There are many great cities across the globe that have a name for themselves based on common travel experiences. It is true that a reputation is generally earned by particular attributes or properties of the city in question. What good travelers learn well after a while is that not every nickname hold true or captures everything about a particular city. It seems to me coming from a background in the United States that Bangkok is often labeled and thought of only partially, for the one who has been it offers a great deal more than what is generally expected. Ask many people in the United States about Bangkok and its reputation will often be one of seedy nightlife and bizarre spectacles. It has been typified unjustly as a center for debauchery and a type of fantasyland for oddballs. So does Bangkok have an eclectic nightlife and an assorted party venue? Absolutely, but it hardly defines this impressive city and astounding country. Anyone who leaves Bangkok thinking that a colorful hookup scene is all there is to see never truly experienced the city and probably only came with sleazy intentions to begin with.
Thus my purpose is to set the record straight, to speak about this city from a traveler’s perspective and explain what makes this destination worthy of a great holiday. The first concept which I feel accurately sums up Bangkok is: huge. This is a massive city of twelve million people is spread over a huge area. The Thai name for the city actually means: city of angels and much like its Western neighbor with the same name it exceeds dimensions as far as the eye can see. Due to such numbers one may have heard of the massive traffic jams and crowding, but assuredly this city handles it’s moving numbers well. Sure just like any big town a car ride at certain times of the day will experience big traffic jams. Fortunately for the tourist elevated trains, lots of boats, buses, subways and a world class airport make motion quick and painless. As most travelers will arrive via airplane the first impression one will have of Bangkok is that of a modern and massive airport. Spanning several stories high and stretching almost out of view in length, Suvarnabhumi Airport which was built in 2006 is constantly a buzz of activity and is well connected to the heart of Bangkok via the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link for a very minimal fee. From this train one may connect to the subway (MRT) to move around town or take it to its final stop at Phaya Thai to get on the BTS skytrain. These methods of transport around the city are exceedingly cheap and quick. One may get single fare tickets or go for other passes which cover a few days worth of transit.
The train ride in reveals a very flat terrain spread out over a tropical landscape. There are many lush green fields, parks and trees everywhere, as well as hundreds of canals and all this completely packed in with human habitation. Even when Bangkok is a crowded city it is not a dirty city. The amount of pople and traffic might be overwhelming, but people are genuiney friendly, helpful and organized. One should take the same precautions as in any other place. One should genuinely be wary of people trying to approach or befriend you. Besides the well constructed railways and highways the city also moves traffic via the impressive Chao Phraya river. It is along this ancient waterway that the city was first founded and many historical temples, shops and sites can be found along its banks. The river is a large version of what most “streets” in the city used to consist of. The city was once even more full of canals than it is today and so most people got around in boats and even did their shopping that way, a practice still seen today in some of the floating markets.
Bangkok offers a wide variety of sightseeing opportunities. Most of the historical venues are impeccably preserved and others are undergoing renovation. Probably the most famous and necessary on any list is the Grand Palace. This residence of the King of Thailand (formerly Siam) was used exclusively by the royal family up until the 1920’s. Now it is a place of ceremonies, but also of tourism and prayer inside its temples. Upon first approaching it the visitor can be utterly amazed, it looks like nothing that one has ever observed on earth before. The colors are brilliant and the roofs of green orange and gold shimmer in the tropical sunshine. Upon venturing inside after paying a minimal entrance fee the entire course may be seen in about an hour or so.
The entire compound is not open to the public but the temple of the emerald Buddha is fascinating to behold and the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat buildings are an impressive contrast of royal gardens and impressive architecture. All in all, the royal palace is easily reachable via the river. The best way when coming from the central districts is to take the BTS to the Saphan Taksin stop. Here there are some ferries which move up and down the river all day. Try taking a public boat for an inexpensive fare. The palace may be reached from either F8 or F9 stop.
Should you be looking to experience some of the massive crowds and action packed city life head to Siam square. This district hosts the largest mall in Bangkok which is massive, several stories high and it has hundreds of interesting shops with brands from all over the world. There are other malls nearby like the Siam Paragon which offer great selections of electronics, clothing and local attractions too. For lodging options the nearby Phatumwan area is a diplomatic district but it is also home to some fascinating hotels as well. There are many luxurious and opulent chains packed into one section of the city in this area. Many of the hotels in this area quite exclusive.
Perhaps nothing can be truer of Bangkok than the observation that the city never sleeps. The atmosphere is already quite laid back in the humid and tropical style. There is so much to see and do by day along the river and as night falls food carts and nightclubs carry on seemingly unstoppable as people fill the streets at all hours. There should not be a day that goes by wherein one does not enjoy a great and affordable massage. There are thousands of these parlors all over the city and I myself have always found them to be clean and respectable. The price is unbeatable and one cannot help but feel the urge to get one every day.
The streets are always in motion and not just for modern conveniences. One can take advantage of a great cultural experience by observing a street festival where in people are praying and offering incense. There are flower sellers nearby who offer the most beautiful garlands one has ever seen and the sounds of music and chanting only intensify the lively atmosphere of the city streets. There are very exotic marketplaces to wander as well, like the famous Chinatown in Yaowarat. This is a great place to look for gold and to experience the energy of major Chinese festivals and food. I mentioned previously the floating market, while there are a few and some actually located more inside the city, the best of them all is Damnoen Saduak. This place is a garden of delights. Shop from your own boat as hundreds of colorful others pass by laden with some of the most delectable fruit you’ve ever seen.
There are so many temples and sights to see and they are spread out over so much area that it will probably take you a few trips to cover the entirety of Bangkok. While I’ve only mentioned a sampling, so far, I definitely recommend the Wat Pho area in the old city, as it is full of historically significant items as well as the famous reclining Buddha. And if you enjoy nightife attractions be sure and head down to the Soi Cowboy for a dazzling array of lights and sounds. My overall take on Bangkok is that it is a quite friendly place, it is organized for how chaotic it could really be. There is a lot of modernity, mixed with some development and a great presence of nature ,which is always around thanks to the many green areas, parks and waterways. Bangkok is a place worthy of a better reputation and each of us can start by experiencing it and sharing our good memories with those we know. These in turn will hopefully experience the wonders of Bangkok, a destination to treasure.
Other good lodging options:
A some time ago we have already highlighted five excellent splurge options for hotels in Bangkok. Besides these there are hundreds of great options for lodging in Bangkok. There are two other good business hotels which are really quite worthwhile for the discerning traveler to consider.
This chain has two hotels in Bangkok, one is amore known luxurious downtown hotel called the Bangkok Sathorn and the other is the Anantara Baan Rajprasong which is a luxurious hotel as well. This is the newer one and it is well located near the BTS and all the Shopping districts. It is a very impressive structure which includes lots of light and has a relaxed atmosphere with very accommodating rooms. The traveler will want for nothing in this serene establishment in the heart of the city. It is a perfect place for medium to long term stays but it as well services people looking for a short term stay. It is ideal for business and family travelers. It has a feeling of home while still being a five star hotel.
This property is situated downtown and it immediately strikes one as an ideal business hotel. All 381 rooms get the best of access close to the best shopping in Bangkok. The pool is situated on the rooftop which offers calm and impressive views of the city. The lobby greets one with earthy tones but quickly moves to golden and silver ceilings which give an impression of refined luxury. The hotel boasts one of the largest meeting and convention facilities and it has over twenty two meeting rooms of various sizes with all day complementary refreshments.