Difference between revisions of "Bangkok"
Revision as of 22:45, 3 May 2009
Bangkok is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities. Created as the Thai capital in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, Bangkok is a national treasure house and Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
Bangkok is a large city, modern and Westernised and humming with nightlife and fervour. Administratively, it is split up into 50 khet (districts), which are further split into 154 khwaeng (แขวง), but these are more often used in official business and for addresses. Visitors will find the conceptual division below of the main areas more useful for getting around.
Just under 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is a tropical metropolis that is also one of the most traveller-friendly cities in Asia. A furious assault on the senses, visitors are immediately confronted by the heat, the pollution and the irrepressible smile that accompanies all Thais. Despite the sensationalized international news reports and first impressions, the city is surprisingly safe (except from some petty crimes) and more organized than it initially appears, and full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The high relative humidity and warm temperature favor the growth of tropical plants — you'll find exotic orchids and delicious fruit everywhere. Bougainvillea and frangipani bloom practically everywhere. Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, varied, and affordable. Bangkok for many, represents the quintessential Asian capital. Saffron-robed monks, garish neon signs, graceful Thai architecture, spicy dishes, colourful markets, traffic jams, and the tropical climate come together in a happy coincidence. It is difficult to leave with lukewarm impressions of the city.
Bangkok originally was a small village on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, until a new capital was founded on the west bank (present-day Thonburi) after the fall of Ayutthaya. In 1782, King Rama I built a palace on the east bank (now Rattanakosin) and renamed the city as Krung Thep, as it is now known to Thais and which in English is translated to the 'City of Angels'. The full name "Krung thep mahanakhon amorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok popnoparat ratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit" (กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลกภพ นพรัตน์ราชธานี บุรีรมย์อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์) is listed as the world's longest location name by the Guinness Book of Records; an English rendering goes like this: "The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn". The original village has long since ceased to exist, but for some reason foreigners never caught on to the change.
Modern-day Bangkok is predominantly Thai-Chinese and they make up the majority of the population, but the city is also a second home to millions of upcountry "Thai-Thai" folk who come to make a living. The city is also home to a remarkable array of expats from all over the world, with districts inhabited by Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, Arabs and many more.
Addresses in Bangkok use the Thai addressing system, which may be a little confusing to the uninitiated. Large roads such as Silom or Sukhumvit are thanon (ถนน), often abbreviated Th or glossed "Road/Avenue", while the side streets branching off from them are called soi (ซอย). Sois are numbered, with even numbers on one side and odd ones on the other. Thus, an address like "25 Soi Sukhumvit 3" means house/building number 25 on the 3rd soi of Sukhumvit Road. While the soi numbers on each side will always advance upward, the numbers often do not advance evenly between sides - for example, Soi 55 could be across from soi 36. Many well-known sois have an additional name, which can be used instead of the number. Soi 3 is also known as "Soi Nana", so the address above might thus also be expressed as "25 Soi Nana". The extension /x is used for new streets created between existing streets, as seen in Sukhumvit's soi pattern 7, 7/1, 7/2, 9, 11. Note that some short alleys are called trok (ตรอก) instead of soi.
To make things a little more complex, some large sois like Soi Ekamai (Sukhumvit Soi 63) and Soi Ari (Phahonyothin Soi 7) have their own sois. In these cases an address like "Soi Ari 3" means "the 3rd soi off Soi Ari", and you may even spot addresses like "68/2 Soi Ekamai 4, Sukhumvit 63 Road", meaning "2nd house beside house 68, 4th soi off Ekamai, the 63rd soi of Sukhumvit". In many sois the house numbers are not simply increasing, but may spread around.
To further bewilder the tourist who doesn't read Thai, the renderings of Thai street names in the Latin alphabet are not consistent. The road running towards the (former) airport from the Victory Monument may be spelled Phahon Yothin or Pahon Yothin or Phahonyothin or Phaholyothin depending on which street sign or map you consult. It's all the same in Thai, of course, only the romanisation varies.
And if that's not confusing enough, most of the larger streets tend to change names altogether every few kilometers. Sukhumvit is called Sukhumvit on one side of the tollway (roughly east), but it becomes Ploenchit just before you cross Thanon Witthayu (aka Wireless) going towards the river. Keep going just a few more streets and it becomes Thanon PraRam Neung (usually said as just Rama I) after you pass Thanon Ratchadamri. But if you were to turn right onto Ratchadamri, in just a few blocks you'll find yourself on Thanon Ratchaprarop (past Petchaburi, aka New Phetburi, which is called Phitsanulok closer to the river). Got it?
But wait, there's logic to these name changes: most of them are neighborhoods. It wouldn't make sense to call the road Sukhumvit if it's no longer running through the Sukhumvit area, would it? Thus, Sukhumvit becomes Ploenchit where it runs though the Ploenchit area. It's when you're able to grasp the city in terms of its neighborhoods that it both becomes more navigable and more charming. Likewise, Pratunam and Chatuchak are much more than just markets; they're boroughs, each with its own distinct character.
Related to this last point, compass directions are not widely used by Thais to navigate in Bangkok. That's probably because they aren't very useful; the city's Darwinistic layout, the changing street names, the winding river, and the lack of obvious landmarks all conspire to confuse your internal compass. Thus, asking for directions in terms of "Is that west from here?" will probably earn you little more than a confused look from a local. You're better off to familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods and navigate to and from them. "How do I get to Thonglor?" will get you there faster than asking for directions to Sukhumvit Soi 55.
One exception: the Chao Phraya River is the landmark in Bangkok, and many directional references can be made as "toward the river" or "away from the river". If you aren't too close, that is: since the river winds around the most popular tourist areas, river references tend to be most helpful when you're wandering farther afield than Banglamphu or Sanam Luang or Rattana. And wander you should.
Major Exhibition Centers
Most major roads, trains and planes in Thailand lead to Bangkok.
Bangkok has two airports operating. Allow at least three hours to connect between them.
Located 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the east of Bangkok, space-age Suvarnabhumi Airport (สุวรรณภูมิ), pronounced "soo-wanna-poom", (IATA: BKK) (ICAO: VTBS)  started operations in September 2006 and is now Bangkok's main airport as well as the busiest airport in Southeast Asia, used by all international flights as well as all Thai Airways (TG), Bangkok Airways (PG), Air Asia (FD), SGA Airline (5E) and PBair (9Q) domestic flights. There is only one terminal building, which covers both domestic and international flights, but it's huge (by some measures the world's largest) so allow time for getting around.
Suvarnabhumi offers all facilities expected of a major international airport (transit hotel, ATMs, money exchange). The cheapest place to eat is the Magic food court on Level 1, near Gate 8, while perhaps the most comfortable and relaxing of the airport's restaurants and cafes is the Sky Lounge on the 6th floor. Here you can have your latte while sitting in plush leather sofas and enjoying a panoramic view over the runways - prices are also quite reasonable with coffee around 70 baht a cup. The observation lounge on 7th is not much to see since the steel structure of the roof blocks most of the airport view. There are a few stores in the check-in area including a convenience store and a post office; however, the real shopping experience awaits travellers on the other side of immigration in the departure lounge area, where the number of shops and duty free outlets leaves you wondering if you are in a mall or an airport. Beware though, that past security in the gate waiting area, there are no services except toilets and seating.
Limousine taxis (which charge by distance, e.g. around 800 baht to central Sukhumvit) can be reserved at the limousine hire counter on the 2nd floor (just outside Arrivals), and aggressive touts will try to entice you on board. If you allow yourself to be waylaid by one of the taxi touts they might quote you more than double the fare that an ordinary metered taxi would charge (900 baht instead of 400, for example). You'd be silly even acknowledging their existence - walk straight past them.
A better option are the ordinary metered taxis available on the 2nd floor. 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. There is a 50-baht surcharge on the meter, meaning that trips to the city will cost 250-400 baht (plus 2 expressway toll of 45 & 20 Baht) and take 40-60 minutes depending on traffic/location. (Beware of taxi drivers who claim that the 50 baht surcharge is applied to each passenger as opposed to per taxi. Also beware of taxi drivers who try to charge you 50 baht surcharge going back to the airport. There should only be a 50 baht surcharge for exiting the airport.) If there is a huge taxi queue, consider taking a free shuttle bus to the Public Transport Centre, which has more taxis. Go straight to the official "Taxi Stand" and wait there.
If you don't want to pay the extra 50 baht or wait in line for the taxis, there's one more option. Take the escalators/lift/stairs to the top level until you can't go up any more levels (departure level). Walk outside. You will see a scene like that pictured on the right. Walk across the first road and you will likely see people being dropped off by taxis. You may also see touts trying to get you into their taxi. More often than not, these touts are "ghost taxis" who want to charge you a fixed rate (always a rip-off) without using a meter. Ask them if they have a meter (in Thai, มีมีเต้อร์ไหม or "mee mee-TER mai?"). If they persistently ask you where you're going rather than answering whether or not they have a meter, they are surely a ghost taxi. Don't use them. Ignore them & simply hail the next taxi with the red light inside the windshield indicating they're available. The touts will be waiting for you, but the metered taxis will be dropping people off very regularly; you're just catching them before they head to the 50-baht queue downstairs.
There is also a stop outside the 1st floor exit for Airport Express buses, which charge a flat 150 baht and operate hourly from 7 AM until midnight, covering four routes, each taking about 60 to 90 minutes:
The BMTA public bus lines are:
To give an example, the fare between Suvarnabhumi and On Nut BTS station on the 552 is 32 baht, and the journey (On Nut to the airport) takes about 40 minutes in mid-afternoon traffic.
There are also privately-owned BMTA minivans to many parts of Bangkok, such as Don Muang Airport, Bang Kapi, Rangsit, Samut Prakarn, etc. They charge in flat rate 50 baht.
To take a minivan or a public bus, you must first take a free shuttle bus ride (from the outside 2nd floor) to the separate terminal (Public Transport Center). The minivans go directly to the destination, so they are faster than the public buses, which stop frequently along the way.
These services take about 1 hour to 2 hours depending on Bangkok traffic and frequency is usually every 20 mins during daytime and night time ranges from 20 mins to 1 hour depending on route. Long-distance 1st class bus services connect Suvarnabhumi directly with Chachoengsao, Nong Khai, Pattaya, Rayong, and Trat.
An airport express train to the future City Air Terminal at Makkasan (connecting to MRT Phetchaburi) and onward to Phaya Thai (connecting to BTS Phaya Thai) is under construction, but is not expected to be ready before mid-2009 at the earliest. Die-hard rail fans with lots of time to kill can take bus 517 to Hua Takhe station (15 baht), a few km from the airport, and continue on any 3rd class train to Asok or Hualamphong (7 baht).
