Bangkok is one of my favourite city to visit and stop-by whenever I fly from Australia to Europe, or vice versa. During the last 10 years I have been collecting some photos of this amazing city, including the crazy traffic, one of the subjects that everyone talks about when mentioning the Thai capital. These are the best places to make a photo in Bangkok
Any photo in this article has been tagged on the Bangkok map (see end of the post) for an easy city navigation
The fun that you can have in this city with your camera is just incredible. The subjects are behind every corner of Bangkok. I am a fan of the water and I love the Khlong (water canals) that are all around the city, always a great place to take pictures of the Thai life
And if you need new gear or just to fix your camera look at the full list of areas and shops. I have no affiliation with any of them.
Finally, if you are wondering which area to stay or visit, based on how long you will be there, have a look here for more tips and info.
How to move around Bangkok
I always though the easiest way to move around was just to jump on a tuk tuk. Nowadays it’s even easier because you can check on Google map your GPS position and be sure the driver is actually going where you asked for. However sometime, the street traffic is really unbearable, even for a quick tuk tuk
Another possibility is of course renting a motorbike, although it is an option I would suggest only to the brave rider. This is not a place for any newbie. People drive fast and sometime careless. Having spent 4 years in Rome I had enough riding training to drive here, but I am not sure I would do it again LOL
The public transportation includes a metro, fantastic, and an extensive bus system. Meanwhile the metro is an easy system to move around, the bus system can be a challenging one if you are not familiar with some basic Thai words.
Last and best option is the water. There is a big network of canals (Khlong), all ending in the big Chao Phraya River. It’s quick, mostly used by locals and you can easily navigate outside the city centre
Photography gear used in Bangkok
I usually take with me few lenses to cover the most of the circumstances. See the free Travel Photography Gear Guide for more information. I knew I wanted to visit at least two local markets and the low light could have been a problem (I do not like to use flashes in public environments, they scare people). I knew I would do lots of photos on sunset/sunrise along the coast and a zoom lens is in several cases a life saver.
For my pictures of Bangkok I took:
- Nikon D600 in the last years and a Canon 40D in the years back
The Nikon D600 is my old lady with a new sensor of the D610, no more dust problems
it would cover most of the photo opportunities although the two lenses below do a better job in some cases
a Bangkok photos gallery must include images of the local life, especially the local markets. It is mandatory to have a quick lens in this cases. I like the Nikkor 50mm also because it is a small one and people are actually less worried of the photographer
with the Canon 40D I used to have a few lenses which I “lost” when I moved to the Nikon world (more on this later)
Photographing the water
The Khlong network is extensive, have a look to the Official Site to have an idea. Making photos of the water traffic is not as complicated, many opportunities along the day. You just need the right moment and time.
Wake up early, take a boat and go outside the city, it does not matter where. Have a walk around. You will not find any tourist there, that’s for sure, only locals and the real Thai life style.
The last station of a Khlong in Bangkok : Unusual place to make a photo
I jumped on the boat at the Hua Chang Station, direction Ramkhamhaeng University. I stopped almost at the last station. I thought it would be interesting to visit an area outside the city centre and close to the University. Once on land I walked back on the side of the canal and experienced the local life. Different from the expected Bangkok life, a unique experience. The sooner you are the better light conditions you will experience, sunrise would be the best time. As you see above, I was already too late although the light was still ok
Hua Chang Station in Bangkok : Best Places to make a photo
Wait for the sunset for the above shot. Go to Witthayu station and look at the other side of the bridge, where all the boats are queuing to start the service. You will have the sun reflected on the building which will work as a gigantic light reflector. At that time of the day the river is buzzing with the commuting time. Not to be missed
Phan Fa Lilat Station in Bangkok : Best places to make a photo
End station, Phan Fa Lilat, come here for a night shot, when service is almost closing. The lights have a nice reflection on the canal and you will feel will like in a village, not anymore in the crazy traffic of Bangkok.
Chao Phraya River in Bangkok : Best places to make a photo
Navigating the big Chao Phraya River is an experience by itself. So many things going on. If you are not close to the river in Bangkok, take the metro till Central Pier station. From here jump on one of the many public ferry services. Just wonder around.
For a photo you have two possibilities. On sunrise, stay on the east side of the river. On sunset time stay on the west side. There are many locations, any ferry station is good, you do not need to adventure further. If you can, include a long boat, characteristic of Bangkok
Windows with a view in Bangkok
I titled this photo Windows with a view. It was done in one of my favourite guest houses in Bangkok, the Loy La Long. A unique experience straight over the river.
The view from the bedroom is unique. The access to this guest house is through a Buddhist temple, very quiet and thousand miles away from the traffic you have been experiencing along the day
Have a good sleep in Bangkok
Photographing the street
First thing first: you have plenty of options!
