This is the famous Bangkok, the main gateway to the Orient and its greatest city.
Full of contrasts, alluring, choking and congested entity, overwhelming visitors
with the heat, the noise, the grime, the pungent smells, the crowds, the vibrant
lights (including red lights), polluted with terrible traffic of cars, buses, trucks,
struggling tuk-tuks, all along with a huge number of cranking motorcycles.
One might wonder, what makes this city so mysteriously attractive to
many novelists, movie makers, and travelers from all over the world.
Thai capital since 1782, Bangkok is a political, economic, cultural, and spiritual center of Thailand, the metropolis with a population estimated at 12-15 million. This archaic and at the same time modern and rapidly growing city is the Chao Phraya River near its outlet into the Gulf of Thailand. Best-known as the River of Kings, it divides the city into two distinguished parts: one called Thonburi is on the west bank, the other Krung Thep is on the east bank.
When looking at Bangkok tourist maps (see a segment of the city map), virtually you will see only the eastern part of Krung Thep, since it is the location of nearly all major tourist attractions. For the same reason, our focus is tuned solely on the east bank as well. Still, it is appropriate to mention that Thonburi was the second capital of the kingdom of Siam, former name of Thailand (refer to the Brief History and Kingdom Anniversary titles) after the fall of Ayutthaya and before Bangkok.
In the middle of the 19th century, the canals were the lifeline of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River itself was the city center. Today, most of the city canals have been filled to make way for new roads, housing projects, and mass transit systems. Wheeled motor vehicles are certainly the mode of transport of choice for most Bangkokians. But still, despite harsh implications to endure the heavy smell of sewage and severe filthiness, the existing network of canals that crisscross Bangkok carries hundreds of thousands of commuters on motorized wooden boats, also called longtails.
Bangkok is a study in contrast and diversity, side by side with the newly constructed skyscrapers and high-rise ultramodern buildings are hovels, where poor and unpretentious citizens live abreast modern architecture and renewal. But, despite the obvious poverty of the vast majority of the population, there are no starving citizens. Everywhere you look, you will see the same problems that plague most of the large cities: overcrowding, pollution, and traffic so congested that progress towards almost any destination is measured in hours rather than in (kilo)meters. During the rainy season, plenty of flooded roads make the pace of traffic even worse.
Bangkok Thailand â€“ The Most Traveller Friendly City in Southeast Asia
Humble yet probably the most notable nightspot, the famous Patpong is lying in between Silom and Suranwongse main roads. A major business district during the day, it attracts thousands of visitors at twilight hours with its shopping and entertainment establishments: massage parlours, coffee shops, restaurants, an endless array of bars, clubs, discos, erotic shows, all along with the sizzling market. Patpong night market comprises roadside stalls of clothing, souvenirs, and a wide variety of other goods to attract tourists the world over.
|Watch a short movie clip Patpong by Night in MPEG format (10 sec., 922 KB).|
Click here for instructions.
You can take a panoramic view over Bangkok archaic surroundings (5 sec., 506 KB),
Speaking of a recently constructed Bangkok Mass Transit Systems, here is a link to BTS Skytrain. And the latest novelty that hit the capital and still expanding is the underground -- MRT Subway. Considering the terrible traffic in Bangkok, these megaprojects provide for a rather convenient city transport alternative, particularly for tourists.
BTS Skytrain in Bangkok
Rush Hour in Bangkok
The city's northwestern part is the location of the Grand Palace and the most significant Buddhist temples like Wat Pho, better known as the temple of Reclining Buddha. There are also the Chitlatda Palace - the monarch residence in Bangkok, as well as some government ministries, political institutions, and one of the most selective universities in Thailand, the Thammasat University that has often been engaged in Thai national politics. Its campus was the site of the 14 October 1973 uprising and the 6 October 1976 Massacre.
Speaking of Wat Pho, which just recently has been granted the prestigious Unesco Memory of the World award for its canons (religious texts) and ancient wisdom depicted and carved on 1,140 marble plates set in decorative frames. Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok with the most cherished collections of Buddha images in Thailand, you could easily spend half a day there admiring the mesmerizing tile work and wandering around beautifully tended gardens with statues of Marco Polo. Wat Pho is also famous as Thailand's first school for traditional Thai massage and is one of the best places to experience traditional Thai massage.
