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Welcome to Bangkok


For big-city buzz, pulsating night-life, cultural attractions, shopping and Thai cuisine, Bangkok cannot be beaten.

Must-sees in Bangkok include the Erawan Shrine, Marble Temple, Vimanmek Museum, Grand Palace, and Wat Pho, Bangkok’s largest temple.  Shopping choices range from vast air-conditioned malls to colourful, boisterous markets and small shops selling delicate Thai handicrafts – the night markets are not to be missed. Take a side trip or river cruise outside Bangkok, see the evocative countryside surrounding the city, and visit the Damnoen Floating Market, the cultural show at the Rose Garden, and the magnificent temples at Ayutthaya.

Despite its pollution and overcrowding, Bangkok is undoubtedly one of Asia's most exciting cities, and one of the world's largest, promising to reveal to each traveller the wild and untamed mysteries of the east. Khao San Road is one of the city's most vibrant streets, and is probably one of the best examples in the world of a backpacker's 'ghetto'. Day and night the short stretch of road is abuzz with activity. On the banks of the Chao Phraya visitors will find the Grand Palace as well as Wat Phra Kaew, the palace temple housing the Emerald Buddha, constructed entirely from translucent green jade. Slightly upriver are the exquisitely ornamented Royal Barges, still used today for special floating processions.

Of the 30 or so temples in Bangkok, the largest is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which houses an impressive statue of the deity.

Information & Facts


Bangkok has a hot, tropical climate with daytime temperature reaching the mid-30s Celsius throughout the year. November to February is the driest time of year and the most popular with tourists. March, April and May are the hottest months, and the rainy season runs from May to October. During the wet season short showers are likely during the afternoon, though some days it will rain all day.

Eating Out

Food is an inescapable part of everything in Bangkok, with every home, market and small alley continually throwing chopped ingredients into a hot wok. This has made nearly everyone both an expert chef and food connoisseur, having the curious effect of finding the very best meals made in the most unexpected locations. While ambiance is often wanting, peeling walls and plastic chairs provide just enough bare bones restaurant amenities to serve the best food in the city. Portable food stalls line the busy streets, creating a continuous unofficial buffet. It is a mistake to be put off by such street vendors, as many tourists are, as they are Bangkok's great equaliser bringing the very richest and poorest together at a table. If your stomach is wary however, try one of the food courts in the shopping malls and markets for equally cheap and tasty eats. These are also a great alternative on Mondays, when street vendors are banned from trading. Try the clusters of stalls in Surawong and Silom Roads, the Khao San Road Area, and the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Choosing between one restaurant and another is a difficult task, but in general, follow the local crowds. For a quieter meal or more luxurious settings many unique restaurants can be fun. Some truly unique places can be found in Chinatown, with trendy dining along Sukhumvit and cheap western food in Banglamphu. The most romantic restaurants are along the Chao Phraya River or on it, aboard one of the many dinner cruises.

Getting Around

Bangkok is notorious for the huge volume of traffic and traffic jams, but this has eased slightly over the years with the introduction of the elevated monorail, the Skytrain, which currently has two lines running above Bangkok's central areas and provides a much quicker and easier alternative to the bus. The Bangkok Metro, established in 2004, has one route and covers areas not connected by the Skytrain. The Metro intersects with the Skytrain at three points and has 18 stations, with frequent services running until midnight. The extensive bus system has always been the main form of public transport, and they are the cheapest, most frequent mode of travel around the city (Bt3.50 to most destinations), but they should be used with care due to pickpockets and bag snatchers taking advantage of the squash.

The easiest, fastest and most interesting way to get around is on the waterways of the Chao Phraya River where numerous river taxis, long-tail boats and large waterbuses make most tourist sites easily reachable for about Bt10. Tuk tuks (colourful three-wheelers) are the standard way of making short journeys and are cheaper and quicker than regular taxis, but fares should be negotiated before boarding. Metered and un-metered taxis are air-conditioned, but be aware that drivers don't carry much change. Any taxi or tuk tuk can be hired for a day's tour of the sights (Bt500-800). If in a desperate rush during gridlock, motorcycle taxis can be hired, which are cheaper and faster, but passengers will need nerves of steel, and they should only be used for short distances. They can be recognised by the colourful, numbered vests worn by drivers.

