Bangkok might translate as 'City of Angels', but angelic it ain’t. Insane wealth, abject poverty and oppressive heat and pollution combine to make this a real assault on the senses. But look beyond that and there is a wealth of stuff to see, do and learn in Bangkok.
Top five things to do in Bangkok
Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Home to the largest Buddha in Thailand (he measures in at 150 feet long) and his extraordinary feet, this temple was also a centreof medicine and learning – it’s the home of the traditional Thai massage. Part of a complex of buildings which offer much to see, you should definitely make time to come here.
Built in 1782, this palace is still the spiritual heart and seat of power in the Kingdom of Thailand. It houses many magnificent structures, statues and though the King doesn’t live here anymore, it’s still fit for him, if he should ever want to move back in.
One of the biggest shopping centres in Asia; this is bursting at the seams with restaurants, a multiplex movie theatre (which boasts the biggest screen and seating capacity in Asia), the Siam Ocean World aquarium, an exhibition hall, an opera house, bowling alley and karaoke centre. If that isn’t enough, there are always the rows of shops.
Sukhumvit Road Street Market
Located in a major shopping district this market sells everything from trousers to toasters. Not much more to say about it, really, except to go and see it.
The park features statues, ponds and bridges, and when it was built in the 1920s it stood on the outskirts of the city. Now in the centre of town, this oasis of calm in a city that can get to be too much is a welcome retreat. It’s named after the birthplace of the Buddha in Nepal.
For those on a budget, Khao San Road in Banglamphu is the best bet; there are many cheap guesthouses and cafés. It's in a great location too, near the river and the top sights such as the Grand Palace and Wat Po. Siam Square and Sukhumvit Road offer good mid-range places but are a bit of a schlep to the traditional sights – traffic can make moving around the city a nightmare. For somewhere more upmarket, you should try the Silom Road or in the Riverside.
Where to eat and drink in Bangkok
Food is everywhere in Bangkok; it holds a special place in Thailand. The Thai people love to eat at anytime of the day, and whether you are looking for a five-star restaurant or a cheap street vendor (be sure of what you’re eating) you are never far away from somewhere that can meet your needs. The best areas are around Suriwong, Silom and Sathorn or by Ploenchit, Pathumwan and around Sukhumvit Road (also good for clubbing and bars). All of these places have a wide array of eateries and you will not go hungry. For something a bit different – though there is plenty of other food on offer – try the floating markets for fish or vegetables. If after your meal you feel like hitting the tiles, head to Khao San Road or Royal City Avenue for a few drinks and a dance. Be aware, though, that wine is expensive in Bangkok.
How to get around Bangkok
The Skytrain serves much of the city and single, pre-paid, one-day and three-day tickets are available. Taxis, like everything in Thailand if travelling from the west, are reasonably priced, but beware of people trying to rip you off – check for a working meter. A journey on a Tuk-Tuk is a must while in the city; fares are bargained for. Buses are crowded and confusing and probably best avoided. If you want to hire your own transport for getting around the city, make it a motorbike instead of a car or you’ll never get anywhere.
The best time to visit Bangkok
Bangkok has a tropical monsoon climate which hits between June and October; there are less tourists then than in the driest months between November and February. Join in the seemingly super-soaker sponsored New Year celebrations of Songkran in April and drench as many people as you can – you’ll be pleased of a drenching as this is the hottest time of the year. November sees the Festival of Loy Krathong where people release all kinds of rafts carrying candles; from small hand-sized ones made of banana leaves to enormous corporately-sponsored ones – it’s quite a sight. Also, there’s a real Salsa scene in Bangkok and its showpiece is the Salsa Bangkok Fiesta in September.
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