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From shining temples and floating markets to tasty pad thai, Bangkok and its more than 10 million inhabitants have a knack for enchanting visitors. Thai culture makes being a pint-size visitor here easy; the destination is exotic and bustling but still friendly and welcoming. With something ancient and colorful to look at, buy or eat at
every turn, there’s never a dull moment in Thailand, the “Land of Smiles.” Here’s what families should be sure to take in when visiting Bangkok.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok. Nothing can prepare kids (or their parents) for their first glimpse of the Reclining Buddha; at more than 150 feet long — that’s half the length of a football field — and almost 50 feet high, it certainly makes a first impression. Families should walk around the entire Buddha, stopping to admire the patterns on its feet made with inlaid mother-of-pearl.
Take note: At Buddhist temples throughout Thailand, visitors of all ages are expected to dress conservatively. Shoulders, as well as legs above the knee, must be covered. Women and girls wearing shorts on warm Bangkok days should keep a sarong handy to cover up and still be comfortable. Removing shoes is also a common requirement, so advise parents to save time and hassle by choosing kids’ footwear that slides on and off easily, as there isn’t always room to sit down and lace up shoes when exiting temples.
ShoppingEncourage clients to hit one of Bangkok’s many malls — and not feel guilty about it — because going shopping is part of the city experience. Jump on the escalators at Terminal 21, a mixed-use complex, and travel the world under one roof. Each level represents a different destination; on one floor, you can snap a shot of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and a few minutes later, you may find yourself in London or Istanbul.
Must-Visit MarketsCarnival-like for many visitors, markets are a part of everyday life in Bangkok. From weekend and night markets to floating markets, there’s a shopping experience for every family here. Cheap and plentiful taxis, tuk tuks and on-demand drivers — combined with public transportation — make it easy to get to them all.
Be sure to check out Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market, which offers photo-worthy moments. Humming stalls cook up a variety of dishes, from pot stickers and grilled whole fish to coconut-milk custard. But a number of areas are dedicated solely to kids, offering hands-on craft activities such as painting T-shirts.
Thai longboat tours leave regularly from the market. About 90 minutes long, the voyages wind through neighborhoods and past stretches of lotus flowers, offering a glimpse of Thai life that is hard to see any other way. There’s no narrative; the scenery explains itself. Possible stops include a second, smaller market with a temple and an orchid farm.
The fact that it’s open 24 hours a day makes it a bit easier to fit Pak Khlong Talat, the largest wholesale flower market in Bangkok, into a busy family itinerary. The best time to see it in action is in the wee hours of the morning, when the freshest flowers arrive. But if you’d prefer to sleep in, don’t worry — bunches of blooms are plentiful all day long.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as Jatujak or JJ Market, is one of the world’s largest weekend markets. It covers 27 acres, and there are said to be about 15,000 booths, which sell everything from pottery, clothes and backpacks to touristy knickknacks. Adventurous eaters will find plenty of new dishes to try here, while those who are pickier will appreciate familiar items such as fresh fruit and coconut ice cream.
ToursFor families in need of a little help developing a Thai food comfort zone, or simply getting a lay of the land, tour operator Expique offers a Bangkok Night Lights tuk tuk tour that zips around town highlighting markets, temples and food. Expique tour-goers also get to skip the line at restaurant Thip Samai, touted to have the best noodles and orange juice in town.