River Boats and Temples – Bangkok in 24 Hours

Grand Palace, Bangkok

The capital of Thailand is a bustling city with a mix of the modern and the ancient. Bangkok has long captured the imaginations of people from around the world for its exotic design and intricate temples. There’s a lot to do in this amazing city, but here is how to tour the city when you only have 24 hours.

Since your time is limited, being organized is key. The best place to start is where most first time visitors begin their journey through Bangkok, the Grand Palace. The Thai Monarchy has a rich history and today is an integral part of everyday life in Thailand. The Grand Palace serves as the best representation of this important and colorful influence. The Palace grounds are quite large, and part of the fun is just wandering around and taking note of the rich detail and gorgeous decoration found on every square inch of the compound. Not to be missed is Wat Phra Keo, the Emerald Buddha.  Legend maintains that the statue is more than 2,000 years old and has resided in Bangkok since the 18th century. Remove your shoes as you enter and spend a few moments with the faithful acquiring your own unique moment of peace.

After you’ve explored the grandeur of the Grand Palace, head to the nearby Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Po. Wat Po (or Pho) is the oldest Temple and without a doubt the largest Buddhist representation in Bangkok, dating back to the 16th century. The Temple is also where Thai massage got its start and you can still get a thorough Thai massage for less than $10. Not a bad deal.

After your morning in and around the Grand Palace, stop by a nearby market for a quick lunch and jump in a cab for the ride to the heart of Dusit Park and the Teak Palace.

Vimanmek Mansion, or the Teak Palace, is a fin de siècle residence that once served as the official quarters of King Rama V. The mansion is the largest teak building in the world and offers a unique glimpse back in time at a particularly exciting period in Thai history. A short walk from the mansion is the Old Parliament building for those with an interest in Thai politics.

If it’s not too late in the day, try to work in a visit to the enigmatic Jim Thompson House. Thompson was an American expatriate who lived in Bangkok following World War II, and who is often credited with introducing Thai fabrics and design to the world on a mass market scale. Oddly enough, Thompson disappeared while vacationing in Malaysia in 1967, never to be seen again. Throughout his life, Thompson was a fervent admirer of Thai design and architecture, his house standing as the epitome of this obsession.

Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun, Bangkok

Originally a way to house his Thai arts and crafts collection, Thompson drew on his design background and purchased and relocated entire sections of six antique Thai homes and had them assembled into a single architectural masterpiece. The Jim Thompson House is situated on a klong across from the Bangkrua area of Bangkok where his weavers once lived. The tour through his very eclectic home is like visiting a museum of Thai design and social history. For a calming experience, be sure to also visit the tropical gardens which offer a remarkable respite in a sea of Bangkok modernism.

The perfect end to your sightseeing lies across the Chao Phraya River, so jump in a river taxi and head to the stunning Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn.

Wat Arun is my favorite spot in Bangkok, and a perfect location to finish out your first day. Wat Arun is made up of five towers, or prangs, each marvelously decorated with bits of shell and broken porcelain. True to its name, this is one of the best locations to watch the sun rise in Bangkok. While not for the acrophobic, visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the central tower which affords amazing views of the river and city beyond.

After enjoying the late afternoon views of the river and city beyond, head up river for a sunset dinner at the In Love Restaurant. Located conveniently at the Thewet pier river taxi stop, In Love is a must for anyone passing through this gorgeous city. While the food is excellent, the best feature of the restaurant are its incredible water views. About an hour before sunset, encamp yourself on the patio and watch the hectic symphony of boats dart about the river .


Bangkok is an exciting, frenetic city that fuses the ancient with the very modern. Weeks could be spent exploring this great capital, but even the casual traveler can get a feel for what makes this city so amazing in only a couple of days.

What would you do if you only had one day in Bangkok?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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