Welcome to Bangkok
As the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok has both old world charm and modern convenience. Sometimes served in a seemingly chaotic manner, but always with a gracious smile. Each Thailand trip includes a visit to the capital, Bangkok or Krung Thep, “City of Angels” as it is called by its inhabitants. Many tourists who travel to Bangkok are immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city, and the vast number of attractions Bangkok has to offer. In fact, there are a variety of sightseeing opportunities, which spans more than two centuries of rapid development following the city’s founding in 1782 by King Rama I. He was the first king of the present Chakri dynasty.
Since the favorable date, Bangkok grew to a cosmopolitan city with more than ten million inhabitants. The big city and the bustling streets’ chaos can be daunting at first, but spend some time in Bangkok and many will quickly fall in love with the various attractions Bangkok has to offer. From exotic temples that summarizes Thailand’s strong Buddhist history, to modern shopping centers which has made shopping a large part of everyone’s Bangkok holiday. As the realm of political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital, Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to satisfy visitors no matter if they are just passing through the city, or spending their entire Thai holiday in Bangkok. Nearly every touristic trip to Bangkok includes a visit to the Grand Palace, Bangkok’s number one attraction.
Located in the heart of Bangkok’s Rattakosin district the shining spires of Grand Palace are conveniently located near Bangkok’s most spectacular temples, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Keaw), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Po, which has a huge reclining Buddha, and was a home to the first Thai massage school in the kingdom. These icons are destinations of interest to all visitors traveling to Bangkok in search of finding Thailand’s unique cultural traditions.
There are more than 400 functioning Buddhist temples in the city, and it is not uncommon to see saffron-clad monks collecting morning alms.
Chao Phraya River has many canals and has given Bangkok the nickname “Venice of the East”. When you travel around Bangkok, a cruise on the Chao Phraya River is a must. Visit a floating market, or explore the city’s “Back Alley” channels (klongs) which in itself is a unique Bangkok attraction.
Other historical and cultural attractions in Bangkok that “must be seen” is the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion, and Suan Pakkad Palace. In Bangkok’s historic district, there are plenty of attractions to make your holiday both enjoyable and memorable.
The modern “downtown” districts along Silom and Sukhumvit roads was once a nightmare of oppressive heat and unbearable traffic, then came the modern and comfortable electric trains, an elevated sky-train, and subway. They have made commute in Bangkok both easy and fun. They connect directly to hotels, modern shopping centers, and traditional markets, such as the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, and Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market. MRT and BTS electric rail systems have literally elevated Bangkok’s shopping status to world class.
Introduction to Bangkok
If the purpose of your trip to Thailand is to immerse yourself in Thailand’s unique culture or simply shop in Bangkok’s shopping malls, you are guaranteed a fascinating experience of both old world charm and modern comfort and luxury. In recent decades, Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, has turned into a modern, exciting, and sophisticated city. Bangkok offers visitors not only the modern amenities they expect from other cosmopolitan cities, but also a unique treasure trove of cultural attractions. Thailand, the heart of Southeast Asia, have never been colonized, and thus has kept its unique culture and heritage intact. Bangkok offers visitors the opportunity to experience a fascinating glimpse of Thailand’s cultural center in the bustle of a great and dynamic metropolis. Amazingly enough, this city has made astounding success by combining the ancient and modern world. For tourists, Bangkok has a feast of attractions to offer. The city has 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty, magnificent palaces, classical dance performances, numerous shopping centers, and a still functioning traditional lifestyle.
Located in the middle of the country near the Gulf of Thailand, is the great Bangkok Metropolis (including Thonburi on the other side of the Chao Phraya River), adjacent to Pathum Thani in the north, Nonthaburi in the northwest, Chachoengsao to the east, Samut Sakhon on the southwest, and Samut Prakan on its southeast, covering an area of 1,568,737 square kilometers. It may be added that there are more than 30,000 taxis here, and a growing number of tourists visiting the city during their holiday in Thailand. You will quickly realize that living in a big concrete jungle is not an easy feat, especially if it’s your first visit. Some areas have become more popular than others, mainly because of its good location and things to see and do, such as traditional attractions, shopping, or a notoriously famous nightlife. Arriving in this exciting city has also become much easier thanks to Skytrains (BTS) and subway (MRT), which connects many areas.
