Even if you skip all other guidebook-touted stops, do hit this trifecta: Grand Palace, Wat Po, and Wat Arun. Most visitors trek out in the morning, but we say wait out the crowds and set out after lunch. Getting to these revered places is half the fun. Start your adventure on a ferry ride (basically an amphibious bus) across the Chao Phraya River to the gilded Grand Palace. Hoof it back to the pier and chug across to Wat Arun. Scale this giant sandcastle when the sun dips below the horizon (no matter that the name means “temple of dawn”) and is bathed in a golden haze. Next, cross back to Wat Po where the enormous reclining Buddha will have far fewer admirers to compete with at day’s end (bonus: the sunset-splashed grounds). Refresh with a couple of coconuts for the tuk tuk ride back. Not up for adventures in navigating? Hire an insider guide. Smiling Albino will pluck you from the Conrad and bring you to these three temples, complete with chilled towels. Dress code: temple etiquette requires that knees and shoulders be covered (if you forget, you can rent sarongs from each venue.)
If going it on your own, take the SkyTrain to Saphin Taksin, then board a water ferry on the Chao Phraya upriver to stop N8. You can reverse this trip on the way home, or chill out in a cross-town tuk tuk ride. Just set the price with the driver in advance—it should be no more than 400 baht to get back to the hotel.
THE GRAND PALACE: Na Phra Lan Rd.; +66-2623-5500; palaces.thai.net/day/index_gp.htm; admission 500 baht, open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
WAT PO: 2 Sanamchai Rd.; +66-2226-0335; watpho.com/intro.php ; admission 100 baht, open daily 8 a.m. to 6:30
WAT ARUN: 158 Wang Doem Rd.; watarun.net; admission 30 baht, open daily 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
SMILING ALBINO: +66-2718-9560; smilingalbino.com; Bangkok Multi Transport Tour from $125 per person