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Bangkok, Thailand Travel Guide Hot
Last Updated: Mar-02-2012, Hits: 21,637, Rating: 4, Reviews: 0, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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Bangkok, Thailand Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (91)
Restaurants (102)
Bars and Nightlife (59)
Attractions (30)
Services (5)
Maps (2)
Links (1)
Additional Articles (4)
Thailand Forum (3)
Location: Asia
Geography: City
Vacation Type: Romantic, Cosmopolitan, Culture and History
Popularity: Touristy
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Nightlife, Historical Sites, Food Destination, Cultural Attractions, Shopping, Spa & Wellness

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 7.5 Million
Metropolitan Population: 9,875,487
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Time Zone: GMT+0700
Telephone Area Code:
Country Dialing Code: +66
Languages: Thai
Electricity: 220v
Current Time:

Bangkok is Thailand's capital city and the main entry point into Thailand. It is by far the largest city in Thailand and is both a fascinating and overwhelming city. It juxtaposes old and new with temples and skyscrapers, billboards and Buddhas. The city definitely requires some preparation and patience - for the heat, humidity, pollution and traffic. Once you are prepared to deal with these factors, Bangkok has many wonderful things to offer. It has some of the world's best shopping, in particular-textiles, silver, and knock off designer labels. The people are warm and friendly which is surprising for a city of this size. It is one of the few places in Asia that has never endured colonization, so the cultural heritage has been preserved better here than in many other places. To enjoy Bangkok most is to appreciate what Bangkok truly is - a dichotomous metropolis where glitter meets squalor, where monks serenely pass Starbucks, where the word massage has multiple meanings. It is a cosmopolitan city where all roads meet. Or as the song says: "One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, not much between despair and ecstasy".

Thailand is located in the heart of Southeast Asia and borders the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The country is roughly the same size of Texas, and is composed of four main regions.

The northwest mountainous region contains numerous ruins and temples and Thailand's highest peak, Doi Inthanon (8,417 ft). The northeast region is the arid Khorat plateau. It is characterized by rolling hills and it is the least-visited part of the country. The southern region of Thailand, which stretches for hundreds of miles along the Malay peninsula is filled with stunning beaches and tropical islands among them Phuket, Samui and Chanhg, and is certainly the most visited region of Thailand. The central region which consists of the fertile plains surrounding the Chao Phraya River, is the country's most populated region.

Bangkok is criss-crossed by a network of natural and man-made canals called 'klongs' all of which link to the Chao Phraya River. The canals were the primary means of transport in former times. Today, they help drain the flat city during the rainy season. Bangkok is just above sea level so there is significant flooding during the rainy season.

Thailand's capital city of Bangkok is located along the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is divided into several districts. Most tourists will likely find themselves in the Sukhumvit Road or Rama I Rd areas. Sukhumvit Road makes up the border between the Klong Toei and Watthana districts and is where many of Bangkok's popular hotels and restaurants can be found. As you head west on Sukhumvit, it turns into Rama I Road in the Panthum Wan district and is home to upscale hotels and shopping. For those on a budget, Khao San Road in the Phra Nakhon district is a backpacker's paradise.

Brief History:
Ayutthaya was the capital before Bangkok, but it was sacked by Burma in the 18th century. Under a general named Taksin, Siam (Modern Thailand) managed to reassemble and expel the Burmese. Thonburi was established as the new Capital, located on the east bank of the Chaophraya River. Taksin's commander of the army, General Chakri assumed rule and was crowned King Rama I in 1782 and moved the capitol across the river to a small village. He called the new Capital in 1785: Krung - thep - maha - nakorn - boworn - ratana - kosin - mahintar - ayudhya - amaha - dilok - pop - nopa - ratana - rajthani - burirom - udom - rajniwes - mahasat - arn - amorn - pimarn - avatar - satit - sakattiya - visanukam. It is the world's longest place name and it means: "Great city of angels; the repository of divine gems; the great land unconquerable; the grand and prominent realm; the royal and delightful capital full of nine noble gems; the highest royal dwelling and grand palace; the divine shelter and living place of reincarnated spirits." It was also known as Krung Thep or "City of Angels" after the old capital, Ayutthaya. Prior to the capital's relocation, the village was known as Bang Makok, or "Place of plum olives". Today, people know the famous city simply as Bangkok.

King Rama I commanded the construction of the Grand Palace close to the river, which was modeled on the ancient palace of Ayutthaya with The Emerald Buddha Temple within the city walls. Canals were extensively dug around the city for defense, and earned the nickname, "Venice of the East".

