I recently travelled to Bangkok for a short weekend getaway so I thought it would be useful to list some ideas on what to do in Bangkok in 3 days (which is actually sufficient). All information and prices provided in this article are accurate at the time of writing.
Having been to Bangkok quite a few times, for shopping reasons, i decided to spend a bit of time visiting some tourist attractions. Most of the time, Singaporeans really just want to do a shopping spree in Platinum Fashion Mall and the weekend Chatuchak Market when we say we are heading to Bangkok.
1. Four Faced Buddha
When most people say they are visiting the Four Faced Buddha in Bangkok, what they are referring to is actually the Erawan Shrine, one of the most famous tourist attractions within Bangkok. Aside from being the subject of the news several times – in 2006 when the Four Faced Buddha statue was smashed by a mentally ill Thai man, and in 2015 when a bomb detonated nearby and killed 20 people, I’ve long heard about it from a Buddhist devote friend who make her way to the Shrine every year to pray for good fortune and the likes. This trip, i finally decided to go see for myself what the fuss was all about.
I was expecting a proper temple ground but little did I know that I would be alighting at a small patch of land beside several office buildings like the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, one of which had a McDonald’s outlet below it. Glancing up, I could also see the skytrain tracks and hear one going past every now and then. This seems like quite a far cry from the usual majestic temples (also known as Wat in Thai) scattered throughout the Buddhist country of Thailand.
It is said that the first face is for worshippers who want to pray for themselves, the second face is for those seeking a relationship, the third is for businessmen, and the last is for those wanting to strike a lottery. Many famous international celebrities have also paid a visit to the Four Faced Buddha at Erawan Shrine to pay their respects when travelling to Bangkok.
I heard from a tour guide telling her group that a Thai woman travelled from another province to Bangkok wanting to improve her fortunes, so she visited the Four Faced Buddha at the Erawan Shrine. She made a promise to perform a strip dance for the Four Faced Buddha if she could win the lottery. No prizes for guessing – she did win the lottery afterwards but the unfortunate thing was that she became rich and forgot to honour her promise. She fell very sick, then sought out advice, which was to fulfil her promise. As she couldn’t do it during the day, it was said that she visited the shrine at night and performed the strip dance. Thereafter, her sickness gradually went away. Well… as skeptical as I am, anything goes in this weird and wonderful world we live in.
I visited on a Saturday morning, and the crowds were really packed – there was even a queue to light your joss sticks and candles! As you can see, I could barely get a good photo with a clear view of the shrine. I also noticed a hardworking team of cleaners clearing a bin full of the sea of joss sticks, candles and flower offerings at the shrine every few minutes to free up space for the next few worshippers.
Do buy your offerings from the sole store within the shrine grounds, as the stalls outside the gate will be selling at higher prices. The queue was long but the turnover was pretty fast.
I must say, having been to many temples in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and China, this was a pretty unique experience – a shrine in the middle of all that buzz. It was something different (having seen too many temples and they started to look similar) which I recommend taking a look at even if you free too templed-out.
Prices for the prayer items in the shrine area:
12 joss sticks + 4 flowers + 1 candle: 25 baht
12 joss sticks + 12 flowers + 4 candles: 85 baht
You can allocate 3 joss sticks for each face of the Buddha when you go about making your prayers. There are also larger sets of offerings available at a higher price.
Alight at Chitlom Station (Skytrain)
Do remember to bring small change or coins to purchase your ticket if you’re taking the Subway/Skytrain. If you only have 1,000 baht notes, you’ll have to buy your ticket at the counter as the ticket machines only accept notes up to denominations of 100 baht.
2. Wat Arun
Commonly known as the Temple of the Dawn, Wat Arun is one of the most majestic temples in Bangkok, located at the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. I took a riverboat cruise there, since my accommodation was situated on the opposite side of the river. The waters near the temple were filled with catfish, and staff on board sold large packs of bread to tourists who wanted to feed them. There’s just something about tourists and feeding fishes (or basically any animal in water) with bread, I’m no marine expert but I just hope bread is a legit enough feed.
Restoration works were in progress when I visited Wat Arun, so the whole temple was encased in scaffolding and we were only allowed to climb up half the temple. I was told that for those who are Buddhist, you can bring your amulets along to let the monks chant a prayer over them.
For those who are making a visit to this temple, note that proper attire is recommended, but not actively enforced (unlike in Myanmar). There are signboards in the area which state that skirts and shorts are not allowed, and tops are required to have sleeves covering the shoulders.