Kids Attractions

Contrary to popular belief, Bangkok is a fantastic place for parents to bring their kids on holiday. From zoos and theme parks to museums and indoor playgrounds, there are plenty of things for children to see and do in Bangkok, more than enough to keep the little ones happy. When the sun is shining in this, one of the hottest cities in the world, take the kids to one of the fantastic water parks, such as Siam Park, Leoland Water Park, or even Fantasia Lagoon to cool off; or for something really cool, take the children ice skating at the Sub Zero Ice Skate Club. Want something a little less energetic? Take a stroll through the Queen Sirikit Gardens and stop in at the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium where the kids will enjoy the hundreds of beautifully-coloured butterflies dancing around them. When the weather in Bangkok is either too hot, or it's raining and outdoor activities with children are not an option, take the kids to one of the many indoor playgrounds dotted around the city, such as Yoyoland in the Seacon Square shopping complex, or Jamboree Land in the Emporium Shopping Complex. Older kids will enjoy the MBK Video Arcade, located in the MBK Shopping Centre.


Thai is the official language, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.


The unit of currency is the Baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. Currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks, hotels and bureaux de change. Banks are open Monday to Friday. ATMs are available in most cities and tourist resorts. Most large hotels and shops accept travellers cheques, but a better rate will be given at banks. Most major credit cards are accepted at hotels and larger businesses.


Neon lights, go-go bars, ladyboys and mysterious cocktails: Bangkok's nightlife enjoys an international reputation for wild abandon.

Go-go bars in Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and in the strip clubs surrounding Pat Pong night market aren't only the territory of the unscrupulous but also expat hangouts with cheap drinks and an open air feel. The bright lights, cat calls, costumed patrons and scandalous behaviour will make one's head start to swim. Thai Red Bull is next added to the concoction, giving a jolt of energy to the night. Hip clubs with hip-hop beats and electro rhythms (often at the same place) vie for hot spot coolness. RCA sports a block of trendy and densely packed clubs for young party goers. To spread out, literally, Bed Club has long been at the centre of the cool crowd and offers an ultra modern bed spread interior. Khao San road is known more as a backpacker hangout but underneath (again, literally) are popular Thai clubs like Lava with a cavernous appeal and trans music mixing with the Billboard's top ten. Less eccentric but reliable Coca-Cola gives the bucket its sweet taste. Up and down Bangkok are the standard assortment of pubs, chic hotel lounges and bars. Many foreigners prefer sections closer to Sukhumvit Road but parts of Banglamphu (Khao San excluded) and Ratchadeaphiseck have more trendy local bars. Giant beer gardens are always a fun way to sample the local brew and entertainment. Lastly, a handful of friends are needed to drink away the bucket and the night.


Anyone who's been to Thailand will know that the shopping in Bangkok is second to none - you can literally shop till you drop! Prices are cheap, markets line the streets touting everything from fake designer wares to cheap leather sandals and tourist t-shirts, bargains are endless and haggling is a way of life. Many of the items for sale are the same throughout all the markets in Thailand so it's best to scout around for some original-looking buys.

Patpong night market is a must and great fun to wander through on a balmy Bangkok evening, though bear in mind this market is situated in the red light district of the city so don't be alarmed at the touts and half naked ladies outside the bars. Khao San road is also brimming with stalls selling all kinds of counterfeit clobber. Plenty of snacks and eats can also be found on the side of the road stalls, but watch out for some of the more unconventional Thai delicacies, such as deep fried locusts. The biggest market in Bangkok is the Chatuchak Weekend Market, with 15,000 stalls selling spices, leather goods, and practically everything under the sun that can fit inside a tourist's backpack.