As the capital of the country, Bangkok is the center for administration, commerce and communication. The city is divided into 50 districts (khet) in which the most popular are: Bangna, Chatuchak, Chidlom – Ploenchit, Chinatown, and Don Muang. Other areas worth visiting are Khao San Road, Old City, Petchburi, Pratunam, Ratchadapisek, Bangkok, Riverside, Sathorn, Siam, Silom, Sukhumvit, and Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The default language in Bangkok is Thai. English is a compulsory subject in public schools and widely used, much understood in business and tourist areas.
Bangkok Metropolis is the center of development and modernity in industry, commerce, finance and transportation. Besides its unique culture and exquisite architecture, this city is full of splendor and charm, and can attract tourists to explore traditions, cultures, archaeological sites, food, and way of life of its inhabitants. All of these have been well harmonized and has spawned the award for best sightseeing capital in Asia, and the third best in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
Bangkok has a surplus in glory. Bigger, better, more: the city is insatiable, a monster that lives on concrete, shopping malls and diesel exhaust. The city requires you to live in the present and the moment, not necessarily for a religious revelation during your Thailand trip, but because the city is self-absorbed and superficial, blissfully free of wrinkle-inducing self-reflection. Smile and SA NUK (the Thai word for “fun”) are the most important parts of Bangkok’s society. A compliment here, a joke there – the requirements for a good social spirit in the Metropol is more like that of a small village than an anonymous city, but a necessity for survival nevertheless.
How Bangkok drives out all your demands for order and predictability, you will understand by the famous Thai smile. You will get to experience religious ideas, incurable consumption and multi-flavored hedonism – corrupting and purifying souls in the footsteps of another. A comical confluence of human desires and aspirations best viewed through a detached smile. You can enjoy all these many worlds during your trip to Thailand – dancing in a smart club, eating at a street market, or sweating profusely on a long, unplanned walk. Bangkok is a feinschmecker’s dream.
Ready to go?
Bangkok – Getting there and around
Bangkok has two airports. The new Suvarnabhumi International Airport, located 30 km east of downtown Bangkok. In 2006 the airport began offering services both internationally as well as nationally. The airport’s website provides practical information and precise information on arrivals and departures in English.
Bangkok’s old international airport, Don Muang Airport, is located 25 km north of central Bangkok.
It takes at least one hour to get from one airport to the other because they are on opposite ends of town. If you want to go from one airport to another, you can take the minibuses between the two airports from 6:00 AM to 5 PM which costs around 30 to 50 baht.
Domestic airlines: Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, One-Two-Go, Solar Air, Thai Airways International and Air Asia.
International airlines: Air Asia, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Bangkok Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Eva Air, Garuda Indonesia, Gulf Air, Japan airlines, Jetstar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch airlines, Korean Air, Lao airlines, Lufthansa airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Myanmar Airways International, Nepal airlines, Orient Thai, Philippine airlines, QuantasAirways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Scandanavian airlines, Singapore Airlines, South Africa airways, Thai Airways International, United Airlines and Vietnam Airlines
Bangkok is a hub for bus services that run across the country. Whether it’s long-distance trips or trips to popular tourist destinations, it is advisable to buy tickets directly from the bus company.
There are three main terminals, two of which are located far away from the center and the third terminal of the public transport center at Suvarnabhumi Airport, including buses to the provinces.
Expect an hour to reach all terminals from almost anywhere in Bangkok.
Eastern Bus Terminal:
Buses traveling to Pattaya, Rayong, Chanthaburi and other eastern destinations except Aranya Prathet.
Northern & Northeastern Bus Terminal:
Is located north of Chatuchak Park. This is a very busy bus station which has buses to all the northern and north-eastern destinations, including Aranya Prathet (near the border with Cambodia).
Southern Bus Terminal:
The city’s new bus terminal is located far west of central Bangkok, it is the more pleasant and decent bus terminal in this country that you can use on your holiday in Thailand.
Besides departures to all destinations south of Bangkok, you can also find departures to Kanchanaburi, and western Thailand.
Suvarnabhumi public transport centre:
Is located 3 km from Suvarnabhumi Airport. This terminal has frequent departures to the east and north, including Aranya Prathet (near the border with Cambodia), Chanthaburi, Trat, Nong Khai (near the border with Laos), Pattaya, Rayong, Trat and Udon Thani.
You can go by free scheduled shuttle bus from the airport to the bus terminal.
Private mini-buses are a quick and relatively easy way to go back and forth between Bangkok and nearby provinces.
The easiest place to find these minivans is just north of the Victory Monument. There are departures to Aranya Prathet, Lopburi, Mae Klong, Muak Lek, Nakhon Pathom, and southern bus terminal.
