Bangkok in August
Ok ok, so the percentage chance of rain in August is pretty high (around 65-70% high) thanks to those pesky southwest monsoons that keep on sweeping in from the Indian Ocean at this time of year. But don’t let a little rain put you off: August can be a great time to visit Bangkok, when the threat of rain means shorter queues at landmark attractions and more competitive prices at hotels and restaurants. Whatever the weather might bring, there are loads of fun things to do in Bangkok in August. Here are just a few of our favorites, including:
- Lumpini Park and Bang Kachao
- Chao Phraya cruises
- Jim Thompson House museum
- Getting fruity with mangoes and durians
- Khao Yai National Park
- Tuk tuk foodie tours
- The Queen Mother’s birthday!
Pack a rain poncho or two in your day bag and strike out for some of Bangkok’s biggest and best green spaces. Lumpini is your go-to for Thai life in microcosm. Here’s where you can see pensioners practicing tai chi and aerobics on the lawns at sunrise, while joggers enjoy the (relative) cool of a pre-work jog and giant monitor lizards bask on the shores of the lake. A true oasis in the city, Lumpini is located in the heart of Bangkok’s CBD, surrounded by soaring steel-and-glass skyscrapers. Not far from here, just across the river, the lush unspoiled jungle retreat that is Bang Kachao feels a million miles from the hubbub of the city, with nary a tall building or tuk tuk in sight. Board a traditional longtail boat from Wat Khlong Toey Nok and you’ll soon be immersed in the sounds and smells of the tropics. Elevated walkways weave through lush mangrove forests, canals roll peacefully by, and birds of paradise squawk and chatter beneath the dense jungle canopy. Better yet, in the event you’re caught in an August downpour, simply dodge under the nearest banana plant until the danger passes.
Celebrate the Queen Mother's Birthday
August sees Bangkok and indeed the whole of Thailand take a day off work to celebrate the birthday of HM Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother. The monarchy in Thailand are basically treated like deities and the country’s former queen (1950-2016) is particularly well-loved for the kindness, compassion and generosity she demonstrated during her long reign alongside King Bhumibol. Expect great parades, fireworks and cultural performances across the city to mark the date (12 August, since you’re asking). It’ll take more than a cloudburst to dampen spirits on this most special of national holidays.
Get Fruity with Mangoes and Durians
Some of Thailand’s sweetest, stickiest fruits are at their best in July, among them the ubiquitous mango, which you can sample in any number of ways. Straight up is fine, and of course you can get it in ice cream, smoothie and juice formats. But perhaps best of all is freshly made mango sticky rice served from a street stall, or perhaps a longtail boat at the legendary Damnoen Saduak floating market just out of town. Feeling adventurous? Try the abidingly divisive durian, a large tropical fruit with a thorny rind and unholy odor that should really be more than sufficient to warn off most would-be predators. And yet, here we are. This local ‘delicacy’ was memorably described by British author Anthony Burgess as akin to ‘eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory'. Yum. Just follow your nose to the nearest market stall if you think you’re brave enough.
Still hungry? Great news: in case you hadn’t heard, Bangkok is a gourmand’s paradise, not least because of its epic Chinatown – one of the largest of its kind on the planet. Get to grips with its maze of alleys on a tuk tuk foodie tour of the district, with pauses for eats at some of its top street-food stalls. Some so good in fact, that they’ve earned themselves a spot in the hallowed pages of The Michelin Guide. The intoxicating effects of the neon lights, atmospheric streets and heady scents of sizzling pork and crab fried rice ensure you’ll be back for second helpings before long.
Cruise the Chao Phraya River
Here’s a great way to tick off the major Bangkok landmarks without getting a) sweaty or b) drenched in a monsoon downpour. And, as a special bonus, you’ll even get fed! Hop aboard the Meridian dinner cruise for spectacular after-dark views of some of the city’s most stunning riverside icons. We’re talking the fairytale rooftops of the almost comically opulent Grand Palace, the alien spacecraft spires of Wat Arun, perhaps the most beautiful temple in Bangkok (out of approximately 30,000 that’s no mean feat), and the futuristic Rama VIII Bridge. As excellent as the traditional onboard Thai show and international buffet most assuredly are, they’ll have their work cut out distracting you from all that sensational scenery outside.
Jim Thompson House
American entrepreneur, architect and, latterly, Thai silk magnate Jim Thompson arrived on the shores of Thailand in the 1940s, setting up his wildly successful Thai Silk Company in 1948, and going on to spend the riches with which it endowed him on an epic collection of Southeast Asian art. The result is this extraordinary museum set inside a series of traditional 19th-century Thai-style houses that Thompson had painstakingly relocated to Bangkok in the 1960s. Inside, you can view the Thai Silk King’s many, many acquisitions, including Thai paintings, Chinese pottery, Buddha icons and more. And, when the rain stops, step outside and while away a tranquil hour in the verdant tropical gardens.
Get Outta Town!
There are many fine Bangkok day trips to choose from – think Pattaya’s beaches, Kaeng Krachan national park, and the ancient city of Ayutthaya. But can any of those lay claim to waterfalls so utterly, perfectly idyllic that they were selected to star in the 2000 movie adaptation of The Beach? No, dear reader, they cannot. For that you’ll need to head to the extraordinary unspoiled wildernesses of Khao Yai, where intrepid explorers can face the July heat head-on in challenging mountain hikes that will turn wobbly glutes into buns of iron in no time at all. Or, you know, you can always just make straight for the aforementioned Heo Suwat waterfall, an impossibly beautiful paradise that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face whether it’s raining or not.