You know the drill — the family or a bunch of friends are finally coming to visit you in Thailand. Flying into Suvarnabhumi on a Friday morning, you’ve got 48 hours to show them the wonders of Bangkok before they jet off South for some quality beach time.
You can’t wait to show them the city that you’ve made your home.
But while they’re pumped to visit the islands (let’s face it, probably either Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Lanta or Koh Chang), Bangkok? Eh… not so much.
Not liking Bangkok is not a new thing for travellers.
“It’s too hot! Too smelly! Too noisy! Too much traffic!” they say.
And while that is indeed all true, anyone who’s spent some serious time here knows that there’s plenty more to Bangkok than meets the eye.
So, before your pals leave you for a sandier landscape, you’ve got two days to show them the best of your city and make them regret underestimating the City of Angels.
This isn’t your typical tourist itinerary – there’s no Khao San Road stop-off or dinner cruises here – but it will show your visitors the best of what Bangkok has to offer.
Get your tour t-shirts at the ready…
After an emotional reunion at Suvarnabhumi, it’s time to whisk your visitors into the heart of Bangkok.
Grab a taxi from the rank and try to impress as you direct your driver in fluent Thai. Flush with embarrassment as the driver repeatedly “Eh?”s at you and asks you to repeat yourself in English.
After stowing their luggage at your place and allowing your friends to freshen up before taking on the day, it’s time to introduce them to what Thailand does best: food.
Terminal 21 Food Court
Think of this as the assimilation part of the tour.
It’s up to you, as host, to order a wide variety of national dishes in order to introduce your visitors to the wonders of Thai cuisine. With a huge number of different stands and dishes on offer here, you can’t really go wrong.
Before all you purists shout that there’s much better food away from the T21 food court, it’s hard to argue with street food prices in an air-conditioned environment.
And its popularity with local Thais means that it’s a great place for people-watching!
After you’ve thoroughly nommed out, it’s time to get on the BTS and jet down to National Stadium for…
The Jim Thompson House
American businessman Jim Thompson is perhaps most famous for single handedly reviving the Thai silk industry before he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967.
His house — a complex of traditional Thai teak buildings lavishly decorated and kitted out with priceless art and antiques — has been preserved as a museum to the man and his achievements.
With entry just 150 baht, this is an easy way to appreciate the majesty of Thai architecture and artistry.
Next, it’s time to hop back one stop on the BTS to…
For many people, Siam is considered the centre of modern Bangkok thanks to its plethora of shiny shopping malls, hordes of people and general aura of being in the thick of it.
You’ll probably only want to spend serious time in Siam if your visitors are keen on shopping — take them to MBK for some, ahem, ‘authentic’ souvenirs or to Paragon for luxury hunting.
Once you’ve sufficiently emptied their wallets, it’s time to make a decision on where to go next. Choose your own adventure…
Either: Lumpini Park
Continue on the BTS Silom line to Ratchadamri Station and walk until you arrive at Lumpini Park.
This next stop off is all about street food, so grab yourself and your guests some khanom from the many street vendors outside before you enter the park. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, sit down and grab some som tam from the Jim Jum Chula stand too.
Once you’re sated, feel free to relax and explore the park. A nice walk around the perimeter perhaps, some pedal-boating, or even just sitting down to watch the people and animals going about their daily routine.
Just watch out for those monitor lizards…
Or: Victory Monument
Or, from Siam, you can choose instead to hop on the BTS Sukhumvit line and head to Victory Monument — one of Bangkok’s top spots for street food.
This is a major thoroughfare for both working Thais and travelling tourists alike, so expect plenty of traffic and people, and plenty of street stalls willing to cater to them.
So you don’t spoil your dinner, we recommend you head to Soi Rangnam for some grilled meats and other such Isaan savoury snacks. The fires start flaming up at around 7pm.
Make sure you don’t eat too much though as next it’s on to…
JJ Green Night Market
If your visitors are still standing, it’s back on the BTS and up to the final stop: Mo Chit.
Follow the crowd and head to the night market — also known as Chatuchak Green — where you’ll find a chilled-out, boho clientele with plenty of food, drinks and shopping to while the evening away with. It’s open Thursday to Sunday from 5pm until midnight.
Most tourists head to the usual Chatuchak Market at the weekend, but the night market is plenty more relaxing and arguably more fun.
After thrashing it out here for a few hours, it’s time to retreat back to base and have a good sleep before an early rise tomorrow…
It’s worth getting up bright and early on Saturday as it could take you up to an hour to travel to our first attraction. Make sure you’ve had a big ol’ breakfast to keep you going.
If you’re coming from Sukhumvit, you’ll either want to take the BTS to Siam before taking the BTS Silom line to Saphin Taksin, or you could take the MRT to Si Lom, before changing onto the BTS Silom line at Sala Daeng down to Saphan Taksin.
Once you’re at the pier, it’s time to transfer on to the Chao Phraya Express Boat (so marked with an orange flag), which you should take down to Tha Chang pier.