East of the Victory Monument, there are lines to Ayutthaya, Ban Phe, Pattaya, and Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Hua Lamphong Station is the main terminal for trains to the south, north, east and west.
Bangkok Noi Station manages few (expensive for foreigners) services to Nakhon Pathom, Kanchancaburi, and Nam Tok.
Wong Wian Yai Station, the small station where you can hop off at Mahachai and take the commuter rail line to Samut Sakhon.
In recent years, the boat service in Bangkok is becoming smaller, but with the increasing problematic traffic there are plans to reopen the water network.
Canal taxi rides along the Khlong Saen Saeb is an easy way to get from Banglamphu to Jim Thompson’s House, Siam Square, and other locations further east along Sukhumvit – after a mandatory change of boats at Tha Pratunam.
These boats are mostly used by commuters.
These tours are some of the most scenic and effective means of transportation.
The boats sail along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya to destinations both north and south of Bangkok.
The most convenient travel option in Bangkok is the BTS/Skytrain which is an elevated railway that crosses the city’s annoying and noisy traffic. Tours that normally would have taken an hour now takes 15 minutes. Another advantage of the BTS is the great view you get as you go, glimpses of green spaces and historic architecture that you cannot see on street level.
There are two lines in Bangkok: Sukhumvit and Silom lines.
Sukhumvit Line terminal is located in the north end of town at Mo Chit station near Chatuchak Park and leads from Th Phayathai south to Siam station at Th Phra Ram I and goes east along Th Ploenchit and Sukhumvit Th to the terminal at Bearing Station.
Silom line runs along the National Stadium station, close to Siam Square and then to the southwest, and continues down to Th Silom to Th Narathiwat, and then out to Th Sathon until it reaches Wong Wian.
Both train lines run frequently throughout the day from 06:00 AM till midnight.
Bangkok – Weather
In the middle of the plate and humid Mae Nam Chao Phraya delta, Bangkok has the same latitude as Khartoum and Guatemala City, and can be as warm as the former and as wet as the latter.
The southwest monsoon begins between May and July and lasts until November. Then follows a dry season from about November till May, with relatively lower temperatures until the middle of February (due to the influence of the northeast monsoon, which bypasses this part of Thailand, and results in cool breezes), followed by much higher temperatures from March to May. Normally the rain is at its highest during August and September, although you may find yourself in hip high floods in some parts of the city in early October. An umbrella can be invaluable – a raincoat will only make you warm.
It is worth remembering that we are talking about the weather which is difficult to calculate, and so you can never assume anything. For example, in 2008 Bangkok was flooded by a major storm in January, which is normally a dry month, and the cool season went well into March.
Bangkok has a tropical monsoon climate and is claimed to be the hottest city in the world. As previously mentioned, Bangkok has the same latitude as Khartoum and Guatemala City, and is both hot and humid in equal measures.
It may not be the hottest city in the world every day, but overall it is persistent because it does not get cold at night. The two periods between April-May and September-October are pleasing. The southwest monsoon, between May and October is for many a welcome break.
Bangkok – Shopping
Shopping in Bangkok is an experience that awakens and satisfies the most discerning customers – no matter what you’re looking for. With modern shopping malls with air conditioning, and its famous street markets with the hustle and bustle, Bangkok has all sorts of places in which you can spend your Baht. With everything from antiques, and the latest in sports shoes to designer jewelry, Bangkok has a wide variety of things to buy. Whatever you choose to buy, and where you find it, make sure to polish your trading skills and bring a big smile.
Here are the top 3 shopping opportunities for you in Bangkok:
1. Chatuchak Market
In the past, this market was only popular among wholesalers and retailers. Today, Chatuchak Weekend Market has a high status as a must-visit place for tourists on their trip to Thailand. Its size and various collections of articles will bring even experienced shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally “shop till you drop”.
2. Shopping malls in Bangkok
Bangkok’s modern multi-storey shopping malls are a shopaholic’s paradise. From the legendary MBK to the sophisticated Emporium, trendy Siam Discovery, and Central World Plaza. Bangkok is suitable for everyone, regardless of style. The latest additions to the city’s “mall-landscape” is the innovative Terminal 21, and the Central Plaza Rama 9.
These malls are where you will find the city’s finest boutiques, international brands, bookstores, specialty shops, accessories, and all kinds of luxury goods and designer brands. Besides having all these choices to indulge in, it’s also super easy to get around. They are also a nice alternative to the bustling hot markets. Most shopping centers are easily accessible via the city’s modern and efficient Skytrain (BTS) system. Do not forget to wear comfortable shoes.
