Bangkok has more visitors than any other city in the world, and as a vital ingredient in the Southeast Asia backpacking route, there is enough to do in the city to last a lifetime. I have visited Bangkok many times over the past few years, and was thrilled to be invited to return last week with lastminute.com to help them put together a guide to the city for #TripsCreatedByUs. We got a great deal for flights and a hotel overlooking the Chao Phraya river with views of the Grand Palace and beyond, so I'd highly recommend checking them out when booking your next trip. Getting away from the tourist traps and exploring the lesser-known areas is going to be your best bet at enjoying the city to the utmost, and is something I try to do every time I find myself back in Thailand. So, without further adieu, here is a list of of my favourite off the beaten path spots to photograph in Bangkok. Enjoy!
When to go?
Bangkok is busy year-round, with Christmas and the New Year, as well as Songkran festival (mid-April), being especially busy. We visited in August, and despite being exceptionally humid, we were told by locals that it’s like that pretty much all year round. So, my advice is to check the best time to visit for the other areas of Thailand you’ll go to on your trip, and go with that. You’d rather have a few muggy days in the city than 2 weeks of rain on the southern beach islands, right?
From water taxi to sky train to tuk-tuk and GRAB, Bangkok has you covered. We used GRAB most of the time as we were extremely tight on time. The sky train is also fantastic for most parts of the city, although doesn’t really cover west of the river, but will save your life in rush hour traffic.
And now, what you have all been waiting for I'm sure, here are my favourite places to shoot in the city.
Otherwise known as the temple of the dawn, Wat Arun is one of the better known temples in Bangkok, and just a short boat ride across the river from the Grand Palace. There are many great viewpoints of this beautiful white temple, including inside the temple itself, but my favourite view is from the other side of the river at dusk.
Best time to visit: Just before sunset if you are taking photos from across the river, and when it opens if you want to go inside the temple itself. Remember to cover your shoulders and knees.
How to get there: To get to the temple, take a boat from Wat Pho (the reclining buddha). If you’re looking to shoot from across the river at sunset, head to any of the alleyways around The Deck by Arun Residence.
Cost: 100THB per person to enter.
Photo tip: Bring a tripod if shooting from across the river in the evening.
The Dragon Temple, located about an hour outside the city, has sprung up on Instagram in the last couple of months, and it is clear why. When looking for a photo that is destined to do well on social media, a pink tower with a green dragon wrapped around it surrounded by dense jungle is a good starting point.
Best time to visit: We went for sunset so the light was flat and you can also shoot the sun through the dragon's mouth at this time.
How to get there: You’ll need to hire a driver or taxi as it’s about an hours drive outside of the city.
Photo tip: The best photos here are taken with a drone.
LEBUA STATE TOWER
The rooftop bar of the Lebua Hotel (the Sky Bar) is probably one of the most well-known places for tourists to visit in Bangkok thanks to the Hangover II movie. Despite the strict dress code and extortionate prices, the views from the top are the best in the city, and if you get a good sunset up there, you're in for a treat. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to bring appropriate footwear on our recent trip to Bangkok, and so decided to find a place to photograph the intricate balconies from instead.
Best time to visit: Sunset if you want to go up to the top, and any time in the afternoon if you are shooting the balconies.
How to get there: To shoot the balconies, head to IconSiam shopping mall for the best viewpoints.
Photo tip: Bring your zoom lens!
Bangkok's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the world, and is a great place to explore for the afternoon. The maze of small streets and alleyways is a great spot for street photography, and there are plenty of small markets and street food stands to take photographs of too.
Best time to visit: Anytime.
How to get there: There’s no sky train near Chinatown, so your best bet is to get a taxi or take the boat to Ratchawong Pier and walk from there.
Photo tip: Get lost among the back alleys and try your luck at some street photography.
HUA LAMPHONG TRAIN STATION
The Hua Lamphong train station is one of the oldest train stations in Bangkok, and is due to be closed down this year as it will be upgraded. Located just a short walk from Chinatown, this train station is a fascinating place to people watch, and to practice your street photography. And, if you are lucky, you'll be able to photograph monks walking across the tracks too.
Best time to visit: Sometime during the day so that the light comes through the stained glass windows.
How to get there: The station is connected to the MRT underground, so best to take the train to avoid the traffic.
Photo tip: Take a walk around the platform with a good street lens (I used a 50mm f/1.8) and photograph people crossing the tracks to get to their train.
LOHA PRASAT TEMPLE
The Loha Prasat temple was a new discovery for me this year, thanks to my friends Palm and Kan who live in Bangkok. The architecture is distinctly stunning at this temple, and there were only a few other tourists there when we visited in the late afternoon. This is also a great place to watch the monks go about their daily life, and offers great photo opportunities too.
Best time to visit: The temple doesn't get very busy, but try to go when the light is flatter.
How to get there: Loha Prasat is located opposite the Golden Mount, but as there is no metro or sky train station nearby, the best way to get here is by taxi.
Photo tip: Bring the widest lens you can to get a corner shot of the temple with the roof in the photo.
RATCHADA TRAIN NIGHT MARKET
The Ratchada Train Night Market is still one of my favourite places to shoot in the city, despite having visited multiple times before. The colourful tents and neon lights spreading a huge area makes for wonderful photos from above, and the food there is to die for.
Best time to visit: The only time to visit is after sunset!
How to get there: The market is directly behind the Cultural Centre MRT underground station.
Photo tip: Head to a vantage point on the outskirts of the market for a good shot of the colourful tents below.
MAEKLONG RAILWAY TRACK MARKET
Only in Southeast Asia will you find a fully functioning market which folds away it’s stalls throughout the day to allow a train to come down the tracks running through the middle. Enter the Maeklong Railway Market, located just outside of Bangkok city. The market gets very busy, but there are multiple trains throughout the day, and they drive slow enough for you to get some good photos of them passing through.
Best time to visit: Check the schedule online before you go to make sure you catch one of the 8 trains. We opted for the afternoon which we found was less busy.
How to get there: For this you’ll need to hire a taxi as it’s just over an hours drive outside of the city centre.
Photo tip: Scout a location from which you can shoot (or ask the locals where is best) when you get there so that you are ready for when the train arrives.
Wat Benchamabophit, hereby referred to as the marble temple for ease of pronunciation, is one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok. The temple was designed in 1899 and features on the 5 baht coin. If you go later on in the day (just before it closes), you'll have the place (almost) to yourself, which makes it a lot easier to take photos.
Best time to visit: Just after the rain, or right when it closes for your best chance at a photograph.
How to get there: There is no nearby sky train or underground, so best to take a taxi.
Photo tip: If you go just after it rains, the water on the temple floor makes the perfect reflection.
Enjoy the abundance of mango sticky rice and let me know if you have any questions!
And if you're unsure where to go after Thailand, I'd highly recommend checking out Bali if you haven't been already. Read my Bali blog and I hope it'll convince you to book plane tickets!