At present, there are only a few hotels located near Suvarnabhumi Airport, though with huge construction projects planned for the area this will change over the next few years. Day room facilities for transit passengers are now available at the 'Miracle Grand Louis Tavern' on floor 4, Concourse G (Tel+66 6 317-2211, 2000 baht per 4-hour block, no reservations accepted). Cheapskate travellers looking for a free quiet place to doze undisturbed at night should head for the prayer rooms.
The Tourist Authority of Thailand and other hotel and tourist agencies have counters on the second floor of the main terminal. These agencies offer hotel reservation service. Check for special promotions and also whether the hotel offers airport pick up and drop off service - especially useful for late night arrivals and early morning departures.
Don Muang Airport
Don Muang Airport (IATA: DMK) (ICAO: VTBD)(or Don Mueang), 20 km north of downtown, was Bangkok's main airport until 2006. The airport currently handles Nok Air and One-Two-GO  domestic flights, but the former international terminal is now limited to charters and general aviation.
The public taxi stand is located on the sidewalk outside the arrivals area (don't be fooled by all the taxi service booths in the main hall), and is probably your best bet for getting into town — it's also your only option after 11 PM. Give your destination (English is understood) and you will receive a two-part ticket at the booth. The charge into town will be the meter + 50 baht + toll if you take the expressway (recommended, 30-70 baht), for a usual total of 200-300 baht. The small part is for your driver, the large part is for you. This ticket is for complaints and is how the system is enforced: hold on to it to help avoid arguments later. The trip into town takes 30 minutes and up depending on traffic conditions.
If the line at the taxi stand is long or you need a more spacious car, you may want to book a (so-called) limousine from the desks in the terminal. This will get you a slightly nicer car at about twice the price (500-600 baht). Ignore any touts outside and do not get into any car with white license plates, as these are not licensed to carry passengers.
Across a covered overpass from the airport is the train station. Tickets to Hualamphong station cost 5 baht at the ticket booth. While taking the train is the cheapest way to get from the airport to Bangkok, it is not for the faint-of-heart: schedules are erratic, the run-down passenger cars often have beggars roaming through them, and are relatively empty late at night.
There are also a number of public transport buses going by the airport. Just take a overpass to the real road bypassing the airport and stop the bus of your choice. For example the air-con bus 504 will take you to CentralWorld (a large department store formerly known as the World Trade Center), from where you'll have access to the Skytrain as well as many other buses, or Lumpini Park, from where you get access to the metro, for 22 baht. Note that large baggage is not allowed.
If you're flying Thai Airways, you can do a city check-in at Lad Phrao MRT station, from where free shuttle buses leave 1:50 before each Thai flight. The same buses also run in the reverse direction from the airport.
Bangkok's three official long haul bus terminals are:
When arriving in Bangkok...
When buying tickets for buses out of Bangkok, it's best to skip travel agents and their private buses, and get the tickets for public buses directly at the public terminals. These buses are cheaper, safer, faster and more comfortable and won't scam you onto a clapped-out minibus halfway along the way or to a bedbug-infested hotel at the end.
The three main stations in Bangkok are:
Hualamphong Train Station
The main station and the terminus of the Bangkok Metro line. Located right in the middle of downtown Bangkok, it is a huge and surprisingly nice station, built during the reign of King Rama VI and spared bombing in World War II at the request of the Free Thai underground. The station has a good tourist office. Only listen to the people at the Info desk - anyone walking around offering to help you "find" a hotel or taxi is just a tout, even if they are wearing very official looking badges. Likewise, the second floor shops offering "Tourist Information" are just agents in disguise.
Tickets for trains leaving the same or next day can be bought on the counters under the red/orange/green screens (see photo). The Advance Booking Office is located to the right of the platforms as you walk towards them and is quite well organized. You can select your seat/berth from a plan of the train, and payments by credit card are accepted.
The taxi pick up and drop off point is to the left of the platforms as you walk towards them, and is generally chaotic at busy periods with scant regard for any queue. The left luggage facility is at the opposite end of the concourse, on the far right as you walk away from the platforms.
Travel agencies may try to sell you a private "VIP bus" ticket if there is no place in first and second class trains, claiming to offer a direct trip to the destination with a VIP bus faster than the train. Although the trip starts with a VIP bus, it ends up with a "surprise" transfer to a minibus and extremely long journeys. Just refuse the offered private bus ticket and buy public bus tickets from the main bus terminals if you cannot find a ticket for the train.
For those considering taking a train to Phuket take note; There are NO direct trains to Phuket. If taking the train is a must do, you will need to book a ticket to Surat Thani, then secure bus transit. One other important note; the last bus to Phuket from Surat Thani is in the mid-afternoon. In order to make the last bus for Phuket you will need to take a night train.
Bang Sue Train Station
If coming from the north or north-east, connecting to the Metro here can shave the last half-hour off your train trip. This is not a very good place to board trains though, as there is practically no information or signage in English. However, this situation will doubtless improve as more and more long-distance departures are switched to here from Hualamphong.
See Phahonyothin District for more details.
Thonburi Train Station
Also known as Bangkok Noi, this station is located on the "wrong" side of the river in Thonburi District and is the starting point for services to Kanchanaburi (via Nakhon Pathom), River Kwae Bridge and Nam Tok.
There are two daily 3rd class trains: 
Note that the weekend-only 2nd class air-con Kanchanaburi/Nam Tok "tourist" trains depart from Hualamphong. 
Cruise ships visiting Bangkok arrive can dock at either of two ports.
Large ships must use Laem Chabang, about 90 minutes south-east of Bangkok and about 30 minutes north of Pattaya.
- A taxi service desk is available on the wharf, but charges extortionate prices - a whopping 2600 baht to charter a taxi (4 passengers), or about 5000 baht to charter a minibus (usually 11 passenger seats), for a trip into Bangkok. Slightly lower prices can be found by walking out to the main road (about 4000 baht for a minibus), however even these rates are almost double the typical rate in the opposite direction. Better deals may be possible for round trips (even if returning the following day).
- Frequent first and second class bus services directly connect Laem Chabang with Ekamai (Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal, on Sukhumvit); less frequent direct services run to Moh Chit (Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal). A first class air-con bus (blue and white) to either will usually take 90 minutes or less; the fare is around 100 baht. A good way to make the most of a quick visit is to board an Ekamai bus and then disembark early at the On Nut Skytrain Station on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok (the bus will always pause here provided a passenger requests it); in the opposite direction, use the Ekamai Skytrain Station and board the bus at the terminus. To get to or return from the Chatuchak Weekend Market, use the Moh Chit bus instead.
- Buses en route to Pattaya (southbound) can be boarded at the traffic lights on Sukhumvit Road in Laem Chabang, are extremely frequent (at least 10 per hour), and charge less than 50 baht.
Modest sized ships may dock farther up-river at Khlong Thoey, much closer to the city center. A modest terminal provides processing for passengers (who may receive Thai customs and immigration processing on-board), as well as offering "managers" who arrange tours and taxis. Costs to reach major hotels and points of interest are much lower than for Laem Chabang, but can vary according to passenger negotiating skills. The facility is fairly close to but beyond practical walking distance to MRT and SkyTrain stations (see "Get Around" below).
Bangkok is infamous for its congestion, but these days there are ways around it: hop on the Skytrain (BTS) and metro in the city center, or use boats to navigate rivers and canals.
The Bangkok Skytrain  (BTS, pronunced bee-tee-et in Thai but also rót fai fáa or just skytrain) Deserves a visit simply for the Disneyland space-ageness of it. 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 the Siam Square area. There are two lines: the light green Sukhumvit line which travels along Sukhumvit road and then goes up Phayonyothin to northern Bangkok, where it terminates near the Chatuchak Weekend Market (N8), and the dark green Silom line, which travels from the Silom area, interchanges with the Sukhumvit line at Siam Square (C) and ends at National Stadium, right next to MBK. There isn't, unfortunately, a station near Banglampu District (aka the Khao San Road area), but the river ferry connects between Tha Banglampu and Tha Sathorn, which is under the Silom line terminus at Saphan Taksin (S6).
You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets from the vending machines near the entrance, so hold on to them. Fares range from 15 to 40 baht depending upon how many zones you are travelling. 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, weigh your options and consider a rechargable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30-baht refundable deposit and a 30 baht non-refundable card cost, as of Nov 2007), a "ride all you like" tourist pass (from 120 baht/day) or a multiple ride pass of 10 trips or more. They will certainly save you time, scrambling for coins, and maybe even money. Check for information with the English speaking staff.
Four stations are fully accessible to wheelchair users, plus one station, On Nut is accessible only on the arrival side. The other fully accessible stations are Asok/Sukhumvit, Siam, Chong Nonsi and Mo Chit. To acceed to concourse level in these stations, you can use the lift - press the call button and an attendant will come and get you. At On Nut stations on the departures side, the attendant will help you also to get to platform level through the escalator since the elevator can be used only to get to intercourse level. Siam Station is also accessible independently through the linked Siam Paragon department store.
For more information, contact the Bangkok Mass Transit System at Tel: 0 2617 7340, 0 2617 6000 or visit 
Bangkok Metro  (MRT, pronunced em-ar-tee in Thai but also rót fai tai din)finally opened in July 2004. The Blue Line connects the central Hualamphong railway station (1) to the northern Bang Sue station (18), with interchanges to the Skytrain at Silom/Sala Daeng (3/S2), Sukhumvit/Asok (7/E4) and Chatuchak/Mo Chit (15/N8). You can also transfer to north/northeast-bound SRT trains at the northern terminus Bang Sue.
Park & Ride Building is available at Thailand Cultural Centre Station (200 spaces) and Lat Phrao Station (2,200 spaces) expect this Park & Ride will be full during weekday morning. Parking also available at the following stations:
Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides cost from 15 to 39 baht depending on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used.
The metro stop for the Chatuchak Weekend Market is not Chatuchak Park, but one stop further at Kamphaeng Phet (16). The latter drops you right inside the market.
All metro stations are fully accessible to wheelchair users. If the elevator has been put out of service, just ask the security staff present at every station and an attendant will come and get you to help you to deal with all the process of buying tickets and get to the train platform level.
For more information call 0 2624 5200 or visit  for further information.
Note that at present bag-checks take place at the entrance to each station, although it is usually nothing more than a quick peek inside unless you are looking particularly suspicious.