The most characteristic photo is from one of the many pedestrian bridges on Sukhumvit Road, the local car traffic, almost static, through the day and the night and the day……..and forever
Lights strips at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok (Khao San Road)
Head to the Democracy Monument for a night shot on the tripod. You will get that nice mix of car lights strips and the monument on the background
A vespa in Bangkok
The Piaggio scooter is not really a typical Thai icon, however if you find one, stop and have a shot. You will not find a new version, that’s for sure, and, to be honest, the oldest it is the more you will feel you are in Asia. The one in the photo has been hand painted, old school 😀
The tuk-tuk depot in Bangkok
And yes do not miss the tuk tuk. This is a must have photo, together with the long boat on the river. I was so lucky to find a tuk tuk depot, I could not get it better than that 😀
Photographing the temples
I had a fantastic very long stay in Bangkok few years back. I took some great photos in the few months there. It was all amazing. I was so happy I built a Bangkok photo catalogue I was really proud of…..till somebody broke into my room and all gone in a matter of few minutes. That was the time I moved to Nikon. As a result I need to source these photos from Flickr
The first temple I definitely suggest is Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), marvellous and mysterious. Located on the other side of the Chao Phraya River (assuming you are staying in the city centre), it is a 5-10 minutes ferry ride from any of the central stations. Go there on sunrise if you love the sun to be part of your image or approach the place in the blue hour for a uniue view, like the one here of photographer Jakob Montrasio
The Grand Palace is also another must visit place. It is one of the most popular attractions of Bangkok. This means expect to have lots of tourists around you. Yes you can try to get some unique corners however this area has been photographed hundreds of thousand of times. My suggestion here is to try to include some of the monks that walk around to have also that nice contrast of colours between the orange of the clothes and the gold of the temples. Photographer Darrell Goldliman has done a remarkable job here
Another temple I like to suggest is Wat Suthat. This is a Buddhist temple with an amazing set of statues, great subject for your photography. This is fantastic place to visit on sunset after the afternoon storm, as done by photographer StoneAgeKid
Markets to take some images
There are three markets that you should not miss when in Bangkok
- The Pak Klong Talad. This is the main flower market open in the early hours of the day. Amazing colours
- The Chatuchak Market. This is a market with a village size. So easy to get lost. They sell everything. Get to the animal section to take some unusual shots. They close at 6pm however a night market with food and clothes start straight after that. Easily reachable by metro (see below the map)
- The Bang Nam Pheung floating market. This is a small scale version of the famous Damnerm Saduak (100 km out of the city) and maybe for this reason not that crowded with tourists. It is unfortunately not a secret corner anymore
There are few famous bars that you should not miss, either for a drink or for a photo, or possibly for both 😀
- The Sofitel So Rooftop Bar
- The Dome at Skybar
- The Baiyoke Tower II – Visit the Observation deck at sunset or night time (84th floor). Tickets at 400 Baht. Please note that I was said that the deck is now revolving continuously making impossible any kind of night/sunset photography. You may have to approach the restaurant for that.
My next trip will include a visit to the Odeon Building. Look at this image of Grant Cameron and be inspired
This interesting location is in a car park, the Odeon Carparking. Take the elevator and go to the top floor. It can be busy with other photographer on sunset and blue hour
Shopping photography gear in Bangkok
Thailand has just raised the VAT to 8% (it was 7% till October 2015). It’s not a big rise, however it is 1% more compared to previous price, unless you have the possibility to claim the tax at the Bangkok International Airport.
If you are looking to buy a new camera, or some new gear, and you are wondering if you can find better prices compared to your country, be sure you are not the only one with this question mark. I did a bit of investigation myself and I checked few camera shops in the Thai capital.
The first thing you should make sure is that you don’t buy from the street (or dodgy shops). There is not much point to buy a fake camera just because of the brand name. Yes, you can buy it half price but the quality of the component is probably a 10th of the original one. As a result you will be disappointed by the outcome of your photos.
The second important point is that the warranty should be international, and not only for Thailand. If you live in Thailand that’s fine, however if you plan to go back to your country and you start experiencing problems with your gear, basically you are left on your own, and you would have to pay for any repair.
I personally decided not to buy in Bangkok any gear, that’s just because the difference in price was minimal and not worth the risk in case of issues. I am not saying that you should not buy, I am just saying that it is important to evaluate the pros and cons; price is not the only factor.
These are either shopping malls or shops you may be interested. They are good also in case you need to repair your camera gear
- MBK Shopping Mall: there is an authorized Nikon reseller and few other camera shops on the top floor. They have cheaper price than in most countries, however not real super deals. Fotofile, one of the big Thai camera chain, is on the 5th floor
- Central World Plaza: Foto Friend (pro market) and World Camera on the 4th floor
- Central Rama 3: other shops (check the Shopping Center map once you enter)
- Try one of the shops of Fotofile or AvCamera (both websites are in English). You can select the shop location closer to your needs
The MBK shopping mall is probably the best bet. My advise is to go for the big shops and not the small stalls, especially if you are not based in Bangkok.
I hope this guide helps to improve your photographic experience in the city 😉
Where did I stay
As I said before I can’t stop suggesting the Loy La Long. This is like stepping back in time to the Siam empire.
There are few rooms, just make sure to book one facing the river because they do have a great view.
The breakfast, included, is in the lounge area, again facing the water. I could literally spend hours there watching the Thai river life passing by
The entrance is through a monastery. It is indeed a blessed choice 😀
Don’t miss these guides for Thailand
Map of the photography spots
Click here for the interactive Google map