With the hellish traffic and the BMTA constantly messing up the city’s public transportation system (read our last issue as a reminder), Bangkok buses are not really ideal for daily commuting. But when it comes to leisurely purposes, these massive street patrollers ain’t that bad. The fares are quite cheap (especially when compared to skyrocketing BTS fares), and buses can take you to places that are inaccessible by trains, where taxis won’t go, and parking is non-existent. To show you how to make the most out of the city’s existing public bus routes (with hopes someone up there would be wise enough to make the service better), our writers roamed the streets of the city on these giant vehicles—and discovered five routes worth exploring. Let’s get on the bus!
Route: Discover Bangkok off the beaten track
Start: Siriraj Hospital End: Bangkok Science Museum and Planetarium
Bangkok is full of photo-perfect tourist destinations, from the glistening Grand Palace to chaotic Khao San Road. However, there are a number of hidden gems that are kept secret from the hordes of tour buses that ply the old town, including one of the world’s best—and most gruesome—medical museums, the country’s first department store and an exotic Ethiopian restaurant. Bus number 40 covers these off-the-beaten-track destinations that will surprise and intrigue both visitors and locals alike. By Phavitch Theeraphong
Start your journey at one of the most prestigious hospitals and medical schools in Thailand (you can easily take the Chao Phraya Express Boat from Saphan Taksin). What many don’t know is that the hospital also boasts a famous medical museum—dubbed the Museum of Death—which aims to educate medical students and the public on human anatomy and pathology. The museum exhibits human organs (highlights include a display of the entire nervous and arterial system), bodies of deformed babies and bodies of people that have died from different causes (including murder). Be warned that the exhibition is visually disturbing and is not recommended for the fainthearted.
Museum of Death: Siriraj Hospital, 2 Wanglang Road, Bangkoknoi, 0 2419 2600. Open Wed-Mon 10:00-16:00
Take a 15-minute stroll (or bus no. 177) to the bustling Phran Nok market where you can sample cheap and cheerful street bites and Thai sweets, and buy fresh produce from take-away stalls. Look for the famed stall that sells a hefty portion of pad kra prao moo (stir-fried basil with pork) for only B15.
From Phran Nok market, take bus no. 40 until you reach Suk Sa Nari School (ask the bus conductor for help!). Get off at this stop and walk a few meters to the majestic Church of Santa Cruz. This domed, neoclassical Catholic church was built during the reign of King Taksin on the land he gifted to Portuguese settlers as reward for helping the country claim its independence from the Burmese. The church also serves as the center of the Kudeejeen community where you can wander around small alleys and sample Portuguese-inspired treats.
Church of Santa Cruz: Soi Kudeejeen, Tedsaban Sai 1 Road, Thonburi, 0 2472 0153. Open daily 05:00-07:00, 17:00-19:30
Continue on bus no. 40 and get off at Chao Mae Tub Tim Shrine stop to arrive at Thailand’s longeststanding department store (70 Tri Phed Road, Woan Bhurapa Phirom, 0 2221 9733. Open Mon-Fri 09:00-17:30, Sat 09:00-18:00). Founded in 1966, this Brutalist, seven-story, non-airconditioned shopping mall sells modern merchandise as well as vintage items, including old perfume selections such as Schiaparelli, the label said to have been adored by former Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat. The store also features a salon and a gym, both preserved to how they were like in the old days. Nightingale-Olympic is now run by 90-year-old Arun Niyomwanit, the sister of its original owner.
Nightingale-Olympic: 70 Tri Phed Road, Woan Bhurapa Phirom, 0 2221 9733. Open Mon-Fri 09:00-17:30, Sat 09:00-18:00
After years of renovation, the historic Nai Lert Heritage Home is again open to the public. The teakwood mansion was a residence of Phraya Bhakdi-Noraseth aka Nai Lert, an aristocrat and entrepreneur who lived during the reign of King Rama VI. He was praised for introducing ice as well as a bus transportation system (not necessarily the one we have today) to the city. His house now functions as a museum that showcases vintage artifacts and collectibles. Guided tours (which we highly recommend) are offered twice a week (Thur and Fri). Nearby, Ma Maison Restaurant serves up dishes that follow old family recipes.
