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You don’t need to get all the way to Thailand’s beaches before your children start to love Thailand: Bangkok is one of Asia’s most child-friendly cities. But the heat, the traffic and the sprawl of the city can make it challenging, so here are some pointers for getting the most out of Thailand’s capital with kids in tow.
What to do
Unless your child is one of those rare prodigies with a deep interest in Buddhist temples, you’ll probably find that the things you want to see in Bangkok are not necessarily the ones that your children want to see. Luckily, Bangkok has loads of attractions that will appeal to your children and quite a few of these are fun for adults as well.
Parks and zoos
While many think Bangkok doesn’t have as much greenery as some cities, you’d be surprised just how many parks there are scattered about that provide sanctuaries from Bangkok’s concrete jungle.
Lumpini Park: Easily accessed from Sala Daeng BTS and Silom MRT stations, Lumpini Park is hands-down the best park in Bangkok. There are two ponds in the park where you can rent canoes, rowboats and duck-shaped paddleboats (60 baht per 30 minutes; life jacket rental free of charge). As you walk or paddle around the ponds, keep your eyes peeled for resident monitor lizards – some of these guys are pushing two metres. Don’t worry: while they may look like Komodo dragons, they’re not dangerous. Two great playgrounds, one roughly in the middle of the park and a quieter one midway along the south side of the park, let kids run off steam.
Snake Farm: A 500-metre walk west of Lumpini Park on the north side of Rama IV Road, you’ll find the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute’s Snake Farm (09:3-15:30 Mon-Fri, till 13:00 Sat & Sun; 200/50 baht adults/children). Try to catch the snake handling demonstrations, which happen at 14:30 on weekdays and 11:00 on weekends.
Dusit Zoo (Khao Din): Located near Chitladda Royal Palace in the northwest of the city, Dusit Zoo (08:00-18:00; 100/50 baht adults/children) is a great half-day activity for families. All the favourite animals are there, along with a variety of shows. We particularly like feeding the elephants and Bactrian camel. Try to get there just after opening to beat the heat. It’s a short taxi ride from Victory Monument BTS Station (ask the driver to take you to “Khao Din”.
Benjasiri Park: On the west side of the Emporium shopping mall (near BTS Phrom Phong Station), you’ll find Benjasiri Park, which has a nice pond and a good playground. It’s not on par with Lumpini, but it’s good if you find yourself on upper Sukhumvit.
Asiatique: Bangkok's newest night bazaar became a kid-favourite when it installed the tallest ferris wheel in Thailand in 2013. The state-of-the-art Dutch-made wheel takes you up high enough to view the glittering Chao Phraya River; kids who are scared of heights should probably steer clear. Asiatique also has several interesting toy shops and spacious places to eat.
If it’s raining or you just can’t stand the heat anymore, make like the locals and head to one of the giant shopping malls that cluster around the downtown BTS stations. Many offer an indoor playground of some sort, often on one of the upper floors near the food courts; ask at the information countre.
Molly Fantasy/Gateway Ekamai: The new Gateway Ekamai shopping complex is like a little slice of Japan conveniently located next to BTS Ekamai Station. Catering largely to Bangkok’s huge Japanese community, this complex has dozens of Japanese restaurants (with English-language menus) and shops. On the fifth floor you’ll find the excellent Molly Fantasy (10:00-21:00 daily) indoor playground (the place is also called Kidzoona). This is easily the best of the city’s many indoor playgrounds and once you’ve paid to enter the main play area, the only additional cost is for the merry-go-round.
Best places to stay for families
While you might want to stay down in Banglamphu near the temples or the backpackers on Khao San Road, we’d suggest, if budget allows, staying in a decent hotel near a BTS station. Siam, Chidlom, Ploen Chit and Phrom Phong stations have shopping malls attached, and nearby hotels, so staying at one of the hotels will save you heaps of trouble in terms of getting around and keeping the kids fed and entertained.
Getting around Bangkok with children
Walking around Bangkok is no fun with children, especially children in strollers – the footpaths, where they exist at all, are like obstacle courses. We’d recommend using taxis (but don’t expect seatbelts or car seats), or better yet, the BTS or the Chao Praya River Express boats.
By Chris Rowthorn
Last updated on 4th March, 2015.