There are so many things to do in Bangkok, so it’s no wonder that this bustling capital city is a highlight for anyone traveling to Thailand. The city boasts impressive temples, traditional markets, delightful culinary experiences, and great shopping opportunities. For those of us who want to experience authentic places in Bangkok, here are the top 5 things to do in Bangkok with locals. The goal? Stay clear of the group tours and live life among locals.
Bangkok boasts several modern shopping malls such as the popular Siam Paragon and MBK, but what fun is shopping the same way you do at home? To shop like a local you’ll have to forgo the comfort of air conditioning and go grocery shopping, Thai style!
Two spectacular markets to visit are the Klongtoey fresh market and the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Klongtoey is the city’s largest wholesale wet market, with vendors selling everything from freshly butchered meats, farm fresh eggs, to live seafood, and produce. You won’t find skyscrapers here – just people going about their daily errands by foot or on scooters. The sights and smells can be strong but experiencing everyday life is all part of getting to know another culture.
Klongtoey is located just south of central Bangkok along the Khao Praya River. It is open every day from 6 am to 2 am.
Chatuchak offers a different experience. Said to be the world’s largest weekend market, Chatuchak is a sprawl of vendors (27 acres to be exact) selling prepared foods, housewares, clothing, furniture, and more. It’s basically a giant flea market, so if you’ve been waiting to buy some souvenirs this may be just the place to come find them.
There are no fixed prices, so feel free to negotiate on a price with the vendor. Once you’ve browsed to your heart’s content, head to one of the 400 food vendors for a snack or refreshing dessert. Many of them have tables and chairs set up for convenience. Chatuchak takes place every Saturday and Sunday 6 am to 6 pm.
Locals and tourists alike love to visit Thailand’s floating markets. Khlong Lat Mayom is a floating market in Bangkok that takes place Saturdays and Sundays 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Come early to avoid the heat and lunchtime crowds and to have an authentic Thai breakfast. Visitors can browse the stalls under the thatched walkways and order food directly from vendors on small wooden boats. The foods are then prepared and handed over to you as you enjoy the gorgeous outdoor setting.
Some dishes you may encounter are Thai green chicken curry, Kanom Tarn (palm cake topped with shredded coconut), pad thai, and kuay teow kua gai fried noodles. If you aren’t in Bangkok on a weekend, but still want to experience a floating market, you can always go to the more touristy Damnoen Saduak floating market. It’s about 68 miles west of Bangkok and makes for a great day trip option.
In case you haven’t noticed, a huge part of Thai culture centers around food. And it’s easy to see why – there are virtually hundreds of dishes to try, with most of them readily available from street food vendors. Taking a street food tour is a great way to eat like a local without having to figure out how to communicate with the vendors (although this can be quite fun as well).
There are so many neighborhoods in Bangkok to choose from for nighttime food tours such as Yao Wa Rat, which is home to a sizeable Chinese community and large concentration of Chinese restaurants and food vendors. With Locals offers private street food tours in Yao Wa Rat and other area of the city as part of their Thailand Tours program.
On the west side of the Khao Praya River, in the Thonburi area, lies one of Thailand’s last-surviving artisanal communities. Bangkok Noi is a community of artisans whose aim is to preserve a 200-year-old way of life.
There are several places to visit, including the Baan khan long hin, a bronzeware factory specializing in bowls. The metalworkers of Baan khan long hin use ancient methods and a mixture of copper, tin and bronze to create symmetrical flawless bowls that were traditionally used to hold offerings for monks.
Other stops along Bangkok Noi include the Sa nguan Osoth traditional medicine shop, Baan Bu Market, and the Old Steam Storage House. Visiting Bangkok Noi Artisan Village will give you a deeper appreciation for Thai art and culture, and a great opportunity to interact with the locals.
Muay Thai is a combat sport that is often called “the art of eight limbs.” Fighters are allowed to use their whole bodies, including knees, shins, feet, and elbows, to try and knock their competitor to the ground. Many moves in MMA fighting are similar to those used in Muay Thai.
Not for the faint of heart, attending a Muay Thai fight can be a thrilling experience when in Bangkok. Muay Thai is the national sport and loved by many. Locals crowd local arenas to cheer on their favorite fighters, which gives visitors the perfect opportunity to delve right into Thai sport culture.
The Lumpinee, Rajadamnern and Channel 7 Stadiums are three of Bangkok’s largest and most popular. The priciest tickets guarantee ringside seats. If you wish to train with a Muay Thai fighter, there are also several gyms that will allow you to do so, whether it’s your first time or you wish to polish up your combat skills with new techniques.
And there you have my list of top 5 things to do in Bangkok with locals. I hope you enjoy your trip to this amazing city and get every opportunity to dive right into the local culture!
Have you been to Bangkok? Tell us about your favorite experiences with locals. Leave us a comment below!