Rama IV established a railway system, built many temples and roads in the city to modernize Bangkok in the late 1800's. In 1932, Thailand established a constitutional government from an absolute monarchy and Bangkok became the hub of a still expanding public service. Although it is now a constitutional monarchy, the king remains a highly respected figure. The current King Bhumibol (Rama IX) was crowned in 1946 as the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. The first few decades of his reign were marked by the rise of communism, which led to growing American military aid and a continuing succession of military dictators. The enduring legacy in Bangkok of this time is the city being a 'rest and recreation' spot for foreign troops involved in the Vietnam War. The sex trade continues to this day in the form of various nightclubs and massage parlors. This was also a period of time when many people migrated into Bangkok from rural areas. It grew very quickly, which is reflected in the chaotic planning and tragic congestion of the city.

Thailand is known as the "Land of smiles" for a reason. Everyone smiles and you should give it a go too. Their reputation for hospitality is legendary. You will find the service excellent and accommodating. In general, Thais are warm, hospitable, and tolerant people. More than likely someone will strike up a conversation with you and most in Bangkok speak at least some English. It is appreciated, of course, if you try to use some Thai no matter how bad you think you mangle it. In a big city like Bangkok there is the taxing peddler angle of selling to the tourist that can be aggravating. Most will be be polite if you just say "No thank you" if you are not interested in what they are selling. Occasionally, some may overcharge or lie about their prices, so just try to be informed as much as possible to avoid these occasional pests. This is not indicative of most people, but it may be encountered. If it does, it is important to not become visibly agitated or to yell or confront someone. It is not only impolite here; it is seen as weak and will not get you anywhere.

There are customs to be aware of here to be respectful to the place you are visiting. The head is the highest point of the body and should not be touched. Alternately, the feet are the lowest part of the body and should be seen as little as possible, in particular, you should never show the bottoms of your feet to someone. People do not typically address one another with handshakes, but with a small bow. Excessive displays of affection in public are frowned upon. Shoes are removed when entering someone's home. Monks cannot be talked to or touched by females. Other elements of their culture such as Monarchy and religion are taken quite seriously in Thailand, so please be respectful to the Royal Family and all Wats (temples) and Buddha images at all times. If you are respectful to their way of life, they will in turn be gracious, warm, and accommodating.

Bangkok has a huge range of places and things to eat. However, Thai food is extremely good, and their food is as famous as their hospitality. Traditionally spicy, it aims for harmony between flavors. You can find great Thai food in stands and in nice restaurants. Very good and popular Thai dishes include: Gaeng Keow Wan (green Curry), Som Tam (papaya salad), Moo Kratium Prik Thai (stir fried pork with garlic and basil), and Tom Yum Goong (hot and sour soup with seafood). If you are a picky eater or have food allergies, you will probably be better off in a restaurant rather than a stand, because then you can omit ingredients. There is VAT of 7% added to restaurant bills in Bangkok and this is usually added to the bill at the end. In addition, many restaurants also add a service charge of around 10%. Where this is not added, visitors should tip around 10%.

Grocery stores are all over, and the larger ones do sell products from the US and UK. Foodland is open 24 hours and has eateries the store. Of course, Bangkok does have the usual array of fast food. There are produce markets and wet markets (seafood) also, if you wish to cook at home. Drink bottled water to be safe. There are strict regulations on water in place, so purified ice is usually bought from a commercial supply. If you order water from a street vendor and it has a strange pale yellow color, it means that it is boiled tap water, strained with tealeaf to signify that it has been boiled.

Thailand's unit of currency is the Baht. At the time of this writing, there are about 30 Baht to the USD. Over the last several years, the Baht has become stronger against the US dollar and other currencies making Thailand removing some of the "cheap" appeal that was a large incentive to visit here. It is still reasonably priced, but is becoming more of a "you get what you pay for" destination like most others.

Despite rising costs, you can still spend as little or as much as you like in Bangkok. For budget travelers, Bangkok has a ton of hostels where you can often stay for less than $10/night and eat delicious street/cart for less than $5. At the other extreme, you can spend $500/night on a room and over $50 on a dinner entree alone. Of course, there is everything in between as well.

If you use your ATM card at the airport to withdraw money, the exchange rate is good. It is also much easier than going before hand to exchange all of your money. ATMs are easy to find throughout Bangkok, although they do go down a lot. Give yourself a little buffer in case you have to wait a little longer than you thought. Be sure to have small denominations on hand as many small vendors don't carry a lot of change.

Haggling does not typically happen with food vendors, but it does when you are buying goods. There is no accurate answer on how much to haggle down. Anywhere from 25-40%- but it all depends on the vendor. Be friendly, smile a lot, speak Thai - are all likely to get you a better deal.

