Bangkok, you will either love it or hate it. It”s vast, hot, dirty, smoggy, intense and can grind to a halt with traffic at any time of the day. But it”s also vibrant, accessible, inexpensive, diverse, friendly and filled with fascinating sights for families.
If your family is coming to South East Asia, chances are you will pass through Bangkok, if only for the fact that it?s a transport hub to almost everywhere you want to go.
Given how huge Bangkok is and the travel times it takes to get everywhere, it pays plan your visit, especially if you have young kids who get tired in the heat.
- Make a list of everything you want to see and prioritise. Visit the must sees early in the morning, that way if everyone gets too tired or sick of the heat you can skip the sightseeing options that are less important to you.
- Be strategic. Try to group activities based on location. If you strike bad traffic, travel times in Bangkok can really blow out an itinerary. Pick activities in the same region. Don’t plan to do the Grand Palace in the morning and head to a theme park on the outskirts of town in the afternoon.
- Overcast days are the best kind in Bangkok. If you strike an overcast day don?t let the clouds put you off. Grab your raincoats and head to nearest theme park or all day sightseeing activity that?s on your list and make the most of the cooler temperatures. Of course if there’s torential rain your best bet is to just sit back and watch the puddles grow.
You may find you don’t stick to your list. The heat will get to your kids, you’ll see something else exciting along the way or you will spend longer at an attraction that you’d anticipated because you are having so much fun … whatever the reason plans change. Don’t feel that you need to stick to them – half the fun of Bangkok is just going with the flow of this vibrant city. But it’s a good idea to start out with a plan!
I recently had three days of sightseeing in Bangkok with my 6 and 4 year old. We’ve been there before and followed the same general plan each time, just with different attractions. It seems to work really well for us, so here it is: what to do if you have three days for sightseeing in Bangkok with kids.
Day 1: Temples, river ferry and lunch near Khoa San
Start your day with one of Bangkok”s amazing temples. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew is stunning. I’ve seen a lot of temples in Asia and this one is up there for it’s shere opulance and scale. There’s a reason it is a ‘must see’ on many people?s itinerary. Even the kids will be impressed, if only for the fun of calculating what they could buy if their pocket money was paid in the gold tiles from the temple walls rather than coins.
Being a ‘must see’ on so many visitors lists means the Grand Palace is usually filled with tourists. The temple grounds are huge so it takes a long time to walk around. We spend two hours there and only covered a fraction of the complex. Most of it is sunny, and while there are plenty of places to buy ice creams and cold drinks you should go early when the crowds are less and the sun isn’t as hot.
Entry to the Grand Palace complex is 400 baht per person, with children being free. The entry fee includes access to a number of museums. The coin and weapons museums are well worth the visit and a good chance to escape the sun. Although I was dismayed to learn my children’s only knowledge of tridents as a weapon came from watching The Little Mermaid.
Dress code is very strict ? men must wear long pants, covered shoes and shirts with at least short sleeves. And if you only have sandals I?m sorry to say you will probably be asked to commit fashion suicide and wear socks with your sandals. Women need skirts or pants that cover the knees and sleeves. For women, skirts and pants don’t need to be full length but you do need to ensure that your entire knee is covered. Appropriate clothing is available for loan at the Grand Palace for no cost but you will need to leave a deposit.
If you prefer to see less popular temples, two other beautiful temples are Wat Pho, filled with hundreds of Buddhas and the smaller but distinctive stone Wat Arun. Children will love listening to the music of the golden bells swaying in the breeze that adorn Wat Arun’s spire. Entry to either temple costs 50 baht. Both temples are very popular, but not as popular as the Grand Palace.
River sightseeing on a public ferry
All three of the above mentioned temples are just a short walk to the Chao Phraya river ferry. Grab a drink and some snacks from the street food vendors along the way, and get ready for some of the cheapest sightseeing in Bangkok.
Many of Bangkok’s temples and attractions are situated along the river, so the public ferry is a great way to sightsee with kids. Depending on the lenght of your journey, a ticket costs around 11-25 baht. You’ll strike plenty of touts trying to sell you private boat tours. Ignore them and try the public ferry first!
We caught the ferry to Phra Arthit, stop N13. From the pier it’s just a short walk to Phra Suman Fort and the surrounding parklands. It’s a nice place to picnic, with plenty of shade. Or head to the mainroad and cut through Wat Chana Songkram to reach Khoa San Road. Along the way you’ll pass the Prince’s residence (always a hit with kids to see a Princes house) fish spas, street food vendors, a wide range of restaurants and a small touristy markets. Wat Chana Songkram is a lovely Wat in itself. The bell tower above the gate just before you enter the Wat is accessible to the public. It’s a great spot to show your children some of the local musical instruments.
Time for lunch
The area around Khoa San Road is filled with great places to eat. Yes the food is less authentic and the prices are higher than what you’ll pay elsewhere but most restaurants have kid friendly menus and if you look around you will find some cheaper options. If you’re over the heat there are even a few restaurants and fast food chains with aircon in the area.
We prefer to eat on nearby Rambuttri road, where the prices are cheaper and the food is better.
After lunch you can shop in the markets on Khoa San Road, which despite being touristy do have the best range of t-shirts and casual dresses I’ve seen in Asia. They are also one of my favourite markets in Asia because they are open during the day. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve missed visiting markets in Asia because they are only open at night and the kids are too tired!
Of course if markets aren’t your thing, Khoa San is still a fun place to grab an ice cream and people watch.
Day 2: Attractions and Theme Parks
Day 2 is where you need to make some hard decisions. Bangkok has some fantastic attractions for families but sadly not many of them are located in the same area and many are on the outskirts of the city, so unless you have longer than 3 days to sightsee you are going to have to choose.
