The capital of Thailand is a dynamic metropolis. Bangkok is the undeniable political, economic, cultural and spiritual heart of the constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. A pre-eminent global city, Bangkok is home to 12 million people and myriad national monuments and landmarks.
Bangkok has undoubtedly embraced westernization and modernization, you only need to look a little under the surface to see that it remains undeniably a Thai place at heart. In between the skyscrapers and sophisticated shopping centers there’s still the remarkable Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Dawn and many more. Traditions live on too: don’t be surprised, for example, to find a large dedicated spirit house built for good luck alongside almost every major building, or to see files of Buddhist monks making their early morning alms round – and it’s surely one of the only major cities in the world where seeing an elephant paraded round the streets hardly even ranks as being unusual.
Bangkok however, has enough inherent attractions to occupy intrepid tourists for days. Without question, the nerve centre of Thailand and Southeast Asia is one of the most lively world capitals.
For the record:
The official Thai name of Bangkok is in the Guiness Book of Records as the longest place name in the world. If you want to impress your friends, try memorizing this: Krungthep Mahanakorn Boworn Rattanakosin Mahintharayuttha Mahadilokpop Noparatratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniveymahasathan Amornpiman Avatransathit Sakkathattiay-avisnukarmprasit.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced “Su Wan Na Poom”) is the main airport in Bangkok that handles all international and domestic flights. Located in Racha Thewa in the Bang Phil district of Samut Prakan province, the airport is about 30km east of Bangkok’s city centre.
There are several ways of getting around or into the city:
- Limousines and Car Rentals are located at level 2 of the airport. Car Rental rates start from about USD$50.00 a day. Given Bangkok’s ever ongoing traffic jams, it is recommended you either get a limousine with a driver, or hire a taxi for the whole day if you are going to a couple of places. To get a limousine contact the “Limousine Service Counter” at the Arrivals level (2nd floor). Limousine pick up area is at the Arrivals Level (outer curb).
- Taxis are located at level 1 and are mostly metered and there is an additional 50Baht service fee for departure from the airport. Follow the “public taxi” signs that lead to the outside of the airport premises, queue up and state your destination at the desk, and you’ll get a slip with your destination written in Thai on it. If you are going through the various highways to get into the city area, be prepared to shell out toll booth money as well. A taxi ride will cost around 350Baht and take about 30-45 minutes pending traffic jams.
- The Airport Express Shuttle Bus runs from the airport to various first class hotels. The Airport Express operates 4 routes to downtown. The fare is 150 Baht for the entire route and will take about an hour or more due to its frequent stops at various hotels. The Airport Express Shuttle Bus operates from 5.00am to midnight.
- Public bus is a 24 hour service provided from the Bus Terminal at the Transport Center. You will need to take the free airport shuttle bus to the Bus Terminal before boarding the 35 Baht Public Bus to various parts of Bangkok. For a list of the various routes, visit: http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/node/56
- The Airport Rail Link is already operational. It gives passengers a cheap and fast option into the heart of Bangkok. There are two services: SA Express Line and the SA City Line. The Express is a non-stop train from the airport to Makkasan Station where you can link up with the MRT and BTS. The ride costs 30 Baht and takes 15 minutes only.
The BTS Skytrain was built in a desperate effort to ease Bangkok’s insane traffic and pollution. The Skytrain covers most of downtown and is especially convenient for visiting Siam Square.
There are two lines:
- The light green Sukhumvit Line travels along Sukhumvit Road, Siam Square and then follows Phahonyothin Road up north, where it terminates near at Mo Chit (N8), near the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
- The dark green Silom Line starts in Thonburi, passes the Express Boat pier near Saphan Taksin (S6), goes through the Silom area and ends at National Stadium (W1), right next to MBK Center. Both lines come together at Siam (CEN), where you can interchange between them. Unfortunately, there is no station near Khao San Road, but you can take the Express Boat from nearby Phra Athit pier to Sathon (Taksin) pier, where you can switch onto the Skytrain.