3. Bangkok Night Market
The beauty of shopping in Bangkok is that most malls and department stores are open until midnight. So there is plenty of time to make the most of the city attractions during the day and take the opportunity of shopping either before or after dinner. Many markets have a great evening shopping with incredible bargains. The most popular night market is undoubtedly Patpong Night Market.
Bangkok – Things to do
From the 10 best things to do, to the most unusual places – discover all the best attractions, things you do not want to miss in Bangkok on your next trip to Thailand.
Top 10 things you “must see” in Bangkok
Bangkok began as a small trading center and port location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River about 200 years ago. Today the city is as modern as many other places, while its greatness and glorious past is still obvious with dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market, and colorful Chinatown. Each of these famous places has an exciting story to tell.
1. Grand Palace
If there is a must-see place to visit in Bangkok it would definitely be this. The dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace is no less than the city’s most famous landmark. Built in 1782 and for 150 years home to Thai Kings, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. Grand Palace in Bangkok continues to have many visitors in awe of its beautiful architecture and meticulous details which is all a proud celebration of the Thai people’s creativity and craftsmanship. Within the walls were also the Thai war ministry and government department. Today it is still the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands, who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street food. During the day it is no less crowded when lots of customers flow down the 1km long Charoenkrung Road for a day of trading or to visit one of the Chinese temples.
Lots of stalls, street restaurants, and a large supply of gold shops is available here – Chinatown is an experience you should not miss on your visit to Bangkok. The energy that radiates from those endless rows of wooden shops will make you want to come back for more. Plan your visit at major festivals such as the Chinese New Year, and you will see Bangkok’s Chinatown at its best.
3. Bangkok’s floating markets
While some trade is more interested in tourists than locals these days, the floating market is still full of boats that are stacked with piles of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. Have a drink with coconut juice, and some local cooked food from one of the floating kitchens, available on the boat.
To enjoy the atmosphere without having to haggle, relax on a guided boat tour of Damnoen Saduak market or any of the other floating markets. Taling Chan market, Bang Ku Wiang market, Tha Kha market, and Damnoen Saduak.
4. Wat Arun
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, located on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya river. It is said that after leaving Ayutthaya, which was invaded by the Burmese army at the time, King Taksin arrived to this temple just as dawn broke.
5. Wat Pho
Wat Pho (the temple with the reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is placed behind the beautiful Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and is famous for its huge and majestic reclining Buddha, which is 46 meters long and is covered with gold leaf. The Buddha’s feet are 3m long and beautifully decorated with perls illustrating promising laksanas (characteristics) of the Buddha.
6. Bangkok’s khlongs (canals)
Bangkok’s nickname “Venice of the East” originates from before Besso’s writings hundreds of years ago but although it is unclear exactly when the phrase was born, it is obvious that no tourist guide (book, person or website) since has been able to resist this captivating cliché.
7. Chatuchak Market – Bangkok Weekend Market
Is not only popular among wholesalers, retailers and locals, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a status as a must-visit attraction for tourists during their trip to Bangkok. Its size leaves even experienced shoppers in awe – here you can literally “shop till you drop”.
8. Khao San Road – Old Town
If Bangkok is a city where East meets West, then Khao San Road is the center of their collision, the place of the battles for supremacy. (Young) people from all corners of the modern world go to Khao San Road where you will find stylish clubs playing modern music, market stalls, rebuilt VW cocktail bars, and food tamed to suit the Western palate, it may seem clear who won the fight. But whether you’re a farang (foreigner) or Thai, this indomitable energy and carefree atmosphere is worth a visit during your trip.
9. Soi Cowboy
Soi Cowboy was named after an African American’s cowboy hat – it was he who opened the first bar here in the early 1970’s. This red light district is more laid-back, and carnival-like than Patpong or Nana Plaza. Flashing neon lights up in a colorful street scene consisting of mainly middle-aged foreigners, Japanese and Western tourists, and of course a lot of sexy clothed girls. The girls will be shouting something like “hellooo, welcome!”, trying to trick you into one of the go-go bars placed side by side. Don’t be shy, it’s pretty easy to just walk on by.
10. Jim Thompson’s House
The beautiful enclosed garden on the banks of the Saen Saeb canal would have gone completely unnoticed if it was not for the legacy that is left behind after a middle-aged American man named Jim Thompson. His elegant residential area consists of six traditional Thai houses transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok Ban Krua community. It is an echo of Jim Thompson’s 30-year love affair with Southeast Asia’s art and cultural heritage.
