(SPOT.ph) Bangkok, the bustling capital of Thailand, is just about a three-hour flight away from Manila. It's also incredibly affordable, with plenty of retail centers providing a wealth of shopping options. Add the Land of Smiles' enticingly aromatic cuisine, and you've got pretty much the perfect combination for a great weekend getaway. Here's how to make the most of it.
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Here’s what to do in Bangkok if you only have 24 hours:
Do it the backpacker way on Khao San Road
You could start your day exploring the tourist hub that is Khao San Road. Considered Bangkok’s backpacker heaven, this strip of affordable hotels and souvenir shops has recently adapted a more laid-back feel. It is now home not only to hostels, but also some nice secondhand bookshops, hip stores, and organic coffee shops.
Khao San Road is located at the Banglamphu district, Bangkok’s most traditional and easily its most charming neighborhood. If you’re feeling more adventurous, get off Khao San to explore some of the area’s less touristy streets and you’ll come across quaint antique shops, traditional restaurants, and age-old temples.
Shop until you drop at Thailand’s many malls
You may not have time to go to each one of the malls in Siam, Pratunam, and Ploenchit—Bangkok’s triumvirate of dizzying shopping districts—but you could breeze through Siam Paragon and Siam Center for some upscale shopping. End at the immense MBK Center, which is similar to our own Greenhills Shopping Center. You can find practically anything there, from gadgets (brand new or secondhand) to clothes, bags and smaller leather goods, souvenir items, and gourmet food.
End your mall-hopping with lunch at MBK Center's food court, which you can find on the sixth floor. It has more than 20 stalls, but since you can't sample them all (or can you?), try the staples: Thai basil pork rice (pad krapow moo), noodle soup with stewed beef, pad thai, and som tum.
Feel like Thai royalty at the Grand Palace
After lunch, you can spend the entire afternoon doing the requisite temple run. Start off with a visit to the majestic and awe-inspiring Grand Palace, also home to Wát Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, named for its Buddha carved entirely from green jade.
Consecrated in 1782, the Grand Palace was the official Thai royal residence until the 1900s. Today, it is used for ceremonial purposes and is Bangkok’s biggest tourist draw. The complex has an area of over 90 hectares and houses numerous buildings, halls, pavilions, and courtyards.
Keep in mind that the Palace and all the other temples in Bangkok are important historical and sacred landmarks; you must be dressed conservatively to be allowed entrance. Be sure that your knees and shoulders are properly covered.
Walk in the shadow of a giant Buddha at Wát Pho
Just a short walk from the Grand Palace is what is perhaps the most popular of Bangkok’s temples, Wát Pho, with its massive 46-meter long Reclining Buddha and stupa-dotted grounds. Aside from having one of the longest Reclining Buddhas, it is also the oldest and largest wát in Bangkok (predating the city itself) and has the largest Buddha collection in all of Thailand, with more than a thousand within the temple complex.
Take one Instagrammable shot after another at Wát Arun
Arguably the most elegant of Bangkok’s temples, Wát Arun or the Temple of Dawn is stunning at any time of the day, but is best seen around late afternoon as the setting sun washes it in a yellow-and-orange glow. Directly across Wát Pho, its riverside location and intricately designed spires add to its picture-perfect charm.
Cruise along the Chao Phraya
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a cruise along its most important waterway, the lively Chao Phraya—which flows through the city and into the Gulf of Thailand. A two-hour ride on a boat is made even more special at dusk as the sun slowly dips into the horizon. Plus, you get to enjoy live entertainment—often by Filipino singers and musicians; and fill up on a buffet of Thai dishes and sweet treats while getting a glimpse of Thai architecture from a different perspective.
Try the best Bangkok street food at the Banglamphu district
To end your full day in Bangkok, you could go full circle and head back to where the adventure started—Khao San Road—for a night cap (and then some). Start the evening by sampling street food like khao kha moo or pork trotters rice, ba mee or Thai wanton mee, and tom yum goong. For drinks, Oxxi’s Place is perfect if you’re looking to just spend the night chilling with your friends over bucket of cold beer. Drop by the charming Adhere the 13th Blues Bar, which features vintage interiors to match the blues music. Curious drinkers can check out Madame Musur for classic cocktails with a Thai twist.