General information: Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. Its population is 8 million people. Bangkok is the main political and economic center of Thailand, with a very developed infrastructure and more than 500 high rise buildings. Bangkok is definitely the biggest metropolis in Southeast Asia.
How to get there? If you have been following my previous articles in this miniseries then you will know that you can reach Bangkok from Siem Reap in Cambodia very easily. If you are traveling to Bangkok from any other country, you can easily reach it from almost any important world airport.
Top spots and things to do:
Siam Square: It’s the main commercial and financial spot in Bangkok. There are many modern buildings housing offices, shopping malls, plazas, fountains, coffee shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Pass through modern pedestrianized areas and look for amazing shops selling a variety of goods. There are more than 10 large shopping malls in or near Siam Square. If you can’t find it here, you will probably not find it anywhere else. The Square is always crowded with people young and old, local people and tourists in whatever time of day you decide to come here. For only 13eur you can visit one of the biggest aquariums in Asia, which is called Siam Ocean World. Besides sharks, the Aquarium has more than 30 000 marine species in its tanks. Some of the luxury shops and restaurants here are too expensive, but it is worth visiting the Square to see what Thai prosperity looks like. If you want to meet modern Thailand, this is the spot for you to see how middle or high income people live, whose number is growing from day to day since Thailand has one of fastest developing economies in Asia.
Rattanakosin: This is the old, historic part of Bangkok, the neighborhood that was the central part of the Siamese Kingdom by the beginning of the 18th century. Many beautiful palaces, temples, and museums are located here, above all the Grand Palace, which was both the office and residence of the Thai kings from the end of the 18th century until 1925. Today it serves as a public museum, and governmental and royal ceremonies are held here a few times a year. You can enter this large royal complex – located on the Chao Praya River – for only 14eur. The entrance fee is really a bargain since the royal palace offers a large number of things to see. In the Grand Palace there are many gardens and fountains between and among the buildings. You can walk around them all by using the narrow, beautiful paths that pass through the greenery. The palace buildings are very beautiful, white in color with light brown roofs and golden edges and stupas. The design of the buildings is very beautiful and authentically Thai on the outside while the interiors are a combination of Thai and European design. There are many richly decorated halls, living rooms, and reception rooms in the buildings, where you will find many personal belongings of the kings and their portraits, too. Within the palace there is also a military museum and a beautiful temple with an emerald Buddha statue. Legend says that the statue dates from 43BC and came from India.
In this part of Bangkok you can also visit several Buddhist temples. The largest and most famous temple in Bangkok is Wat Pho, which dates from the 18th century. Wat Pho is always crowded with tourists. Between the temple buildings that contain altars and monastic living quarters there are beautiful courtyards. Wat Pho is beautiful and clean, but not calm in the way that temples usually are. Within the temple there is the largest statue of a Reclining Buddha in the world – 15m high and 46m long and gold-plated.
In Bangkok there are other temples that are more peaceful and mysterious than this one. One of them is the Wat Saket Temple. It is a very unique and mysterious temple, and with few visitors. During the 19th century, 60 000 victims of plague epidemics were cremated in this temple. There are also some relics believed to be Buddha’s teeth. And there is a golden stupa on an artificial hill that was constructed in the 19th century. Just to remind you: be respectful in temples since the Thai people believe the temples and Buddhism are sacred. It is a big honor for many young people to spend at least month or two once in a lifetime living in a temple. It is best to wear trousers or long skirts and cover the shoulders when visiting temples in Thailand in order not to offend anyone.
Lumpini park: This is the largest park in central Bangkok – a real oasis in the middle of a busy and noisy city. Many people go there to enjoy tranquility among the greenery, palms, and tropical flowers. You can do it, too, and have a long rest there on beautiful, sunny days. There is even a lovely lake where you can rent a boat and row it by yourself and enjoy this place fully.
