Laid-back Bangkok: how to enjoy the Thai capital at your own pace

March 10, 2016

Bangkok doesn't have to be all hard-partying, perilous tuk-tuks and congested streets: discover an easy-going side to the Thai capital.

Considered by most backpackers as little more than a gateway city to the paradise islands beyond, Bangkok is a hot, hectic and congested metropolis that's notorious for partying hard on either side of a blissful break. But go beyond the tourist traps of ping pong shows, scorpion eating and perilous tuk-tuk rides, and you'll find that it's also possible to have a chilled-out time in Thailand's capital city.

Visit the Khao San Road by day

A lady tourist about to walk down Bangkok's Khao San Road during the day.

The Khao San Road is Bangkok's infamous party street. It's where to go if you want to let your hair down and avoid your hard hostel bed for the night. As evening falls, you'll see signs light up, the partying start and an increasing number of inebriated pedestrians. Yet by day, it's possible to have a totally different experience. Take a leisurely stroll down the street and grab a fantastically fresh mango smoothie to sip as you peruse the market stalls, entertained by street performances and nourished on good, cheap grub. For an even more easygoing amble, choose the street opposite, Rambuttri, for similar sights with a  mellower vibe and much more space to breath.

Meander through the markets

A thriving market in Asia at nightfall showing a birds-eye view of the colourful market stalls.

Head to Chatuchak Market near Mo Chit station and you can make your retail therapy last all day long. You'll find everything under the sun at this giant market complex. Weave in and out of the many, many stalls and bargain for anything from funky vintage clothing to authentic aromatic spices. When dusk falls, the atmospheric night market opens and a younger, hipster crowd enters bringing a metropolitan, happening feel with them. Talad Rod Fai, the 'Railway Market', is also well worth a look. This huge, open-air bazaar began life daringly set on the train tracks behind Chatuchak Market but was forced to move in 2013 due to an expansion of the BTS Skytrain line. It now occupies a space just behind the Seacon Square Shopping Mall and is bigger than ever with a fashion and food focus. 

Eat well easily

A bird's eye view of a street food stall in in Thailand selling kebabs and Thai cuisine.

The street food in Bangkok is simply phenomenal so you don't need to exert much effort at all to get a decent meal. The Khao San Road is brimming over with freshly-made Thai dishes such as deliciously cheap spring rolls that go for about 60 to 80 pence each. Chatuchak Market offers an array of food stalls with particularly well-regarded pad Thai, coconut ice cream and fresh fruit smoothies that perfectly compliment a day of bargain hunting. 

Sit back and stare at the silver screen

A retro cinema ticket on a table beside some popcorn pieces.

Can't face a rowdy night of partying but don't want to spend the night twiddling your thumbs in your dorm room either? Head to the Scala Cinema in Siam Square and you'll be entertained for next to nothing in a beautifully preserved retro movie theatre. Built in 1967, the cinema is known for its exquisite domed ceiling and offers films in English along with bargain priced seats (think £2 a show) and popcorn that costs pennies.

Discover café culture

Table and chairs outside a Thai cafe with a cup of tea on it.

Bangkok has one of the most interesting arrays of cafés of any city. Amongst its offerings, you'd be missing out if you didn't visit the Mr. Bean Café - a charming haunt filled with British icons such as a red telephone booth and a double-decker bus along with a menu of English favourites; the Hello Kitty Café - a multi-story unit of cuteness in Siam Square One; and the many cat cafés that serve all manner of hot drinks and snacks alongside a generous helping of fluffiness and adorability from their feline residents. 

Mull things over at a museum or park it in a green space

A couple sat on a bench stare across the Lumphini Park lake filled with boats in Bangkok.

From the gruesome to the informative, you'll find all manner of museums in this cosmopolitan city of culture. Favourites include the Siam Museum which for a small fee gives visitors a thorough run down on Thailand's fascinatingly rich history. If you prefer spending time outside, then make your way to one of the city's fantastic parks. At Lumphini Park you can kick back on a swan paddle boat and weave amongst the water monitor lizards. 

Grace and Rob Barnott Palin Grace and Rob are a young couple who love to travel and experience the world. They always have a story to tell from their journeys and love to encourage the rest of the world to explore and have fun by sharing their travel writing.