How to get through the essentials of Bangkok tourism in one-day
While in Bangkok there are several tourist options available in the city. This plan should take 1-day to complete and will hit the main attractions Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace. Enough time should be left over after visiting these locations for a possible side trip to Khaosan road, an evening shopping in MBK, and a bite to eat in Siam Paragon.
- We're going to go through the trip I've done many times by myself, with friends, and then with family who all wanted to experience the sights and sounds from the city. Based on that we're going to assume this trip will start and end on Sukhumvit road where most of the tourists generally stay at. If you don't stay in this area then skip straight away to step #2. For now we're going to get over to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. Our first objective is to get to the Tha Thien pier on the Chao Phraya river and then cross it to the temple.
- Taking a TukTuk - Never do this, it's just bad. These little vehicles would take too long to reach the destination and the price is based on what they think they can get you to pay. There's also the issue that they may divert you to other venues where they can get a commission or other distractions. While some drivers are okay, the distance is too far for these unsafe vehicles. In Bangkok you should never have one of these vehicles take you more than a few blocks and never for more than 100 baht in my opinion.
- Taking a Taxi - One of the fastest ways to get to the pier is by taxi, more or less. Bangkok is notorious for its traffic but if you are a typical tourist you should be out and about after the morning rush is mostly over. Before you get into the taxi make sure the driver will use the meter, don't negotiate a fair as it will never be in your favor. The ride over to the pier should take about 10 minutes and cost less than 150 baht.
- Taking Uber - A modern option which is about the same as a taxi. With a ride-hailing service you won't have to worry about taxi meters or prices as they are all preset. The drive will take about the same 10 minutes and cost about 100 baht to get there with the basic service.
- Taking the SkyTrain/Ferry - This option will take a bit longer but you will also get rewarded with a more adventurous trip to the temple. The first thing you'll need to do is find one of the SkyTrain stations on the Sukhumvit road. The common locations to enter at are on Sukhumvit soi 4 (Nana station), or Sukhumvit soi 14 (Asoke station). At the station you'll need to go up to the ticket machine and find Saphan Taksinr, this is where you'll want to end up at. There will be a circle over Saphan Taksin on the route map indicating your ticket. On the ticket machine you press the button matching the number on the map, enter your amount in coins, and it will spit a ticket out. Take your ticket over to the entrance and feed it into the turnstile. It will let you pass but don't forget to take your ticket when it spits it back up you'll need it to exit. Head up the stairs to the 2nd level indicating the train which is heading to Mo Chit. This is the direction we want to go on the line. When the SkyTrain arrives enter in relaxing air conditioning and enjoy the ride. Pay attention along the way as you will need to get off at the Siam Paragon station. Once you depart from the train at Siam Paragon head down one level to the next line. From here you'll want to get on the train going back the way you came. This will take you on the next line where you'll want to get off at Saphan Taksin.
The picture below shows a typical ticket machine for the SkyTrain - coins only.Now that you've made it to the Saphan Taksin stop you want to exit the Terminal. At the turnstile you'll enter your ticket again and it will let you out. It will keep your ticket as it has been used up. Exit the facility and head towards the Sathorn pier, it's in the same direction the SkyTrain was moving towards. After you exit and see the river ahead you will need to pass under the SkyTrain to your left and down to the pier. At the pier you do not need to get into any special boats, just wait at the pier until a ferry boat comes up with an orange flag on it. The flags all look red to me but it's the same ferry boat you want to get onto as they don't have a red line. Make sure you exit to ferry at the Tha Thien pier. Along the way enjoy your cruise up the river. This route will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes and cost about 100 baht.
Now that you've made it to the Tha Thien pier you'll want to get across the river to Wat Arun. There is a ferry here at Tha Thien pier which will take you across for about 5 baht in a matter of minutes. After you cross the river you will need to exit the pier and turn to your left. You are now at Wat Arun. Take some pictures of the demon guardians, visit the gardens, explore the temple, and get some drinks as it will be hot outside and we don't want any tourists passing out at the temple.