Nai Lert Heritage Home: 4 Soi Somkid, Ploenchit Road, 0 2253 0123. Open Thu-Fri 11:00, 14:00-16:00 for guided tour
Bangkok may enjoy a gamut of international dining choices, but Ethiopian cuisine is relatively exotic in the city’s vibrant food scene. Tucked in Soi Nana 3, Ethiopian Restaurant churns out authentic, generously portioned Ethiopian and Arabic dishes. Make a beeline for the Ethiopian Meat Combo, which includes chicken and minced beef stew and a selection of grilled meat alongside Ethiopian flatbread.
Ethiopian Restaurant: Soi Sukhumvit 3, Nana, 08 4930 3250. Open daily 11:00-22:00
For your final stop on this route, take an educational—and romantic— tour of the Bangkok Science Museum and Planetarium. The renovated planetarium has reclining seats from which can you look up at countless stars and constellations projected from the venue’s brandnew projector. The museum also showcases interesting exhibits related to astronomy and general science.
Bangkok Science Museum and Planetarium: 928 Sukhumvit Road, Ekkamai, 0 2392 1773. Open daily 09:00-16:30. Entry B20-50
Route: A foodie’s journey
Start: Siam End: Tha Thien Pier
Bangkok is known for its selection of delectable cuisine, from lip-smacking, street-vendor chow to enticing restaurant fare. Hop on a local bus and indulge in the dishes each of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods are known for. By Sopida Rodsom
Bangkok’s major shopping area is also home to some of the city’s most notable restaurants as well as local street food. Some of the newest openings worth checking out include Jeib Rod-Dee-Det, an uber-modern outpost of a famous old-school noodle shop that has been serving comfort Thai-Chinese dishes since 1969. Don’t miss to check out Grassroom, Siam’s latest trendy eatery that whips up Asian-inspired food amidst a relaxed setting reminiscent of the backyard of a suburban New York home.
Jeib Rod-Dee-Det: Siam Square Soi 2. 09 2654 4654. Open daily 9:00 - 21:00
Grassroom: Siam Square 2. 06 2176 7899. Open Mon-Thu 11:30-21:30, Fri-Sun 11:00-22:00
Take bus no. 25 and get off at Samyan, a nearby community that’s another food lover’s haven. The area is open (almost) around the clock and has everything for everyone (at very friendly prices at that), from a filling rice congee for students about to go to class to a nice seafood buffet employees can enjoy after work. Our top picks are Guay Chub Sam Yan (Chula Soi 50. Open daily 6:00-13:00), a long-standing eatery that has long catered to Chulalongkorn students who come for the tasty guay chub (Chinese-style assorted pork soup), and Joke Sam Yan, a 60-year-old congee parlor serving the glutinous rice dish with various types of condiments including minced pork and preserved eggs.
Guay Chub Sam Yan: Chula Soi 50. Open daily 6:00-13:00
Joke Sam Yan: Chula Soi 11. Open 5:00-9:00, 15:30-20:00
Bus no. 25 also takes you to Chinatown, long known as Bangkok’s food paradise. Start your Yaowarat adventure at Guay Chub Auan Phochana or Guay Chub Nai X, two tourist-friendly eateries that dole out chewy rolled noodles in a fragrant peppery broth. Seafood is also a thing in Yaowarat. The two most famous rival restaurants are T&K Seafood (their employees wear a green apron) and Lek&Rut Seafood (red apron). Their menus are quite similar, both offering fresh seafood grilled or cooked to your liking. Walk a little further to Soi Nana (not the one in Sukhumvit), the now-hip nightlife district, to check out some of Bangkok’s hippest bars such as Chinese-themed watering hole Ba Hao, Asian-inspired beer bar Pijiu and Tep Bar, where Thai-influenced cocktails, food, and music are brought to the fore.
