Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is a cacophony of languages. It’s no surprise its considered the busiest airport in Southeast Asia. You’ll see people flowing in and out from all directions, coming in or returning from the sensory overload that is Thailand. Bangkok, most of all, is admittedly a sight to behold with monks holding to their beggar bowls, lady boys selling merchandise in Phat Phong, flowered temples, and an endless supply of street food. That’s why even when travelers have 24 hours or less to spend in the city, they still choose to go out and absorb a bit of what the culture will present them.
While Bangkok is too big a city to completely explore even when you do have a couple more days to spend, there are a couple of areas that can serve as a great introduction to the city and will tide the traveler for until when he or she can return.
The easiest way to make your way from the airport to the city center is via the Airport Rail Link, which is found in the basement of the passenger terminal. From the airport, you can go directly to Ratchaprarop, the 6th station from the airport, or Phaya Thai, the 7th. The train is really the best way to get to and from the different areas in Bangkok, so in order to save time, opt to buy a prepaid pass at the airport terminal instead. You can load 350 THB (around 10.00 USD) worth of rides so you can easily get from place to place.
If for any reason, the train isn’t to your liking, you can also get a taxi on the first floor. Typical rides going to the city, including time spent in traffic, will take around 30 to 40 minutes and will cost you around 250 THB (approximately 7.00 USD) including a 50 THB surcharge on top of the meter. Be careful of fixers or poachers who may approach you at the airport. These people will lead you to taxi drivers who will insist you pay a fixed rate of 2,500 THB (around 70.00 USD) for a ride to the city because of “heavy traffic.”
Airport Rail Link
Address: Service at Basement B
Opening Hours: 6:00 am to 12:00 am every day
Contact: 1690 , 02-308-5600 Ext. 2906 – 2907
Website: Airport Rail Link
Taxi2Airport is the easiest and most reliable way to get to and from the airport. Through secure online payments, you can book your airport transfers in advance, saving up to 35% on your journey.
Khao San Road is known to be a tourist haven (particularly for hipsters) found in Thailand’s Banglamphu District. If you’re bringing your luggage with you, you can rent a cheap room or bed space in a hostel for around 280 THB (8.00 USD) or less so you can leave your luggage, rest for a while, and clean up before you hit the road.
Because Khao San attracts all types of tourists, many little artisanal shops have started cropping up on Khao San Road. A lot of hipster clothing, such as those made with lace, crochet, or vintage florals are found here. However, more interesting shopping finds can be found in the secondhand bookshops. You have shops like Book Lover, Bookazine, Moonlight Book Shops, and Shaman Books selling a lot of travel books and a good selection of fiction and non-fiction English titles.
Should you also happen to want to grab a bite after an hour or so visiting Banglamphu Market or browsing titles in the bookshops, you can find a lot of interesting street food vendors selling pad thai, breakfast baguettes, massaman curry, rotis and more.
Khao San Road
Address: Central Bangkok, Thailand
Opening Hours: Open 24 Hours
Access: From the airport, you can head straight to Khao San Road via the Airport Rail Link to Makkasan Station. Just outside the station, you can take Bus #556 going to Khao San Road.
3. Grand Palace at Rattanakosin (3 hours)
After you’ve shopped and eaten your way through Khao San, you can head on to the Grand Palace, the iconic symbol of Thailand. The Grand Palace is just about a 10 to 15-minute walk from Khao San. If you don’t want to walk, you can ride a tuk-tuk for around 10 THB (0.20 USD). If you want convenience, you can also take the taxi for around 40 THB (1.14 USD).
The Grand Palace was built in the late 1700s and is the official royal residence until the 1900s. However, it is now only used now for ceremonial purposes. The Outer Court holds the Emerald Buddha sculpture made entirely from green jade. The Middle Court shows a combination of European and Thai aesthetic. King Rama V lived here for a time, as well as in the Boron Phiman Mansion at the right of the court. Stroll through the Sivalai Garden Complex where the Royal Family, especially the women and children, played in the early 1900s.
Because the Palace is an important historical landmark in Thailand, visitors must be dressed conservatively to be allowed entrance. Women should be sure that their knees and shoulders are properly covered with appropriate, neat clothing. Men also must be dressed neatly and no sweatshirts, pajamas or fishermen trousers are allowed.
The Grand Palace
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand
Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, every day
Access: 15-Minute Walk from Khao San Road
Contact: +66 2 623 5500
Website: Grand Palace Tours
South of the Grand Palace is the Buddhist temple complex, Wat Pho or Wat Po. The temple houses the biggest collection of Buddha images in all of Thailand with around 1,000 different sculptures and images in different sizes and positions. The most stunning include the 46-meter long reclining Buddha, which represents the moment when Buddha enters Nirvana.
Wat Pho also happens to be the birthplace of Thai massage and granite slabs around the complex still teach about the connection of massage and traditional medicine. Many artifacts also touch on the subject of religion, science, literature, and other academic fields, thus Wat Pho is considered the first public university in Thailand.
Wat Pho is a leading example of traditional Buddhist Thai architecture. Its interior houses 91 mounds, several gardens, statues, and the temple has now been turned into a museum.
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Price: 100 THB (2.85 USD)
Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 6.30 pm. Closed on public holidays.
Contact: +66 2 225 9595
A second look at Bangkok
If you find yourself with more time in Bangkok, you should also visit the National Museum, Wat Arun, and Chang Pier. However, there simply are too many details in each site to experience in only 24 hours, as Bangkok is so vibrant and multi-layered. Each stone, stupa, and sculpture is a testimony to how rich in culture this contemporary city is, despite its rapid modernization. Your next visit should definitely be more than 24 hours.
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