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Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is the country’s largest city. It’s home to nearly 8 million people or 12.6% of Thailand’s population. While I am generally a city person, I’m not exactly a big-city type of traveler. I recently traveled throughout Southeast Asia and used Bangkok as a starting point. I gave myself two days in Bangkok, before continuing onward to Chiang Mai. Two days isn’t a whole lot of time, but I felt it would be sufficient. I arrived in Bangkok with pretty low expectations.

I had convinced myself it was an incredibly dirty, extremely crowded city, with very few things to do that I would actually be interested in. Although it is crowded, Bangkok is not quite as chaotic (at least during the day) as I had imagined. I actually found it to be quite clean for such a large city and the hotels were surprisingly very eco-friendly. I even found some great day trips to escape from the hustle and bustle. I ended up having a great time in Bangkok, but I found that two days there was the perfect amount of time for me. Here is what I consider the ideal way to spend two days in Bangkok:

two days bangkok wat arun temple

Day One:

The Temples

I started my day bright and early by visiting some of the temples in Bangkok. Ideally, you want to go early in the morning for a couple of reasons. Those reasons being the large crowds of tourists and the heat, if you are visiting during the warmer months.

The Grand Palace

I began with The Grand Palace. It is divided into two zones, Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the royal residence. The gates open at 8:30 am but expect a line of people to form before this. I arrived at opening and was only there for about 45 minutes before it became extremely crowded and impossible to take a photo without someone getting in my shot or backing into me while taking theirs.

Wat Phra Kaew is considered one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in all of Thailand. No one is actually allowed near the Emerald Buddha, but the ornately decorated building and statues surrounding it are absolutely beautiful. There are so many intricate details and I definitely recommend a guide who can point them out and explain the meaning behind them. The series of buildings that make up the royal residences of The Grand Palace are gorgeous as well and the architecture is stunning. Construction began in 1782 with additional buildings and courtyards being added over the years. The Grand Palace housed the King, his court, and the royal government for 150 years.

two days bangkok temple of emerald buddha demons

two days bangkok grand palace

Wat Pho

Wat Pho, or The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is about a ten-minute walk from the Grand Palace. I enjoyed the walk, but you can easily find a Tuk Tuk to take you there. Wat Pho is a large temple complex that houses a giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters long and is covered in gold leaf.

This temple is a must-do. The atmosphere is much more relaxed and enjoyable than that of The Grand Palace. Many people leave after viewing the Buddha, which really is quite impressive, but it is worth spending some time exploring the surrounding grounds as well.

two days bangkok reclining buddha

Wat Arun

One could probably visit temples for days in Bangkok but since I was on limited time, I chose Wat Arun as my final temple and it did not disappoint. Wat Arun is on the opposite side of the river from Wat Pho and can easily be reached by ferry. The temple has a spire, standing at 70 meters tall, that is beautifully adorned with colorful glass and Chinese porcelain. You can also climb its steep steps and can even see the river from its highest point.

two days bangkok wat arun

Dine Riverside

After spending the morning exploring the temples, I was hungry and needed some time to relax. At some point during your stay in Bangkok, you should dine riverside.   I found the river to be quiet, peaceful and it gave me the opportunity to get away from the busy tourist attractions. I found that the best form of transportation when going anywhere remotely close to the river is water taxi. The water taxis are incredibly cheap and will get you where you need to be much faster than finding a car and navigating through the heavy traffic on the streets. All the major hotels have their own boats that run until about midnight. They drop off/pick up about every 20 minutes from Sathorn Pier. The hotel-owned boats are also free of charge.

There are quite a few options when it comes to riverside restaurants, but I chose to treat myself to lunch at the Peninsula Hotel’s River Cafe & Terrace. It was a splurge considering Thai prices, but what I’m used to spending on a meal at home in Los Angeles. I had a delicious piece of salmon with asparagus and pumpkin purée. If you’re looking for traditional Thai food, the River Cafe & Terrace, offers it as well.

two days in bangkok chao phraya river

two days bangkok restaurant at peninsula hotel

Visit a Rooftop Pool or Bar

One thing Bangkok does not lack is rooftops. Whether you are looking to grab a drink, take a swim or both, there are plenty of options. I chose to stay at the AVANI Riverside Hotel, mainly because it has one of the best rooftop pools in the city. You can use the