Before you take a step out into the streets of bustling Bangkok, take a deep breath. You may need your wits about you navigating this endless metropolis, where road rules are guidelines at best and even the "mild" of curries may have you seeing stars.
Within hours, however, you're bound to have fallen for this incredible capital, which truly never sleeps. Here are our top 5 unmissable sights to fill your days (and nights) with:
1. Shop at Chatuchak Market
"The weekend market", "JJ’s Market" or Chatuchak – whatever you call it, this expansive market is everything you could want in an Asian market (and more). Set over 27 acres with more than 8000 stalls, the variety is mesmerizing. Here, you can find everything from pet frogs to used car parts to impossibly cool clothes, handmade by stylish young Thai designers. 400,000 people visit on the weekend (it is not open through the week), but it is so worth braving the crowds, especially if you love fashion.
2. Eat Street Food
Frankly, if there's one thing you do in Bangkok, make it eating the street food. You could fly to Bangkok for this alone. It's mouth-wateringly delicious, it's affordable, and it's available literally anywhere, any time. The classic here is Pad Thai Kung (fried noodles with shrimp), but the possibilities are endless. Pad Krapao Moo (stir fried pork with Basil) is a favorite, or Mango Sticky Rice if you want something sweeter. It's literally everywhere, but Bangkok's Chinatown is a street food paradise!
3. Visit the Grand Palace
This alluring building is so recognizably Bangkok – a photo in front of it makes for a perfect reminder of your trip to this brilliant capital. The Royal Family is absolutely revered in Thailand, and the Grand Palace is an important part of the country's national identity. It spans over 200,000 square meters and is made up of a huge number of beautiful buildings. Be sure to dress respectfully, and don't fall to the scam of "buying a cheap ticket" from outside the real entrance!
4. Have a Thai Massage
Let's save you from a nasty surprise – Thai massages may not be the relaxing affair you're used to. Forget soothing music and essential oils, Thai massage is more about yanking, pulling and twisting. Not sounding very appealing? Miraculously, you really do leave feeling much more supple, limber and rejuvenated. Of course, if you're not game, you can always go for a traditional massage instead. Perception Blind Massage is a social enterprise that offers massages of all kinds.
5. Explore the Bangkok Nightlife
Bangkok is an extraordinary city – so modern and dynamic, yet still retaining that "life of the edge" feeling. To truly appreciate all that Bangkok has to offer, stay out until the early hours of the morning – this city knows how to party. If it's all night dance clubs you're after, hit backpacker strip Khao San Road, or for something more upmarket, try Beam, popular with ultra-hip young Thais.