters above the river. 

When it comes to Bangkok transportation, you’re spoiled for choice. And thankfully, Chinatown is not difficult to reach. Of course, the fastest way to get there is to jump on a motorbike taxi. But you can also get there by riding the BTS sky train to Sala Daeng and the MRT to Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s iconic train station that the Thai authorities will revamp into a museum. 

View of Chao Phraya River and Asiatique

Once you’re done checking out the maze of Chinatown’s alleys with its abundance of Thai delicacies and Chinese souvenirs, it’s worth thinking about the things to do in Bangkok at night. Since you’re already in the riverside area, you can continue to shop at Asiatique, the open-air mall on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, conveniently located near Saphan Taksin BTS station.

The night bazaar and giant replica warehouse complex boast over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants to combine the best of Bangkok’s shopping malls and street markets. There’s also an illuminated Ferris wheel. But even more romantic is the nearby Sky Bar at Lebua. It’s the perfect spot to crown your three-day Bangkok itinerary with smashing views of the riverside and a sea of lights.

FAQ

I have a few more days in Bangkok, what else should I do?

The list is endless, but visiting the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, the Chatuchak weekend market, museums, and having a Thai massage is a good start.

Besides Pad Thai and banana pancakes, what is the best street food to try?

Roasted duck, pork skewers, chicken satay, shrimp tom yum, stinky beans with shrimp. I’m already drooling.

Do the malls stay open late in Bangkok?

Yes, many are open until midnight, but they are rarely open before 9 am.

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