From a small trading outpost in the 15th Century, Bangkok has come a long way as one of the most popular Cities for tourists in South East Asia. Bangkok is an eclectic mix of beautiful temples, shopping malls, floating markets, pulsating night life and great restaurants. The Grand Palace serves as the Spiritual Centre for Thailand. You can choose to experience Bangkok from a range of interesting activities like kick boxing, tuk tuk ride, Thai massage, river cruise and lady boy show!
Bangkok is notorious for its Traffic Snarls and Jams. It is advisable to choose the mode of transport according to the location. The train link from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Downtown is a good option to reach the airport if you do not have huge luggage. You can reach the Airport or Downtown in 15-20 minutes flat.
BTS, the Sky Train Service is ideal for Major shopping malls, Chatuchak Weekend Market and all Sukhumvit Road's attractions and it runs between 06:30 and midnight. The trains can be packed during peak hours 07:00 - 09:00 and 16:00 - 19:00. MRT or Underground runs every 5 minutes between 06:00 and midnight. It is ideal for Chinatown, Central Railway Station, Patpong Night Market, Stock Exchange, Esplanade and Chatuchak Weekend Market.
River Taxis and Boats are better for visiting historic sites and attractions on the riverside. For Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) the Grand Palace, Wat Po and the Royal Barge Museum , take the day pass costing just 75 baht from The Chao Phraya Express Boat Company.
Don’t forget to take one Bus ride during your stay in Bangkok to get the local flavor!
There are 2 options available. You can visit Bangkok between November & April when weather is pleasant and bear the crowds and peak season prices! Or you can chose to come between May & October, brace the unpredictable weather and spend less.
Bangkok is a large city with many attractions and hence planning your trip is important. First buy a Map and then shortlist the things and places you want to see. Then basis their location chooses the transport between Taxi, waterways, underground and sky train. Following are some of my suggestions for Bangkok.
The Grand Palace is the most popular landmark of Bangkok and is located on Na Phra Lan Road. It has been the residence of Kings of Thailand from 1782. The Palace was built by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke or Rama I, the founder of the Chakri Dynasty. The Grand Palace consists of the Outer Court, the Middle Court, the Inner Court and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The outer court was the seat of the royal government. It comprises of ministerial offices, a theatre, stables for the king's elephants, barracks for the royal guards, the royal mint and an arsenal.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew is a Chapel in built in 1783. The Emerald Buddha is a figurine of the Buddha 45 CMs tall. It is made of green jadeite and is clothed in gold. It was built by an Indian Brahmin who became Buddhist in 150 BC in the City of Pataliputra. There are three different sets of gold clothing for the Buddha which is changed by the King in a ceremony at the changing of the seasons.
Middle Court or the Khet Phra Racha Than Chan Klang is where the Residential and State building are located. All Royal coronations since that of King Rama II have taken place in the The Phra Maha Montien section of the Middle Court. Throne of the Kingdom is in Phra Thinang Amarin Winitchai section. The golden throne is shaped like a boat with a spired pavilion in the middle.
The Grand Palace is open from 830am till 330pm. A strict dress code applies. Men need to wear long pants and shirts with sleeves. Women too, need to be modestly dressed.
The museum is located very near the Grand Palace, in the Palace of Wang Na. It is a great place to get acquainted with the Art, Archaeology and Culture of Thailand. The key sections of the museum are The Gallery of Thai History, the Prehistory Galley and the History of Art collection. Royal Cremation Chariots and Ceremonial Objects are also worth having a look. The Museum is open from 9am to 4pm from Wednesday-Sunday.
Wat Mahathat Temple is the headquarter of Thailand's largest monastic order and Vipassana Meditation center. It is a good idea to take the assistance of an English speaking monk and learn Vipassana Meditation or Insight Meditation. Classes are held daily from 07:00 - 10:00, 13:00 - 16:00, and 18:00 - 20:00. Wat Mahathat is located on Phra That Road near Sanam Luang Park, between the Grand Palace and the National Museum. Timings are 9am to 5pm.
Located behind the Temple of Emerald Buddha is Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and features a majestic reclining Buddha measured 46 meters long and covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho is a good place for a traditional Thai massage. Astrologers and Palm Readers are also available here for reading your future. The temple is located on Maharat Road, close to the river and is open from 8am to 5pm.
A recommended way for experiencing Bangkok is by the Chao Phya River. Take a Taxi Boats from the river front of any Hotel and visit Pak Klong Talad, the flower and fruit market. Next you can visit Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn and its impressive ceramic covered Pagoda. Wat Phra Keo with its Emerald Buddha Temple and the Grand Palace can also be visited in this tour. The timings are usually 730am to 1230pm. Another option is to take the old style wooden rice barge! This is a more leisurely way to experience Bangkok. The Barges usually provide tropical fruits like Rambutans, mangosteens, pineapple, bananas, whiskey and soft drinks on the house.
