In this Bangkok photography guide, I show you what kind of photos you can take in Bangkok and where to find good photo spots.
Before I visited Bangkok, I thought of it as a hectic party town filled with backpackers about to travel through Thailand. Movies like Hangover certainly played a role in creating this image. So, the decision to stay a total of six days in Bangkok when visiting Thailand was not an easy one. Usually, I like to leave such cities behind quickly and get into the countryside.
However, I was curious and wanted to learn what Bangkok really is about and what photo opportunities it might offer. I didn’t fancy visiting places like the famous Khao San Road, but China Town, the Grand Palace, the many temples, and the skyscrapers around Sukhumvit intrigued me, and I was sure I’d find some interesting photo locations.
This photo of Bangkok is a time blending, combining a photo taken before sunset with a photo taken at night with the city lights. You can learn more about time blending in this article.
As it turns out, Bangkok is a fascinating city where ancient traditions and modernity blend, making it a perfect place for photography. Its bustling markets, intricate temples, and towering skyscrapers are just a few photo subjects in this metropolis.
It also didn’t feel that hectic at all to me. Your perception of a city depends much on where you stay and how you get around. And the right choice of accommodation and transport can make your stay in Bangkok an enjoyable experience.
How to Get to Bangkok
Traveling to Thailand internationally, you’ll likely arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport near Bangkok. Because it’s located outside of town, you’ll need to take a taxi, the train or organize a private transport.
The Rail Link is the cheapest option to get into town. It’ll cost you less than 2$. You’ll find taxis for around 8$. But the most comfortable way to get from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb is by private transport. If you stay in an Airbnb, you can ask your host to organize a pickup for you – hotels will do the same. I arrived late in the evening, and the service from the airport to the door of my apartment cost me 12$, with a stop at 7-Eleven to buy groceries.
Where to Stay
As I wrote above, the location of your accommodation can play a major role in how you experience a city. And if you are a photographer doing your research to find a place with good photo locations close by is even more important.
Inspired by my stay in Kuala Lumpur a few months earlier, I again wanted to find an apartment in a building with a view. The highest density of such lodging is in and around Sukhumvit. Using Airbnb or Booking.com, you’ll find plenty of apartments in this area. Browsing the photos of the different properties, you get a rough idea about the views they offer. Some of the hotels and apartment buildings have rooftop terraces, making them a great place for Bangkok cityscape photography.
As it turned out, the rooftop terrace of the Nobel BE19 skyscraper provided a great photo spot for cityscape photography right in the heart of Bangkok.
I managed to find an apartment in the Nobel BE19 skyscraper. It was the perfect place to stay. Close to notorious places like Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, it was a calm oasis in the center of this crazy nightlife area. I didn’t even have to leave the building to photograph the city, as the terrace at the top provided some of the best views.
There were also plenty of dining options nearby. Soi Sukhumvit 11 had some great restaurants. If you’re vegetarian, you’ll love the Veganerie Nana. Also not far away is the Terminal 21 shopping mall with a large food court at the top.
There are many ways to get around Bangkok, including taxis and Tuk-tuks. With the Grab app, you can easily organize such transport.
But for me, the most relaxed way to explore the city was using a combination of the metro and walking. Staying in Sukhumvit, I mostly jumped onto the blue line at Sukhumvit station and went either northward or south toward Chinatown. While the metro can get crowded at peak hours, most of the time, it wasn’t busy during my stay.
Walking around Bangkok is also easy. Unlike in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll find proper sidewalks in most parts of the city. And if your destination is too far from the metro lines, you can still grab a taxi or Tuk-tuk along the way.
I already showed two photos taken from the top of the apartment building where I stayed. While Bangkok doesn’t have the most distinct skyline, it’s still spectacular. The Baiyoke Tower provides great photographic interest at night. Its bright skylight glows like the Eye of Sauron above the city once the sun has set. It’s the time when you can experience Bangkok photography at its best.
What I liked about Bangkok’s skyline was its moody look. Compared to some other cities, it feels dark and gloomy, especially toward the end of the blue hour when less ambient light illuminates the facades of the buildings.
Due to its size and population of more than 10 million people, Bangkok can also get hazy. The combination of high temperatures and smog can create fascinating light situations. It lends itself well to photographing the city with a long lens, especially in the morning when the first light floods the canyons between the countless skyscrapers.
Bangkok Night Photography in China Town
If you like neon lights and night photography, Yaowarat Road in Chinatown is the place to go. There, you’ll also find a busy night market offering opportunities for street photography. The most popular photos of this area are of the large neon signs along the main road. I had also planned to photograph those, using a long lens to compress the scene.
But for some reason, even an hour after sunset, most of the signs were still not lit up, so I focused my attention on one of the side roads and photographed the colorful scene below. I could even set up a tripod on the opposite side of the road, which allowed me to capture some interesting light trails.
After taking this photo, I explored the little alleys near the Ong Ang Canal where I found this lovely scene of red lanterns above an intricate pavement. The blue hour created the perfect color contrast in the image. If you spend the time, I’m sure you’ll find many more such scenes to photograph in the area.
And that’s what I like about Bangkok photography: You have both the popular photo spots like the Odeon Roundabout in Chinatown and lesser photographed places. There is still much room for creativity with your architecture and street photography.
There’s much more to see and photograph in Bangkok than what I’ve shown in this article. I also visited several temples as well as the Grand Palace. While those are interesting to visit for their grandeur and history, they are not well suited for photography. It’s much better to include them in your photos of the city to give contrast. Next time I visit Bangkok, I’ll look for a view that combines the ancient temples and the modern architecture of Bangkok.
There are also floating markets outside of the city. From the photos I’ve seen, they are certainly touristy, but the sea of colors they provide is a beautiful photo subject. The same is true of the different night markets. They are sprinkled around the city and are a good place for street photography.