A ride on the Chao Phraya River should be high on any tourist's agenda. The cheapest and most popular option is the Chao Phraya Express Boat , basically an aquatic bus plying up and down the river. The basic service (12 baht) plies from Wat Rajsingkorn (S4) all the way to Nonthaburi (N30), with stops at most of Rattanakosin's major attractions including the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn, etc. Board at piers with a sign showing the route and pay the ticket collector who will approach you bearing a long metal cylinder. In addition to the basic service, there are express services flagged with yellow or orange flags, which stop only at major piers and should be avoided unless you're sure where you're going. The signposting of the piers is quite clear, with numbered piers and English route maps, and the Central station offers easy interchange to the BTS Saphan Taksin station. The boats run every 5 to 20 minutes from sunrise (6 AM) to sunset (7 PM) every day, so ignore any river taxi touts who try to tell you otherwise.
Most piers are also be served by cross-river ferries which are particularly useful for reaching Wat Arun or Thonburi. They run every few minutes and cost 2-3 baht - pay at the kiosk on the pier and then walk through the turnstile.
In addition to the workaday express boat, there is also a Tourist Boat which stops at a different subset of piers, offers commentary in English and charges a flat 150 baht for a day pass. The boats are slightly more comfortable and may be worth considering if you just want to cruise up and down, but they only operate every 30 minutes and stop running by 3 PM.
Canal boats also serve Khlong Saen Saeb, one of Bangkok's many canals (khlong). They're cheap and immune to Bangkok's notorious traffic jams, but mostly used by locals who use these water taxis to commute to work and school and shopping, so you get to see the 'backside' of the neighborhoods, so to speak. They're also comparatively safe -- just watch your step when boarding and disembarking (they don't stop at the pier for long) and be wary of the water as it can be quite polluted, do not let it get in your eyes. To prevent splashes, the boats are equipped with little curtains that you can raise by pulling on a string, but they have to be lowered at every stop so people can clamber on board! Pay the fare (14-22 baht) to the fearless helmet-wearing ticket collectors who clamber around on the outside of the boat, ducking at bridges, as it barrels down the canal. The canal runs parallel to Petchaburi Road, and provides the easiest access from the city center to the Golden Mount. There's a boarding pier across from the Central World Plaza under the bridge where Ratchadamri crosses the khlong near Petchburi, and piers now even have (tiny) signs in English. Be aware that for journeys going beyond Pratunam, passengers have to change boats at Pratunam. Hold on to your ticket. The only station missing a sign in English is the stop at The Mall in Bangkapi, and it's not obvious that it's a mall from the canal boat!
Finally, for trips outside the set routes, you can hire a long-tail river taxi at any major pier. These are fairly expensive and will attempt to charge as much as 500 baht/hour, but with haggling may be suitable for small groups. To circumvent the mafia-like touts who attempt to get a large cut for every ride, agree for the price of the shortest possible ride (half an hour etc), then negotiate directly with the captain when on board.
Local buses, mostly operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), are the cheapest but also the most challenging way of getting around, as there is a bewildering plethora of routes, usually marked only in Thai. If you can speak Thai you can call 184 Bus Route Hotline. Bus stops usually list only the bus numbers that stop there and nothing more. They are also subject to Bangkok's notorious traffic, often terribly crowded, and many are not air-conditioned. If you want to get somewhere quickly and are not prepared to get lost, the buses should be avoided (remember that taxis are cheaper than most local buses in the west). However, they make for a good adventure if you're not in a rush and you don't mind being the centre of attention.
But for the intrepid, and those staying in Khao San Road where buses are the only practical means of public transport, the best online resource for decrypting bus routes is the official BMTA homepage , which has up-to-date if slightly incomplete listings of bus routes in English but no maps. You can also ask your guesthouse about buses to where you are going. If you're going between Khao San Road and downtown, bus number 2 (red and cream) is probably your best option. As a printed reference, the Bus Routes & Map guide (50 baht) by Bangkok Guides is another option.
The hierarchy of Bangkok's buses from cheapest to best can be ranked as follows:
Buses stop only when needed, so wave them down (arm out, palm down) when you see one barreling your way. Pay the roaming collector after you board and keep the ticket as there are occasional spot-checks. Press the signal buzzer (usually near the door) when you want to get off.
Two further pitfalls are that buses of the same number may run slightly different routes depending on the color, and there are also express services (mostly indicated by yellow signs) that skip some stops and may take the expressway (2 baht extra).
Airport buses allow luggage (backpacks and suitcases), but regular buses do not. Enforcement of this rule varies.
A regular bus service is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and its contracted operators throughout Bangkok as well as to its outskirts during 4 a.m. – 11 p.m. and around the clock on certain routes. Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 11 and 24 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at bookshops. For more information, call 184.
Taxis are a quick and comfortable way to get around town, at least if the traffic is flowing your way. All taxis are now metered and air-conditioned: the hailing fee is 35 baht and most trips within Bangkok cost less than 100 baht. There are no surcharges (except from the airport), even at night; don't believe drivers who try to tell you otherwise. A red lit sign on the front window means that the taxi is available.
When the meter is switched on you will see a red '35' somewhere on the dashboard or between the driver and you. Be sure to check for this at the start of the ride, as many drivers will "forget" to start the meter in order to overcharge you at the end of your trip. Most will start the meter when asked politely to do so (meter na khrap/kha (male/female)); if the driver refuses to use the meter after a couple of attempts, simply exit the taxi. In some cases, late at night and especially near major tourist districts like Khao San or Patpong, you will need to walk a block away to catch a meter cab. The effort can save you as much as 150 baht. This is often also the case for taxis that park all day in front of your hotel. The only two reasons that they are there: 1) To take you places where they can get their commissions (Jewelry stores, massage parlors, etc) and 2) To overcharge you by not using the meter. Your best bet is to walk to the road and catch an unoccupied metered taxi in motion (easier than it sounds, as Bangkok traffic tends to crawl the majority of the time, and one car out of four is a taxi). Avoid parked taxis altogether, and if a taxi driver refuses to turn the meter on, simply close the door and find one who will. If they say the meter is broken, a good tactic is to turn it on for them. Keep in mind that it is illegal for them to have unmetered fares. Be smart and give your money to honest drivers, not touts. The only reason they get away with this so frequently is because foreign tourists let them.
Be sure to either know the correct pronunciation of your destination, or have it written in Thai, as taxi drivers in Bangkok are notoriously bad at reading maps. Most hotels and guesthouses will happily write out addresses in Thai for you. While most drivers will recognize the names of tourist hot spots, even if grossly mispronounced, it is often difficult to properly pronounce addresses in Thai, a tonal language. If your mobile phone works in Thailand, it is sometimes useful to phone your hotel and ask the staff to speak to your driver in Thai.
If you're pinching pennies or fussy about your means of transportation, you may wish to think twice before getting into one of the (very common) yellow-green taxis. They are owner-operated and of highly variable quality, and occasionally they have rigged meters. All other colors belong to large taxi companies, which usually enforce their standards better.
On some routes, the driver will ask if he should use the Tollway - this will usually save a lot of time. You have to pay the cost at the toll booth (not in advance, and not at the end of the journey). Watch how much the driver really pays, he may try to keep the change.
When getting out, try to have small bills (100 baht or less) or expect problems with change. Tips are not necessary, but are certainly welcome; most local passengers will round up, or leave any coin change as tip.
When traffic slows to a crawl and there are no mass-transit alternatives for your destination, by far the fastest mode of transport is a motorbike taxi (or in Thai, motosai lapjang). No, those guys in the pink smocks aren't biker gangs; they're motosai cabbies. They typically wear colorful fluorescent yellow-orange vests and wait for passengers at busy places. Prices are negotiable; negotiate before you ride.
For the adrenaline junkie, a wild motosai ride can provide a fantastic rush. Imagine weaving through rows of stopped vehicles at 50km/h with mere centimetres to spare on each side, dodging pedestrians, other motorbikes, tuk-tuks, stray dogs and the occasional elephant while the driver blithely ignores all traffic laws and even some laws of physics. Now do the same while facing backwards on the bike and balancing a large television on your lap, and then you can qualify as a local - though you might die in the process. Imagine your loved ones arranging to ship your dead body home from Bangkok because you took a dangerous risk you were warned not to.
The overwhelming majority of motorcycle taxis do not travel long distances, but simply shuttle up and down long sois (side-streets) not serviced by other transport for a fixed 5-20 baht fare. These are marginally less dangerous, especially if you happen to travel with the flow on a one-way street.
The law requires that both driver and passenger must wear a helmet. It is the driver's responsibility to provide you with one, so if you are stopped by police, any fine is also the driver's responsibility. This is worth bearing in mind when you hire a motorbike or moped. Make sure that if there are two of you, the hirer provides two helmets not one. When riding, keep a firm grasp on the seat handle and watch out for your knees.
Finally, what would Bangkok be without the much-loathed, much-loved, tuk-tuks? You'll know them when you hear them, and you'll hate them when you smell them — these three-wheeled contraptions blaze around Bangkok leaving a black cloud of smog in their wake. For anything more than a 5-10 minute jaunt or just the experience, they really are not worth the price — and, if you let them get away with it, the price will usually be 4 or 5 times what it should be anyway (which, for Thais, is around 30% less than the equivalent metered taxi fare). On the other hand, you can sometimes ride for free if you agree to visit touristy clothing or jewelry shops (which give the tuk-tuk driver gas coupons and commissions for bringing customers). The shops' salesmen are pushy, but you are free to leave after five to ten minutes of browsing. Visitors should beware though, sometimes one stop can turn in to three, and your tuk-tuk driver may not be interested in taking you where you need to go once he has his gas coupons. Also, with Bangkok's densly congested traffic it is sure to spend hours of your time.
In case you actually want to get somewhere, and you're an all-male party, be careful with the tuk-tuk drivers, they will usually just ignore your destination and start driving you to some bordello ("beautiful girls"). Insist continually and forcefully on going only to your destination.
There's also a less-heralded, less-colourful and less-touristy version of the tuk-tuk that usually serves the back sois in residential neighborhoods. They usually have four wheels instead of three and resemble a tiny truck / ute / lorry, and they run on petrol instead of LP. The maids and locals tend to use them to return home from market with loads of groceries, or for quick trips if they're available. Negotiate before you get in, but don't expect to go much beyond the edge of that particular neighborhood.
Go cycling! It may sound crazy, but it certainly is not. Away from the main roads there is a fast system of small streets and alleys. Cyclists are treated as pedestrians, so you can use your bicycle to explore parks, temple complexes, markets and the more quiet residential areas of eastern Bangkok. In more crowded places you can cycle on the sidewalk. Exploring the town by bicycle has all the advantages of going by foot, combined with a much greater action radius and a cooling breeze when cycling.
