Bangkok by night

There’s one side of Bangkok by night that many tourists see… but then there’s another side, a much more local one.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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Bangkok night tour, Thailand

Most visitors to Bangkok have seen the city by night. But, usually, only one side of the city.

They’ve seen the bars, decorated by the girls being suffocated by mini skirts…

They’ve seen the stalls along the side of the main roads selling t-shirts for a few dollars or handicrafts that have never been touched by a hand and show no signs of any craft…

They’ve seen the street food carts with sizzling or bubbling concoctions that are probably delicious but are maybe not worth the risk.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

This is the Bangkok by night that an average visitor sees when they step outside their hotel in areas like Sukhumvit or Silom.

This is not the Bangkok by night that locals know.

To find this local side of Thailand’s capital, you don’t need to go far. But you do need to know where to look. It’s in the markets, the restaurants, the temples, and the streets that you can discover a different side of the city.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

Take the Khlong San Plaza markets for example.

Once upon a time this site was a train station but now it’s become a different part of a daily commute for many. It’s where they stop in the mornings or the evenings on their way home from work.

Food stalls sell cheap snacks or more filling meals for the weary who can’t face their kitchen.

Row after row of small clothes shops line the heart of the market and young women – many with unimpressed boyfriends – flick through the shirts and pants and skirts on the racks. (Quality is not what they’re looking for and that’s lucky because it’s not on offer in this mecca of disposable fashion.)

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

Some people are getting their hair cut, their nails done or even a tattoo!

Interestingly, I hear very little shouting for shoppers to come into a stall or look closer… that treatment is reserved for the tourists.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

A small ferry takes me across the river. It’s just 3 baht for a ticket (about ten cents) which seems cheap but, then again, all it does is go from one side to the other.

Nearby bridges would do the same job but that would add a lot of walking into a journey. The ferries are part of a normal commute for many Thais but at this time of night they’re quite empty.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand
Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

On the other side of the river is one of Bangkok’s most impressive temples – Wat Pho.

I’ve been here before during the day but never at night. It’s almost unrecognisable.

After dark there’s no entrance fee and there are also no tourists. Not every part of the complex is open and a trip during sunlight would still be worthwhile but there’s something a bit special about the dim lighting on the ornately-colourful stupas throughout the temple.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

It’s serene and appropriate for a site like this. I take in the atmosphere for a while before moving on.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

Guiding me through local Bangkok this evening is a tour company called Expique. They’ve put together small tours that show a different side of the city and we’re using tuk tuks to travel most of the way.

Although we may be a bunch of tourists, we see no others in the places we’re visiting.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

The tuk tuk I’m in stops outside a restaurant called Thip Samai for dinner. It has a reputation for making the best pad thai in Bangkok – a big call but one that’s hard to disprove and so the claim is perpetuated.

A production line on the street churns out the dishes. One cook stir fries, another wraps the dish in egg.

The meal arrives hot on the table and, biting into it, I find myself unable to argue against its top status. (Incidentally, if you do go to Thip Samai restaurant, make sure you drink the homemade juice – it’s delicious!)

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand
Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

It’s starting to get late but that’s just when things begin to get busy around Bangkok’s main flower market.

More than just flowers are sold here, although they are the focus. Crates are being wheeled around the surrounding streets, produce is being unpacked for sale onto tables, bags of petals are being filled.

I see one man, standing amongst boxes of vegetables, quickly sneaking a bowl of rice. Young men – you could almost mistake them for boys if not for their dark tattoos – are shirtless and shifting enormous blocks of ice.

Girls – unmistakeable as such – are making final trims of flower arrangements that will soon be sold to Bangkok’s hotels and restaurants.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand
Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand
Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

We get a few strange looks as we wander through – I don’t think tourists come here at this time of night often. I don’t feel unwelcome, though (expect perhaps when I get in the way of a man pushing boxes too fast through the narrow walkways).

The night finishes in Chinatown with dessert from a small cart on the side of the street. It’s an interesting dish – a sweet soup filled with more than a dozen strange objects, each fitting somewhere on the spectrum of tasty to ‘what the hell is this?!’.

The man who serves me has to explain how to mix it properly and he does so with half a smile and half a rolled eye.

Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand
Bangkok night tour by tuk tuk, Thailand

Perhaps, in some ways, it’s a symbol of Bangkok by night. Mixed into this sweet soup of a city are the good and the bad. You just need a local to help you work it all out.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BANGKOK: SILOM

There are two areas I would recommend for good accommodation in a central location. The first is around Silom.

BACKPACKER

If you’re looking for a fun backpacker option, then I would suggest HQ Hostel Silom.

BUDGET

There are a few budget options, but I would recommend looking at Silom Serene.

BOUTIQUE

A cool funky hotel in Silom is the W Bangkok.

