'The City of Angels’ in Thai is the kingdom’s capital city, and by far the largest. This beautifully diverse tropical metropolis lies thirteen degrees above the equator. Considered by many to be Asia’s most traveler-friendly and safe city, Bangkok serves up everything a traveler could possibly want. Enjoy a cocktail on top of a fifty story skyscraper, check out an ancient temple, or wander through old Chinatown. It seems as though there is never enough time to see it all in this amazing city.
Getting Around Bangkok
Getting around Bangkok can be quite a thrill or quite a bore depending on your mode of transport. Without a doubt, the quickest way around town would be catching a motorcycle taxi. Sometimes scary and always exciting, you pretty much put your life in the drivers’ hands (accidents happen but are very rare). Tuk Tuks (basically a three wheeled motorcycle with seating in the back) are another hair raising option. With a top speed of about a million miles an hour, and a one lane turning radius, tuk tuks are a quick way for more than one person to get around together. When using either a motorcycle taxi or a tuk tuk, a fare should be agreed upon before starting your journey. Conventional taxis are nice if you are not in a hurry. Air-conditioning and comfortable seating make this a primary choice for most. Be careful to avoid conventional taxis during rush hour, you could be sitting in the back of a cab for over an hour trying to reach your destination. All licensed taxi’s have a meter, so fare negotiation is not necessary. Rounding out transit options is the skytrain and subway. If you have a rough idea of where you are going this option is ideal. The three skytrain lines also provide tourists with a great way to see the city. Of course, there is always city bus transport, but this can be confusing and painfully slow.
Shopping in Bangkok
Nobody goes to Bangkok and doesn’t shop. Bangkok’s legendary markets and enormous shopping malls make the city a premier destination for spending. Bangkok is renowned for its counterfeit goods ranging from Louis Vuitton handbags to Gucci watches. If it exists in high fashion, a fake version exists on the streets of Bangkok. If shopping is your thing, put on some comfortable walking shoes and head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market at the north end of the Sukhumvit skytrain line. Over 20,000 stalls selling everything from art, household goods, animals, and pretty much anything else you can imagine make up the largest open air bazaar in Asia. While quality clothing can be tailored at any one of many garment makers around town, the Pratunam Market and Platinum Shopping Mall are the places to go for clothing purchases. Plenty of great deals are there for the taking, but like in most places, bargaining will save you from paying too much (note: paying too much in Thailand equals a mere few dollars more). Whether you visit the Weekend Market, or the Pratunam Market, arrange for a full day or even two as they are too large to cover in a few hours. An interesting twist on shopping is the ever popular Suan Lum Night Bazaar. It is smaller, cleaner, and more fun than the other markets. There is a large outdoor stage with live bands every night. Beer is the official beverage here, with a huge beer garden surrounding the main stage. Most goods found here come from the other markets, so expect to pay slightly more than if you were at Chatuchak.
Make no mistake, these outdoor markets are great fun but nothing can replace the colossal shopping malls in the city. The Sukhumvit area is home to Asia’s largest indoor shopping complex: Central World has a total area of 830,000 square meters. The large plaza in front of Central World used for outdoor concerts, holiday celebrations, and beer gardens is a great place to relax after the sun goes down. Ultra high end fashion can be found at the glitzy Gaysorn Plaza as well as the ridiculously huge Siam Paragon. The MBK mall is popular with the younger crowd and probably Thailand’s best place to buy a mobile phone. The Emporium Shopping Center and Siam Discovery Center also carry all the current fashions and brands that would please any shop-a-holic.
Unwinding in Bangkok has gained special notoriety throughout the world. By blending treatments from the east as well as the west, the Thais have reinvented relaxation. Thai massage shops can be found almost anywhere in Bangkok. Centuries old, the long practiced traditional Thai massage can last anywhere from one to two hours. Manicures, pedicures, and hair treatments can be found at most salons. And, for the whole enchilada, visit one of Bangkok’s hundreds of day spas. Most offer a wide variety of spa and beauty treatments to indulge your senses all at a fraction of the cost of similar treatments in the west.
Temples, monuments, river & canal cruises, zoos, floating markets, parks & gardens, cabaret shows, and even a crocodile farm are just some of the things to see in and around Bangkok. The number one tourist attraction within Bangkok is The Grand Palace complex. If you are only going to see one sight, this should be it. The Grand Palace is actually made up of several temples of which the main attraction is Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha). A short walk from The Grand Palace is Wat Pho (usually visited together with The Grand Palace). This is the largest Wat (Buddhist Temple) in Bangkok and is most famous for the enormous reclining Buddha inside the temple. River and canal cruises are a great way to see the older parts of the city and take in areas of Bangkok not normally seen by tourists. For sure, whether you are in Bangkok for a day or a month, you will not run out of interesting sightseeing options.
Bangkok After Dark
It is no secret that some of the wildest nightlife options remain within the city limits of Bangkok. Bangkok is notorious for its go-go bars in the Patpong district, Nana Entertainment Plaza, and Soi Cowboy. Fortunately for those not interested, Bangkok’s ‘naughty nightlife’ is easily avoided. There are hundreds of different discos, cafes, and lounges all over the city catering to different tastes. Every musical genre imaginable can be heard throughout the city. After a hard day of shopping, find a rooftop bar and pull up a seat. These bars are a great way to take in the city while sipping a cold drink. The lower Sukhumvit area has some excellent clubs geared towards westerners, but if you want to see how young Thais socialize, make your way to the clubbing district of Ratchada Road or Royal City Avenue (RCA). Even the two o’clock mandatory closing time in Bangkok doesn’t stop those who really want to party. There are plenty of pulse pounding discos open until the early hours of the morning. Wherever you wind up, be sure to bring along identification as you will most likely be carded at the door.