Co van Kessel Bangkok tours, ☎ Office: 02 - 322 9481 or: 02 - 752 6818 - 9 Mr. Co's mobile: 0 87 - 824 1931 Miss Nong's mobile: 0 87 - 054 9878 ([email protected]), . Half-day tours from 950 baht. 950 Bath.
If you want to experience Bangkok hideaways and countryside, leisurely cycling through green paddy fields, colorful orchid farms, peaceful lotus fields and touched by the charm of Thai way of country life at personal level, bicycle is a great way to do it.
Thailand Green Ride, ☎ Office: 02 - 888 9637 or: 081 3183561 ([email protected], fax: 02 888 9693), . 09:00-17:00. half-day, one-day and home stay overnight cycling trips in green Bangkok countryside
Most of Bangkok's sights are concentrated in the "Old City" on Rattanakosin Island. Out of Bangkok's many temples, the following usually make the top 3:
Bangkok's many markets are an experience in themselves, see Buy for some suggestions.
Anantasamakhom Throne Hall (พระที่นั่งอนันตสมาคม)  This Renaissance building was constructed of marble from Italy under the instruction of King Rama V, with an intention to be used as a royal reception – assembly hall. The construction was completed in the next reign. The dome of the throne hall houses picturesque frescoes of royal activities undertaken during the reigns of King Rama I – King Rama VI of the Royal House of Chakri. The building serves as a venue for royal and state ceremonies and was once used as the National Assembly before it was moved to the new building behind. Open: Daily from 9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except public holidays) Admission: 50 baht (proper attire is essential) Tel: 0 2628 6300 ext. 5119-5121
Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium (อุทยานผีเสื้อและแมลงกรุงเทพฯ) Situated in the southeastern area of Vachirabenjatas Park (Railway Park), Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road, the garden covers an area of approximately 6 rai. It comprises of 4 main sections; namely, 1) a touch screen computer area introducing the garden, 2) a mini-theatre for the VDO presentation on insects and the ecological system, 3) an exhibition area and feed breeding room of the embryo of butterflies and insects, 4) a cage covering an area of 1,168 square metres with a large dome of 15 metres high, built from an open framework for good ventilation. It displays 20 kinds of more than 500 butterflies. The garden, which connects to the Chatuchak and Queen Sirikit Parks, is an appropriate natural classroom for learning, conducting research, as well as, collecting and exchanging knowledge on butterfly species and insects, their life cycles and ways of living. The garden is open daily except for Monday during 8.30 a.m.-4.30 p.m. Open: Tuesday - Sunday and public holidays from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Admission: Free. Tel: 0 2272 4359-60, 0 2272 4680.
Bangkok Dolls & Museum (บ้านบางกอกดอลส์และตุ๊กตานานาชาติ) Located at 85 Soi Ratchataphan (Soi Mo Leng) off Ratchaprarop Road. It was established by Khunying Tongkorn Chandavimol in 1956 after having completed a course on doll making from the Osawa Doll School in Tokyo, Japan. Her intention was to make as well as publicise Thai dolls. Bangkok Doll’s products are well recognised internationally and renowned among doll collectors. They won the first prize and the Honorary Gold Peacock Feather Award from the 3rd International Folklore Dolls Biennial 1978 in Poland. The place serves as both a museum and workshop where various kinds of dolls are displayed and made totally by hand, using mainly locally available materials. There are several categories of dolls such as Khon dolls, hill tribes, Thai rural lifestyles as well as Khon mask miniatures. There is also a corner in the workshop where a private collection of some 400 dolls from around the world are displayed. The entrance is free. Open: Mon-Sat from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tel: 0 2245 3008
Bank of Thailand Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์ธนาคารแห่งประเทศไทย) Located on a total area of 30 rai on the Chao Phraya River inside Bang Khun Phrom Palace within the same compound as the Bank of Thailand, Sam Sen Road, Phra Nakhon District. The museum building is one example of the finest architecture of the same art style built by King Rama V to be a royal residence of HRH Prince Boriphat Sukhumphan, his 33rd son born with Queen Sukhuman Marasi. After 1932, the palace was used as a governmental office for a certain period until 1945 when it became the Bank of Thailand. It was turned into the Bank of Thailand Museum in 1982, accommodating 14 rooms on 2 floors. Floor 1 houses rooms of ancient coins, the Phot Duang or Thai bullet coins, modern Thai coins and banknotes, golds and foreign currency. Floor 2 houses rooms of the 60th anniversary of the Bank of Thailand, banknote printing, and several others. Open: Mon-Fri from 9.30 a.m. to 12 a.m., 1.30 p.m.to 4.30 p.m. Admission: Free Tel: 0 2283 5286, 0 2283 6723(Please contact at least 1 week in advance. (Attention: Director of the Bank of Thailand Museum).
Children’s Discovery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์เด็ก)  The museum is located inside Queen Sirikit Park and was established under the royal initiative of Her Majesty the Queen, in her realizing the significance of creating a pleasurable learning process for Thai children. Based on the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s children and family activities, the Children’s Discovery Museum took shape in the form of 3 exhibition buildings and an open-air activity ground covering a total area of 5 rai. The construction was completed in 2001 and undertaken under the project to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen.
The museum offers exhibitions as well as funny activities for children to enjoy and learn about human life, sciences, culture and society, nature and the environment, including an exhibition in honour of Her Majesty the Queen. Open: Daily (Tues-Fri from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat-Sun from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Admission: Adult 70 baht, Child 50 baht Tel: 0 2615 7333 ext. 102, 134, 148
House of Museums (บ้านพิพิธภัณฑ์) The House of Museums is located at 170/17 Mu 17, Khlong Pho Land, Soi Khlong Pho 2, Sala Thammasop Road, Thawi Watthana, Bangkok 10170. It is accessible by driving along Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road toward the railway track or Khlong Maha Sawat. At the end of the road, turn left onto Sala Thammasop Road and follow the sign to the museum. The exhibition features a collection of old as well as modern items of various uses of both townspeople and villagers such as toys, books, stationery and kitchen and household utensils, forming a legacy of the past to be inherited by the present. The modern 3½-storey building of 3 chambers covers a total area of 232 square metres. The first floor lends an old atmosphere of shop houses before 1957 including a café, drugstore, barber’s, etc. There are rooms displaying alternate exhibitions on various topics, as well. Open: Sat-Sun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Adult 30 baht, Child 10 baht Tel: 08 9666 2008, 08 9200 2803
Jim Thompson Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์จิม ทอมป์สัน)  This collection of traditional Thai-style houses, fashioned into one dwelling, belongs to the man who helped restore the Thai silk industry after World War II, and today, preserved as a museum, contains a priceless collection of Asian objects d’ art. The canalside museum is located in Soi Kasemsan 2 on Rama I Road opposite the National Stadium. Open: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Adult 100 baht, Child 50 baht. Tel: 0 2216 7368
King Prajadhipok Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์พระบาทสมเด็จพระปกเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว)  The museum is located at the preserved building of the Public Works Department at the foot of Phan Fa Lilat Bridge at the corner of Lan Luang Road in Phra Nakhon District. The building is of King Rama VI’s – King Rama VII’s neo-classic architecture built in 1906. It was renovated by King Prajadhipok’s Institute to serve as a museum exhibiting a rare collection of King Rama VII’s personal belongings as well as photographs, documents and biography of Thailand’s first constitutional monarch. It has become the first perfect monarchic museum, using modern technology in giving explanations and guidance. Significant events and stories relating to King Rama VII are also exhibited including the succession to the throne, the king’s biography before his accession to the throne, royal activities, political reform, promulgation of the constitution, royal utensils and memorabilia, as well as his life after abdication and death in the United Kingdom. The demolished Sala Chaloem Krung Theatre which used to stand in the nearby area is imitated with old films being projected. Open: Tue-Sun from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. including public holidays Admission: 40 baht Tel: 0 2280 3413-4, 0 2280 3445-6
Museum of Thai Pharmacy (พิพิธภัณฑ์เภสัชกรรมไทย) The museum is located on the third floor of the Pharmaceutical Association of Thailand under Royal Patronage Building at 40 Soi Santisuk, Sukhumvit 38 Road (diagonally opposite Soi Thong Lo). It was established to publicize traditional Thai medicine from past to present for later generations to learn and treasure. The exhibition is featured by various topics; namely, the Birth of Pharmacy, the Evolution of Oriental Pharmacy and Basic Wisdom, the Evolution of Western Thai Pharmacy and the Evolution of Herbs and Natural Products. (Advance contact in writing is required for a group visit.) Open: Mon-Fri from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: Free Tel: 0 2391 6243, 0 2712 1627
Philatelic Museum and Library (พิพิธภัณฑ์และห้องสมุดตราไปรษณียากร) Located on the 2nd floor of the Metropolitan Postal Bureau (North) (behind Sam Sen Nai Post Office), Phahonyothin Road, Sam Sen Sub-district, it displays the history of the Thai postal service and development of Thai stamps from the past until present time. Moreover, “Solot”, the first Thai stamps used in the reign of King Rama V and the foreign ones of the member countries of the Universal Postal Union are on display. Also, there is a library collecting books and knowledge on post both in Thai and foreign languages. In the same area, stamps and accessories for stamp collection are on sale at the ground floor of the building. Next to the museum, there is also a room imitating the operational site and equipment of the post office in the past, providing services of postal money orders, selling stamps, etc. In front of the building, Thai postal boxes in various periods, as well as, those from foreign countries are exhibited. Open: Wed–Sun from 8.30 a.m to 4.30 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2271 2439
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (ศูนย์มานุษยวิทยาสิรินธร) Located on Borom Ratchonnani Road beyond the Southern Bus Terminal, this centre is a national institution responsible for systematic gathering processing and servicing of anthropological data scattered throughout the country. A variety of exhibitions on Social and Cultural Development in Thailand, Ethno-Archaeology, Thai Ceramic Collections, as well as the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Biography can be viewed. Open: Mon- Sat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2880 9429 www.sac.or.th
Rare Stone Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์หินแปลก) Located on Charoenkrung Road between Soi 26 and Soi 28 in Bang Rak area, the museum features a fascinating display of over ten thousand rare stones from Thailand and all over the world. Exhibits include precious stones, fossils, crystals, stalactites and more. Collections of ashtrays and cigarette labels are also on display. Open: Daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Admission: 20 baht, Tel: 0 2236 5666, 0 2236 5655, 0 2236 5712
Royal Barge National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติเรือพระราชพิธี) Thailand’s ornately carved and decorated Royal Barges are displayed in boatsheds on Khlong (Canal) Bangkok Noi, just off the Chao Phraya River near Phra Pin Klao Bridge on the Thon Buri side. The barges are used on royal occasions and formerly served as war vessels. Open: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission: 30 baht, Tel: 0 2424 0004
Science Centre for Education (ศูนย์วิทยาศาสตร์เพื่อการศึกษา) (ท้องฟ้าจำลอง)  Situated next to the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) on Sukhumvit Road, this is an exhibition centre on a variety of scientific knowledge. Among the attractions are a planetarium, an aquarium as well as permanent exhibitions of sports science, communication technology and natural environment. Open: Exhibition: Tue- Sun (except public holidays) from 8.30 a.m.-4.30 p.m. Planetariam: 1-hour shows at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. Additional shows on Sat & Sun at 10 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. Admission: Exhibition - Adult 20 baht, Child 10 baht and Planetariam - Adult 20 baht, Child 10 baht Tel: 0 2392 5951-5
Siriraj Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์การแพทย์ศิริราช) Located on the 2nd floor of the Adulyadej Vikrom Building inside Siriraj Hospital on Phran Nok Road, Thon Buri District (Thailand’s first medical institute). The museum comprises the Congdon Anatomical Museum, Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum, Prehistoric Museum, Pathology Museum and Traditional Thai Medicines Museum. Open: Mon–Sat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Admission: 40 baht, Information: Tel. 0 2419 7000 ext. 6363.