I visited Chinatown on a weekend evening and the road traffic was crazy even at 10pm. The area was bustling with both locals and tourists, and food stores lined the roadside, feeding people the entire night. You’ll be spoilt for choice by the food, and Chinatown is also known for its bird’s nest if you’re a fan.
Other than just eating and shopping for food, there isn’t much to do around here though, in my opinion. For those bitten by the photobug, the neon signboards are photo-worthy in the evening or night.
Getting there from Pathumwan:
About 30-40mins by car (depending on traffic conditions)
4. Chatuchak Market
Also known as Jatujak in Thai, or JJ Weekend Market, this is one of the largest markets in Thailand, having more than 8,000 stalls which only open during the weekend. Word of caution though – the market area is REALLY huge, so you might want to work your way around using the maps found at the entrances! I would advise that you take a photo of the map before going on. This was my 3rd time here but it still amazes me, I got lost the first time round but by spending half the day there, I eventually had a rough idea of where things were.
You will realise that the stalls are divided into sections, so each section sells similar things – clothes, shoes, army stuff, glassware, souvenirs, food (mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, cold drinks) etc. This time round, unlike my previous trips (before I started my no-shopping journey for apparels only, I must emphasise), I was sticking to window-shopping and getting things for friends and family. As I cook all the time at home, and my mum hates it when our house smells of food, she uses incense sticks regularly. So I bought a large pack for 180 baht from Branch 5 located at Section 5, No. 191 – 192 of the market. This large pack contains 6 packs of 50 incense sticks each, with assorted scents.I bought it from this stall: Yu Factory – they have several branches located at different sections of Chatuchak market. Though the incense stick packaging states that there are different scents, having smelt it for a long time, I still do not really pick up the differences or I do not notice anyway.
For young adults and teenagers, if you’re looking for more fashionable clothings, skip the clothing sections in the middle and head to section 2 – 4. This section is a host to indie brands and blog-shop material type of clothes.
This time round I came across a t-shirt store called Charka Design selling some “designer-friendly” or “hipster” prints at (Section 10, Soi 20 of the market) – with each tee going for only 150 baht, I bought a couple of them for some of my guy friends as requested. Their website doesn’t seem to be working, so you can also check out their Facebook page to see their designs.
It was really hot and I was exhausted after walking for hours but barely covering half of the market grounds. Seems like the drink vendors were really having a good time making their buck from tourists. I exited at Entrance 1 of Chatuchak Market and found salvation in the form of a (mostly) empty shopping mall just across the road. Apart from a foot massage parlour on the ground floor, it was mostly vacant. There were many others like me who also came into the mall and sat down to enjoy the free wifi and air-conditioning!
Alight at Chatuchak Park Station (Subway) Exit 1 or Mo Chit Station (Skytrain). Walk across the green lawns of Chatuchak Park for a shortcut into the market.
Street Food in Bangkok
As with many developing countries in Southeast Asia, food is pretty cheap if you’re eating at a roadside hawker stall. I came across a place selling a plate of tasty Pad Thai for 25 baht and a bowl of Duck Noodles for 40 baht!
Shopping in Bangkok
If you live around the Pathumwan district like I did, shopping malls are within walking distance. People keen on a shopping spree can head to Platinum Mall which has several floors, but mostly selling female clothes and accessories. Sorry guys, but there’s only one floor dedicated to male apparel. Unfortunately, I came out empty-handed as I decided to maintain my no-shopping streak.
I also browsed through some of the souvenir stores in Platinum Mall and decided to buy a packet of Green Curry Paste and Pad Thai Sauce for 25 baht each (left & middle in photo below). Can’t wait to try these at home for a quick and easy meal!
For me, no travel trip is finished without a trip to the local supermarket. Without apparel shopping, supermarkets are the only time i get to relax my rules. Decided to snag another Green Curry Paste for 20 baht (rightmost in above photo) and a couple of jars of instant coffee for the mother. I first bought this brand of instant coffee from the local supermarket in Myanmar and since it has gotten my mum’s approval, i bought this as a replacement for Nescafé. It’s so much cheaper, and apparently tastes better than the current Nescafé (disclaimer: according to the mum, not me – I actually don’t drink coffee)
Have you ever visited Bangkok? Any suggestions on what to do in Bangkok in 3 days? What places would you recommend for first-time visitors? I would like to hear your comments below!