Bangkok is often referred to as ‘The Gateway to Southeast Asia’. Whether you are exploring Thailand, another country in the region or just stopping off to break up a long haul flight, you may find yourself in this wonderful city on more than one occasion. This list of 10 alternative things to do in Bangkok will give you some more ideas on how to spend your time here once you have already seen the main attractions. Or perhaps you enjoy checking out the lesser known places first!
1. Koh Kret
Koh Kret is an island located in the Chao Phraya River, just north of Bangkok city. It was formed in 1722 when a canal was dug to bypass a large bend in the river. Sometimes known as ‘Pottery Island’, the Mon people, originally from Burma, have inhabited the island ever since it was formed with pottery making being their main trade. Due to its isolation from the mainland, and having no cars, Koh Kret has kept its old, rural charm and culture and offers an insight into Thai village life without needing to travel far from the city.
2. Bang Krachao – Green Lung
Its nickname refers to the geographical lung shape covered with dense, green mangrove forest. Protected from commercial development, the ‘Green Lung’ of Bangkok offers some breathing space away from the chaos and smog of the city. There are many raised cycle paths criss-crossing the area with bicycles for rent for just THB 100 (Approx US$ 3). Numerous cafes are dotted around to stop off for a cool drink or some lunch.
3. Siriraj Pathology Medicine Museum
Affectionately known as the ‘Death Museum’ this place is definitely not for the faint hearted. The Museum houses everything from preserved bodies and deformed foetuses to fractured skulls of murder victims. Located in Siriraj Hospital the museum was originally opened for education and research purposes. It has since become a popular attraction for other curious visitors and is definitely one of the alternative things to do in Bangkok.
4. Royal Barge Museum
Usually reached by longtail boat, this unique museum houses a collection of ornate barges still used in royal processions to this day. The barges, made from teak wood, are up to 46 metres long and require up to 50 oarsmen. The prow of each barge has a mythical creature carved into the wood. Learn about their history since the Ayutthaya Kingdom, what the designs represent, and marvel at the intricate decorations of gold and coloured glass.
5. Mahanakhon Rooftop Bar, SkyWalk and Observation Deck
Bangkok has an abundance of rooftop bars with the most popular one, featured in most guidebooks, being the Lebua State Tower (from The Hangover film). However, the Mahanakhon Tower, opened in late 2016, has something extra: The SkyWalk. Sticking out on a ledge, outdoors, 310 metres above street level is one of the worlds largest glass trays offering a birds eye view of the city streets below. Please note the dress code for the rooftop bar itself is smart casual, no flip flops.
6. Bangkok Airplane Graveyard
‘Urban Exploration’ is the act of entering, experiencing and photographing abandoned buildings, areas or other man made structures. If that sort of thing interests you then this rather out of place collection, or ‘graveyard’ of derelict planes in the city is a must. The main focal point is the huge Boeing 747. Although we don’t recommend climbing inside as it may be unsafe, from the outside every angle you look is a photo opportunity with fuselages, wings and other bits of debris strewn across the area. Another fantastic alternative thing to do in Bangkok.
7. Ratchada Rot Fai Market
Bangkok is renowned for its street food and Ratchada Rot Fai Market is one of the best places to try it. There are hundreds of stalls selling all the local specialties from Pad Thai to Green Curry to spicy northern style sausages. Once you’ve bought a few dishes from the market stalls, take them to the seating areas selling cool drinks and beers. Ratchada has become increasingly popular since it became a hotspot with Instagrammers who climb a nearby multi storey car park to get a shot of all the colourful market tents lit up at night.
8. Maeklong Market
Just a regular local market at first glance until you hear the sound of an approaching train. Train tracks run through the main alley and the sellers pull back their stalls when a train is approaching. Any fruit and veg low enough is left for the train to pass over. Once the train has gone the stalls come back out and people carry on as if nothing happened. The experience is fascinating and one of the best alternative things to do in Bangkok.
Tip: Maeklong is in the same direction as the more famous floating market half day trips. If you’re planning on doing a floating market tour then we definitely recommend looking for one that also includes a stop at Maeklong Market.
9. Bangkok Phallic Shrine (Tubtim Shrine)
If you have always wanted to visit a place with hundreds of phalluses of all different sizes then this is the place for you. Located near Sukhumvit Road, this shrine is in honour of Chao Mae Tubtim, a female fertility spirit. Some women believe that if they visit the shrine when planning to start a family it will bring them good luck. If they conceive shortly after their visit, they will return to place a new phallus in the grounds. Which means more phalluses for everyone!
10. Suan Rod Fai
Finally, if you are looking for an inner city park, to do some exercise, picnic or somewhere to let the kids play, most guidebooks will point you to Lumphini Park. However, ‘Suan Rod Fai’ is just as easily accessible by both MRT underground and BTS sky train and has a lot more to offer than Lumphini. It has more play areas, more pathways, more open grass spaces, basketball, tennis and beach volleyball courts, a designated 3km cycle track with bike hire, a driving range, an onsite restaurant, a butterfly park, a swimming pool and even a kids cycle city with famous landmarks, road markings and traffic lights.