The MBK Shopping Centre in Bangkok offers more expensive and better quality wares than the markets on the sides of the streets and prices here when converted are not much cheaper than in other countries. Other popular shopping malls include Central World, Erawan, Mah Boon Krong, and Panthip Plaza. Sukhumvit is the place to go for fahion, designer goods and custom-made suits.

Many shops are open seven days a week and 12 hours a day while street markets have longer hours, often staying open until 11pm. VAT in Thailand is 7% and this can be refunded on goods bought to the value of 2,000 Baht (including VAT) in shops labelled 'VAT refund for tourists'. Forms must be completed at the point of purchase and your passport must be shown. Shoppers can obtain their cash refunds to the minimum value of 5,000 Baht in the airport departure hall.


The most visited attractions in Bangkok expose visitors to Thailand's fascinating history despite Bangkok's relatively recent construction as a city. The most impressive of these is the enormous and extremely ornate Grand Palace, and the adjacent Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Numerous temples spread over older districts near Chao Phraya River, making up an inexhaustible number of interesting visits, each one uniquely religiously significant.

Attractions in Bangkok aren't all serene sights as the city has also holds a vibrant and flashy appeal. Among the most fun of attractions is watching a Muay Thai boxing fight; put some money down to increase the thrills. Bustling markets, which sell literally almost everything, can be wandered for a full day, especially the giant Chatuchak weekend market.

The unique character of Bangkok neighbourhoods encompass many small treasures. Both Khao San road in Banglamphu district and alleys off of Sukhumvit are attractions in themselves. The first is a backpacker's Disneyland, and the second an expat playground famous for its debauchery. Little Arabia, a middle-eastern district, is also a unique and fun place to explore. Hiring a river cruise is the only real tour of the city, although only a few attractions are visited.


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This is the former capital of Siam from 1350 until mid 18th century and at one time was one of the largest cities in the world. The capital was relocated to Bangkok in 1768 when the Burmese army destroyed much of Ayutthaya. Today tourists needn't imagine too much to experience splendour of the old capital as many of the enormous structures are still there. Multiple busses (a bit over an hour) and trains arrive daily from Bangkok and a boat up the Chao Phraya River to Ayutthaya can be organised through travel agencies. Although many organised tours in Thailand can be a frustrating experience, a tour guide here can give some fascinating history to the already impressive wats. This is an easy way to experience some of the ancient history of Siam as Bangkok is relatively new.

Located between the Queen Sirikit Gardens and the Children's Discovery Museum, this massive enclosure with rockeries, plants, ferns and a waterfall features some of the most dazzling beautiful butterflies in Thailand. Boasting dozens of species, including rare butterflies, looking up at the dome at any given moment, visitors can see over 500 butterflies, such as the Golden Birdwing or Siam Tree Nymph. The Queen Sirikit Gardens are a wonderful place to take a walk and feature magnificently coloured flowers, mazes, ponds and shady trees. Visitors who come here can enjoy a wonderful day of stunning gardens and scenery, butterfly spotting and even picnicking.

Originally built in 1782, the National Museum is located within the grounds of the Royal Palace, just a 15 minute walk from the palace of the Emerald Buddha, and displays thousands of artefacts ranging all the way from Neolithic times to present day. It is known as Thailand's central treasury of art and archaeology. Many of the actual buildings are works of art themselves, surrounded by brightly-coloured pavilions and boasting some of Southeast Asia's most ornate jewellery and historical treasures.

Chatuchak or JJ market is said to be the largest flea market in the world. 'Organized' along narrow grid lines under tin roofs, this enormous market is packed tight with all of Thailand's wears. Around 15,000 stalls are loosely categorised into clothing, crafts, food, and animal sections and it is easy to become disoriented quickly. Some of Thailand's illegally traded animals are sold here and vendors are quick to spot signs of oncoming raids. Yet a host of legal but bizarre goods are traded; cock fighting roosters, monkeys, fake designer gear and antiques are just the tip of the iceberg. The market is only open on the weekends from 8am to 6pm and on Fridays for wholesalers. It is easily reached by the sky train from the Mo Chit station and by subway.

