If you head to Bangkok, be prepared for sensory overload. When you walk out the door, numerous stalls selling street food line the path, their smells wafting up and mingling with the humid air. Looking up, gleaming high rise buildings stand proudly next to humble villas.
Be careful that you don’t look up for too long, though—a perpetual stream of motorbikes, buses, taxis, and bicycles will whizz quickly by, unfazed by pedestrians.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of things to see and do in an expansive city like Bangkok, and sure enough, visitors tend to gravitate toward the same things: The Grand Palace, MBK Shopping Center, and, of course, Khao San Road, infamous for being the party street of backpackers.
While these places hold significance in themselves, there is so much more to Bangkok than meets the eye. Elevate your experience in the City of Angels by visiting the following must-see, non-touristy places:
This hip suburb of Bangkok is home to a mix of expats and locals and boasts some of the coolest cafes, restaurants, and bars in town. TheCommons is a complex of eateries and bars and is frequented by young people meeting up with friends, getting some work done, or having a few drinks.
Thonglor is also home to one of my favorite cafes, Luka Moto, and one of the most stunning rooftop bars in town, Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar. Further down the street is 72 Courtyard, a communal space offering a wide variety of wines and beers along with a trendy club—Beam—to dance the night away in.
Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market
While this market is certainly smaller than Chatuchak Market, it is no less dazzling. A huge range of food, drink, clothes, shoes, and gadgets make up this vibrant and buzzing outdoor market. It is here that you can choose from an overwhelming array of local street food, from Thai desserts to exotic fruit smoothies to fried insects.
As you rub shoulders with locals, you will be delighted to find that all these food and drinks are ridiculously cheap, giving you ample opportunity to try as many foods as you like—just make sure you leave some room in your stomach beforehand.
Also known as the green lung of Bangkok, Bang Krachao is a large oasis of greenery situated in the bustling metropolis and serves as a getaway from the concrete jungle. Filled with lush green trees, mangroves, and gardens, you will feel like you’re a world away from Bangkok—even though it only takes a short boat trip to get to.
It is a very popular place to bike around in, with designated roads and pathways snaking through forested areas. You can stop for a break at the variety of restaurants, cafes, and street stalls that inhabit the area, including Bangkok Tree House, a wood and glass structure serving Thai and vegan cuisine.
Although Yaowarat Road (the main thoroughfare of Chinatown) is touristy, it is worth exploring the streets surrounding it. Chinatown is truly a place bustling with eccentricity and presents a side of Bangkok that is raw and chaotic.
Plenty of cheap street food, a dizzying assortment of markets, and underrated bars and cafes mean that you can spend a whole day here navigating its streets. It is home to Chata Specialty Coffee, an exceptional cafe tucked away inside a greenhouse, and Ba Hao, an elegant and cool vintage Chinese bar that offers a selection of unique and creative cocktails.
Chao Phraya River and the canals
It is one thing to explore Bangkok through its streets, but another thing entirely to explore it by boat. The Chao Phraya River is a major river that runs through Bangkok and can be traversed by ferry or via a dinner cruise. You can hop off at any stop you want and explore the assortment of markets and temples that run alongside it.
Alternatively, you can explore the canals by taking a long-tail boat. It is in this way that you can observe how the locals live in their traditional Thai houses, built on stilts by the river. Traveling along the Chao Phraya is indeed an affordable and non-touristy way to get around, and you’ll find that plenty of locals are doing the same.
Bangkok may be a love or hate kind of place, but you can come to admire and even become enraptured with the city if you know where to look. Try those places out and see what you think—these gems may surprise you.