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Chang Chui
Photograph: Chang Chui

9 unique things to do in Bangkok to get off the beaten track

Now that Thailand’s opened up, here’s what to include in your travel plans

Pailin Boonlong
Written by
Pailin Boonlong
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Bangkok is one of the top travel destinations for all Singaporeans, and it’s easy to see why: this bustling metropolitan city has it all with labyrinth-like night markets and tasty street food. But since Bangkok is just a short two-hour flight away, much of the recommended activities and heritage sites strike a chord of “been there, done that”. For a travel itinerary that veers off the beaten track, consider these nine unique things to do in Bangkok. Affordable Botox teatments, pictuesque landscapes on city outskirts, and hidden rooftop bars – that’s exactly what we’ll be up to for our next trip to Bangkok.

TRAVEL UPDATE (as of May 21 2022): It’ll soon be a whole lot easier holidaying in Bangkok compared to past months. Right now, there are no quarantine requirements for both fully-vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers. There’s no need for those fully-vaccinated to take Covid tests either.

From June 1, we’ll also be able to get instant approval for the Thailand Pass, a tedious process that once had us waiting for weeks for the green light. And even better, starting June as well, Bangkok’s nightlife is slowly but surely returning back to the glory of its pre-pandemic days – bars, pubs and karaoke bars will be able to open till midnight. 

RECOMMENDED: The best street food stalls in Bangkok and where to eat in Bangkok

Unique things to do in Bangkok

Visit a Buddhist temple with golden retrievers frolicking around
Photograph: Howl

Visit a Buddhist temple with golden retrievers frolicking around

Instead of making your way down to overly crowded tourist spots like Erawan Shrine and Wat Arun, consider Buddhist temple Wat Yai Sawang Arom for a cultural day trip. After paying your respects to Buddha and admiring the temple’s traditional Thai architecture, swing by the weekend farmers market to up your intake of fresh veggies and fruits. A few stall vendors will also be cooking up a storm with chicken rice, moo ping (pork skewers), and even oyster omelette.

 

Photograph: Howl

It’s a peculiar sight, and you can’t help but notice a pack of golden retrievers frolicking in the Chao Praya river and around the temple grounds. Feel free to give them a pat or ear rub. They’re all perfectly amiable, with lolling tongues and wagging tails – the monks here have looked after them for years.

GETTING HERE It’s technically in the Nonthaburi district, a 30 minute or so drive from central Bangkok but it’s worth the venture down. Put “วัดใหญ่สว่างอารมณ์ เกาะสมุย” into your Grab app for an easy drop-off.

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Sign up for affordable Botox treatments
Photograph: Unsplash/Sam Moghadam Khamseh

Sign up for affordable Botox treatments

In Asia, South Korea is widely known as a plastic surgery and Botox mecca. But don’t  overlook Thailand – they have a borderline obsession with beauty and staying youthful. You can tell from the media frenzy surrounding Thai celebrities and “hi-so” people, all glamourised for their wrinkle-free skin. In any case, Botox treatments are certainly more affordable in Bangkok with full packages starting from around B1,500 (~$60) and Botox units under the brand Allergan at just B250 (~$10). For a rough gauge, problem areas like forehead lines and crow’s feet typically need at least 15 units of Botox each. 

Drop by a vibrantly pink dragon temple
Photograph: Jord Hammond

Drop by a vibrantly pink dragon temple

While traditional Thai architecture and Buddhist temples always make for a cultural experience, Wat Sam Phran is one like no other. For one, it’s a vibrant hue of pink. And for another, there’s a massive dragon sculpture curled entirely around its 17 floors – it’s also exactly 80 metres in height, since Buddha was said to have live for 80 years. 

Since the building is cylindrical in shape, you’ll have to walk through what seems like an endless, spiral-shaped tunnel to reach the top. It’s not one for those claustrophobic and we certainly don’t recommend coming here alone. Not just because the temple itself is poorly maintained – there’s also a morbid past behind it all, with one of the monks accused for sexually abusing girls from the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Nonetheless, it’s a temple you won’t see in most tourist brochures, and it’s worth swinging by for a cultural day trip. 

GETTING HERE It’s about 50 minutes by car from central Bangkok, otherwise, you can take an MRT down to Lak Song Station (the nearest metro station) then a taxi to the temple.

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Get momentarily transported to a quaint European town
Photograph: Thananan Chareonsupattrachai

Get momentarily transported to a quaint European town

For some reason, Thailand has a strange fascination with quaint European towns and various food parks and restaurant collectives in Thailand are themed as such. Bangkok isn’t any different, wiith at least a handful of alfresco dining areas where you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into the likes of Amsterdam or Rome – hot weather aside, of course. Take Chocolate Ville, a theme park of sorts with windmills, cosy cottages, and garden dining. There’s even a faux moat for waterfront views. 