Getting there/Around:
Bangkok has 2 airports, Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) and Don Muang Airport (DMK). Suvarnabhumi replaced Don Muang for international travel in 2006. Don Muang currently offers domestic flights from Thai Airways, Nok Air, and One-Two-Go. See the "services" category at the top of the guide for more information.

Here are some approximate distances from popular departure points.
  • From Europe: 12 hours direct, 16 hours non direct
  • From Eastern Australia: 9 hours direct, 12 hours non direct
  • From West coast USA: 16 hours direct, 21 hours non direct
  • From East coast USA: 22 hours with one transfer on West Coast USA, 24 hours with a transfer in Europe.
Bangkok has awful traffic - there is no getting around it. Even the sidewalks are crazy, and it is always sticky hot so people try to keep walking to a minimum. There is a skyway and a subway to help alleviate the notoriously bad traffic. You can buy an unlimited 3-day skyway pass for about $7.00 USD. The Skyway and Subway are best used when you are trying to traverse all the way across town.

To travel shorter distances, use the metered taxis (and they have air conditioning). You can get to most places for under 3 dollars. Many taxi drivers are from the Isaan region of Thailand and speak little or no English. Many hotels, restaurants, taxis, etc. have printable maps on their site that you can give the driver so they know where to go. Many hotels also have business cards with instructions to show the driver so you can get back. Also make sure you have the phone number of your destination in case the driver gets lost or doesn't understand where you are trying to go. That allows them to call the place and get directions.

Real taxis have a red and white taximeter sign on the roof. Don't use others. Airport taxis are white with green plates, and offer fixed rates to specific parts of town, but these are typically more expensive than a metered taxi.

You can also hire tuk-tuks (3 wheeled carts). They are inexpensive, but noisy and hot. You will need to negotiate your rate before embarking. You may want to try one for the novelty, but metered taxis are cheaper. Water taxis are extremely cheap as well, and many of the sites you may want to see are located along the river. They get very crowded during rush hour, so try to plan around that. Buses go everywhere and are very cheap, but without speaking Thai it can be hard to figure out. If you are feeling adventurous, it is a next to nothing way to get around. Some are very crowded and some do not have air conditioning.

The fare and accommodations for trains leaving from Bangkok's Hua Lam Phong train station are very inexpensive. If you are traveling long distances, like Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you should splurge and get a second-class sleeper car with A/C. You'll save time by traveling at night, and it's much more comfortable to sleep in a bed instead of a seat. Bottom bunks are more expensive than top ones because the top bunks are very close to the ceiling. To get back to Bangkok once you've left to travel elsewhere is very easy. Pretty much everywhere in Thailand will offer a bus or train service back to Bangkok. If you are in a major city it is probably best to fly back to Bangkok because internal flights are very cheap. Try Air Asia or Nok Air for some of these bargains. There are also buses that run from Bangkok to popular destinations, and are very reasonable, but crowded.

Thailand has 3 distinct seasons: The rainy season: June - October, with intermittent rain and overcast weather. The cool season: November to February and has cooler temperatures, low humidity and little rainfall. The hot season is: March to June with hot and dry weather and April being the hottest month of the year.

The current weather conditions in Bangkok are shown below.

Below are the high and low temperatures, and precipitation averages:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 89 71 0.4"
February 90 75 1.1"
March 92 78 1.2"
April 94 80 2.8"
May 92 80 7.5"
June 91 80 6.0"
July 90 78 6.2"
August 90 78 7.4"
September 89 77 12.0"
October 89 77 9.1"
November 88 74 2.3"
December 87 70 0.4"

  • November- February is considered the best time to travel to Thailand, as it is cooler weather.
  • Wear loose and light- "smart casual" clothing. Try to avoid overly revealing clothing.
  • If someone approaches you with travel advice or tips, it is likely they are trying to sell you something. Politely ignore them.
  • There is a 500 baht departure tax at the airport.
  • If you withdraw odd amounts of money from the ATM- like 9800, you will get lots of 100 bahts, which are useful for small vendors without a lot of change.
  • Be smart while traveling, keep your possessions in a place that is not easily accessible to the occasional theft.
  • When visiting attractions in Bangkok, particularly temples, do not believe people that tell you that the temple is closed for cleaning, repair, etc. They are trying to scam you.

  • Emergency numbers:
  • Tourist Police - 1155 (emergency) or 0 2281 5051
  • Mobile Police - 191
  • Fire Brigades - 199
  • Ambulance - 0 2255 1133-6
  • Tourist Service Centre - 1672

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