An educated architect and an avid collector of Asian art, Jim Thompson brought a sense of design in everything he touched. After his discharge from the military in 1946 Jim Thompson decided to settle in Thailand. There, he devoted 30 years of his life to revive the Thai silk industry, and introduced it to the world’s most prestigious fashion houses and runways in Paris, New York, London, and Milan.
The same goes for his Thai house, which was not an ordinary teak villa filled with disjointed collections of antiques but instead a museum voiced by Jim Thompson about his lifelong passion and his quirky choice of design. One day in 1967 at the height of his success, he disappeared mysteriously in the Malaysian jungle, and thus began the legacy of Jim Thompson.
Bangkok has plenty of other attractions. The city offers many beautiful temples, about 400 in total ranging from large to very small. In addition, the city has several galleries, museums, parks, palaces, zoos, and wildlife parks, etc. You will certainly not get bored in Bangkok during your trip.
Bangkok – Restaurants
Bangkok is heaven when it comes to food, an unsurpassed and sensational culinary journey with a taste experience that is guaranteed to delight your tastebuds. Besides the famous Thai cuisine with its mix of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty, Bangkok also offers all other known types of cuisine available in the world. The dining options are limitless, night and day. There is an abundance of restaurants, and you get your money’s worth. Dining rooms in Thai style in antique teak houses, cruise dining, trendy restaurants, and food markets are just some of the options available on your visit to Bangkok. And if you’re in the mood for fast food, you can easily find some of the major known restaurant chains in Bangkok.
When it comes to dinner in Bangkok, the question is not what, where or when to eat. With so many options right outside the hotel’s front door, you may wonder how you can get the best experience ever. Whether you are looking for style, ambience, taste that defies what you already know, or a number of world-famous chefs, Bangkok has it all.
Here are the three best Thai dishes that you must try while in Thailand:
1. Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup)
The quintessence of Thai aroma! This classic soup is a wonderful, refreshing blend of fragrant lemongrass, chili, galangal, lime leaves, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce, juicy fresh prawns, and mushrooms. A versatile dish that fits into almost every meal, its smell reminiscent of that of an exotic perfume, while the refreshing sour-spicy-strong flavor just screams ‘Thailand’!
2. Pad Thai (Thai fried noodles)
All the ingredients are thrown into a burning hot wok, with small, thin or wide noodles (your choice). There will be a few minutes’ long steamy dance with sprouts, beans, onions, and eggs before the dish is served on a plate. A true dining experience, half of the fun (and taste) is to then use the included spices – fish sauce, sugar, chili powder, and finely crushed peanuts – to add taste to the dish. An all-time favourite.
3. Gaeng Daeng (Red Curry)
Made with chunks of meat, red curry paste, and smooth coconut milk, topped with a sprinkling of finely sliced lime leaves, this rich, aromatic curry will always satisfy your taste buds. The dish is best when the meat is so tender it can be compared to a beautiful woman: mild, sweet, and fragrant, and will like all true love affairs leave the heart wanting more.
Here is a top 3 of dining experiences in Bangkok:
Slow Food is trendy, and Bo.lan is the best place to enjoy the experience. Trained by celebrity chef David Thompson in the Michelin-star Thai restaurant Nahm in London, it is the owners – a married couple – who are the chefs at Bo.lan. They keep strictly to the principles of freshness, and preserve the natural flavors with seasonal ingredients. Despite its innovative concept, Bo.lan doesn’t serve fusion dishes but rather has a menu inspired by ancient Thai recipes and flavors that you will discover is truly original.
2. Chinatown’s restaurants
Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, is a good place to look for a pleasant dining experience. The area houses some of the best and most expensive Chinese restaurants in the city, along with many of the best and cheapest food stalls, especially at night.
The restaurants are mostly specialized in southern Chinese (Cantonese) cooking, with noodles and seafood. At lunchtime, dim sum dominates the menus. The restaurants located at bustling Yaowarat Road are large and quite expensive compared to those located in the smaller streets. If you dare explore the smaller streets you will be rewarded with much cheaper but equally entertaining eateries. In the evening the streets are lit by flashy neon signs. You will find lots of seafood located along the sidewalks which attracts lots of people who then have to wait for seating. Keep an eye on Chinese delicacies such as bird nests, and shark fin soup. If you’re in the mood for Indian food, Pahurat (known as Thailand’s Little India) is also nearby.