Guay Chub Auan Phochana: China Town Rama Theatre. Open Tue-Sat 18:00-3:00, Sun 18:00-24:00
Guay Chub Nai X: Yaowarat Soi 9. Open daily 8:00-1:00
T&K Seafood: Phadung Dao Road. Open 16:30-2:00
Lek&Rut Seafood: Phadung Dao Road. Open Mon-Sat 17:30-2:00
Ba Hao: 8 Soi Nana. 09 1846 9659. Open Tue-Sun 18:30-24:00
Pijiu: 16 Soi Nana.08 1839 2832. Open Tue-Sun 18:00-24:00
Tep Bar: 69-71 Soi Nana, 09 8467 2944. Open daily 17:00-1:00
Alternatively, foodies with a sweet tooth can go on bus no. 4 from here. This bus takes you to Talad Plu Market, one of Bangkok’s oldest markets where many rare Thai sweets can be sampled. Here, the 65-year-old Kanom Whan Talad Plu sells banana leaf-wrapped traditional desserts, from foy thong (golden threads) to sang kaya (egg custard). If you’re looking for something refreshing, Ni-Ang is famous for its ice cream mixed with raw egg yolk.
Kanom Whan Talad Plu: Toed Thai 25. Open daily 9:30- 18:00
Ni-Ang: Teod Thai 29. Open daily 17:00-2:00
From Yaowarat, bus no. 25 can take you to Tha Thien Pier. The neighborhood that was once famous for housing some of the city’s best cultural attractions is now mushrooming with chic cafes and restaurants. Boutique hotel Riva Arun has recently introduced a new rooftop eatery called Above Riva. Other notable eateries include Tonkin-Annam, where you can feast on authentic Vietnamese fare, and hipster haven Blue Whale Maharaj, which offers cool drinks and cooler interiors. The newest kid joining the block is Supanniga Eating Room x Roots Coffee, a riverside collaboration between popular Thai restaurant Supanniga and Roots Coffee, offering some of the best Thai
treats along with the finest coffee brews, plus gorgeous views of Wat Arun. If you haven’t had enough for the day, get on the same bus which runs you back to Thonglor and Ekkamai, ground zero for some of the city’s best cocktail bars.
Above Riva: 392/25-26 Maharaj Road. 0 2221 1188. Open daily 18:00-23:30
Tonkin-Annam: 69 Soi Tha Thien. 09 3469 2969. Open Wed-Mon 10:00-20:00
Blue Whale Maharaj: 397/37 Maharaj Road. 08 1926 4146. Open Fri-Wed 10:00-20:00
Supanniga Eating Room x Roots Coffee: 392/25-26 Soi Penpat 1. 0 2015 4224. Open daily 11:30-22:30
Route: Bangkok for first-timers
Start: Deves (circle line)
The bus can also be one the easiest and most adventurous, way to see the city for those visiting Bangkok for the first time. Hop on bus no. 53, which runs a circle line from Rattanakosin Island (aka Bangkok old town) and passes through famous cultural sites such as Wat Phra Kaew as well as Wat Pho. By Natnaree Rawatchai and Rattanakon Klayvimut
The new community mall is an ideal spot for grabbing refreshing drinks and comfort bites before you start a day tour around the old quarter.
Tha Maharaj: 1/11 Trok Maharaj. 0 2024 1393. Open 11:15-22:00
Bangkok's paramount must-see sight is this architectural and spiritual treasure, which is twice as dazzling if you see it on a sunny day. Built in 1782 and modified by each king in Chakri Dynasty, the Grand Palace is a massive complex of grandiose structures and remains the kingdom's holiest landmark. Located inside the compound is Wat Phra Kaew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha. The highly-revered temple hosts mostly ceremonial rituals as there are no resident monks.
Grand Palace: Na Phra Lan Road. Open daily 8:30-16:00
This vast temple houses the magnificent Reclining Buddha, a golden structure that measures 46 by 15 meters. It depicts the posture of the Buddha while entering nirvana. Wat Pho is said to have been Thailand's “first university,” as evidenced by ancient inscriptions on temple walls that give lessons on astrology, history, literature and, famously, massage pressure points. The temple remains a repository of traditional medicine and ancient massage, and, until now, accommodates a massage school in its premises.
Wat Pho: Sanamchai Road. Open 8:30-18:30
Continue your journey on bus no. 47, which takes you to Thailand’s largest and most vibrant flower market. Marvel at how flower vendors buy and sell their wares as if everything is being orchestrated by an invisible conductor. We suggest going before dawn when flowers from every corner of the world arrive. Right behind the flower market is Yodpiman River Walk, a new vintage-style community mall offering dining and drinking spots with amazing water views.