Some of the best family attractions include the Crocodile farm, Dreamworld, Dusit Zoo, Safari World, Siam Park and Siam Ocean World. Sadly the Childrens Museum closed last year for renovation and doesn’t look like it’s opening again any time soon.
The top two on our list are always Siam Ocean World and Dreamworld. Some of the animal attractions sound fantastic but I have personal reservations about visiting places that teach their orangutans to box for the amusement of visitors, so we tend to stick to the theme parks and aquariums.
Siam Ocean World is one of the largest and best aquariums in Asia. It’s centrally located and attached to the Siam Paragon Shopping centre, making it a great day out with kids. It even has a hands on kids area with a playground. Entry costs 900 baht per adults and 700 baht per child, although if you book ahead through their website entry costs 630 baht for adults and 490 baht for kids or 3000 baht for a family ticket that includes lots of extras. Well worth doing!
Dreamworld is a theme park on the nothern outskirts of the city. It’s a long way out but well worth the trip, with plenty of rides and attractions for kids (and grownups) of all ages.
There are no waterslides, but the rides and attractions at Dreamworld are well maintained and there’s a 4D theatre and indoor artifical snow world. For families with younger children, Dreamworld is a great option with a large range of rides for kids between 90-140cm, as well as a fairy tale land filled with oversized re-creations of fairytale favourites.
Entry to Dreamworld costs 700 baht per person over 90cm, or 550 baht if you don’t want to go to Snow Land. A taxi from the city will cost 300 baht each way. Some hotels arrange package tours including transfers and lunch, although food inside is very cheap so it’s worth doing your maths on whether it’s worth it.
If you do venture all the way out to Dreamworld, the nearby Future Park Shopping Mall (a 5min taxi ride back towards town) is a fantastic place to grab dinner.
Another theme park option is Siam Park, norrth east of the city. The park is huge, with everything from rollercoasters and speed slides to slow trains, dinosaurs and wading pools. An all-in-inclusive entry ticket costs 600 baht per person. Alternatively you can pay 200 baht per adult and 100 baht per child for just entry and pay extra for just the rides you want to do. It is closer to the city than Dreamworld but gets a lot of bad press for unsafe rides and poor maintanence. A lot of people, including children, get injured there every year. The park does regularly undergo maintanence though and is a popular attraction so things might have changed since we last researched the park. Do your own research before deciding to go.
Day 3: Shopping and playtime.
If there’s one thing Bangkok does well it’s shopping, particularly clothes. If your travel clothes are looking a little worn out, Bangkok is the place you want to restock. Shoes, electronics, bags and toiletries are also very cheap here. All in all, it’s a great city to restock in before hitting the road again.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is hugely popular for a good reason. Souvineers, funky clothing, household items, handicrafts, paintings, toys and more. With it’s narrow covered alleyways packed from floor to ceiling with goods and quiet streets it’s a fabulous place to explore. I’m often tempted to give the kids a compass and let them lead the way.
There’s also an impressive range of groovy coffee shops and street foods vendors selling everything from fruit and noodles to crickets! To see something different, head to the outer edges of the markets near the now closed Children’s Science Museum to locate the wall to wall pet shop vendors. Fish of every kind, turtles, worms, birds. Your kids will have a wonderful time investigating it all.
The nearby Queen’s Park is a lovely parkland to explore, with ponds, walking trails, bridges and playgrounds all within walking distance of the markets. The playgrounds are right outside the markets, with nearby street food stalls selling every drink and snack you could want for a fantastic picnic.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is a little way out of town but it’s easily reached by taxi or by train. Mo Chit Skytrain Station is right next door to Queen’s Park and the markets.
The centrally located MBK and Siam Paragon are two fantastic shopping centres if your not in Bangkok on the weekend.
MBK has more of a market feel, with a fantastic range of cheap childrens clothing, adult t-shirts and cheap electronics. If you need a new phone or accessories for you laptop or camera, this is the place to come. There are some great toy stores but I’ve seen much cheaper prices elsewhere. Still they’re fun to let the kids look in. MBK also has a cinema, ten pin bowling alley and a full loor of AC, wifi western chain restaurants. It’s the perfect place to upload your travel photos for relatives to see and treat the kids to an ice cream and movie. MBK isn’t large enough to spend a whole day in, but it’s a great place to escape the afternoon heat for a few hours if you’ve already hit the markets in the morning. Or buy the kids a cheap DVD and some snacks before heading back to your accommodation to create your own cinema,
The newer Siam Paragon is one of the largest shopping centres in Asia, offering cinemas, bowling, restaurants, shopping and houses Siam Ocean World. If you chose to do the theme park yesterday, heading to Siam Paragon might be the perfect choice for you – send the kids to the aquarium with one parent while the other shops!
And of course there’s always the floating markets. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market are the most famous, but of course they’re becoming more and more of a tourist attraction and less of an authentic markets as visitors flock here. Bangkok has plenty of other floating markets though. Ask around the find the nearest one to you. Go early and be sure to do your research first into the best tour company or boat operator. A trip to a floating markets is one of the most common rip off scams in Bangkok, with many people being over charged or taken to jewellery shops along the way.
So there you have it!
Even given how huge Bangkok is, you can still cover a lot of ground in three days if you plan it right. Hopefully though you’ll be lucky enough to spend longer in Bangkok and have time to enjoy one of the best things to do in the city – slowly exploring where ever your feet might lead you.
Dreamworld – at the time of writing the website was resulting in error messages but it was fine a few weeks ago.