You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets from vending machines. Fares range from 15 to 40 baht depending upon how many zones you are traveling. Consult the map (in English) near each ticket machine. If you do not have coins, queue for change from the staff at the booth. If you are in town for several days (or going to make several visits during the next 30 days), weigh your options and consider a rechargeable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30 baht refundable deposit and a 30 baht non-refundable card cost), a “ride all you like” tourist pass (from 120 baht per day) or a multiple ride pass of 20 trips or more to any zone (15 trips cost 345 baht, 25 trips cost 550 baht; plus a 30 baht refundable deposit for a rechargeable card that is valid for 5 years). Check for information with the English speaking staff.
The MRT finally opened in July 2004. For now there is only one line, the Blue Line that connects the central Hualamphong Train Station (1) to the northern Bang Sue Train Station (18), running through Silom, Sukhumvit, Ratchadaphisek and area around Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. There are interchanges to the Skytrain at Si Lom (3), Sukhumvit (7) and Chatuchak Park (16) stations.
Tourists do not use the metro as much as the Skytrain, but there are some useful stops. The terminus at Hua Lamphong (1) provides a good access to Yaowarat. If you’re going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, don’t get out at Chatuchak Park, but go one stop further to Kamphaeng Phet (17) as it drops you right inside the market.
Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides start from 15 baht and are based on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used. It is electronic: simply wave it by the scanner to enter; deposit it in a slot by the exit gate leave.
The easiest way to get around Bangkok is by metered Taxis. Rates usually start at 50Bht (first 2 km) and jump 7 Baht for every kilometer.
To get a more local feel, try the Tuk Tuk, a 3-wheeler that sits 2-3 people and is more adept at zipping around in peak traffic conditions. Fares have to be pre-negotiated and bargained.
Song Thaews are a larger version of tuk tuks but run based on a fixed fare (usually 20-25 Baht). You tell the driver where you’re headed and you’ll get there eventually, after picking up various other passengers along the way.
Cyclos are motorcycles that sit one person and is the fastest mode of transportation in peak traffic conditions. Do note that it is not for the faint hearted
Downtown Bangkok is nestled into a bend of the Chao Phaya River that makes its boundary to the west, the northwest and the south. Most of the old architectural monuments of the capital lie in this area, among them the Grand Palace and a large number of the most interesting Wats (temples).
Aside from the Grand Palace with its large walled compound, the main landmark of the area is the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang, an eight- to ten-lane road. Near to the Democracy Monument is the Khao San Road area, preferred by Western budget travelers for its large number of low-price guest houses. The northern downtown is where most edifices of the national government are located.
SUKHUMVIT – NEW PHETBURI
Sukhumvit Road is generally reckoned to be the centre of the city. With the BTS serving more than half its length and the MRT giving access to other parts of the city, Sukhumvit is well placed for the many restaurants and pleasure palaces located along its main road and in the Sois (streets) that branch off from it. To the north is the extension of Phetburi Road which at night, becomes lovely with dozens of entertainment places scattered along the street.
SHOPPING IN SUKHUMVIT
A shopping center, situated on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 3, provides many brand-name clothing, accessory shops, restaurants, and a low-priced international food court.
For taxi: นานาสแควร์ สุขุมวิทซอย 3
A luxurious mall with brand-name shops is outstanding to the eyes on Sukhumvit Road adjacent to Soi 24. It is an ideal place for shopping lovers.
For taxi: ห้างเอ็มโพเรียม
Located on Sukhumvit Soi 7 (near BTS station), here is another shopping spot where you can find nice souvenirs from Thailand, tailor shops, barber shops, and ticket agents.
For taxi: สุขุมวิทอาเขต
It is both an office building and a famous shopping plaza, located in Sukhumvit Soi 14, where you can find brand-name items, boutiques and shoes outlets at reasonable prices.
