As I am based in Thailand, people often ask me where are the best places to shoot photos in Bangkok. The truth is there are lots of interesting little enclaves here and there around the city, but it is best to wander around a bit, especially at the West end close to the river where there are some of the oldest and most charismatic parts of the city.
For this short article though I wanted to narrow it down to just 3 great places and have each of them be distinctly different than one another. So here we go:
#3 – Ao Tor Gaw Market opposite to the Chatuchak weekend market. Here you will find some of the most colorful compositions of fruits and vegetables anywhere in Bangkok as they are carefully arranged in enticing stacks. Also, the type of produce varies from season to season. So the fruits on display change periodically depending on the time of year.
And the great thing about this market is that it is open 24 hours and 7 days a week. So you can pretty much go anytime you want. But I would recommend early morning around 8AM or 9AM when the vendor’s displays are fully stocked. Plus there is some ambient daylight at that time to help you shoot with. But it’s good to bring a flash for a bit of light fill in the dark areas.
To get here you can take the MRT and get off at the Kamphaeng Phet station. Then exit the station through exit #3 and it will put you directly in front of the market.
#2 – Chinatown at night. Chinatown at night is one of the most colorful scenes where you can shoot street food vendors selling food on the street. There are various noodle stands, as well as many other types of street food vendors where you can get some interesting and colorful shots. Just take a taxi to Yaowarat Road in the heart of Chinatown and start walking West until you see the street food vendors lined up all along the road. Perhaps around dusk is the best time to go as there will still be a bit of ambient daylight, together with the lights from the street stalls, which makes for some nice lighting and your exposures won’t need be too long.
#1 – The number one place to shoot photos in Bangkok is a tossup between two temples. So I am going to cheat a bit here and make this a two part location.
The two temples are Wat Suthat and Wat Saket. In fact, they are so close by one another that you can hit them both at the same time as it is only about a 10-15 minute taxi ride to get from one temple to the other.
First I recommend visiting Wat Suthat. You can go any time of the day starting from 8:30AM until 9:00PM, but I would recommend going in the afternoon around 2:00-3:00PM. There is an entry fee for foreigners of 20 Baht and the temple is located right next to the famous giant red swing in the Banglampoo area of the city also known as Ratanakosin Island. You can take a taxi to get to Wat Suthat. All taxi drivers should know it.
The highlight of the temple is the 4 long rows of beautiful giant Buddha statues surrounding the inner walls of the main temple grounds. This temple with its ornate Buddha statues is unique because it is one of the few temples in Bangkok where the Buddha statues are actually out in the open and not encased in plastic.
The main hall also houses a giant 25 foot tall Buddha statue which is quite magnificent to see and photograph as well.
From there you can take a taxi to Wat Saket. Wak Saket has no entrance fee and the key is to get to the temple just before 5:15PM when around 15 to 20 monks will enter into the main temple for their afternoon prayer and chanting, which runs for around 1/2 hour. It is a great photo opportunity and rarely frequented by tourists. So if you go you will pretty much have the place to yourself and can pick and choose your camera angles. As this is a serious prayer ceremony just be mindful to move around slowly, stay low to the ground, don’t make and unnecessary noise, and try not to stand in front of any of the people who are there to pray with the monks.
But if you get there earlier then 5:15PM you can also walk around the temple grounds a bit and visit the adjoining Golden Mount temple which rises above the city and gives you an interesting bird’s eye view of the old parts of the city. There is a nice, short climb to the top of the Golden Mount and rows of bells and gongs are aligned along the stairs leading up to the top which you can ring out loud for good luck.
Inside Wat Saket itself there are also some beautiful old murals on the inner walls of the main temple building which depict scenes of ancient Thai village life. Great for photographing as well.
To get to Wat Saket from Wat Suthat just take a taxi in from of Wat Suthat and tell the taxi driver to take you to Wat Saket and/or you can tell him to take you to the Golden Mountain if he is not familiar with the smaller Wat Saket itself.