Wat Arun shown across the river with a ferry boat parked at the pier
Now that we've taken a ton of pictures at Wat Arun we're going to head over to Wat Pho. This is going to be a lot simpler than our trip to War Arun was. The first thing we need to do is to get back to the ferry by the river and cross over to Tha Thien pier on the other side. Once you get off the ferry head down to the street until you see a 4-way stop. If you look forward and to your right you will be looking at Wat Pho behind some tall walls. So, we need to cross the street the same way we have been walking after we got off the pier and stay on the right side of the street. Head down a little bit until you see the entrance into Wat Pho. This should take you about 5-minutes to get from the pier to the Wat Pho entrance. Once inside the current entry fee is 100 baht. Inside you'll see the temples, the large reclining buddha, Many more buddhas, a lot of gold, and other historical items. There is also a massage parlor on the location where they train students and provide services for the tourists for a modest fee.
A row of Buddha statues inside Wat Pho
Our next tourist spot is the Grand Palace. To get there we want to exit Wat Pho the same way we came in. Once you get outside just take a look across the street and you will be looking at the back side of the Grand Palace. The entrance is on the other side of the block which can take 10-minutes to walk around on the right or left side. The Grand Palace is always open so pay no attention to anyone along the way who comes up to you and tries to steer you away from the entrance or off to another location. If the distance is too far then a tuktuk should be able to take you around to the entrance for 20 baht. If they want to take you anywhere else just refuse and make sure they know you only want to go to the entrance. Sometimes the tuktuk drivers will try to take you off to a shop so they can get a bonus for bringing a shop customers, don't let them take you anywhere else.
At the entrance to the Grand Palace you'll need to make sure you are dressed appropriately. While they used to be strict about the rules to this historic temple area I have noticed a few people slipping into the grounds in violation of the religious rules. Make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. Women may need to wear a long skirt. If you did not dress correctly then there is a station that will rent some appropriate clothes to you for your visit. The Grand Palace entry fee is 500 baht, the most expensive entry fee for the day. Once inside you will get to see the emerald buddha, several temples inside, the royal palace, and historical artifacts from Bangkok. There is a small shop inside which sells water and frozen treats so make sure you don't get dehydrated. It is a very open space and you will be outside quite a bit.
If you still have the energy then the next stop is Khaosan road. This is where a lot of backpackers stay and hang out while in Bangkok. It may not look like much, but the place gets very lively at night. If you want to visit Khaosan a taxi ride from the Grand Palace should take less than 5-minutes at a cost around 100 baht. There are also several good restaurants in the area at a very reasonable price. Along the side streets there are also several silver and jewelry shops which are well known in Bangkok. This is a good place to relax for a bit and maybe get a massage, or pick up a few shirts from the local vendors. If you're really adventurous then you can get a tattoo from one of the local artists.
An afternoon shot looking down Khaosan road
Depending how your day went it will be either the afternoon or evening. At this point you can get on the SkyTrain and head back to the hotel or head over to Siam Paragon. From MBK you can take the stairs up to the National Stadium or Siam Paragon SkyTrain terminals and take the SkyTrain back to Sukhimvit road for about 60 baht. Another option is to take a 3-minute taxi ride back for about 100 baht. Or, since you're right next to Siam Paragon, you can explore this high-end mall. Outside the mall there are several shrines to Erawan and Ganesh. Inside in the basement is the Oceanworld Aquarium with a huge tank. The first floor also has about 50 different restaurants from the simple to the elegant. If you explore further you may even find the Bentley and Lamborghini dealership inside.
If you've made it through the whole day and seen all the sights listed above in the 7-steps then you have hit most of the major highlights of Bangkok in one day. Some people will always say a person should spend more time at each venue while others can't be bothered. It's all a personal choice to what you feel satisfied with. I've done this circuit multiple times and everyone has always loved it. Just don't forget to treat yourself at a good restaurant at the end of the day and post all those wonderful pictures you took. Make sure you bring someone along with you so you can get into a few of those good shots.