Pak Klong Talad Flower Market: Wang Burapha Phirom. Open 24 hours
Yodpiman River Walk: Pak Klong Talad. 0 2623 6851. Open 11:30-23:00
Your first trip to Bangkok wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the street food paradise of Chinatown. Open around the clock, Yaowarat peddles food options aplenty, from local Thai grub to authentic Chinese cuisine to old-school sweet treats.
While traveling on bus no. 53, you can switch to bus no. 15, which makes a stop at some of the city’s most recognized attractions, including The National Theater, Tha Phra Atit Pier and Pom Phra Sumen Fort. Bus no. 15 also takes you to Khao San Road, Bangkok’s infamous backpacker haunt.
Bus no.15 also takes you across town to Asiatique The Riverfront, the massive shopping arcade on the banks of Chaophraya River. Get your shopping fix at more 1,500 boutiques, dine at 40 restaurants and enjoy world-class entertainment shows including Thai boxing, a cabaret act and a Thai puppet show.
Asiatique The Riverfront: Charoen Krung Soi 72-76. 0 2108 4488. Open 16:00-24:00
Route: Art appreciation
Start: Charoenkrung End: National Stadium
Why is the bus the best option for art lovers? It takes you to parts of the city where the streets are lined up with beautiful historic buildings, dotted with quirky galleries and fringed with museums you’d want to spend a whole day in. We’ve handpicked bus no. 1, which takes you from Charoenkrung through Bangkok’s old town, and bus no. 47, which runs around the city’s old quarter. By Gail Piyanan
Embark on your artistic journey from Saphan Taksin, where you can catch bus no.1 and get off at Charoenkrung Soi 36. On the right, you’ll find a shopping complex O.P. Garden that houses the two most notable galleries, including ATTA Gallery, a jewelry gallery by collector Atinuj Tantivit, and Serindia Gallery, which focuses on fine-art exhibitions including oil and watercolor paintings, woodblock prints and photography from local and international artists.
ATTA Gallery: open Tue-Sat 13:00-19:30, Sun 14:00-18:00)
Serindia Gallery: open Tue-Sun 11:00-19:00
Standing next to Soi Charoenkrung 32 is the Grand Postal Building. Completed in 1935, the Miw Aphaiwong-designed neoclassical building remains one of the most outstanding structures of its kind, and is now home to the new Thailand Creative & Design Center or TCDC, where you should check out the free design-focused exhibition. Tucked near the end of Soi Charoenkrung 30, a five-minute walk from TCDC, is Warehouse 30, a freshly opened mixeduse complex that juxtaposes a raw structure with edgy initiatives. Take a walk further down the lane to check out three edgy galleries—Speedy Grandma, Most and Soy Sauce Factory. These galleries always host exhibitions featuring cool artists, as well as workshops and artrelated activities—and the town’s sweetest parties, too.
TCDC: 1160 Charoen Krung Road, 0 2105 7400. Open Tue-Sun 10:00-21:00
Warehouse 30: Open daily 10:00-20:00
Speedy Grandma: 672/50-52 Soi Charoenkrung 28, 08 9508 3859. Open Wed-Sun 12:00-18:00
Soy Sauce Factory: 11/1 Soi Charoenkrung 24, 09 2115 8696. Open Mon - Sat 10:00 - 19:00
Chinatown is not just known for delicious street food; the neighborhood is one of the oldest in Bangkok where you can travel down a memory lane and discover how the Chinese found their root in Thailand. Bus no. 1 will take you to the Odean Circle bus stop, where you’ll find the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Museum (free entry for Thais, B100/foreigner), a spire-topped structure that lets you trace the footsteps of the Chinese pioneers who immigrated to Thailand in the 18th century. Next, head to the top floor of the century-old Tang Toh Kang goldsmith is Tang Toh Kang Shop Museum, where old tools for making gold jewelry are exhibited.
Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Museum: 2nd floor, Temple of the Golden Buddha, Tri Mit Road. 08:30-17:30
Tang Toh Kang Shop Museum: 6th Floor, Tang Toh Kang Gold Shop, 345 Mangkon Road; 0 2224 2422, 0 2622 8640
Get off at the bus stop in front of Territorial Defence Command and walk across the street to Museum Siam. Even though the main neoclassical building can only be admired from the outside as it’s still under renovation, the side building still showcases exhibitions related to the social and economic development of Thailand.