Featuring eight different sections, the Children's Discovery Museum in Bangkok provides hands on experience into science, nature, culture and society. Featuring a Body and Mind Gallery, a Culture and Society Gallery and a Technology Gallery, children can learn about a multitude of sciences in an interesting and enjoyable way. The best times to visit are in early morning and late afternoon, in order to avoid large school groups.

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is an escape from the Western-style shopping malls of Bangkok and a glimpse into the past, revealing the centuries' old way of life of the residents whose stilt-houses perch on the canals. Visitors can explore the market with boat trips and sample the wares of local farmers as they do so. They can also enjoy the experience of floating through one of Thailand's many river villages.

Built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) as his private garden adjacent to the royal palace, the Dusit Zoo is Thailand's oldest zoo. This zoo boasts an animal hospital, zoo museum and educational centre, sightseeing train, activity ground and cafeteria. Kids will love exploring everything that the Dusit Zoo has to offer and meeting animals such as tigers, monkeys, penguins and camels.

American silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson deserves most of the credit for the current popularity of Thai silk around the world. His fame increased when, in 1967, Thompson disappeared in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia under mysterious circumstances. He has never been heard of since. The house itself is an excellent example of Thai residential architecture, and inside is a display of his Oriental art and antique collection, as well as an array of his personal belongings.

Eighty miles (130km) west of Bangkok, the town of Kanchanaburi has secured its position of infamy as the original site of the Bridge Over The River Kwai, where during World War II allied prisoners of war were used by the Japanese to build the Death Railway and thousands died at the hands of their captors. With its modern hotels and welcoming air, Kanchanaburi seems an unlikely setting, but the bridge is still in use and the graves of the Allied soldiers are testament to the town's unfortunate past. Worth a visit is the JEATH (Japan, England, Australia/America, Thailand and Holland) War Museum in Kanchanaburi, which recounts experiences in the Japanese POW camps during the War. The Sai Yok Yai Waterfall in the Sai Yok National Park is a place of idyllic beauty and makes a good excursion from Kanchanaburi; the falls are widely celebrated in Thai poetry and songs.

An easy day trip out of Bangkok is the two and half hour, 150 km (100 mile), train ride to the Monkey Temple in the town of Lopburi. Legend has it the temple was founded by a fallen arrow of Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God. The animal kingdom hierarchy is reversed here as the temple gives the monkeys free roam and food. Often novelty turns into nervousness as visitors are followed by crowds of the impolite inhabitants. Keep watch of loose items like glasses, purses, and especially food as the monkeys are keen pickpockets and they bite. November is the Monkey Festival in Lopburi but it is interesting to visit year-round.

Fight fans will get a kick out of Thailand's national sport Muay Thai. The matches can be best watched at the Rajadamnern stadium but be warned, the prices for foreigners or farangare much more than local's. Usually less than 10 matches are arranged for a night but the brutality of the style means that some of these result in quick KOs. The events are a mix of traditional Thai music and traditional pre-match customs before the hard hitting fight that utilises elbows, knees, fists, and shins to knock out the opponent. Several types of tickets are available, the more expensive fight floor, and the more rowdy informal gambling area on the second tier. Tourists should watch their hand movements as they can be interpreted as willingness to bet. Fights can be seen on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays in the evening. Lumpini Park also showcases fights to a more touristy audience.

The Royal Barges National Museum houses several decorative royal barges, the earliest of which dates back to 1357. Most of the barges served as War Vessels at one point, and were subsequently used on royal or state occasions on the Chao Phraya River. Due to their age the barges are now rarely used, but their intricate designs reflecting Thai religious beliefs and local history are of great importance to the country's heritage. The barges were last used at the end of 1999 to celebrate the king's 72nd birthday.

Construction of the palace began in 1782 and was completed in time for the coronation of King Rama I, and opened in 1785 to signify the end of the Burmese invasion of Thailand. The palace itself is made up of a complex array of smaller buildings, most notably the Wat Mahatat (the Palace Temple) and the Wat Phra Keow (the Royal Chapel), which houses the famous Emerald Buddha sculpted from a single piece of jade, and one of the most revered objects in the Kingdom.