If this area with a wide variety of sights and smells is a bit overwhelming for you, you can go to the Old Siam Shopping Centre. There you will find more tourist friendly, western and Thai restaurants, along with fast food restaurants.
3. Sunday Brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel
This American steakhouse is created by the renowned restaurant designer Tony Chi, and it presents an elegant and unique dining experience. The restaurant has a private dining room for up to 16 guests and a living room with a cozy fireplace for a pre- or post-meal drink. Madison offers Matsuzaka, Kobe, and Wagyu beef, and a selection of creative dishes. They also have delicious seafood and a wide selection of fine wines. There is room for 62 guests in the restaurant, and 10 in the lounge.
Brunch is offered at the steakhouse every Sunday, and guests can choose their eatery – Madison, Spice Market, or Aqua – and enjoy food from live cooking and buffet stations around Parichart Court, and inside Madison.
Bangkok – Nearby
The area around Bangkok is as fascinating as the capital city itself, but also quite different. In less than an hour or two you can explore many places on a nice day trip and get away from the city’s bustle. Perhaps you even want to stay overnight to get the true experience of a different kind of life on your trip to Thailand.
The most popular destination outside Bangkok is probably Pattaya, which is slowly destroying its shabby image and re-establishing itself as a family-oriented destination. Nevertheless, the nightly escapades are still going on. On the opposite side you will find peace and quiet in Kanchanaburi with the famous film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.
Amphawa, located 63 km west of Bangkok, is a popular destination. It is home to a beautiful floating market going through Khlong Amphawa (canal). There is a small collection of vintage cafes, restaurants, and shop houses of wood that sell artistic souvenirs, books, and Thai silk.
Market boats parked along the canal are ready to mix you a bowl of “boat noodles”, rice porridge, and even grilled octopus, and river shrimp can be ordered. There are long-tail boats departing regularly if you want to experience a two-hour scenic trip to Mae Klong, which is filled with stilt-houses (houses elevated from the ground), orchards, and temples.
In addition to the floating market, Amphawa has a picturesque river scenery, relaxed atmosphere reminiscent of a bygone era, and with plenty of guest houses it is a popular spot. For most visitors, a trip to Amphawa is a much needed break, and an experience that often leads to repeat visits.
Nakhon Pathom is a typical Thai provincial town with the Phra Pathom Chedi which has a visible claim for status as the country’s oldest city. The city also proudly has carries its status as first-born in its name, which derived from Pali Nagara Pathama and means “First City”. At one point Nakhon Pathom was a center of the Dvaravati kingdom, a small collection of Mon states which flourished between 600-1100 century A.D. in Mae Nam Chao Phraya valley. Some historians speculate that the area may have been inhabited before India’s Asokan period (3rd century B.C.), as there is a theory that Buddhist missionaries from India visited Nakhon Pathom at the time.
Although the town is pretty sleepy, it is a destination where you can see the daily life of Thailand and maybe practice your new language skills in a community that really appreciates this effort.
Bangkok – Articles
Bangkok shopping: a Saturday at Chatuchak Market
Lonely Planet author
Bangkok shopping: a Saturday at Chatuchak Market
There are many things – some wonderful, some wayward – that bring visitors to Bangkok: the sumptuous Thai food; the luxury hotels; the stunning temples, and, not too far from the city, access to gorgeous white sand beaches.
But there is one particular place in Bangkok which surpasses almost all others of its kind across the globe. Huge, chaotic and confusing, suffused with tempting scents, whirligig colours and the strains of music ranging from classical Thai to dub reggae, Bangkok’s weekend Chatuchak Market is the market to end all markets.
What to expect at Chatuchak Market
Spanning an incredible 35 acres of shopping, most stalls tucked into tiny narrow sois (lanes) overspilling with produce, the weekend market attracts some 200,000 shoppers, browsers and buskers each Saturday and Sunday to its 8000 stalls. And whether you’re looking for a customised motorcycle helmet, a pair of six-inch crushed velvet stilettos, a pampered puppy, a fake Fendi, a set of Beatles cushion covers, a shark’s-tooth amulet, or something else entirely, you are almost certain to find it (in a selection of colours, sizes and prices) here.