Suan Pakkad Palace (วังสวนผักกาด)  Located on Si Ayutthaya Road, this complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand’s leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It houses an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilisation, and also an impressive collection of sea-shells. Khon (classical Thai masked dance) Museum and Traditional Thai Music Museum are also established here. Open: Daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Admission: 100 baht, Tel: 0 2246 1775-6 ext 229, 0 2245 4934
Sunthorn Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์สุนทร)  Situated at 82/10 Sukhaphiban 1 (off Phetkasem Road near Lotus Supermarket), this is a private museum operated by Mr. Sunthorn Chunothaisawat. It houses invaluable antiques from different periods such as BMW Motorcycles in the World War Periods, various types of old clock, lamps, children toys made out of zinc, Raios, Irons, type writers, Fans and sewing machines which are still maintained in good condition. Open: Sat from 11 a.m.to 5 p.m., Admission: 200 baht, Tel: 0 2802 0863-4
Thai Labour Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์แรงงานไทย) This museum is located at the former office of the State Railway of Thailand Labour Union on Nikhom Rotfai Road, Makkasan, Ratchathewi. It exhibits a historical background of Thai labour in 7 rooms: Room 1, slave labour and corvée system – the foundation of ancient Thai society – presenting the history of Thai labour since ancient times; Room 2, Chinese coolies - early hire workers - featuring their way of life; Room 3, labour and the country’s reforms in the reign of King Rama V – a major transitional period in Thai history; Room 4, labourers and the 1932 Revolution – labourers before and after the revolution; Room 5, from World War to the Cold War – Thai labour under critical situations during World War II and the Cold War; Room 6, from the 14 October uprising to the economic crisis – life of Thai workers during the pro-democracy period, women and child labour, truck drivers and boxers; Room 7, labour artist Chit Phumisak – dedicated to Chit Phumisak, a significant thinker and intellectual. The exhibition in each room is displayed through various media such as television, slides and computer, which make it more interesting and easier to understand. The museum also provides a library service with books and research reports about labourers and computer training for workers. Open: Wed-Sun and Public holidays from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2251 3173 (Advance contact is required for a group visit.)
Thai Life Permanent Exhibition Hall (หอไทยนิทัศน์)  Located in the Thailand Cultural Centre on Ratchadaphisek Road, this is a venue for displaying the history of the Thai people and different aspects of Thai culture, as developed from pre-historic times up to the present. The exhibition is presented under five topics: The Evolution of the Thai Nation, Rice and Thai Way of Life, Thai Language and Literature, Thailand and the World, and Important Achievements and Events in Thai Society. Open: Mon-Fri (except public holidays) from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., admission: free, Tel: 0 2247 0028 ext. 4223-4
The Museum of Buddhism Art (พิพิธภัณฑ์พุทธศิลปะ) Located at 104 Soi 40, Phatthanakan Road, Suan Luang, Bangkok 10250, the museum features a large private collection of Buddha images and is operated by the Foundation of Thai’s Arts Preservation. The exhibition focuses on the art of Buddha images in accordance with Thai history, with an international standard presentation comprising light, sound (chanting), scent (incense) in an air-conditioned atmosphere. Besides Buddha images and artefacts of different periods, there is also an area allocated to be a shrine as well as museum of the Goddess of Mercy and other major gods of various beliefs in Asia.
The museum is open during 10 a.m.-5.30 p.m. on Monday-Saturday and closed on Sunday. Advance contact is required. Admission fees are 250 baht for the general public and foreigners, 50 baht for students, and 25 baht for students and government officers coming in groups, with advance contact. Open: Mon-Fri (Advance contact is required.), Sat from 10 a.m.to 5.30 p.m., Admission: 250 baht, Tel: 0 2321 0048-50, 0 2322 2434, Fax: 0 2322 2412
The Press Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์หนังสือพิมพ์ไทย)  Located in the same building as the Press Association of Thailand on Ratchasima Road, Dusit district (opposite Suan Dusit Rajabhat University), this is the first museum to have been established to enhance press occupation and be a source of study and information as well as valuable historical data about the Thai press from past to present. The exhibition is displayed through modern information technology. The first portion presents the press in the past by imitating the working atmosphere of reporters represented by wax models. Next are the political, economic as well as social roles of the press and biographies of outstanding personalities such as Dr. Bradley, Prince Narathipphongpraphan, M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, Kularb Saipradit, Malai Choopinij and Isra Amantakul. There are also images of King Rama IV– founder of Thailand’s publishing business established to publish declarations and royal gazettes, the first newspaper for Thai people–and King Rama VI –a press king who granted freedom for newspaper publication. The museum features an exhibition on newspapers and magazines and provides a library service, as well. Open: Mon - Fri from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2669 7124 – 6, Fax: 0 2241 5929
The State Railway Hall of Fame (หอเกียรติภูมิรถไฟ) This is a train museum where steam engines, train models, and miniature trains are exhibited along with the story of world railway systems. It is located on the western side of Chatuchak Park adjacent to Kamphaeng Phet Road. Open: Sat-Sun from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 08 1615 5776
Museum Siam (มิวเซียมสยาม)  Located near Wat Pho. This is renovated from the old building of Ministry of Commerce Thailand. There're permanent exhibition about history of Thai nation, culture and history. The content was exhibited in multimedia media with visitors' interaction. Open: Tue-Sum from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Admission: 150 THB, Tel: 02 225 2777
Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) This old temple was built in the reign of King Rama I. Located on Na Phrathat Road near Thammasat University, the temple houses Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of the two highest seats of Buddhist learning in Thailand and also offers meditation classes for foreigners. Open: Daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2222 6011; Meditation Centre Tel: 0 2623 6326
Wat Bowon Niwet (วัดบวรนิเวศ) This temple is located on Phra Sumen Road in the Bang Lamphu area. Built in 1829, it is the shrine-hall of Phra Phutthachinnasi, a very beautiful Buddha image which was moulded in about 1357. This is one of the most important temples of Bangkok, whose one-time chief abbot was King Rama IV before he ascended the throne. King Rama IV and King Rama VII, as well as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej resided there during their monkhood. Open: Daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2281 2831-3
Wat Ratchaburana (วัดราชบูรณะหรือวัดเลียบ) This temple is located at the foot of the Rama I Memorial Bridge on the Bangkok side. Built in the late Ayutthaya period by a Chinese merchant, it is otherwise known as Wat Liap and is one of the 3 principal temples of the capital which include Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Ratchapradit and Wat Mahathat. It had been regularly restored since the reign of King Rama I through to the reign of King Rama VII, except in the sixth reign. Some of the temple’s principal buildings, especially Phra Ubosot – the ordination hall – which houses mural paintings by Khrua In Khong, were badly damaged by bombing during World War II. The buildings were later restored to their good condition as they appear today. Open: Daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Admission: Free, Tel: 0 2225 1595
Wat Benchamabophit (วัดเบญจมบพิตร) Located on Si Ayutthaya Road, this unique marble temple was constructed during the reign of King Rama V. It employs European ecclesiastic details, such as stained glass windows, and contains a superb cloister collection of bronze Buddha images. Open: Daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Admission: 20 baht, Tel: 0 2281 2501, 0 2628 7947
Wat Trai Mit (วัดไตรมิตรวิทยาราม) Located at the end of Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road near Bangkok Railway Station, this temple houses an ancient solid gold seated Buddha image of the Sukhothai Period, three metres in height and weighing five and a half tons. Open: Daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission: 20 baht, Tel: 0 2225 9775
King Rama I the Great Memorial (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์พระบาทสมเด็จพระพุทธยอดฟ้าจุฬาโลกมหาราช) Built in commemoration of Bangkok’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 1932, the monument is situated at the foot of Pathom Boromrachanuson or Rama I the Great Memorial Bridge on the Bangkok side. King Rama I was the first king in the Royal House of Chakri and founder of Bangkok as the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, as Thailand was formerly known. He was born in Ayutthaya, one of Thailand’s former capitals, on 20 March, 1736, accessed to the throne on 6 April, 1782, and passed away 27 years later., Open: Daily, Admission: Free
King Rama III Memorial (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์พระบาทสมเด็จพระนั่งเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) The monument was built by the Fine Arts Department in 1990 near the Royal Reception Pavilion in front of Wat Ratchanatdaram on Ratchadamnoen Road. The bronze statue, half larger than life size, is seated on a throne. The surrounding area is decorated with beautiful plants, with the Royal Reception Pavilion and three minor pavilions known as Sala Rai nearby. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
King Rama VI Statue (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์พระบาทสมเด็จพระมงกุฏเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) Located in front of Lumphini Park, the statue was sculpted by Professor Corado Feroci, or Silpa Bhirasri as he was called by his Thai name, who gave it a final touch on 7 June, 1941. It was open on 27 March, 1942. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
King Taksin the Great Monument (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์พระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) This is an equestrian statue situated at Wongwian Yai Circle on Prachathipok Road. The king is portrayed with his right hand holding a sword, measuring approximately 9 metres in height from his horse’s feet to the spire of his hat. The statue rests on a reinforced concrete pedestal of 8.90 x 1.80 x 3.90 metres. There are four frames of stucco relief on the two sides of the pedestal. The opening ceremony of this monument was held on 17 April, 1954 and a homage-paying fair takes place annually on 28 December. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
Monument to the Expeditionary Force (อนุสาวรีย์ทหารอาสา) Near a northern corner of Sanam Luang stands a monument to the Thai expeditionary force that fought in the European battlefield during World War I. After war broke out in 1914, Thailand joined the Allied Army to declare war on Germany and sent militia to Europe on 20 June, 1918. Upon their return to Thailand on 21 September, 1919, the ashes of dead veterans were taken to be enshrined here on 24 September, 1919. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
National Memorial (อนุสรณ์สถานแห่งชาติ) It is located on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road slightly beyond Don Muang Railway Station. Covering an area of 38 rai, the National Memorial is under the responsibility of the Armed Force Education Department, Supreme Command Headquarters. There are wall paintings depicting historic events in Thai history from the Sukhothai period to Rattanakosin period, replicas of royal decorations, bas-reliefs of the establishment of the city and models recounting historic battles in Thai history. Open: Mon- Fri from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: Free Tel: 0 2532 1021. A speaker is available for a group visit but advance contact in writing is required.
