Family Vacations to Bangkok, Thailand

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand (Aubrey Stoll/Flickr)

Bangkok Family Travel Tips

  • For many would-be budget visitors, Bangkok is synonymous with the travelers' cafes on Khao San Road that show endless Hollywood movies and dish up watered-down "Thai" food. Steer clear of Khao San Road, though, and you will discover a city of breezy river trips, ancient temples, and riverside terraces.
  • A traditional Thai massage is a great way for mom and dad to recuperate after a long flight. At Wat Pho's Traditional Massage School, students and experts will put your body through a grueling bones-and-all workout that is guaranteed to ease those travel-strained muscles.
  • Two common complaints about Bangkok are its awful traffic congestion and pollution. If you travel by open-air tuk-tuk, the smog and hassle can indeed be a nightmare. Two ways around this are to travel on the Chao Phraya River Express—speedboat-like ferries that zoom up and down the river—or the Skytrain monorail.
  • The city is hot and humid throughout the year, so do your sightseeing early in the day. April and May are particularly bad months.
  • Trying to explore Bangkok with a stroller can be more trouble than it is worth. Consider carrying young children in a backpack or sling instead.

Take a seat on the terrace of the landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the years soon peel back. The city reveals what first brought great writers such as Noel Coward and Joseph Conrad here to idle away the days soaking up the multitude of sights and sounds. Bangkok is a city that seamlessly merges the old and the shamelessly new.

This special city boasts an ever-changing collage of old wats (temples), colonial-era architecture, and glittering new skyscrapers. Heading upriver, the Grand Palace and adjacent Wat Phra Kaew await. Inside the latter is the famous emerald Buddha, one of the most revered in the country. The king himself personally changes the Buddha's garments to suit each season of the year. Nearby sits another stunning temple, Wat Pho, in a city laden with glorious Buddhist architecture. Another highlight is the Temple of Dawn, or Wat Arun. This bizarre but beautiful structure stretches 82 meters into the heavens and is named after the Indian god of dawn, Aruna.

Families can savor many of the wats and the city's other highlights from its lifeblood river. The Chao Phraya River Express is the best way to get around Bangkok, as tickets cost next to nothing and there are no exhaust fumes and traffic jams on the waterways. The boat ride is all part of the fun as you zoom into the various piers that dot the river and watch the passengers jump aboard before the motor kicks into life and you scream off again.

One way for families to really get under the skin of the city is to experience one of the things that make it tick—food. The locals love their food, and various culinary delights are available all over the city—from top-notch restaurants to smoky street stands where you watch as the food is cooked right in front of you.

Spirituality is also crucial to this city. Apart from wats, the best place to explore this is at Lumphini Park, named after Buddha's birthplace in Nepal. At the crack of dawn, the park fills with locals doing tai chi. It's something that few visitors ever see, but it is another of the sights that gives a real feel for the city. After tai chi, rent a boat and drift around on the park's lake.

Of the more modern attractions, two stand out. Siam Ocean World is perhaps the country's finest aquarium and is well set up for families, with regular shows, plenty of magnificent sea life, and decent eating venues. Siam Park City, meanwhile, is a massive attraction for families in every way, as it is home to a theme park, an amusement park, and a water park. The latter boasts what is said to be the world's largest wave pool.

Published: 4 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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