From there, it’s just a short walk to…
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is one of Bangkok’s busiest and most manic tourist attractions, but it’s also the most iconic and deserves to be on any itinerary worth its salt. It’s open from 8.30am to 3.30pm, so plan accordingly.
Entrance is a lofty 500 baht for foreigners — and don’t even try and barter for lower with your work permit! — but the incredible architecture and sheer gravity of the complex is arguably worth every satang.
Must-see sites within the Grand Palace include Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall and the model of Angkor Wat.
Once you’re done here, you can either stop for a rejuvenating Häagen-Dazs just outside the exit past the Aphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion, or continue on to our next stop…
We don’t want to give your visitors temple fatigue so we’ll just pop in to Wat Pho — another temple complex a short walk away from the Grand Palace.
It’s much quieter and more relaxing here, with just a 100 baht entrance fee, and a chance to see the famous 46-metre long reclining Buddha.
If your visitors are feeling pretty gnarly and jet-lagged, simply drop them off at the massage school for a quick 30 minute Thai or foot massage to knead them back to health.
Once they’re rejuvenated, it’s time to get back on the Chao Phraya Express Boat at Tha Tien pier and take it down to Ratchawong Pier. A short walk from the pier here will take you to…
It’s time for lunch and there’s no better place to do that than in Chinatown — the epicentre of Bangkok’s street food scene.
There are so many stalls and shophouses here selling food that it’s pretty impossible to list all your options, but we’d recommend Nai Jui on the Yaowarat Road for crispy pork, and Nai Mong Hoy Tod on Soi Prapachai for oyster omelettes.
After you’ve explored the Chinatown labyrinth and stocked up on any bizarre souvenirs, delicious loose leaf teas and the like, it’s time for a leisurely stroll down to Hua Lamphong Station.
Hua Lamphong Station
It’s a bit of a hair-raising walk to the station — you may prefer to take a taxi or tuk tuk if you’re not a fan of walking in the road and navigating fiery street stalls — but once you’re here, you’ll be connected to the MRT line and able to traverse easily back to Sukhumvit.
Once you’re home, it’s time to freshen up and get ready for a Sukhumvit night out. Choose your own adventure…
Either: A HiSo night on Thonglor
Our first option is to head to Thonglor and party like the wealthy locals.
Start the night with sundowners at the Octave rooftop bar on top of the Marriott on Soi 57. Covering the 45th to the 49th floor, take in the 360° panoramic views over Bangkok as the sun sets.
(This is the point where you can start feeling really smug that you get to live in this city while your friends are only visiting.)
We don’t want to be drinking too much on an empty stomach, so it’s time to head to Soi Thonglor and Soul Food Mahanakorn for dinner. Delicious Thai grub and (yet more) cocktails begin to sit quite nicely.
If you’re looking for some quirk now, head up the road a little further to the Iron Fairies for some craft cocktails amidst steampunk decor and some live jazz.
And to finish the night? Take a taxi to RCA (Royal City Avenue) and party the night away at Route 66 or Live RCA.
Or: An expat night on Soi 11
If you’d prefer to show your visitors the more traditionally touristy nightlife scene on Sukhumvit, you should head to Soi 11 for a night on the tiles.
Start off with a big dinner — there’s plenty of international cuisines on offer down here, but we’d recommend either Indian at Mrs Balbir’s or Mexican at Charley Brown’s.
From dinner, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to one of Bangkok’s weirdest bars — Cheap Charlie’s. This outdoor dive bar not only provides cheap drinks, but it’s also an ideal place for people watching, particularly of the resident expat population.
It’s time to change the vibe a little here and head to Above Eleven – the rooftop bar atop Fraser Suites. With striking views across the city, delicious drinks at reasonable prices, and usually a few silent Thai couples taking selfies, this is a great way to toast to your visitors’ last night in Bangkok.
Depending on your appetite to continue the evening, a stop by Levels club for some dancing is always fun or – if you’re feeling particularly socially lubricated – why not head for a quick jaunt to nearby Soi Cowboy, just off Soi 23? Perhaps show your visitors the more neon-lit side to Bangkok…
Well, blow me sideways. It’s the day of your guests’ flight down to the South and you are all so hungover that your heads are as sore as a penguin’s bollocks.
There’s only one thing for it, before you head to Don Mueang…
Huge hotel buffet breakfast
Most of the major hotels in Bangkok offer up incredible breakfast buffets to soak up that hangover and get you primed for the day ahead.
Prices vary hugely — if you’re feeling lavish, why not treat your pals to brunch at the St Regis on Ratchadamri? For 3,000 baht per person, you can expect foie gras, cheeses, imported meats, Lobster Thermidor, caviar and much more.
For less fish eggs and more bacon, head to the more reasonably priced — yet still brilliantly large — offerings at The Landmark (Nana) or the Marriott Sukhumvit 57.
Now, it’s time to pack up and say goodbye…
What would you add to a 48-hour Bangkok itinerary?
Featured image is by Mirko Eggert (with added text) and used under a Creative Commons licence