For taxi: ตึกไทม์สแควร์
Along the sidewalks from Sukhumvit Soi 1 to Soi 20, you can go shopping for souvenirs from Thailand, clothes, bags, suitcases, pirated DVD, or fake brand-name products such as T-shirts at low prices. For those who love bargaining this should be good fun. Street vendors can be found all day but there are more in the evening.
For taxi: สี่แยกนานา
NIGHT LIFE IN SUKHUMVIT
NANA ENTERTAINMENT PLAZA
Nana Plaza (NEP), located on Sukhumvit soi 4, is another night-time entertainment center full of rousing go-go bars. This is a red-light district for adults only.
For taxi: นานา เอ็นเตอร์เทนเมนท์พลาซ่า
Located between Sukhumvit Soi 21 and 23, here is another famous nightlife spot in Bangkok. The Soi consists of a wide variety of pubs and bars for you to choose. Soi Cowboy is always fully packed with night owls both Thais and foreigners.
For taxi: ซอยคาวบอย
SOI THONG LOR (Sukhumvit 55)
Soi Thong Lo (Sukhumvit 55) and Ekkamai (Sukhumvit 63), upmarket neighborhoods in Bangkok, have recently attracted both high-class Thais and expats with its rising of trendy pubs, bars and karaoke lounges.
For taxi: ซอยทองหล่อ
SILOM – SATHON
Hard to believe that just over 50 years ago this was a place of paddi fields with an occasional shophouse dotted here and there. This is now the main business area in Bangkok but in recent years many restaurants, spas, bars, nightclubs and shops have opened in the district catering mainly to expats and visitors, although it still remains the business and financial centre of the city. Silom-Surawong contains blocks of multi-story buildings with banks, insurance companies, airline offices and finance firms usually housed on the ground floor.
The park is a pure escapism from the chaos of the city traffic. A perfect spot for family gatherings over lunch near one of the ponds or a romantic walk at the sunset. In December and January when the weather is cooler, free concerts and shows are organized in the park.
How to get there: MRT to Lumphini or Si Lom station or BTS to Sala Daeng station. Bus routes 4, 13, 22, 45, 47, 141
Opening Hours: Daily from 06.00 am. – 08.00 pm. Admission: Free
Impressive two and a half times life-size statue of the King Rama VI overlooks the entrance to the Lumpini Park – the city’s green lungs. It was carved by an Italian sculptor Corrado Feroci, also known as Silpa Bhirasri. The statue was erected in 1942.
How to get there: MRT to Si Lom Station or BTS to Sala Daeng Station. Bus routes 4, 13, 22, 45, 47, 141
Opening Hours: Daily Admission: Free
This Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman was built by Tamil immigrants in the 1860s. Renowned for her power to protect against disease and death, it remains a popular place of worship for Silom’s long-established Indian community.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 8:00 pm
Location: Corner Pan and Silom Roads, Silom
SHOPPING IN SILOM
ROBINSON DEPARTMENT STORE
The Robinson Department Store is a chain of departmental stores which originated in the Philippines. Established in 1979, the store has grown manifolds and has over 15 branches around Thailand. Ideally located and easily accessible to all tourists. Shoppers can expect to find a wide selection of the usual things that related to life’s necessities. Supermarket, food court and fast food restaurants are also located within all Robinsons. Location: Corner of Silom and Rama IV Roads ; BTS: Sala Daeng Station
In recent years, Silom has seen the rise of the Patpong night market, a busy and chaotic place filled with foreign tourists of every sort. You can buy here pretty much everything from low-quality cheap clothes to DVDs for adults and fake identification cards. The market is a tourist attraction in itself even if you do not buy anything.
How to get there: Take the BTS to the Sala Daeng station and exit down one of the right-hand stairs. Follow the increasing trail of vendors along the sidewalk, and after about five minutes you will reach the bazaar.