LUXURY

And for the ultimate luxury, I would recommend going across the river to the beautiful Peninsula Bangkok.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BANGKOK: SUKHUMVIT

The other main area for accommodation in Bangkok is around Sukhumvit.

BACKPACKER

There’s no better party hostel in Bangkok than the Slumber Party Bangkok in Sukhumvit.

BUDGET

A good cheap and comfortable hotel that I would suggest is the 41 Suite Bangkok.

BOUTIQUE

For a very cool boutique hotel, I think the Bangkok Publishing Residence is awesome.

LUXURY

And although there are quite a few good luxury hotels, I think the best is the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Expique but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

25 thoughts on “Bangkok by night”

  1. This looks wonderful! I’m heading to Bangkok in a few weeks and would definitely like to do something like this at night…Do you have any problems taking photos in the less tourist-y places at night?

    Reply
    • No, didn’t have any problems with photos. Everyone I asked was happy for me to take a shot of them and there didn’t seem to be any issues when I was taking wide shots. Perhaps it was a bit of a novelty to have tourists in a couple of these places!

      Reply
  2. Lovely pictures! Looks like you had a great time. I love discovering something different on my travels and I’m definitely looking them up next time I’m in Bangkok – I go every year. Never been on a night trip before. If you’re looking for a similar experience in the day time, check out Bangkok Walking Adventures. We did their Dragon Belly walk and Dungeons walk. Fascinating eye openers! Also try one of the many cycling companies. I booked with two different ones (ABC – can’t remember the other one now) last time and they were both excellent.

    Reply
    • Good to hear – say hi to them for me! 🙂
      And thanks for the tip for some other tours. I did a daytime walking tour that I haven’t written about and loved it! I think it’s easy enough for tourists to find their own way to the main sights but it’s great to have a local guide to show your some off-the-beaten-path places.

      Reply
  3. Nighttime in Bangkok looks like a lot of fun! These are great shots, especially of the temples, and that’s really neat that you were able to see a different part of Bangkok that most don’t see! Cities become something else at night when all the tourists are gone!

    Reply
    • Exactly! I think most people have an idea of what Bangkok is like during the day but it really is like a completely different place at night – especially at some of these local haunts.

      Reply
  4. Excellent photos Michael, in one of the comments you stated that you asked before taking photos, is this just for the close up photos, when it is obvious you are taking a photo of that person ??.

    What camera and lens do you use for your low light photography

    Reply
    • Yeah, I tend to only ask permission if I think I need to. It’s better for the shots to catch people more naturally. I also don’t got into any great explanations – just point at the camera and smile.
      I use a pretty basic DSLR – a Canon 600D and but I’ve got a 17-55mm lens with an f-stop of 2.8 which is quite good for low light.

      Reply
    • Ha – well, there’s nothing wrong with searching for food in Bangkok. The street food is fantastic. But you can combine some sights with food too – that’s what we did on this tour.

      Reply
  5. Thoroughly enjoyed this post and so glad you wrote about the non-touristy side of Thailand. I am from a country possibly several times more chaotic than Thailand’s greatest city, so I was not as surprised on my first visit to Bangkok only a year ago. What bothered me however was that the parts of the city that were most accessible to me were the ones offered up to tourists, catering to all their endless needs–never-ending street food and shopping options, entertainers selling culture and sex, touts and travel agents, hotels and lodging houses every way you look.
    Using the train and the ferries to see the city opened it up in many more ways, but I would love to go back next time with more time on my hands to experience daily life in one of the most commercialized cities of the east!

    Reply
  6. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Great information and lovely pictures of Bangkok at night. Nighttime in Bangkok looks like a lot of fun! It’s true, Bangkok’s is best explored in night, there are various lively nightclubs, visiting temples at night is an awesome part.

    Reply
  7. Amazing photos of Bangkok at night!
    I was there in last year and Bangkok tour was Excellent & It was great to zoom around the city at night in the Tuk-Tuks, stopping at the tourist sites. I think everyone must do night tour in Bangkok. I would suggest don’t eat before you go, there is plenty of food on this tour!

    Reply
  8. Amazing photos of Bangkok at night!
    I was there in last year and Bangkok tour was Excellent & It was great to zoom around the city at night in the Tuk-Tuks, stopping at the tourist sites.
    I think everyone must do night tour in Bangkok. I would suggest don’t eat before you go, there is plenty of food on this tour!

    Reply
  9. Great post! Bangkok is an amazing place for food lovers. Even at night, the food selections get even more exciting!
    Another thing that I’d suggest is to do a night bike tour. It was a nice experience to explore the city in a different way, where we had the chance to see Chinatown, Chao Phraya River and the majestic Bangkok temples in a shorter time than walking ;p Also, to stop somewhere and buy some tasty snacks!

    Reply
    • Great tip! I think exploring at night is a great thing for tourists to do because you see a side of the city that doesn’t exist during the day. Doing it by bike is a cool suggestion!

      Reply

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