Legendary Bangkok is a city of lush urban grandeur, startling contrasts and sophistication. From its familiar winding rivers and signature skyline to its lively neighbourhoods and bustling markets, Thailand’s capital is a photographer’s dream. And just behind the modern skyscrapers are zen-like parks and quiet temples that are equally photogenic. On your next visit to Bangkok, these are the shots you’ll want to fill up your scrapbook and Instagram feed.
1. Jack’s Bar overlooking Chao Phraya
A casual spot with one of the best views of Chao Phraya—Bangkok’s River of Kings— Jack’s Bar is popular among expats and locals. Offering similar views as the surrounding luxury hotels, Jack’s will make your wallet happier with reasonably priced drinks and Thai food on the menu. The best time for shooting is at sunset to capture the various shades of the sky. Be sure to get there early to secure one of the best tables. Because of the movement of the water, shoot with a fast shutter speed to avoid blurred images.
2. The Never Ending Summer
The Never Ending Summer is a converted industrial warehouse that is now a chic restaurant. The business is part of the Jam Factory—a cultural space created by high-profile local architect Duangrit Bunnag and partner Naree Boonyakiat. The modern Thai cuisine draws an eclectic crowd and has an especially strong following among fashionable young Thais and clued-in travellers. Use the panoramic option on your smartphone to get the whole width of the space, and use a small aperture for a sharp image.
3. Chatuchak Market
The largest market in Asia, Chatuchak, also known as JJ Market, is a very popular shopping destination, but it’s only open on weekends. You can spend hours wandering through the different sections, browsing an array of colourful items. Get a free market map, and choose your favourite theme: animals, food, home decor, art or fashion. Bring a macro lens or carry a 50mm f1.8 lens to work in low light conditions.
4. China town: So Heng Thai
A secret spot in Bangkok’s Chinatown, So Heng Tai has stood for more than two centuries and is one of the only remaining traditional Chinese houses in Bangkok. The place is open to the public and functions as a cafe and a diving centre. For a unique angle, get lower to the ground, and look for repetitive lines and other interesting patterns to incorporate into your frame.
5. Pathum Wan Junction
Pathum Wan Junction is the elevated intersection of the Bangkok Art & Culture Center and BTS National Stadium lines—and it’s the perfect spot for a glimpse of a futuristic, Blade Runner-style Bangkok. The two Skytrain lines run on elevated roads, while the Siam Discovery building’s graphic patterns add a backlit geometry to the evening sky. Use a tripod if possible, and compose your image to get both Skytrain lines within the frame against the sky—preferably during the golden hour after five in the evening.
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6. Riverboats in Pratu Nam
Public boats offer unique views of Bangkok’s heyday when the city was called the Venice of the East, and the capital city was surrounded by water. A fast shutter speed setting is a must—or the photo burst feature on an iPhone—to avoid blurred images, as the boats navigate at high speed, and waves ripple through the narrow waterways.
7. Golden Mount
Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount, is a man-made hill crowned with a gleaming gold Chedi, or dome. Climb up the 300 steps, which encircle the Chedi like a loosely coiled snake, and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing vista overlooking old Bangkok. Be patient and wait for monks to come within the frame to add a modern, human element to the ancient structure.
8. Skywalk at Gaysorn
The elevated skywalk between BTS Chitlom and BTS Siam offers several photo opportunities, with roaring cars, buses, colourful taxis and motorbikes below. The contrast between modern and old Bangkok is present at the Erawan shrine where locals and visitors worship and pay homage to the statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation, Lord Brahma. Surrounded by tall office buildings and hotels, the contrast is surreal and enhanced by the incense smoke. Shoot at an elevated angle (from the skywalk) to get the below traffic against the eerie prayers and dancers in traditional costumes.
9. Pak Klong Talad flower market
Open twenty-four hours a day, Pak Klong Talad is the largest flower market in Bangkok. The busiest time is midnight, when huge deliveries arrive, followed by Bangkok’s florists. A chaotic and fascinating sight, trucks full of roses, orchids, tulips and countless other flower varieties are unloaded. Besides offering a gorgeous array of flowers, the market includes some photographic faces. Ask before shooting people by pointing at your camera with a questioning nod.
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10. Wat Arun
Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of the Dawn, is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The imposing spire of more than seventy metres high on the bank of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok’s famous landmarks. Wat Arun is beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns. Tilt the camera slightly to get some unconventional angles.
11. Siam Gypsy Junction night market
Siam Gypsy Junction specialises in vintage goods, and sits alongside the State Railway of Thailand’s main track out of Bangkok. Expect trains to roar past as you wander through the market. The market features vendors with wares spread out on the ground in front of old-fashioned campers, as well as wooden structures that play on a cowboy theme. The overall mood inspires vintage-style images—perfect for using fun iPhone filters. For a DSLR shot, bring a tripod or shoot with a high-speed ISO in low light.
12. Soy Sauce Factory in Chinatown
The Soy Sauce Factory Bar is a former soy sauce factory that is now gallery and event space, a bar and a photo studio. This artsy, open-ended gathering place was the precursor to the changes currently happening in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Use the Auto WB (white balance) to get the warm glow of the neons.
Vincent Sung, a Korean Belgian adoptee, moved from Seoul to Bangkok in 2010. He first worked for several years as a fashion and advertising photographer before getting a taste of travel and lifestyle writing and photography after relocating. Based in Bangkok, he travels often and contributes regularly to Conde Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet Thailand and World Travel magazine.