SILOM COMPLEX SHOPPING PLAZA
Silom Complex is the only all in one shopping centre on Silom Rd. It is your prime location for fashion, food, jewels and decorations. The shops include Top Marketplace, B2S and Power buy. The building provides 1,800 parking spaces.
How to get there: The Silom Complex Shopping Plaza is located just off the Sala Daeng BTS station and MRT Silom station. (191 Silom Rd., Bangrak, Bangkok)
Silom village known as well as Silom Trade Center is a good place to sink in the spirit of old Bangkok promoting the charm and elegance of Thai culture. The area offers handbags, furniture, Thai crafts, music, art and a lot of fine restaurants.
How to get there: Take the BTS to the Surasak station and walk from there. The Silom Trade Center is located on the Silom Rd. Alternatively take MRT to the Si Lom Station and take a taxi from there or walk for about 20 minutes
Suan Lum Night Bazaar is a market in Bangkok’s Pathum Wan district, Open from 5pm to midnight and later the bazaar resembles something of a market mixed with a fairground in a park. The bazaar is not just is place to go to find a bargain, it is more a night out and this can include a spot of shopping, a tasty meal from one of the many food vendors, and listening to some live entertainment.
Location: Intersection of Rama IV and Wireless/Sathorn Roads, opposite Lumphini Park at the Bangkok Metro’s Lumphini Station. The nearest public transport to Suan Lum is the Lumpini MRT station, and there are signs in the underground exit points to Lumpini Park and the market. If the Skytrain is more convenient, then take this to either Asoke or Sala Daeng and change to the MRT there.
The Silom Galleria is known as “Art & Craft Center”, as it is a home to a vast array of a good quality jewelry (the most precious gemstones from around the Kingdom are available), antiques (Inherited eastern arts and Thai art products that reflect traditional Thai ways of life and design ideas), arts Many Thai artists paintings are exhibited here, showcasing the artistic potential of this country’s artwork. International pieces are also on display) and amulets.
How to get there: The Silom Galleria is located on the Silom Rd. Take the MRT to the Silom Station or Sala Daeng station. Walk along the Silom Rd. The Galleria will be on your left between Pramuan Street and Soi 21.
NIGHT LIFE IN SILOM
Soi Thaniya is the home of Japanese nightlife in Bangkok, and is part of the Patpong area. There are a number of small Japanese restaurants and bars on Soi Thaniya. The bars and stores on Soi Thaniya may not appeal to the average non-Japanese visitor but the lane is still worth strolling through and checking out, especially at night when all of the neon comes alive.
How to get there: Soi Thaniya is located in the Patpong area of Silom. Take the BTS to the Sala Daeng station and walk from there.
DJ station is one of the most famous gay venues in Bangkok, filled with fun, lust and joy. Hot music spins everybody all night long, while the entertaining nightly show in a form of a mini cabaret takes care of the wallflowers.
How to get there: DJ Station is located on the Siilom Soi 2 off the Silom Rd. Take the BTS to the Chong Nonsi station or the Sala Daeng station or the MRT to the Silom station. The club is within a walking distance from all three.
One of the world’s most (in)famous red-light districts, Patpong is where it all started (Thailand’s Go-Go culture). It has even been immortalised in a James Bond chase-sequence. Its two parallel side-streets, found between Silom and Surawongse Roads, house around 100 neon-lit strip bars offering risque sex shows, purchasable pole-dancers and post-op ladyboys.
How to get there: Located between Silom and Surawong Roads, it’s within easy walking distance from the Skytrain station (Sala Daeng) or the MRT station (Silom).
The name Ratchadaphisek refers to the short distance between the Lat Phrao Intersection and the Rama IX intersection, which is a busy commercial district containing several big department stores, office buildings, hotels and large number of restaurants and nightlife establishments. A little way off the road is Thailand Cultural Centre, where shows and exhibitions are held from time to time. A subway station is also available here.