Located in the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, the Siam Ocean World is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia and features seven different zones; from weird and wonderful and deep reef, to living ocean and rocky shore. The aquarium features 30,000 marine animals, including Oriental Small Clawed otters, ragged-tooth sharks, stingrays and giant groupers. Children will simply love Siam Ocean World.

Originally set up to extract the venom from snakes to make anti-venom and research the venom, the Snake Farm is the place to take the kids if they're interested in these slithering creatures. Featuring Cobras, Malayan Pit Vipers, King Cobras, Banded Kraits and Russell Vipers, the Snake Farm educates the public on snakes and safety surrounding them.

Dating back to the 13th century, Wat Traimit stands nearly 10ft (3m) tall, weighs over 5 tons and is believed to be solid cast gold. It was discovered by accident in 1957 when an old stucco image was dropped by a crane, shattering the plaster shell to reveal the brilliantly shining gold underneath. The statue is breathtaking and is thought to have come from the Sukhothai period when it was covered with plaster to hide it from the Burmese invaders.

Situated adjacent to the Royal Grand Palace, Wat Pho is Bangkok's oldest, largest and most famous temple. The grounds of Wat Pho contain over 1,000 statues of Buddha, and the temple houses one of Thailand's most spectacular sights, the Reclining Buddha - a 157ft (48m) long and 49ft (15m) high statue that is gold-plated and inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl on the soles of its feet. In the 19th century King Rama III turned Wat Pho into a centre of learning and is considered the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage. Visitors today can still have a massage and learn about the ancient art of Thai Medicine.

A once in a (possibly short) lifetime chance to pet tigers can be arranged from the travel agencies in Khaosan in Bangkok or from nearby Kanchanaburi. Visitors are guided to a large dirt quarry where several grown tigers and a host of cubs lie relaxing along with several monks and guides. Visitors, separated by a thin single chain, are led past, one at a time, to sit with and pet the tigers. Rumour has it that the tigers are given sedatives although some argue they are under the meditational spell of the monks or just used to humans. None of it is apparently enough to guarantee safety as an occasional mauling has been known to happen.

Built by King Rama V in 1901, the exquisite golden teakwood mansion, also known as Vimanmek Palace, is located in the Dusit Palace complex. It was restored in 1982 for Bangkok's bicentennial and King Rama IX granted permission to transform Vimanmek Mansion into a museum to commemorate King Rama V by displaying his photographs, personal art and handicrafts, and to serve as a showcase of the Thai national heritage. The informative hour-long tour takes visitors through a series of apartments and rooms, a staggering 81 in total, in what is said to be the largest teak building in the world. It is now a major tourist attraction and a definite must for anyone visiting the intriguing city of Bangkok.

Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the Marble Temple, is constructed of white Carrara marble and is known as one of Bangkok's most beautiful wats where even the courtyard is paved with polished white marble. The temple's name literally means 'The Temple of the fifth King located nearby Dusit Palace'. Built of Italian marble and designed by Prince Naris, a half-brother of the king, it is unique in that, unlike older complexes, there is no wihaan or chedi dominating the grounds. The wat houses many Buddha images representing various regional styles. Inside the ornate Ordination Hall (Ubosot) is a Sukhothai-style Buddha statue named Phra Buddhajinaraja, and buried under this statue are the ashes of King Rama V.

This temple is among the oldest and largest in Bangkok and is home to the beautiful 14th-century Phra Buddha Shakyamuni, a Buddha image that was brought from Sukhothai. It is also known for its exquisite wall paintings which were done during the reign of Rama III. The enormous arch made of teak outside the wat is all that remains of an original swing which was used to celebrate and thank Shiva for a bountiful rice harvest. Teams of men would ride the swing on arcs as high as 82ft (25m) into the air, grabbing at bags of silver coins with their teeth. The swing ceremony was discontinued in 1932 due to countless injuries and deaths, but the thanksgiving festival is still celebrated in mid-December after the rice harvest.

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