Muang Boran or the Ancient City is a 300 acre Outdoor Museum created by an architect. It is located close to the Crocodile Farm in Samut Prakan province. Replicas of more than a hundred monuments including Palaces and Temples are on display here. The best parts are the former Grand Palace of Ayutthaya which was destroyed in the Burmese invasion of 1767, Phimai Sanctuary in Nakhon Ratchasima, and Wat Khao Phra Viharn on the Cambodian border. Sculptures from the Thai epic story, the Ramakien, are also fascinating.
Muang Boran is located on the old Sukhumvit Highway, about 33 km east of central Bangkok. To get there, take air-conditioned bus number 11 to the terminus and then minibus number 36.
Damnoen Saduak is the most popular Floating Market of Thailand. It is located 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. This is where you can see small boats laden with colorful fruits and vegetables, paddled by Thai women wearing bamboo hats. The best time to visit this place is early in the morning to avoid both the heat and the crowds! There are bus services to Damnoen Saduak from the Southern Bus Terminal on Borommarat Chachonnani Road starting at 6 a.m.
After Damnoen Saduak you can drop in to Nakorn Pathom which is supposed to be the largest Pagoda in all of South East Asia. Having come all the way from Bangkok, it is worthwhile to go to Kanchanaburi and take a trip on Maeklong River towards the famous bridge over the River Kwai. Even if you have not seen the 1957 British World War II film by David Lean, The Bridge is a magnificent sight. Although the Bridge was bombed in the Movie, in reality there was a wooden and a steel bridge on the Kwai. The Steel bridge is still standing.
The Safari World is spread over 500 acres and consists of a Zoo, Bird Park and a Marine Park. Safari Park takes you on a 8km drive where you can spot animals from all over the world in their natural settings. The Tiger and Lion Feeding is the highlight of this section.
Marine Park is the section with animals from the Marine world. The Dolphin show is the most popular aspect of this section. The Dolphins somersault in midair, toss balls and eve sing in a chorus. You can even shake hands with them!
The Sea Lion show is equally captivating as they try to outdo the Dolphins with their tricks. The Orangutan Boxing show is another fun activity to watch. These Apes not only entertain us by their funny fights and also impress us with their knowledge of mathematics!
The Bird Show is also entertaining especially the Pelicans and the Love Birds.
There is show on the American Wild West as well. Safari Hollywood Cowboy Stunt Show features the lawless Wild Wild West with fist & gun fights between the cowboys and the bandits.
The Safari world is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s leading bargain shopper’s dream. Spread over 35 acres and 15000 shops, you can bargain your way through almost anything in this world. The shops are divided into 27 sections and under each section there are numbered alleys. Keep a track of the sections and alleyway numbers to avoid getting lost. Nearly everything in this world in on sale! You can choose from Art, Antiques, Handicrafts, Furniture , Clothing, Handicrafts, Food, Pets, Plants, and Ceramics etc. It is said that polite bargainers end up getting the best deals at Chatuchak!
Tha Prachan is a market with a long history. It is in fact Bangkok’s most historical pier and is a crossover point along the Chao Phraya River between Thonburi and Mahanakhorn. Some of the popular shops here are Uncle Onn for spinning windmills and a traditional Thai toys, Nong which sells music, New Yong Hiew Porchana for homemade traditional Thai dishes & desserts, Makaam Waan Aew for Tamarinds and Cakes, and Mitr Porchana specializes in beef noodles. You can also meet Sompong the fortune teller at Tha Prachan and have your future read for 199 baht! You can contact him at +66 (0)86 992 6869.
Pak Klong Talad is the largest Flower Market of Bangkok. It is located in the old city on Chak Phet Road near Saphan Phut or the Memorial Bridge. You can pick up jasmine, chrysanthemum, gerbera, orchids, lilies or roses in packs of 50-100 at very cheap rates. While it is open 24 hrs., the best time is to visit in the wee hours of the day ideally 4am, when the whole area is buzzing with activity.
If you want to shop where the Thai shop for bargains then Banglamphu Market on Jakkapong Road, north of Khao San Road is where you need to head to. Open from 8am to 6pm this market sells all Thai made goods like jeans, T-shirts, shorts, sneakers and books.
For a travelogue on a destination south of Bangkok with breathtaking Limestone Peaks, mangroves, tropical forests and beaches visit Krabi Beach.
For more of my travelogues across the world, visit Great Vacations.