The three simple rules to shopping at Chatuchak market:
Rule 1: Know where you’re going
Though wandering is half the fun, dedicated shoppers will want to make sure they hit their targets. Divided into 27 colour-coded sections, those seeking clothes should head for market sections 5 and 6, and then onward to sections 10 to 24. Anyone interested in decking out their home in Eames-inspired furniture or hand printed bedspreads should make for sections 2 to 4, and, to peruse the antiques – of varying authenticities and provenances – on offer, 22 to 26. If you’re seeking a rhinestone collar for your poodle or Pomeranian, check sections 8 or 9 (where you’ll also find baby chipmunks, tropical fish and songbirds galore); green-fingered visitors, meanwhile, might be keen to stroll through sections 3 and 4, where tropical plants run riot.
Rule 2: If you love it, buy it
Should you find something you absolutely can’t live without, don’t make the mistake of deciding you will pop back for it later. Many a sorrowing weekend market shopper has found, to their peril, that upon attempting to retrace their steps through the labyrinthine lanes, that perfect little floral dress or hand-made candelabra has apparently vanished into the heady market air, never to be seen again. And, though landmarks such as the central market clock tower may help you orientate yourself somewhat, chances are a map of your exact wanderings after a day out at Chatuchak would resemble most closely a plate of pad thai noodles.
Rule 3: Learn to love bargaining
The seasoned Chatuchak shopper knows it is crucial to embrace the art of bargaining. Keep your bargaining cheerful, smiling and light-hearted, and the gentle back-and-forth of price negotiation (however much you might initially cringe at the idea) can become one of the most enjoyable elements of the entire experience. Keep plenty of cash in reserve (ATMs are few and far between) since that perfect pair of vintage Nikes may suddenly be available at a 50% discount; those cute bubblegum-pink sandals might become as affordable as they are covetable; and you may well be able to negotiate two pairs of exquisitely-aged Levis for the initial asking-price of one.
Where to eat at the market
Meanwhile, once all that commerce has worked up a decent appetite, visitors to Chatuchak are faced with an equally bewildering selection of dining and drinking options. Slurp down a noodle soup with locals in one of the open-air stalls on the market’s perimeter, where dishes are served up still bubbling from vast cauldrons. Alternatively cool off with a pint of local Singha beer and a som tham (spicy papaya salad) in one of the market’s equally cool bars, or ask around to seek out a well hidden Thai tapas-style joint run by an ex-Thai Airways stewardess, whose yellow curries, sweet and sour soups, and fried catfish are simply out of this world.
Vegetarians, on the other hand, should make for organic-heavy Healthy Spice, whose rice noodle bowls are a perennial hit, or Wishing Well, where macrobiotic meals can frequently be accompanied by a tarot reading. Carnivores will have their fill perusing the manifold satay sticks, fried fish, barbeque rib and meatball stands stationed market-wide: perfect fuel for another few hours on the go, before heading homeward, arms heavily laden, to refresh, relax, and perhaps regroup for a second Chatuchak shopping spree on Sunday.
A visitor to the joy and odor country – Bangkok, Thailand
By John Stampley, 14 April 2010
Looking back at the Thai culture was an inspiring experience. Thais have a common great support for the king, who is 82 years old, and their Buddhist faith. There are many temples and perhaps several million shrines of various sizes across the country. These shrines are on the sidewalks, on the streets, inside shops, restaurants, and other places where there is trade. Apparently, even in unlikely places such as bars and nightclubs.
My experience is that tattoos are common among young Thais, especially in urban areas. There is a tattoo that looks like a tiger claw scratches down over the women’s backs in a vertical direction (when the tattoo is seen from a distance). But up close, you can see that there is Thai written in vertical columns.
After talking with a young lady named Ao, she explained that it is a Buddhist prayer. So the first thing I think is, “This is the Thai version of ‘hands’ tattoo that everyone in the ‘neighborhood’ has one the shoulder or arm.” But then Ao continues, “This tattoo is a Buddhist prayer, and it gives both good luck and protection to the person wearing it,” She continued, “You have to get the tattoo from a Buddha Master tattoo artist or a monk.
I asked her if she had any tattoos. She said: “I have visible tattoos and invisible tattoos all over my body.” So, now, I thought, “Wow invisible tattoos all over your body, it’s scary.” So the obvious next question was, “What is an invisible tattoo?” She said: “There are two types of tattoos. Visible in ink and invisible in oil.” She showed me a tiger on her back, also to protect, as well as small bumps on her forearm from a recent invisible tattoo she had had done by a monk in Burma. She explained that the buds go away, but it remains. Interesting, I thought.