The Equestrian Statue of King Rama V the Great (พระบรมรูปทรงม้า) Established in 1908 in the reign of King Rama V with a fund raised by the Thai people, the statue was cast in Paris by a French craftsman. The remaining fund was spent by King Rama VI on the establishment of “Chulalongkorn University”, which was named after King Rama V. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
Benchasiri Park (สวนเบญจศิริ) This compact park on Sukhumvit Road near Soi 24 was built to commemorate the 60th birthday of HM Queen Sirikit in 1992. It features a huge sculpture of commemorative coin illustrating an image of HM Queen Sirikit and 12 pieces of contemporary sculptures including children’s works. Open: Daily from 5 a.m.to 8 p.m. Admission: Free, Benjakitti Park (สวนเบญจกิติ)
This park is situated in the center of Bangkok in the area of the old Tobacco Factory nearby Queen Sirikit National Convention Center on Ratchadaphisek Road and Rama IV Road withing the area of 430 Rai. It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday of HM Queen Sirikit in 1992. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Admission: Free
Chatuchak Park (สวนจตุจักร) This is located at the junction of Phahonyothin and Vibhavadi Rangsit roads. There are nine pieces of ASEAN sculptures that enhance the character of the park. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: Free
Queen Sirikit Park (สวนสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์) This is situated east of Chatuchak Park on Phahonyothin Road. It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday anniversary of HM Queen Sirikit. A big pool in the park contains three fountains and a fine collection of both Thai and foreign lotuses. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: Free
Lumpini Park (สวนลุมพินี) This was a huge open space once belonging to King Rama VI, who issued a royal command to turn the area into a public park as a gift to Bangkok residents. It is located on Rama IV Road, between Ratchadamri and Witthayu (Wireless) roads, with entrance gates on all sides. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission: Free
Princess Mother Memorial Park (อุทยานเฉลิมพระเกียรติสมเด็จพระศรีนครินทราบรมราชชนนี)  This beautiful park is located on Soi 3 Somdet Chao Phraya Road, Khlong San District. It was built near the Wat Anongkharam community where Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, HRH the Princess Mother (mother of King Rama IX) had resided during her childhood. The park comprises a full scale model of the Princess Mother’s house and the old buildings renovated as exhibition halls displaying the life story of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother as well as the history of the Wat Anongkharam community. Open: Garden - Daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except public holidays) Museum – Daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: Free Tel: 0 2437 7799, 0 2439 0902
Rommaninat Park (สวนรมณีนาถ) This is a public park built on the old prison grounds on Mahachai Road near Wat Suthat. The Corrections Museum inside the park displays instruments of punishment and evolution of punishment in Thailand. Open: Park - Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Museum – Thu to Sat from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Admission: Free
Santi Chai Prakan Pavilion and Public Park (พระที่นั่งและสวนสาธารณะสันติชัยปราการ) The park is on Phra Athit Road on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It was constructed near Phra Sumen Fort under the cooperation between the Royal Thai Government and the general public to mark the auspicious occasion of the sixth cycle birthday anniversary of His Majesty the King on 5 December, 1999. The spacious area provides a pleasant atmosphere as well as a scenic view of the Chao Phraya River and the Rama VIII Bridge. It is popular among both Thais and foreigners, especially from the nearby Bang Lamphu community. Open: Daily, Admission: Free
Saranrom Park (สวนสราญรมย์) Located near the Grand Palace between Rachini and Charoenkrung roads, this park was originally a royal garden in the Saranrom Palace. At the south end of the park is a marble monument dedicated to HM Queen Sunantha Kumareerat and HRH Prince Kannaporn Phetcharat, who died in a boating accident in the reign of King Rama V. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Admission: Free
Suan Luang Rama IX (สวนหลวง ร. 9) The 200-acre botanical garden-cum-public park is located deep inside Sukhumvit Soi 103 (Udomsuk) and was opened in 1987 to commemorate the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Open: Daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission: 10 baht. Tel: 0 2328 1395, 0 2328 1385-6
Zoos / Animal Farms
Dusit Zoo (สวนสัตว์ดุสิต)  Located beside the Royal Plaza, Bangkok’s oldest zoo contains a collection of popular African and Asian mammals and birds in an ornamental garden. Open: Daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission: Adult 100 baht; Child 50 baht Tel: 0 2281 2000, 0 2281 9027-8
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (Snake Farm) (สถานเสาวภาสภากาชาดไทย) Located near Chulalongkorn Hospital on the corner of Henri Dunant Road and Rama IV Road, this institute contains a collection of poisonous snakes which are “milked” daily for their venom in order to produce invaluable anti-snakebite serum. Open: Mon–Fri from 8.30 a.m.to 4.30 p.m.; Sat, Sun and Public Holidays from8.30 a.m. to 12 noon Venom extraction: Mon-Fri at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m.; holidays at 11 a.m. Slide presentation in English: Mon-Fri at 10.30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; holidays at 10.30 a.m. (30 minutes before venom) extraction. Admission: Adult 200 baht; Child 50 baht Tel: 0 2252 0161-4
Safari World (ซาฟารีเวิลด์)  Bangkok’s greatest open zoo and leisure park is located in Min Buri, via Km. 9 on Raminthra Road. The 300-acre complex comprises a Safari Park populated by African and Asian mammals, a Marine Park with amusing performances of well-trained dolphins and seals, a Bird Park and a Games Corner. Open: Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m; Sat, Sun and Public Holidays from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Admission: Adult 700 baht; Child 450 baht Tel: 0 2518 1000-19, 0 2914 4100-19
Crocodile Farm & Zoo This place is the largest crocodile farm in the world and is certainly worth visiting, if not just to see the crocodile wrestling and acrobat elephant shows. There is an education and research center for the preservation of wildlife and also a dinosaur museum. A fun day out for all the family. Admission: 300 baht for adults, 200 baht for children Location: 30 kilometres from Bangkok in Samutprakan. Go by organised local tour, or take a taxi or car Contact: +66 (0)2 387 0020 Open: 07:00 - 18:00 (daily)
Snake Farm This snake farm is home to poisonous snakes such as: Cobras, Malayan Pit Vipers, King Cobras, Banded Kraits, to Russell Vipers but all their venom has been extracted. There is also a side-show. The old name for this attraction was the Pasteur Institute. Admission: 70 baht Location: Corner of Henry Dunant and Rama IV Roads Open: 08:30 - 16:30 (weekdays); 08:30 to 12:00 noon (Weekends & holidays) Shows Times: 11:00 and 15:30 (weekdays); 11:00 (weekends & holidays)
Bangkok Butterfly Garden & Insectarium This is a large enclosure with rockeries, shady ferns, wild flowers and a cooling waterfall - the insects' natural habitat and around 500 butterflies at any given time.
Dream World (ดรีมเวิลด์)  Situated at km.7 of Rangsit-Ongkharak Road, this large amusement park houses a European style plaza, miniature land of major world legends, and offer exciting rides, shows and games. Open: Weekdays from 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. Holidays from 10 a.m.to 7 p.m Admission: 450 baht Tel: 0 2533 1152.
Siam Park City (สวนสยาม)  Located in suburban Min Buri on Sukhaphiban 2 Road, this water amusement park contains a man-made sea with towering slides. Satellite attractions include children’s playgrounds, aviaries, an open zoo and a botanical garden. Open: Daily from 10 a.m.to 6 p.m. Admission: Adult 200 baht; Child 100 baht Tel: 0 2919 7200-19
In addition to the amusement parks as mentioned above, many leading department stores in Bangkok also provide an indoor amusement area such as Fantasia Lagoon at the Mall (Bang Khae), Tel. 0 2487 1000, The Mall (Bang Kapi), Tel. 0 2173 1000, Leo Land at Central City (Bangna), Tel. 0 2361 0888, Seacon Square (Si Nakharin), Tel. 0 2721 8888, Future Park (Bang Khae), Tel. 0 2455 0173-5, Imperial World (Samrong), Tel. 0 2756 8217-52, Fashion Island, Tel: 0 2947 5000, and so on.
The Chao Phraya River & Bangkok’s Canals (Khlongs) Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the designation ‘Venice of the East’. Surviving canals and the Chao Phraya River provide memorable vignettes of traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over the centuries. The river and canals may be conveniently explored by chartered boat from Tha Chang (Chao Phraya Express Boat Tel: 0 2222 5330, 0 2225 3003 or www.chaophrayaboat.co.th, Mit Chao Phraya Tel: 0 2225 6179, 0 2221 2297), a pier near the Grand Palace, or Tha Si Phraya (Si Phraya Boat Trip.Co.th Tel: 0 2235 3108) near the River City Shopping Complex. Tourists can also book such a tour through travel agents.
Dinner Cruise Riverine Bangkok offers some of the capital’s most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and light reflections bestow the Chao Phraya River with flickering magic and romance. An ideal way of combining dining with riverine enchantment is to enjoy a river dinner cruise. Reservations, current prices, conditions and departure times may be obtained from travel agents or the following organisers: Dairy Queen Tel: 0 2921 8670-5; Grand Pearl Tel: 0 2861 0255-60 ; Horizon Cruise Tel: 0 2236 7777 ; Khanab Nam Tel: 0 2433 6611 ; Loy Nava Tel: 0 2437 4932, 0 2437 7329 www.loynava.com ; Maeyanang Tel: 0 2659 9000 ext. 7306 ; Manohra Tel: 0 2476 0021-2 ; Riverside Tel: 0 2883 158 ; Wan Fah Tel: 0 2622 7657-61 ext. 405 and Yok Yor Marina Tel: 0 2863 0565-6.
