So, you’re in busy Bangkok and are overwhelmed by the traffic, tuk-tuk drivers, motorcycle taxis, and cars that never stop for pedestrians. Thankfully, there’s an easier and faster way to bypass all the madness on the buzzing streets of BKK.
Bangkok Rapid Transit Systems
The BTS and MRT stations are the two rapid transit systems in Bangkok. BTS was opened originally in December 1999, while the MRT came later in July 2004. BTS is the sky train, built above the ground level, and MRT is the metro system, a subway. The two systems essentially have merged into one mass rapid transit system, and the best way to get around because it’s air-conditioned, cheap, and fast. Also, as a tourist, or possibly a future expat like me, about 90% of the places you’ll want to go to can easily be reached by either BTS or MRT.
If you’re looking for both hidden gems and well-known favorites that are accessible from the BTS and MRT, then this guide is for you!
Once you arrive in Bangkok, you’ll see the BTS Skytrain coursing through this massive city, offering passengers a scenic view of Bangkok’s vibrant neighborhoods.
The BTS Skytrain operates two lines: the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line. If you’re going on the BTS, don’t miss out on these must-see stops.
Saphan Taksin – Silom Line
Upon exiting the Saphan Taksin BTS stop, you will see the Sathon Ghost Tower, which is a creepy, abandoned skyscraper. The Saphan Taksin stop is next to the Chao Phraya River, which should be at the top of your list of places to explore in Bangkok.
There are cheap ferries along the river which can take you on a picturesque ferry ride to various must-see attractions. You can take a ferry to Chinatown, which is a nice place to walk around, shop, eat, and take photos. Soi Charoenkrung has lots of cool graffiti art as well as lots of shops, restaurants, and a beautiful design library and co-working space called the Thailand Creative & Design Center.
There are free ferries to Icon Siam, which is a gorgeously designed, high-end mall with a huge Thai handicraft area on the bottom floor. Asiatique The Riverfront also has a free ferry, which is a scenic place to eat & shop since there’s a large food court, a beautiful Ferris wheel, and a stunning view of the river.
Hidden Gem: Jack’s Bar is a cheap, open-air bar and restaurant right along the river that attracts locals and expats alike. The staff is super friendly and the food is delicious.
Sala Daeng – Silom Line
Silom is a beautiful business district with a different vibe from Sukhumvit. The streets are wider and the high-rise buildings are newer and nicer. The Mahanakhon Skyscraper is the tallest building in Bangkok and has a glass floor experience and a beautiful, rooftop bar with an epic view of the city.
Even better than the skyscraper is Lumpini Park, which is a huge park that provides much-needed nature time. You’ll see countless monitor lizards that look like dinosaurs as well as hundreds of species of tropical birds.
Hidden Gem: The Neilson Hays Library is a gorgeous neo-classical-style library that has been around since the 1920s. It has a nice coffee shop with a view of the front garden area. There are also cultural events there every month.
Surasak – Silom Line
From Surasak you can visit the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, which is a Hindu temple that is over 100 years old.
Along Thanon Pan street, which is the same street the temple is on, are many charming coffee shops and restaurants.
Hidden Gem – Go on a graffiti art tour through Sathon Canal Art.
Asok – Sukhumvit Line
Bangkok has way too many malls but the Terminal 21 mall is actually worth checking out. It’s built to look like an airport terminal with each floor representing a different major city around the world.
The food court located in “San Francisco” is the best in Bangkok and is very cheap. Right next to Terminal 21 is Soi Cowboy, an infamous go-go bar street with lots of neon lights that remind me of old Las Vegas. You can also walk to Benjakitti Park, which is a newly expanded park that has a nice view of the Bangkok skyline mixed with stunning, natural landscapes.
Hidden Gem: Pala Pizza right in from Terminal 21 sells delicious and cheap pizza by the slice and other authentic Italian food.
Thonglor – Sukhumvit Line
This is the “hi-so” area where some of the richest Thais and expats live. Thonglor has a booming nightlife with busy clubs and bars along the stretch. For shopping and eating, check out J Avenue and The Commons.
Hidden Gem: Shades of Retro is a cool bar with a vintage theme. The drinks and music are excellent and the staff is very friendly.
Ari – Sukhumvit Line
Ari is where all the hip locals and expats live and hang out. It’s very underrated as a tourist destination, but maybe that’s why it’s still cool. This is a nice area to walk around in because there are so many chic restaurants, cafes, art exhibits, and vintage shops.
Hidden Gem: A good cup of coffee can be challenging to find in Bangkok, but Laze Cafe has you covered. The decor is minimalist with a nice rooftop area.
