The vast, sprawling city of Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it is known locally, almost defies description. Undeniably 21st century, with gleaming modern skyscrapers in evidence everywhere, the city also clings on to it\'s many ancient traditions and incomparable culture. Temples and palaces sit side-by-side with soaring office blocks. Historic hotels and monuments border the timeless Chao Phraya river as it weaves its way through the centre. Nightlife and shopping are paramount. Bangkok also offers an unbeatable choice when it comes to dining-out with typical Thai food readily available almost everywhere plus the unique flavours of Chinatown and the added spice of the many hawker stalls which litter the pavements throughout city. The advent of the new urban transpiration system has made navigating this huge city so much easier over the last decade with efficient and affordable Skytrain and underground links. Bangkok, however, would not be the same without the constant traffic chaos, and the unrelenting heat and pollution that goes with it. This is all part of the beguiling charm that makes Bangkok arguably the most enjoyable and exciting city in South-East Asia.
Places to Visit
- Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace - a must-see for any visitor to Bangkok. Wat Phra Kaew is home to the famed Emerald Buddha. The Grand Palace is in the same complex. Beautiful and ornate beyond description, the palace was the former seat of the King.
- Wat Pho - located across from the Grand Palace Wat Pho houses a 46 metre long reclining buddha. Wat Pho is also a centre for traditional Thai teaching.
- Amulet Market - immediately adjacent to the Royal Palace complex, this traditional street market has something for everyone.
- Wat Arun - located on the right bank of the Chao Phraya river, this famous and venerable landmark is well known to everyone in Bangkok. The 82 metre high tower is covered in colourful pieces of Chinese porcelain.
- Chinatown - a myriad of narrow streets and alleyway, home to countless shops, food houses, restaurants and bric-a-brac shops, set out in organised districts. Great for walkabout explorations in the evening time but always a hive of activity.
- Siam Square and Pratunam - the gateway to Bangkok\'s high profile and multi-facetted shopping malls. Easily reached by public transport.
- Lumphini Park - relative calm in the heart of the city, particularly at dawn. During the evening, the park comes alive with the numerous food and drink outlets and street traders all ready to do business.
- Sukhumvit - the heart of Bangkok\'s nightlife and home to many of the city\'s finest hotels. Sukhumvit seems to go on forever with its many \'soi\' or side streets and the bars and restaurants located there being the key focus.
- Floating Markets - a little overdone on the tourist trail these days but still an interesting experience. Full of colour and life and a photographers dream. The most popular choice is Damnoen Saduak.
- Ayuthaya - a day trip by boat or road, Ayuthaya is Thailand\'s former royal capital. The area contains some the nations finest cultural, historical and archaeological sites.
Getting to and Travelling around
The main gateway to Bangkok is Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The city is also served by rail links to the north, northeast, the south and east. Bus links are also available both regionally and internationally.
The best way to travel around the city and to avoid the daily traffic jams, is by public transport. This consists of overhead Skytrain services connecting most well known parts of the city with one another and the more recently introduced Subway services. The two systems, unfortunately, are not integrated. Other means of urban transport include metered taxis, relatively cheap but to be avoided at rush hours when a one mile journey can take over an hour, and the river taxis which can take you from the centre of Bangkok to more outlying riverside districts fairly quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
Best Time and Weather
Bangkok\'s weather is much the same all year round. Hot and humid to varying degrees. Rainfall can occur at any time and when it does rain you know about it. The streets can flood in minutes. This is a blessing in disguise, however, as it helps to keep the city streets relatively clean. The winter months of November to February are probably the best time to visit with bright sunny days and much lower humidity levels.