Museum Siam: 4 Sanam Chai Road, Phra Nakhon, 0 2225 2777. Open Tue-Mon 10:00-18:00
Take bus no. 47 from the Rajini School stop and get off in front of Bangkok’s newest public library. Refurbished with respect to the original building’s neoclassical structure, Bangkok City Library provides a massive 4,880-square-meter reading space over three floors. Walk down the street to another historic museum, Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. Better known as Nitasrattanakosin to most Thais, this is where you’ll learn how the city of Bangkok was established. Right across the street is The Queen’s Gallery, the Bangkok Bank-sponsored art gallery that showcases exhibitions from Thai and international artists.
Bangkok City Library: 39 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. Open Tue-Sat 08:00-21:00, Sun 09:00-22:00
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall: 100 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, 0 2621 0044. Open Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00
The Queen’s Gallery: 101 Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang; 0 2281 5361. Open Thu-Tue 10:00-19:00
Continue your journey on bus no. 47 to Soi Kasemsan 2 to witness Jim Thompson House (B150/person, B50/student for a walking tour), a charming traditional Thai teak house that was once the residence of silk tycoon Jim Thompson. The house now serves as a museum displaying Oriental artifacts, as well as rotating exhibitions from established and emerging artists. Next, head down into Soi Kasemsan 1 to Yelo House, an abandoned warehouse that’s been turned into Bangkok's newest creative space. End your day at the Bangkok Art & Culture Center or BACC, where its imposing structure is one of the best modern art museums in the country, featuring exhibitions of established and emerging artists from Thailand and around the world.
Jim Thompson House: 6 Kasemsan Soi 2, Thanon Rama I. Open daily 09:00-17:00
Yelo House: 20/2 Soi Kasemsan 1, Rama 1 Road. Open daily 09:00-22:00
BACC: 939 Rama 1 Road. Open Tue-Mon 10.00-21.00
Route: Down-to-earth shopping adventure
Start: Jae Leng End: Surawong
Shopping in Bangkok is always a great fun, thanks to a plethora of shopping malls and retail complexes. But if you’ve already had enough of luxury-brand hunting, get on the bus and explore your spending options beyond Siam Paragon and EmQuartier. By Suthima Thongmak
A massive four-floor discount mall near Don Mueang International Airport where you can find an endless range of imported cosmetics, snacks and unnecessary—yet irresistibly cheap—knick knacks.
Jae Leng: 40/85 Viphavadirangsit 74. 08 5087 2727. Open daily 10:00-21:00
Take bus no. 29 and jump off at Chatuchak Weekend Market, the world’s largest weekend bazaar. Spanning the size of two football stadiums, the market is packed with thousands of stalls peddling everything from clothes and home decor to plants and pets. Enjoy the hunt and hope that you don’t keel over from the heat.
Chatuchak Weekend Market: 587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road. Open Fri 18:00 till late,Sat -Sun 9:00-18:00
Continue your journey on the same bus and get off at MBK Center. The giant mall lures in tourists from all over the world with a variety of boutiques, stalls and a massive food center offering cheap and delicious grub. Its façade and sky platform, which connects to the BTS station, have recently been renovated and are worth snapping for Instagram. The elevated platform also connects to lively Siam Square, cutting-edge Siam Discovery and funky Siam Center. Cross the road to Soi Kasemsan 2, walk until you reach the bank and look out for a sign that says Baan Krua Thai Silk. See how Thai silks are woven with a traditional machine and how they get their brilliant color, before having a few pieces wrapped to take home.
Baan Krua Thai Silk: 0 2215 9864. Open 9:00 -20:00
Get off at Samyan bus stop, and continue walking for less than 10 minutes to the main Jim Thompson store. The shop within the premises of the Jim Thompson House on Soi Kasemsan 2 is nice but this one takes home the medal. Opened by Jim Thompson himself, the Surawong shop gives off the opulent atmosphere of a European luxury store with an exotic tropical touch. Climb to the top floors to the newly renovated Home Furnishing showrooms and gawk at the brilliantly styled fabric in different themes (better have your interior designer on speed dial). As a bonus, the shop’s second floor is home to a cozy restaurant where you can get a taste of authentic Thai food.