Nearby in the Banglampoo district are the notorious Thief Market and Khao San Road, well-known amongst youth, backpackers, and budget travelers for its cheap guest houses, splendid food, and spirit of the neverending party. Another worthy of noting area is the Yaowarat, Bangkok's famous Chinatown, settled down in the middle of the city. It is one of Bangkok's prevalent daytime markets.
Further to the east is the city's main shopping district with a principal market called Siam Square, where strolling around you will find dozens of small shops, fashion boutiques, cozy cafes, clubs, cinemas, and theaters, including the famous Hard Rock pub, well embraced by the local yuppies and foreign visitors alike.
Siam Square is surrounded by the city's main shopping malls: the oldest one is Siam Center, called "A Center of Fun" and its next-door twin Siam Discovery on one side, and luxuries Siam Paragon on the other. By the bye, Siam Paragon stands on the former location of the Siam Intercontinental Hotel.
These three Malls are on the Rama I Road, a continuation of Sukhumvit Road. Just around the corner on Ratchadamri Road is the largest of them all an upscale shopping complex CentralWorld, formerly called World Trade Center. It has been brutally vandalized and severely damaged by the fire during the Red Riots in May 2010.
Close by just across from the Siam Square, on the Phaya Thai Road stands one of Bangkok's oldest and most popular shopping centers called Mahboonkrong, MBK for short, with easy access to the BTS Skytrain National Stadium station. It houses the middle-class Tokyu department store and also the 4-star Pathumwan Princess Hotel for the die-hard power shoppers.
Another shopping mall worthy of noting is Pantip Plaza - heaven for computer enthusiasts located on the New Petchburi Road just across Amari Watergate Hotel. Absolutely everything computer-related can be found there. (Note: the Mall has been renovated and as a result, there are fewer shops now and the assortment of products and services is decreased drastically.) More info on sights in Bangkok will be coming soon in the Attractions to See title.
25 Amazing Things To Do in Bangkok Thailand (12:40 minutes movie clip)
A city that never sleeps, at twilights, Bangkok completely alters its face transforming into a beautiful and luminous spectacle. At night, as a daily ritual, ordinary-looking places during the day, dressing up as it were for a cocktail party. Bangkok's incredible nightlife is an extravaganza filled with flashing lights, music, and fun-loving crowds. It gets much more enjoyable strolling around at night when the daily heat subsides and it's noticeably cooler.
Thus, plenty of venues of choice for fellow travelers, hunting for action and romance, are squared up around Sukhumvit Road, namely Soi Cowboy, Nana Entertainment Plaza & Nana Disco. A while back, Grace coffee shop launched Clinton Plaza and other night entertainment spots. In fact, no other city, at least in Southeast Asia, rivals Bangkok for its thrilling Nightlife Extravaganza. This vibrant city compounds pre-and-after hours small intimate bars and cocktail lounges along with boasted and crowded clubs and discos. Some are equipped with sophisticated sound systems, laser lights, and other modern gear. Other inns provide for a more friendly and relaxed ambiance, featuring slow dance melodies or attracting guests with live entertainers. Some of the best, primarily situated in the leading hotels, offer the superior bona fide experience inspired by top music play artists and musicians from all over the world. Speaking of bars, it's just impossible to overlook the legendary Thermae, one of Bangkok oldest after-hours gatherings. This popular hangout is distinguished by its genuine humble character with somewhat bizarre ambiance and eccentric frequenters. Yet, being patronaged by flamboyant freelance girls, it has a lifelong reputation of a venue where one could never get bored. More info on shopping, dining and night entertainment in Bangkok is found on the page entitle Shopping and Hotspots. In addition, please refer to a list of recommended tours in Bangkok at Private & Joint-Bus Guided Tours. And by all means, take advantage of this special travel promotion and enjoy the luxury and exotic Thailand Vacation of your dreams at incredible savings! (This Bangkok--Pattaya package is guided by our experts.)
Most Bangkokians are quite formal, particularly concerning the manner of dress. To get into most of the hi-so-type indoor venues frequented mainly by locals, one must be dressed appropriately. However, many night entertainment establishments bow to submit their exceptions for tourists in casual clothes. Still, when visiting the Grand Palace and Buddhist temples, one must be dressed respectfully: no open shoulder shirts, no shorts, and no sandals are permitted. The same is true in certain nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, discos, and similar establishments, which are well air-conditioned, and occasionally, it may be even a bit chilly inside.
To be continued...