Shop at an abandoned plane flea market
Photograph: Chang Chui

Shop at an abandoned plane flea market

While abandoned places are dime a dozen in Bangkok, with the likes of Sathorn Tower and even an airplane graveyard, not many can say that they’ve been to an abandoned plane flea market. But Chang Chui Bangkok Plane Market is far from deserted, with a number of stalls setting up shop late into the night. Of course, most will be drawn to the shell of a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar plane, but there is a wide selection of boutique and vintage stalls to browse through. There’s also a food pavilion that offers both Thai and international street food – everything from fresh oysters to som tum (papaya salad). 

GETTING HERE You can either take a taxi or Grab – it’s just 15 minutes from the Khao San area. Otherwise, both the BTS and MRT are relatively nearby with Bang Bamru station just a 10-minute walk away.  

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Enjoy a quality Japanese omakase for less than $75
Photograph: Wongnai/Pompool

Enjoy a quality Japanese omakase for less than $75

While an omakase meal here often reaches staggering three-digit figures, the best thing about Bangkok is how they have affordable food that doesn’t compromise on quality one bit. And this city is exactly where you should live it up with a value-for-money sushiya, after having devoured your fair share of pad krapow and tom yum. Head down to inner-city neighbourhood Thonglor, unofficially known as the Little Japan of Bangkok. There’ll be a Japanese restaurant at every corner – sake izakayas, ramen joints, and even kaitensushi (conveyor belt sushi). You can find out more about Bangkok’s best sushi restaurants and omakase restaurants from our Time Out Thailand team.

Head down to Grand Canyon Chonburi and Snowy Mountain for scenic views
Photograph: Unsplash/Koushik Pal

Head down to Grand Canyon Chonburi and Snowy Mountain for scenic views

Most presume that the best views of Bangkok are from a towering skyscraper, overlooking twinkling city lights. Not necessarily true: Chonburi district is just an hour’s drive away from central Bangkok, and it’s filled with panoramic views over at the Grand Canyon Chonburi. Think of it more as an affectionate nickname rather than a direct comparison to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. By no means does it compare to the original landmark in the US, but it’s still a picture-perfect spot on this side of the world. Yet, this “abandoned” quarry, with its backdrop of vibrant blue waters isn’t at all abandoned – it’s transformed into a more tourist-friendly spot over the years with chargeable onsite parking and booth-style coffee shops around the area. 

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Photograph: Pailin Boonlong

After ordering an oliang (traditional Thai coffee), follow a small dirt path off the side and you’ll find yourself on an easy hike to a so-called snowy mountain. Heads up: it’s neither snowy nor a mountain. In fact, this is truly one for those with an adventurous streak. We’ve heard rumours that this area is closed off to the public in recent years, yet, many curious passersby are still keen on exploring this picturesque landscape. Is it worth it? You might snap that coveted photo for your feed, but whatever it is, remember that your own personal safety is key.  

GEETTING HERE Rent a car and make it a full day trip to nearby Pattaya – the Grand Canyon and Snowy Mountains are on the way. You can find the Google Map coordinates here

Enjoy drinks at a hidden rooftop bar
Photograph: Hidden Square

Enjoy drinks at a hidden rooftop bar

Rooftop bars and hidden bars – something that Bangkok has in truckloads. But instead of making a booking at Silom’s Sky Bar (featured in The Hangover II) or Banyan Tree’s skyscraper bar perched on the 61st floor, there are many of rooftop bars that aren’t quite as…mainstream. To avoid the hoards of overenthused tourists, make your way to one of these speakeasies or new bars in Bangkok. For a more low-key rooftop experience, Hidden Square in the Wattana area isn’t half bad – it’s not at all fancy but besides cheap beer and classic cocktails, they also dole out Thai dishes like stir-fried drunken seafood (B150, ~$6) and seafood pad see ew (B80, ~$3.20).

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Go for a soothing cannabis massage
Photograph: The Oriental Spa, Mandarin Oriental

Go for a soothing cannabis massage

Thai spas aren’t necessrily a novel experience but not many have experienced a massage under the influence. At Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, it’s done intentionally so with their newly launched Relax and Restore Massage (from B4,500) – it uses 104 cannabinoids to help relieve muscle aches and tension. And while cannabis has been integrated into every bit of the massage treatment, from the massage oil to the warm team, don’t worry about spacing out. At most, this two-hour session will simply have you sinking into utter relaxation.  

It’s perfectly legal in Thailand and our Time Out Thailand team has tried this exact massage. In their words, “it’s a highly therapeutic treatment” – you can read their in-depth review on this massage here.

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