what to do in bangkok thailand

Have you ever been to Atlanta? Or perhaps made a stop-off in Denver or Chicago? Do you feel a tinge of excitement in the air as you contemplate what you will do with your day and change layover?

No? Well, maybe we need to broaden that horizon. Have you ever wondered what to do in Bangkok Thailand for a 48-hour layover on your way to Phuket or up the coast to Seol?

Hub cities get a bad rap for being too busy and not destinations in themselves. That is a sad attitude we don’t agree with. Hub cities are workhorses of the travel world.

So strap on your bags -filled with essential items– and get ready to face a mission possible of seeing a city in action.

What to do in Bangkok Thailand

So you arrive in the city. Your flight has dropped you off in the wee hours of the morning and you have roughly 48 hours of time in Bangkok. What do you do?

Day One: Arrival

To make the most out of your time in BKK you need to get some footing. No need to hit a hotel and check things, your luggage is being transferred by the airline, leaving you carry-on light. Perfect for stashing in a locker and a run across the city.

It’s 3 AM

Or not. It’s early in the night and you have cramps from the flight. Hit a hotel, an Air BNB or a Couch Surfing contact and get in a few winks before you try anything.

Late Breakfast

Take to the streets and hail the all-purpose Asian transport known as the tuk-tuk. Travel to a train station and fork over less than 100 baht to get a handy train pass (sometimes called a rabbit card for hopping trains).

Then find yourself the first of about 50 stops to nosh. Bangkok is a food town with thousands of restaurants, street food stands and tucked away corner cafes.

Make your way to the Saphan Taksin BTS station. Upon exiting you will be in an area chock full of food. Try some curry puffs, green curry, and some mango desserts. Grab something chilled to walk around with and head out.

A Walk in the Park

You want to hit Lumpini Park just before noon and stay awhile. This inner city stretch of green features a lake, trees, and many paths crisscrossing through flat areas.

Witness the locals and the tourists riding bikes, strolling around, exercising solo or in groups, and paddle boating on the lake.

Keep yourself ready to spot one of the large monitor lizards in the area. The will wander around with little care for the populace persuing their lazy lizard agenda.

An Evening Out

As the light dims and the temperatures cool off, head to Yaowarat Road in the older section of the city.

Food smells will hit hard as you approach. The area features 5-star dining next to sketchy alleys and discount stalls rubbing shoulders with $50 a plate tasters. Whatever food you love, you will find a version here.

Yaowarat doesn’t see as many tourists as previous destinations. Expect to see more locals and fewer gawkers. Be prepared to haggle for a banana and Nutella rotee.

Also, don’t get lost in the sprawl. Yaowarat is the type of street that can feel like a city unto itself. Every block is a fiefdom of sorts and getting lost means a lot of backtracking and wandering.

Day Two: Sleep is for the Week

Having reached your lodgings long enough to at least change, it is time to get out there for your second day. Departure looms less than 24 hours away and there is just so much left to do. Maybe you sleep a bit, that sounds like a personal issue.

Traveling to Places

With so many places to go, narrowing down the must-sees from the ‘if you have times’ is better left to a matter of personal taste and chance. A planned, organized tour may give you a wide view but it will feel artificial.

Try a more curated experience.

For the history buff, try out Wat Arun. This temple delights with a multitude of hand-crafted porcelain pieces festooned to the surfaces. You will also enjoy a pleasant ferry ride and views of the riverside.

For the mystery aficionado, try out the residence of Jim Thompson. This former American revitalized the silk industry in Thailand in the late 1950s. He departed for Malaysia in 1967 and was not heard from again.

The mystery may not intrigue all, however, the wonderful architecture and art collection within the teak building may.

For those looking for a more modern excursion, try the rea os Siam. Visit shopping malls and upscale boutiques. See the city through marvelous panes of glass and the bustle of commerce.

Watch the Market

As the midday starts to creep long into the early evening, try the Chatuchak Market. This outdoor market springs to life for weekends.

Visit vendors of local goods literally hanging shingles to advertise their spots. Step in and out of more upscale shopping establishments through small doors between. All of this under the brightening lights of a permanent Ferris wheel.

A Nightcap

Tired from a day spent running around to catch sites? Looking for something to settle the stomach after the rush of street food from the market? Head to a rooftop bar and a view of the city at dusk.

Enjoy some smaller portion dining and designer cocktails while gazing out at the city. Arrive early and watch the skyline change from a warm rosey to the stark contrasts of light and shadow as the lights come on.


After the nightcap, it is back to the lodgings or to a locker to retrieve your carry-on and back to the plane. You may not be done in your travels, but your stay in Bangkok has now come to a tranquil close.

Don’t Run Out of Time

If you want to find out what to do in Bangkok, Thailand with more time we have more guides here. We won’t judge if you find yourself needing a bit of something to do in other hub and lay-over destinations.

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