Bangkok is unbelievably big! Even coming from sprawling LA, I couldn't believe the massive scope of this city. Before arriving, I thought I might want to bypass a potentially generic big city, but I'm so happy I stayed a few days to discover beautiful palaces, get lost in local streets, and wander some exciting night markets. Here are a few places I visited, along with other sites recommended to me.
1. The Grand Palace
It's massive, crowded, and beautiful so take it easy, cover your shoulders and legs, and hydrate. Hours are from 8:30am-3:30pm, so you can't leave this as a late afternoon excursion.
From here, head south to reach...
2. Wat Pho houses the Reclining Buddha and Massage School. Each have their own entrance fees, so be prepared with cash. The whole Grand Palace is really a sight to behold and completely worth it. Ladies need to cover your shoulders and wear clothing past your knees. If you find yourself without the appropriate attire, there are plenty of local vendors who would love to sell you a large scarf to cover up.
3. Khao San Road
In walking distance from The Grand Palace is the famous backpackers street. This area is not for everyone, but some will appreciate the famous area. Personally, I connect it to Brokedown Palace where Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale start as out as innocent, care-free travelers, before things take a dark turn and they end up in Thai jail. Thankfully, this was not my personal plot and I was able to simply enjoy a cool drink, while accessing wifi, and check out all of the local wares. This turned out to be one of the cheapest places to purchase clothing, so if you find something you like, bargain and buy.
4. Golden Mount
A less touristy temple to visit but with a great view is the Golden Mount (Wat Saket). A 180 degree view at the top of a few stairs makes the climb worth it. Once on the roof, you can rest, meditate, and even log on to free wifi!
I'm not big on malls, but in the intense heat, sometimes escaping to the air conditioned shops and food court fits the bill! And Thailand knows how to make a stylish, modern mall. A few of their best are: Siam Paragon, off the BTS Silom Line (Siam stop), along with a couple other neighboring buildings to check out. The other major mall is Emquartier Emporium, also on the BTS Silom Line, exiting the Phrom Phong Station. In between the two is Terminal 21, where each floor is an airport-themed terminal from a different city, in the Asoke area of town. Food courts are a perfect place to rest and replenish.
(Photo: From the Siam station, heading for the Siam Center.)
Here's a page that lists 7 major night markets, including Artbox. Other options are The Jam Factory, and Asiatique. Markets can be packed and overwhelming, but they're fun social shopping and eating locales.
Prices do vary based on whether you're up North or not, but if you're in Bangkok, a great massage deal is Health Land. 2 hours only costs 550 Baht, roughly $15.
I stayed in the Asoke/Sukhumvit area, and was very happy with the location. It's easy to get to the airport, right by a metro line, and has Terminal 21 and other good spots nearby. Anywhere close to the metro Sukhumvit line from Asoke to Siam is a pretty good bet. You're near public transportation and some of the action.
9. SIM cards and 7 Elevens
7 Eleven's are everywhere -- I've never seen so many in my life! You can find random pumpkin/tuna toasties, cheap bottles of water, and most importantly, cheap month-long sim cards. I immediately updated my phone number in Uber, so the driver could call if lost en route. Unfortunately, my data didn't load properly, so I returned it for a refund. If you run into the same issue, you can probably find enough wifi all over Thailand to manage alright. It's nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.
Of course, there are always more areas to explore, but this offers a jumping-off point. My next stop was a flight south, to islands Koh Samui and Koh Tao.