Another day I went shopping near Beach Road and looked through the somewhat repetitive sequence of t-shirts designed to appeal to “farang” if you speak Thai or “alien” if you speak English. When I shopped and looked and looked and shopped, I heard a faint musical melody softly approach and a discrete command attention around, like a train requires attention from everyone in earshot as it approaches the station. When I looked over, it turned out to be an almost blind Thai man, maybe 40 years old, medium height, dressed in a worn green and brown unbuttoned plaid shirt with short sleeves. He played angelic melodies on his accordion. Where the man walked and played, sellers would throw coins in his cup. When he passed me on my right side I followed his gaze. I then tried to continue my shopping, but I could not stop looking for this man (and unintentionally ignore sellers).
I saw a seemingly endless stream of children who came to throw a few coins in the music man’s cup. I saw the man move with elegance, with as little excitement as one would expect of a lion that was interrupted from his nap with a light afternoon shower. I watched as the children came from all directions to put coins in his cup. I had never seen anything like this before. I had been in this market before and had not noticed as much as 3 kids in 30 minutes, and now there’s a music man here and I see at least 20 children put coins in his cup in five minutes.
Some of the children took a break with bowed head and clasped hands raised slightly above their heads saying a short prayer before they went on. I stood mute and paralyzed, frozen in time. My thoughts and my mind went and searched for an explanation or a different kind of interpretation of what happened. I cleaned the mind to understand, to get an answer. I found it, a community that cares and more importantly learn the importance of helping others. This is the true definition of respect. I have never admired the Thais more than right now.
Later in the evening I was on my way to the night club area. In the evenings there are a lot more who sell everything from roast pork (from nose to tail), shrimp and large lobster tails, noodles, eel, chicken wraps, fried grasshoppers, fried cockroaches and other invertebrates with different scents – sweet, strange, familiar and disgusting. All odors landed just below the nostrils and sometimes mixed them together and had a party in your nose to your joy or disdain.
In the background are the signs with all sorts of characters from companies and advertising competing for your attention. Bars with music bursts out into the street to get your attention, as if it were a form of “Battle of the bars” contest going on. I mean seriously, it’s loud! I think it’s so loud that I wish I had brought some good headphones. Then there are freelance scalpers trying to sell you everything from jewelry, custom clothing, massage and sex shows. Because I am a black man, they always said to me “Hey Bro!” Or “What’s up’ man?” Which is a bit annoying, but I answered them anyway, and greeted with a little slang that they had never heard of to see their confused facial expression when I walked past. Which says two things, one, they become aware of African-American stereotypes in their work, and two, it entertains me in the process.
Then I saw a seller who wore a yellow shirt (maybe that’s why I noticed him), he was sitting just above the curb of the street. I approached him. He had a small tray with Wrigley’s Spearmint and Juicy Fruit gum for sale. I bent down and said, “Sawadee, how are you?” And gradually he looked up. I immediately noticed that he was not only barefoot, he had two left feet, both located entirely over to the side and pointed toward Mecca – I mean due east! So I thought to myself, “wow, his big toe is on the right side of both feet. This man not only has two left feet (in a figurative way), he literally has two left legs and two left feet.” His underdeveloped right arm appeared to be that of a six year old boy and his left arm like a nine-year-old’s. His face was wrinkled and worn, but he smiled and said warmly, “I’m fine, no problem.” At that moment, the entire back of my eyes filled with tears. Note that I say, “The back of my eyes.” I am a human, and yes, I cry sometimes but never in public.
Anyway, the back of my eyes filled with tears. But I continued and asked, “How much for Juicy Fruit.” He told me, “20 baht.” I looked down in my pocket, but could only find one hundred baht notes. I try to hand him the note when I noticed that both of his wrists were broken in an unnatural way, collapsing – his fingers were just inches from his elbows. He smiled and held out his hand to greet me, and he waved at me that I had to take the change from the cup he held against his chest with the inside of his left wrist. I reached out to gently take the exact amount back, while my brain stormed around in a reckless desperate way. How could I help him? There was a lot of money in the cup, I thought, and asked: “Do you want me to put some of that money in your pocket,” he said, “No, its okay.” I just wanted to help in any way. So I took my Juicy Fruit, thanked him and walked away.
I thought, wow this is a divine spirit within man. He smiled and explained that he was doing well and had no problems. The man looked like the result of the game, Mr. Potato Head. But he did not let his deformity define him. It is unbelievable how seemingly small and insignificant friendly gestures can make such a huge impact on your life. I thought to myself, he was a bright spot in a dark cloud. I looked for him the next few nights in the same spot, but I have never seen him since.