Cruise to Ayutthaya The luxurious cruise from Bangkok to the former capital of Ayutthaya is operated by Chao Phraya Princess Cruise Tel: 0 2860 3700, Horizon Cruise Tel: 0 2236 7777, River Sun Cruise Tel: 0 2266 9316, 0 2266 9125-6, Manohra Tel: 0 2476 0021-2, Grand Pearl Tel: 0 2861 0255-60 and Asian Oasis (on the Mekhala) http://www.asian-oasis.com Tel: 02 655 6245 (start at 2:30PM from Wat Yannawa in Bangkok, arrives next day 10:00AM in Bang-Pa In or the other way round, same time).
All of Thailand's major festivals are celebrated in Bangkok, see Thailand#Holidays for the full scoop.
The National Theatre (โรงละครแห่งชาติ), located on Na Phra That Road next to the National Museum, is the official centre of Thai classical performance. Call 0 2224 1342, 0 2222 1092 for a current programme.
Thailand Cultural Centre (ศูนย์วัฒนธรรมแห่งประเทศไทย), on Ratchadaphisek Road, is a fully integrated venue for social education and cultural activities. Call 0 2247 0028 for a current programme. or www.culture.go.th.
Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre (เฉลิมกรุงรอยัลเธียเตอร์) is located on Charoen Krung Road (New Road) near the Old Siam Plaza. Thai dramas and plays are usually held while Khon or Thai musical dance drama is a special event that is staged occasionally. Call 0 2225 8757-8, 0 2623 8148-9 for more information.
Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (นาฏยศาลา หุ่นละครเล็ก) is located within the same area as Suan Lum Night Bazaar and presents the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. The establishment of this theatre was inspired by the intention of Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot or Joe Louis, the National Artist of 1996, who wished to preserve the art of operating Hun Lakhon Lek puppets. In operating the puppets, the puppeteers require basic skills of Khon performance as they will have to also move their footsteps and hand gestures to coincide with those of the puppets. Each puppet is operated by three puppeteers, lending it lifelike movements. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs the story of Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand. The troupe received the Thailand Tourism Award presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 2000 in the category of Recreational Attraction.
There is 1 daily show of Hun Lakhon Lek at 7.30 p.m. There is also a corner inside the theatre where Khon mask making is demonstrated, with a gallery of the Hun Lakhon Lek puppets and their background. The theatre is open during 5 p.m. - 9.45 p.m. Admission: Adult 900 baht; Child 300 baht Tel: 0 2252 9683-4 or www.joelouis-theater.com
Patravadi Theatre (ภัทราวดีเธียเตอร์) is near Wat Rakhang, Thon Buri. Renowned for its lavish productions, this outdoor theatre has gained popularity through its modern adaptations of classical Asian literature, with each play demonstrating an ingenious blend of various theatrical techniques. Showtime is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Call 0 2412 7287-8 or www.patravaditheatre.com for a current programme.
Siam Niramit (สยามนิรมิต) is located on Thiam Ruam Mit Road, diagonally across from the Thailand Cultural Centre, next to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Khet Huai Khwang. It has state-of-the-art cultural performances which have achieved international standards. It uses special techniques integrated with drama to depict the history of each region of Thailand. The story also includes depictions about hells, the forest of Himmaphan, heavens and lands beyond imagination from Thai literature, all of which are influenced by the Thai common beliefs. There is also a spectacular performance of Thailand’s arts and cultural heritage. The show is staged by more than 150 performers in a luxurious theatre with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats. The showtime is at 8.00 p.m. only and the ticket costs Bt1,500. Before admiring the performances, visitors can walk outside the theatre to see typical Thai houses in various styles depending on the four different regions. Food and drink shops are available. For further information, please contact Tel. 0 2649 9222, or Fax. 0 2649 9200 or www.siamniramit.com.
Bangkok is an extremely popular place for all sorts of pampering. The options available range from massages and spa treatments to haircuts and manicures and even cosmetic surgery, all at prices far lower than in the West.
Boxing Stadiums: There are two venues in Bangkok for this type of sport.
Spas - Spas, traditionally, were towns where public baths, hospitals or hotels were built on top of mineral springs so that people could come and make use of the healing properties found in the water and its mud for medical purposes.
These days, a spa doesn’t have to be a town built on natural thermal springs. It can be a place anywhere that anyone can go to, to relax in tranquil surroundings with a variety of treatment administered to recontour and rejuvenate the body and mind.
To escape the pressures and rowdiness of the concrete city, golf in Thailand has risen to be one of the most popular activities to help ease the mind and body. Located in and around the capital are some top-notch courses of only the highest international standards. An abundance of foreigners these days come to Thailand, specifically to play golf and the numbers continue to go up and up each year.
Golf Courses (in and around Bangkok)
Cinemas in Bangkok Coming from the West, the cost of a cinema ticket is a complete bargain, around $4US or 120Baht. Most of the cinemas are of the highest world-class standards and show all the latest releases. Major Cineplex on Rangsit Road, north of Don Muang Airport is the largest cinema in Asia with 16 screens.
Bowling in Bangkok Just like the capital’s cinemas, bowling centers are of a superb standard with some of them resembling the inside of a discotheque. Dance while you play style. Some places downtown include:
Where to go
Karaoke: Top class private karaoke lounges can be found at some of the bowling centers and major hotels.
Thai Boxing Schools
Thai cuisine is a favorite of many, and many cooking schools provide half-day classes that provide a nice break from the day-to-day sightseeing monotony.
Other schools include:
A Thai cooking class is also arranged by some of the top hotels. They are:
Meditation, the essence of ‘pure’ Buddhism, can be practiced at any temple in Thailand. In Bangkok however, there are also two well-known centers that cater specifically to foreigners wishing to learn or/and practice.
Meditation: If you can speak and understand Thai language well, you may wish to go on your own retreat at a quiet temple on the outskirts of Bangkok. To pay for your stay it is appreciated that you assist the resident monks on their morning alms rounds.
Bangkok is full of shopping malls and street markets of all types, especially in the Sukhumvit area; see the section for details. Prices can be cheap by Western standards, especially for locally produced items such as clothes, although bargaining is expected and required. Dump a teenager in Siam Center, Siam Square, Siam Paragon, MBK or The Emporium with a few thousand baht and they'll stay occupied for the rest of the week! Most malls tend to have excellent food courts.
Weekend Market: A major attraction on weekends is the gigantic Chatuchak Weekend Market (a.k.a. JJ Market), in northern Bangkok but easily accessible by Skytrain and Metro. Take the metro and get off Kamphaeng Phet station which opens right into the market. Takes around an hour on the bus from Khao San Road area. If you're staying in Pratunam, metered fare should not go beyond 100 baht. Has 20,000 stalls selling everything from counterfeit goods, animals, art, furniture and probably anything else you can think of. Definitely worth a visit for the sheer size of it. There are food stalls everywhere. Forego the cutesy cafes for the humbler stalls. Flavored iced and fried wontons will provide fuel for the whole day. Closes at around 6PM. Keep a close eye on your valuables.
Night Market: Hugely popular with tourists & locals alike is the open air Suan Lum Night Bazaar. This is a large and colourful market offering bargains on everything from clothes, bags, crockery to organic foods. A smaller, cooler and cleaner version of Chatuchak - same wares sold for 20% more. There is a large food court with a live band every night. Beer seems to be the official beverage of this place - lots of beer gardens here. Covered in more detail in the Silom section.
Patpong Night Market: Between the strip clubs and bars along Patpong Road is the Patpong night market. This market is designed for tourists and is not frequented by locals. These markets are home to a variety of counterfeit merchandise including watches, clothes, bags, and cosmetics as well as Thai tourist products such as model tuk-tuks and kick-boxing shorts. The prices at this market are exorbitant and anyone brave enough to buy anything here should bargain extensively. Most items available at Patpong Night Market are available for less than half the price at other locations in Bangkok.
What to buy
Where to buy
Shopping Areas and Markets
Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets. There are many areas throughout Bangkok affording ample choices and easy access. The following is just a selection of some of the principal shopping areas.
Top department stores and luxury shopping malls are concentrated in the area, namely Central, Gaysorn Plaza, Isetan, Zen, Erawan Bangkok, Peninsula Plaza, all of which together make the largest shopping promenade in Bangkok. Furthermore, Central World Plaza and Narayana Phand Pavilion, host the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country. Ratchaprasong intersection is the gateway to several shopping areas such as Phloenchit-Sukhumvit, Siam Square-Mahboonkrong, Silom and Pratunam-Phetchaburi.
Silom Road is the main artery of Bangkok’s commercial heart and is paralleled by Surawong Road, while Patpong Road runs crosswise between the two. In addition to housing dozens of specialist shops and boutiques representing all the major buys, this area also boasts many branches of well-known retailers , Tailors and several shopping plazas.Montien Plaza being the most famous and Excelsior tailors. Street stalls also abound, most notably at Patpong’s famous night market.
Silom leads into Charoen Krung Road which parallels the Chao Phraya River, and notable shopping opportunities include gems and jewellery stores (Mahesak Road is a gem trading centre), Oriental Plaza and River City shopping complex.
Like Silom, Sukhumvit is one of Bangkok’s main thoroughfares, and the long road is lined with shops, boutiques and modern shopping plazas ranging from Soi 3 (Nana Nua) up to Soi 63 (Ekkamai). Most shops and restaurants are concentrated between Soi 3 and Soi 21 (Asok) and along shortcuts between Asok and Ekkamai. Sombat Permpoon Gallery at Sukhumvit Soi 1 sells both paintings and sculptures by established artists and those of the new generation.
A highlight in the district is Pratunam market, one of Bangkok’s biggest centres for ready-to-wear clothing.
Baiyoke Tower (ตึกใบหยก) Located next to Bangkok’s tallest hotel building, Baiyoke tower is one of the city’s renowned garment centres.
Situated close to Pratunam Market, Nai Lert Market is one of many shopping areas in Bangkok where you can buy just about everything from clothing to handicrafts.
Situated close to the Grand Palace, Bang Lamphu has a lively market where clothing is a popular buy.
In the center of Yaowarat Road and Sampheng Lane, Bangkok’s Chinatown offers a profusion of gold shops as well as several nearby traditional shopping places such as Ban Mo Jewellery Street, Phahurat Cloth Market and the Old Siam Plaza.
Situated close to Bangkok Railway Station, Bo-be is one of the city’s most renowned ready-to-wear clothing centres, both wholesale and retail.
Located adjacent to Chatuchak Park, the weekend market, open on Saturday and Sunday, is a Bangkok landmark where shoppers can buy just about everything from clothing to potted plants and everything in between - - a paradise for browsers and bargain-hunters alike. The market also offers items of furniture and home decor. It is also where professional and amateur art-lovers and artists meet.