Phrom Pong – Sukhumvit Line
With no shortage of fancy malls, Emporium Mall and EmQuartier Mall are right off this BTS stop and are ideal places to do some high-end to mid-range shopping. Benjasiri Park is also next to the BTS and has a lovely garden with unique sculptures.
Hidden Gems: Not exactly hidden but not as well-known to tourists, The Quartier Water Garden at EmQuartier is a stunning indoor and outdoor green space with a massive indoor waterfall and a beautiful view of the city. The Starbucks that is right in front of the Water Garden is also beautiful and surrounded by plants.
The second hidden gem is at the Emporium Mall food court. After you get your food, sit in the far back area where you can eat with a nice view of Benjasiri Park below.
Mo Chit – Sukhumvit Line
Mo Chit is best known for the Chatuchak Weekend Market and Chatuchak Park which are both worth exploring. Chatuchak Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in Asia. It’s easy to get lost wandering around there. Don’t miss the vintage clothing in sections 2, 5, 6, and 22 and the handicrafts and souvenirs in sections 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9.
Hidden Gems – Chatuchak has a thriving nightlife with loads of bars, clubs, and chill hangout spots. Check out Viva 8 which is inside Chatuchak Market. It has Spanish food, strong drinks, and live music.
Siam – Both lines
Siam Station connects both the Sukhumvit and Silom lines. Check out the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which always has free art exhibitions from local and international artists. There are also special events going on every month.
If you’re into malls or want air conditioning, check out the fancy Siam Paragon Mall, which has Kinokuniya, the biggest and nicest bookstore in Bangkok. Next to Paragon is Siam Discovery, which has a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and as well as dozens of unique clothing shops from local designers.
On the other side of this BTS stop is Siam Square One which is a huge maze of indoor and outdoor shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Hidden Gem: The Human Body Museum located in the dental school at Siam Square is free and has displays of plastinated human bodies. You can even hold a plastinated human brain! It’s the Thai version of the Body World’s exhibit.
MRT – Bangkok Mass Rapid Transit
The Bangkok MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit, is an underground rapid transit system in Bangkok, Thailand. It currently consists of two lines: the Blue Line and the Purple Line.
Several of the spots listed under the BTS section can also be reached via MRT, which will be indicated. Here are some stops you shouldn’t miss along the MRT.
Khlong Toei is a vibrant working-class neighborhood with a lot going on. This is a good area to get lost in and see how working-class Thais live. Check out the Khlong Toei Market, which is a large fresh market with lots of photo ops and cheap food.
Hidden Gem: The main reason to get off the Khlong Toei MRT stop is to visit Bang Krachao, also known as “Bangkok’s Green Lung.” This beautiful island oasis is the best natural space in Bangkok. It has a mangrove forest, village, park, botanical garden, and lush greenery.
You can ride a bicycle or rent a motorbike to explore the island. Just take a taxi from the MRT to Khlong Toei Port (ท่าเรือคลองเตย – Tah Reua Khlong Toei.) From there, you can take a cheap and scenic long-tail boat ride to the island.
Phra Ram 9
The Phra Ram 9 (Rama 9) area is where all the 20-30-something middle-class Thais and expats live. There are loads of brand-new, high-rise condos throughout this area as well as the Central Rama 9 mall. More importantly, it has Fortune Town, which is the best tech and electronics mall in Bangkok with the best prices. You can buy anything from phones to bootleg DVDs to records.
Hidden Gem: The Jodd Fairs night market is the most popular night market among expats and locals right now. It’s the perfect place to shop, eat, and get drunk with friends.
If you want a faster way to get to Chinatown, you can get off the Hua Lamphong station. This stop also leads straight to the Bangkok Railway Station, which has been under threat of closing down, but is still open and has a limited number of long and short-distance train services.
For some local culture, go to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat. It’s the largest Chinese temple in Bangkok and has been around since 1871.
Hidden Gem: 23 Bar & Gallery is the coolest bar in Bangkok with the best music if you like rock, alternative, rasta, and Brit-pop. This is also a good hook-up spot and place to make new friends. They have art exhibitions all the time.
You can get off on Silom instead of taking the BTS to Sala Daeng. This is where you can find the Patpong Night Market, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, and Lumpini Park.
Instead of getting off at the Asok BTS stop, you can get off the MRT Sukhumvit stop to head to the Terminal 21 mall, Benjakitti Park, and Soi Cowboy. You can also transfer to the BTS from here and continue down Sukhumvit.
An alternative to getting off the Mo Chit MTS station is to get off the Kampheng Phet stop to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Chatuchak Park, and Queen Sirikit Park.
Whether you like nature, eating, boozing, shopping, exploring, or art, there is something for everyone in Bangkok. You don’t need to suffer through the city’s notorious traffic to discover some amazing destinations.