Time for the Beach: Finally, if you enthusiastic about summer and the sea, you are in the right place. Only 150km from Bangkok there is amazing Pattaya town. It takes only 2h by bus to get there. You can spend a whole day there on a long sand beach. The sea is extremely clean and clear and perfectly warm at this time of year. It is possible to rent equipment for scuba diving, and you can discover the undersea world and see colorful tropical fish. You can also walk along the beach and check out one of the many beach bars, where there are cocktails made from various exotic fruits. If you want a more tranquil option you can find beaches on the outskirts of Pattaya with very few people or occasionally, no people at all. You can arrange a day here for swimming, sunbathing, meditating, or simply chilling out.
Open door zoo: Between Pattaya and Bangkok there is an amazing spot in the rainforest called Khao Kheow – an open door zoo. Visiting Khao Kheow is like going on a safari, and worth every minute spent there. More than 300 animal species live here in an entirely natural environment. The animals have a really large space for roaming and residing, so it is really relaxing for them since they feel almost free. You can spend all day here looking at tigers, leopards, monkeys, elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and many others. There is also a large aviary comprising 800 square meters situated next to a stream in the shadows of many trees. You will see hundreds of tropical birds and parrots of all possible colors flying and calling out. It feels like the animals are completely free as they are so close to you. Monkeys jump over branches and shout. Only the dangerous animals such as the tigers are separated by almost invisible wires. There is also the option of coming for a night tour to experience the life of the jungle after dark. It will be an unforgettable experience since you will see large cats roaring and hiding in long grass and among the bushes and acting like real hunters. You will hear elephants, monkeys, and owls. The night jungle is a real concert of various voices and animals. It may be a bit scary, but you are 100% safe since the animals cannot reach you. It is hard to experience close contact with wild animals in a place safer than this one.
Time for amazing food: Thai food is one of best cuisines in Southeast Asia. It may remind you of Vietnamese or Southern Chinese, but actually it is a specific and distinct cuisine. However, have in mind that Thai food is usually extremely spicy, so if you do not like spicy food it would be better not to experiment too much with it. But if you enjoy spicy food, then Thailand will be heaven for you. Very long chili peppers are used here for almost every dish whether it is a main course, soup, or anything else. To start you can try extremely spicy soup with chicken and coconut to which peppers are added. Also there is a very spicy soup with shrimp. There are various combinations of fried beef or pork sliced, in ribs, or skewered and combined with peppers, carrot, corn, cashew, cabbage, rice, and noodles. Chicken is very commonly eaten, especially chicken wings and skewers made from chicken with the previously mentioned additions and ingredients. Shrimp, fish, and shellfish are very often eaten with peppers, rice, and noodles. Also you must try spicy salad with papaya and peppers. If you want to try something special then you can try small fried lizards with fries and chili. You can eat in Bangkok for only between 2 to 4eur. The price is really worth it given the big portions that you get. It is best to eat in the central parts of the city and to avoid eating in suburban areas. It is also highly advised to avoid eggs, minced meat, and milk-based products since they have often been on the shelf too long and may cause trouble.
Night Life: It is very rich and crazy in Bangkok, as you have probably already heard. Bangkok is notorious for prostitution, but don’t be misled by that. Generally you can have a very good time here as there are hundreds of bars and clubs that are open until 6am. Also you can meet many locals since Thais are very friendly and warm-hearted people who will tell you interesting stories as they are very open and often speak quite good English. It is easy to meet them in any bar or pub. You can try Thailand’s wonderful Singha beer, a famous Thai beer that costs only 1.5eur. Various cocktails combining alcohol and fruits can be found for 4-5eur. If you do not want alcohol you can try delicious fruit juices made from mango, papaya, coconut, banana, and litchi. In addition to bars and clubs you can visit amazing spas that offer great massages for only 20eur.
Accommodation: In Bangkok you can find comfortable rooms costing between 20 and 60eur per night. It is best to surf the net and find the best choice for you.
Tips: 1) Prostitution is widespread and legal, but drugs are not. They are frequently available but are strictly against the law, and if you are caught, it can be dangerous. If the police catch you with even a small amount of marijuana you can face between 20 years and life in prison.