For the first time visitor, Bangkok can be something a sensory overload. With its glittering array of exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes set to a hectic pace that rivals London, LA or new York, there’s nowhere quite like it.
To a 19-year-old at the very start of his solo gap year travels, Bangkok can seem more than a little daunting. However, that’s exactly the situation I found myself in one balmy night in June 2005 and I was resolved to dive right in. Within a matter of hours, I’d fallen in love with Bangkok and it remains my favourite city to this day.
Having seen the capital grow in sophistication as well as size in the last 7 years I think it’s safe to say that Bangkok really does have something wonderful to offer travellers of every stripe. However, like so many cities, I believe it is best experienced at night. So here’s my night owl’s guide to Thailand’s thrilling and exotic capital.
As impressive as Bangkok’s cultural and architectural wonders look during the day, there’s nothing quite like seeing them spectacularly lit up in the dead of night. Whether you’re on a cheap holidays budget or not, it’s an absolute must to experience the thrill of seeing The Royal Palace or the Democracy Monument streak by from the back of a speeding taxi-bike or tuk-tuk!
One place I always go without fail is the city’s premier Muay Thai venue, the Lumpinee Stadium. The atmosphere is always electric as thousands of kickboxing fans crowd in to cheer on the titans of their beloved national sport.
The ubiquitous Bangkok transport solution that is the tuk-tuk often gets a bad rap as a supposed deathtrap, which is very unfair! It may feel like you may die at any passing moment as the driver weaves in and out of traffic with the nonchalance of a hardened Hollywood stuntman, but you very… probably won’t!
Tuk-tuks are much less dangerous than some travellers’ remembrances might make out. I can’t get enough of them and would highly recommend that you take at least one ride to really experience the thrill of whizzing through the warm Bangkok night.
Think that shopping sprees are only for the sunlit hours? Think Again! Late night shopping experiences abound in Bangkok, from the spectacularly plush shopping mall complexes that dominate the surrounding blocks, to the more intimate and diverse night markets like Sanam Luang or Ratchada that are scattered around the city’s districts.
If the beating heart of the city is thudding too loudly in your ears, then take a moment to find serenity in one of the many beautifully maintained temples that grace the cityscape.
Unfortunately, many temples close at around 6pm but it is still easy to find your little oasis of calm in the form of Bangkok’s many public parks.
One of my favourite things about Bangkok – and Thailand as a whole – is that it’s always a good time to eat. No matter where you are in the city you are likely to be less than 30 seconds away from an incredible meal.
Not only is there always a panoply of enticing restaurants within striking distance, but often some of the tastiest treats come from the street vendors passing by. So if you need a quick pick-me-up, the vendors are the perfect people to see.