SHOPPING IN RATCHADAPHISEK
One of the many branches of Robinson in Bangkok, this popular department store is a great place for everyday bits and pieces and life’s necessities. There is a western-style supermarket onsite as well which adds to Robinson’s ‘convenience’ appeal.
Located in the prime locations of the Silom Road, Ratchadapisek Road, Sukhumvit, and various other locations, the Robinson Department Stores are every tourist’s delight. The ever popular store seems to be the “in thing” for young professional families of Thailand.
Built on the site of the former Brew Pavilion, The Esplanade opened in late 2006, and got into full swing in early 2007. The basement level is all food, many restaurants and coffee shops as well as a very good Tops supermarket selling a wide variety of imported goods. Inventive design makes for a bright modern looking building that is attracting quality retailers. Overall, this is a very well designed shopping mall with a pleasant relaxing atmosphere. Sit and have a coffee and a snack by one of the artificial indoor ponds with fast running water.
NIGHT LIFE IN RATCHADAPHISEK
Young partygoers, or those looking to recapture their misspent youth, should head straight for Royal City Avenue. More commonly known as RCA, this long, rather soulless road is one of a few government-designated nightlife zones. This means that the clubs found along it have the modest honour of being allowed to stay open, legally, until 02:00.
This is the biggest and busiest shopping district in Bangkok, where almost all kinds of goods are on sale, including cloth, clothes, jewellery, handicrafts, books, antiques, etc. There are several large department stores located here, and also several shopping arcades and countless smaller shops as well as a dozen of cinema theatres and mini theatres. So you can satisfy all your needs if you stay in one of over a dozen first-class hotels in the area. The area is easily accessible by skytrain.
ATTRACTIONS IN SIAM
The Jim Thompson Company, the famous international promoter of Thai silk, is renowned for its quality and beautifully designed products. Situated on the corner of Suwarong and Rama IV roads, the mansion-like Jim Thompson store offers a variety of colourful silk products. How to get there: Jim Thompson’s Museum is located on Kasemsan Soi 2 , Rama I Rd., opposite National Stadium, Pathum Wan. Take the BTS to the National Stadium Station. Bus routes 15, 47, 73, 204.
Opening Hours: Daily from 09.00 am. – 05.00 pm Admission: 100 baht for Adult and 50 baht for Children
Bangkok Art & Culture Center collects and displays a wide variety of art works including Thai and international contemporary art. It offers programs for music, theater, art, design and film together with educational/cultural events.
How to get there: Take the BTS to the National Stadium Station
Open Hours: Tue – Sun from 10.00 am- 09.00 pm
The worldwide chain museum, Madame Tussauds brings the world famous and Thai important figures that you can meet in the lifelike sculptures such as Queen Elizabeth, Barack Obama, David Beckham, Michael Jackson, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and many more. How to get there: 6th Floor Siam Discovery Centre, Rama I Rd., Bangkok. .Take the BTS Sky Train to Siam Station. Contact: Tel: 02 658 0060
Covering an area of 10,000 square meters on the basement of the luxurious Siam Paragon shopping mall, Siam Ocean World is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia. A subsidiary of the Oceanis Australia Group, the world’s leading aquarium operators.
How to get there: The Siam Ocean World is next to Siam Paragon and can be found at the Siam Skytrain station on both Sukhumvit and Silom lines. Opening Hours: 10 am -10 pm daily. Ticket price: BT 850-adults – BT 650 Children
SUAN PAKKAD PALACE
Suan Pakkad which means cabbage patch used to occupy the land which is now housing a collection of traditional Thai homes surrounded by beautiful gardens. There are seven houses in the complex. Each one displays art collection assembled by the Royal family, their photos, drums, religious artefacts and model boats (House 1). House 2 contains personal items like bowls inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory boxes.
How to get there: The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum is located on the 352-254 Sri Ayudhya Rd. Take the BTS to the Phaya Thai Station and walk from there. Bus routes 72, 204, 513, 536 . Opening Hours: Daily from 09.00 am. – 4.00 pm.