This is a wholesale market for all kinds of cut flowers and vegetables. It is located on Maharat Road near the Memorial Bridge. The market is crowded in the early morning and in the evening.
A night market beneath Phra Phuttayotfa Bridge, known locally as Saphan Phut, selling second-hand items such as clothes, shoes and many other items.
The name literally means “behind the Ministry” and refers to an area behind the Ministry of Defence on Atsadang Road, which runs along Khlong Lot. On sale are military items such as uniforms, territorial defence student uniforms, shoes as well as travelling accessories like tents, sleeping bags and camping pots. There are shops selling musical instruments nearby.
Located in a soi off Charoen Nakhon Road, the area offers items like ready-to-wear clothes for teenagers and shoes at relatively low prices.
A quarter of Thai and Chinese antiquities and art objects such as blue-and-white porcelain, brass ware and furniture decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay. It is located near Charoen Krung and Yaowarat Roads.
This is a pot plants market along the bank of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem off Samsen Road.
Handicrafted products are available at the Chitralada Shop, which offers items from the SUPPORT Foundation, or at Narayana Phand Pavilion on Ratchadamri Road, open daily during 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tel. 0 2252 4670-9 and 0 2255 4328-9.
The floating market is located in front of Taling Chan District Office and renders a blend of a rural market and canal side way of life. On weekends during 7 a.m.-5 p.m., vendors who are in fact local farmers take their produce including plants, vegetables, fruits, fish and various kinds of food to this market for sale. The produce varies seasonally. There are also floating food shops and a private-run canal tour service for visitors to enjoy the district’s canal side way of life as well as farming. Open: Sat-Sun Admission: free Tel: For more details, please contact Khun Noppadol, Head of the Floating Markets Community at Tel. 08 1374 7616 or Taling Chan District Office, Tel. 0 2424 1742 and 0 2424 5448.
Situated in Chom Thong district on the Thonburi side of Bangkok, this floating market used to be a popular touristic site for visitors to admire a canal side way of life. Construction of new roads within the area left the floating market abandoned before it was recently revived to resume its charm. A canal tour along this historic waterway to enjoy the floating market crowded with boats of farm produce for sale as well as life along the banks of Khlong Sanam Chai, especially on weekends, is available. Stop to visit Tamnak Thong and the old Ho Klong - a drum tower - of Ayutthayan architecture at Wat Sai, a Chinese style royal residence of King Rama III and Chinese sculpture at Wat Ratcha-orot, pay respect to the bejewelled Buddha image and appreciate mural paintings depicting the Chinese tale of Sam Kok or ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ at Wat Nang Nong, pay respect to Luangpu Thao at Wat Nang and view a snake-catching show at a snake farm on the bank of Khlong Dan.
To get there, drive along Ekachai Road that runs by Wat Sai or take bus No. 43 or 120 from Wongwian Yai. A boat for rent is also available from Tha Chang or Chang Pier along the Chao Phraya River and into canals to Wat Sai. Open: Daily Admission: Free
This popular attraction is some 80 kilometres west of Bangkok, accessible by regular bus from the Southern Bus Terminal. Everyday, hundreds of vendor boats crowd the market area in the early morning till noon.
Bangkok not only has plenty of Thai restaurants, but a wide-selection of world-class international cuisine too. Prices are generally high by Thai standards, but cheap by international standards; a good meal is unlikely to cost more than 300 baht, although there are a few restaurants (primarily in hotels) where you can easily spend 10 times this. Of course, for those on a budget street stalls abound with noodle & meals at around 30 baht. Try:
Bangkok's nightlife used to be round-the clock but due to recent social order campaigns there have been quite a lot of crack-downs. Nearly all restaurants, bars and clubs are now forced to close before 1 AM, a few are allowed to stay open till 2 AM. (Informal sidewalk bars do stay open all night, particularly in lower Sukhumvit.) You must carry your passport for ID checks and police occasionally raid bars, subjecting all customers to drug tests (discos only), though these mostly occur at places that cater for hi-society Thais.
One of Bangkok's main party districts is Silom, home not only to perhaps the world's most famous go-go bar strip Patpong, but plenty of more legitimate establishments catering to all tastes. For a drink with a view, the open-air rooftop bar/restaurants of Vertigo and Sirocco are particularly impressive. Similar bars to the ones at Patpong can be found in the lower Sukhumvit area, at Nana Entertainment Plaza (soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (soi 23), while a large number of more trendy and more expensive bars and nightclubs can be found in the higher sois as well, eg. Thong Lor (soi 55), Bed Supperclub, Q Bar, or Met bar. Hippie hangout Khao San Road is also slowly gentrifying and a score of young trendy Thai teenagers have also made their mark there. Most of the younger Thais though, still prefer to congregate around Ratchadaphisek Road.
Smoking is forbidden in all restaurants, bars and nightclubs, whether air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned.
Go-go and beer bars
If this sounds like a thinly veiled veneer for prostitution, it is. Though some point to the large number of American GIs during the Vietnam War as the point of origin of the Thai sex trade, others have claimed that current Thai attitudes towards sexuality have deeper roots in Thai history. Both go-go and beer bars are squarely aimed at the foreign tourists and it's fairly safe to assume that most if not all Thais in them are on the take. That said, it's perfectly OK to check out these shows without actually partaking, and there are more and more curious couples and even the occasional tour group attending. The main areas are around Patpong, Nana Entertainment Plaza and Soi Cowboy.
See also the Stay safe|Prostitution section.
Thais are generally accepting of homosexuality and Bangkok has a very active gay nightlife scene, concentrated in Silom Sois 2 & 4 and a short strip of gay go-gos bars off nearby Th Surawong. Most of these bars, however, are aimed at gay men and the lesbian scene is much more low-key. The most popular gay bars are Balcony and Telephone bar at Silom soi 4, and for the disco crowd DJ Station and its late-night neighbour G.O.D., which are located at Silom soi 2 (packed every night beginning around 11 p.m.). Bangkok's two two full-time lesbian bars are Zeta and Shela, with Lesla also open on Saturday nights only. Bring along your passport for entrance age checking (they do not allow people under 20 years old). Closing time is 2-3 a.m.
In a league of their own are Bangkok's numerous transsexuals (kathoey), both pre- and post-operative, popularly known as ladyboys. Some work in the famed transvestite cabarets and there are some dedicated kathoey bars as well, but most do their best to blend in and many have the art of deception down pat. Telltale signs to look out for include tall height, large hands and an Adam's apple.
Note that some Thai regulars in the gay nightlife scene skirt the fine line between partying and prostitution, and the Western visitor, being considered richer, is expected to pay any food and drink expenses and perhaps provide some "taxi money" in the morning. It's usually wise to ask a boy you pick up in a bar or club if he is after money, as it's not uncommon for them to start demanding money after sex.
Bangkok has a vast range of accommodation, including some of the best hotels in the world — and some of the worst dives too. Broadly speaking, Khao San Road is backpacker city; the riverside by Rattanakosin is home to The Oriental and The Peninsula, often ranked among the best in the world (and priced to match); and Sukhumvit Road has hotels (and hostels) for all budgets. When choosing your digs, pay careful attention to Skytrain and Metro access; a well-placed station will make your stay in Bangkok much more comfortable.
Boutique hotels have mushroomed in Bangkok during the past few years, they usually provide less number of rooms (usually 10 or less) and a more personalized service. With most types of accommodations, a majority of boutique hotels can be found in the Old Bangkok (Rattanakosin Island) and Sukhumvit Road area.
One Bangkok hotel phenomenon of note is the guest fee of around 500 baht added to your bill if you bring along a newly found friend for the night, (very few if any hotels, even five-stars, will actually refuse guests). This is obviously aimed at controlling local sex workers, which is why hotel security will usually also hold onto your guest ID card for the duration of the visit, but some hotels will also apply it to Western visitors — or, more embarrassingly, try to apply it to your Thai partner.
Internet cafes abound in Bangkok, see the district pages for listings. You'll generally be looking at rates of around 0,5-1 baht/minute. An increasing number of cafes and pubs, including the ubiquitous Coffee World  chain, offer free Wifi to their customers.
For the best options of calling abroad, as well as accessing Internet via GPRS/EDGE, see general Thailand article.
As a rule of thumb, it is wise to decline all offers made by someone who appears to be a friendly local giving a hapless tourist some local advice. Most Bangkok locals do not approach foreigners without an ulterior motive.
In 2008, political unrest hit the headlines, with the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) closing down both of Bangkok's airports for a week and several people killed in political violence. After the new prime minister has been elected, things are more or less back to normal, but the situation remains unstable.
DO NOT GET INTO FIGHTS WITH THE LOCALS. Thais are peace loving people but when it's a Thai versus a foreigner, it might NOT always be a fair fight. You'll wind up having to fight 10 to 20 others who were not initially involved. Thais are notorious for fighting with weaponry (knives, broken bottles, metal rods, Muay Thai). These are usually produced from their concealed locations, with foreigners getting seriously injured or worse. Avoid all confrontations.
The age of consent is 15 but a higher minimum age of 18 applies in the case of prostitutes. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh.
All adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state that they were born in 2533 or earlier if they were over the age of 18 on January 1st 2009 (in the Thai calendar, CE 2009 is the year 2552). Many hotels retain the ID cards of prostitutes for the duration of their visit.
Whilst most prostitutes are employed by bars or similar businesses, some are "freelancers". Petty theft and other problems are more common with "freelancers".
HIV/AIDS awareness is better than it used to be but infection statistics among entertainment industry workers remain high; "freelancers" are the highest risk group. Almost all girls insist on using condoms.
Technically, some aspects of prostitution are illegal (eg. soliciting, pimping), however enforcement is liberal and brothels are commonplace. It's not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a "barfine" (a fee the bar collects if you want to take an employee away).
The novel The Butterfly Trap (ISBN 1904502377) gives a realistic first-person account of Bangkok's nightlife industry.
Tap water is generally not potable. Liquids from sealed bottles nearly always are, and should be used wherever possible. Take care in restaurants...many may use unsafe tap water to make ice for drinks otherwise made with bottled/safe ingredients. Some residents claim that ice with round holes is made by commercial ice makers who purify their water; others state that it is wise not to rely on that claim. Tap water in hotels should not be used for drinking or brushing teeth unless explicitly labeled as safe.
As elsewhere in Thailand, be careful with what you eat. Outside of major tourist hotels and resorts, stay away from raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise and minced meat are particularly risky. In short, stick to boiled, baked, fried, or peeled goods.
A listing of the main dental clinics in Bangkok that have English-speaking dentists and staff:
If you want to get out of the city for a while, there are plenty of day trip options from Bangkok.