A great place to see cobras, kraits, vipers, pythons and pretty much any other species of over a 180 types of snakes which can be found all around Thailand. You can have your picture taken while holding a giant python and see snakes “milked” of their venom. How to get there: MRT to Sam Yan station or BTS to Sala Daeng station. Walk to the corner of Henri Dunant Rd. and Rama IV Rd. Walk about 200 meters on Henri Dunant Street. Bus routes 4, 45, 47, 50, 67, 74, 76, 141 Opening Hours: Mon – Fri from 08.30 am. – 04.30 pm., Sat – Sun & Public Holidays from 08.30 am. – 01.00 pm.. Admission: 200 Baht for Adult and 50 Baht for Children
SHOPPING IN SIAM
MBK SHOPPING CENTER
This market-style shopping center is packed with stalls selling everything from clothing and leather goods to cosmetics, gift items, electrical equipment, furniture and travel and camping equipment. This place is popular for its wide variety of products at inexpensive prices.
How to get there: Take the BTS to the National Stadium station and walk from there. Bus routes 25, 29, 34, 36, 47, 50, 93, 501
SIAM PARAGON SHOPPING CENTER
Siam Paragon is a business card of modern Bangkok. It’s one of the biggest shopping centers in. Paragon offers all kinds of international fashion brands, wide range of specialty stores and restaurants together with a multiplex movie theatre, 15 large screens; one of them has the biggest screen and seating capacity in Asia
How to get there: Take the BTS to the Siam station and walk from there. Bus routes 15, 16, 25, 54, 204, 501, 508
CENTRAL WORLD SHOPPING COMPLEX
This mega-shopping complex offers one of the most exciting experiences in Bangkok. Occupying some 550,000 square metres of retail space and a total area size of 830,000 square metres – that is 30% larger than any other shopping centre in central Bangkok
How to get there: Take the BTS to the Chidlom Station. Bus routes 25, 29, 34, 36, 47, 50, 93, 501
This trendy shopping complex is still a favorite among Bangkok’s younger and fashionable crowds. Opposite Siam Square, this modern centre adjoins Siam CenteR and showcases a good selection of shops, restaurants and designer fashion outlets.
How to get there: Take BTS Sky Train and getting off at Siam. Notice the signs which point to the Siam Discovery
Siam Square is a notable area of Bangkok , with its incalculable clusters of shops, both big as well as small, Siam Square holds a magnetic appeal for everyone who delights in shopping. Amidst the complex lattice of its streets, also stand some of the oldest movie halls of Bangkok. Besides, the place also abounds in a number of designer boutiques, managed by some of the highest-flying designers of Thailand. Some cloth stores also sell trendy outfits created by young upcoming designers.
How to get there: Take BTS Sky Train and getting off at Siam
Pantip Plaza is the place to go for all or any of your IT needs. If you want pre-built computers, computer parts, laptops, monitors, software, projectors, printers, scanners, MP3 players cameras and so on, it’s all here, under one roof, scattered over 5 floors. Opening Hours: 10:00 – 21:00 (every day). Location: Petchaburi Road, directly across the street from Pratunam’s City Complex and close to the Baiyoke Market and stylish Amari Watergate Hotel.How to get there: Take the skytrain (BTS) to Chidlom station and then either hire a tuk-tuk / taxi, or just walk ten minutes down Ratchadamri Road past Central World on your left, over the Saen Saeb canal and then left on Phetburi Road.
A market that trades mainly in clothes, Pratunam is the largest clothing market in entire Thailand. Located in the heart of Bangkok, at the intersection of Ratchaprarop and Phetburi roads, in the district of Ratchathew, it is the best place to shop for clothing, fabrics, and textiles, at unbelievingly rock bottom rates. You can easily reach the market if you walk along Ratchaprarop Road.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. At day time, it’s no less busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples.