Bangkok

As the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok features both old-world charm and modern convenience, at times served up in an apparently chaotic manner, but always with a gracious smile. Invariably, every Thailand holiday includes a visit to the kingdom’s capital city, Bangkok, or Krung Thep, “the city of angels” as it is known to 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. Indeed there is a wide variety of Bangkok sightseeing opportunities spanning more than two centuries of rapid development following the city’s founding in 1782 by King Rama I, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty. Since that auspicious date, Bangkok has swelled to a cosmopolitan, 21st century city of more than ten million inhabitants. While the immensity of the city and its bustling streets can be intimidating at first, those who spend some time in Bangkok are quickly enamored by the myriad of attractions Bangkok contains, from exotic temples, which underscore Thailand’s strong Buddhist history, to modern shopping malls, which make shopping an integral part of any Bangkok holiday. Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to please visitors either simply passing through the city or spending their entire Thailand holiday in Bangkok. Nearly every Bangkok holiday includes a visit to Thailand’s Grand Palace, arguably the premier Bangkok sightseeing attraction. Situated in the heart of Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island, the gleaming spires of the Grand Palace are conveniently located nearby Bangkok’s most spectacular temples, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Pho, which features an enormous reclining Buddha and was home of the first Thai massage school in the kingdom. These iconic destinations are top attractions to all visitors who travel to Bangkok looking to appreciate Thailand’s unique cultural traditions. In fact, there are more than 400 functioning Buddhist temples throughout the city and it’s not uncommon when you travel in Bangkok to spot saffron robed monks collecting morning alms or traveling throughout out the city, including along the Chao Phraya, the “River of Kings”, which passes alongside the Temple of the Dawn. The winding Chao Phraya is connected by numerous canals from which Bangkok has earned its nickname the “Venice of the East”; when you travel around Bangkok, a cruise on the Chao Phraya, a visit to a floating market, or an exploration of the cities “back alley” canals (khlongs) are themselves unique Bangkok attractions. Other historical and cultural Bangkok sightseeing ‘must sees’ include the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion, and Suan Pakkad Palace, all of which either house fine art or are national treasures in their own right. Beyond Bangkok’s historical district, there are plenty of other attractions that make a Bangkok holiday both enjoyable and memorable. The downtown districts along Silom and Sukhumvit Roads have a convenient electric rail system, including an elevated sky-train and underground subway, that have made travel in Bangkok both easy and enjoyable. Connecting hotels directly to shopping malls and traditional markets, such as Mah Boon Krong Center and Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market, the MRT and BTS systems have literally elevated Bangkok shopping to world-class status. Of course, no Thailand holiday is complete without experiencing Thailand’s vibrant nightlife. Whether, the purpose of your Thailand holiday is to immerse yourself in Thailand’s unique culture or simply to splurge in Bangkok shopping malls, when you travel to Bangkok you are guaranteed a fascinating experience of both old-world charm and modern convenience and luxury.

As the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok features both old-world charm and modern convenience, at times served up in an apparently chaotic manner, but always with a gracious smile.

Invariably, every Thailand holiday includes a visit to the kingdom’s capital city, Bangkok, or Krung Thep, “the city of angels” as it is known to 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. Indeed there is a wide variety of Bangkok sightseeing opportunities spanning more than two centuries of rapid development following the city’s founding in 1782 by King Rama I, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty. Since that auspicious date, Bangkok has swelled to a cosmopolitan, 21st century city of more than ten million inhabitants. While the immensity of the city and its bustling streets can be intimidating at first, those who spend some time in Bangkok are quickly enamored by the myriad of attractions Bangkok contains, from exotic temples, which underscore Thailand’s strong Buddhist history, to modern shopping malls, which make shopping an integral part of any Bangkok holiday. Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to please visitors either simply passing through the city or spending their entire Thailand holiday in Bangkok.  Nearly every Bangkok holiday includes a visit to Thailand’s Grand Palace, arguably the premier Bangkok sightseeing attraction. Situated in the heart of Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island, the gleaming spires of the Grand Palace are conveniently located nearby Bangkok’s most spectacular temples, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Pho, which features an enormous reclining Buddha and was home of the first Thai massage school in the kingdom. These iconic destinations are top attractions to all visitors who travel to Bangkok looking to appreciate Thailand’s unique cultural traditions. In fact, there are more than 400 functioning Buddhist temples throughout the city and it’s not uncommon when you travel in Bangkok to spot saffron robed monks collecting morning alms or traveling throughout out the city, including along the Chao Phraya, the “River of Kings”, which passes alongside the Temple of the Dawn. The winding Chao Phraya is connected by numerous canals from which Bangkok has earned its nickname the “Venice of the East”; when you travel around Bangkok, a cruise on the Chao Phraya, a visit to a floating market, or an exploration of the cities “back alley” canals (khlongs) are themselves unique Bangkok attractions. Other historical and cultural Bangkok sightseeing ‘must sees’ include the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion, and Suan Pakkad Palace, all of which either house fine art or are national treasures in their own right. Beyond Bangkok’s historical district, there are plenty of other attractions that make a Bangkok holiday both enjoyable and memorable. The downtown districts along Silom and Sukhumvit Roads have a convenient electric rail system, including an elevated sky-train and underground subway, that have made travel in Bangkok both easy and enjoyable. Connecting hotels directly to shopping malls and traditional markets, such as Mah Boon Krong Center and Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market, the MRT and BTS systems have literally elevated Bangkok shopping to world-class status. Of course, no Thailand holiday is complete without experiencing Thailand’s vibrant nightlife. Whether, the purpose of your Thailand holiday is to immerse yourself in Thailand’s unique culture or simply to splurge in Bangkok shopping malls, when you travel to Bangkok you are guaranteed a fascinating experience of both old-world charm and modern convenience and luxury.

Most popular Areas of Bankok
Covering an area of 1,500 square kilometres, the greater Bangkok Metropolis fits into the ‘big city’ league with great ease. Add to that an estimated ten million inhabitants, more than 30,000 taxis and an ever-increasing number of tourists, and you’ll soon realize that getting to grips with such a vast concrete jungle is no easy feat, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. This is where our Area Guides come in pretty handy… Certain areas have become more popular than others, largely due to their good location and the things there to do and see — be it traditional attractions, shopping highlights or a notoriously famous nightlife scene. Navigating this exciting city has also become much easier, thanks to the Skytrain (BTS) and underground (MRT) systems connecting large areas. Get to know Bangkok a little better before your trip.

Have a trawl through our Area Guides, where we tell you all about the city's main areas. This will help you decide where to stay, where to visit and where to avoid. At 1,600 square kilometres and counting, Bangkok is big, and the many different areas can be bewildering – even for those who've spent years here. The most popular areas for visitors are:

  • Siam Silom
  • Sukhumvit
  • Old City (Rattanakosin)
  • Chidlom-Ploenchit
  • Pratunam
  • Riverside

all charismatic parts of town that combine sights, nightlife, shopping, great hotels and convenient locations with access to public transport. Budget travellers and backpackers, of course, still swear by Khao San Road. 

Sukhumvit Bangkok

The longest road in Thailand, both it and its many adjoining 'sois' (sub-streets) are poor on traditional tourist attractions but rich in of-the-minute shopping, eating and nightlife. The many fashionable restaurants, bars, air-conditioned malls, luxury hotels and hip clubs give the area a distinctly modern, cosmopolitan flavour. Some of the city's most sinful spots, red-light districts Nana Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (off Soi 23) are also found here. And little, stress-busting pockets of calm can be found in the sweet cafes, atmospheric restaurants and lush day spas that hide down many of its sois. Making exploring its staggering length incredibly easy is the Skytrain (BTS) that runs through most of its downtown stretch.

Silom Bangkok 
Silom is undoubtedly one of the city's most important financial districts with many bank headquarters, financial institutions and office buildings. Fine hotels, smaller type malls and great restaurants abound in the area too - and then of course there's the famous nightlife scene of Patpong. Bangkok's two most  sophisticated mass transportation systems - the Skytrain (BTS) and underground - both have Silom connections, which are also conveniently connected by the walkway between MRT Silom and BTS Sala Daeng stations. Siam, Chidlom, Ploenchit, Sathorn, and the riverside are only a few BTS stations away.

Siam Bangkok 
Siam is unquestionably the centre of shopping in Bangkok, home to some of the city's most popular and important shopping centers like MBK Center, Siam Discovery Center, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon. Within Siam Square itself, there is a wide range of shops and services, including restaurants, cafes, designer clothing boutiques, record stores, cinemas, bookshops, a Hard Rock Cafe, hotels and banks. The shoppers vary from young-aged school and college students to office workers, trend-setting city dwellers and, of course, throngs of tourists.

Bangkok Riverside 
Bangkok Riverside Bangkok's riverside is where its historic roots lie; the traditional heartland of this magical city with origins that read like an epic novel - complete with fallen and rising Kingdoms, heroes and traitors. One of the most fascinating and scenic areas of Bangkok, the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night; water-taxis ferrying commuters and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and palaces, historical landmarks and luxury, five-star hotels. Despite some condominiums and corporate towers that have risen from the river banks over the past decade or so, the area has retained its unique identity, exclusiveness and seductive charm.

Chinatown Bangkok 
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-side cuisine. At day time, it’s no less busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples. Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants and a dense concentration of gold shops, Chinatown is an experience not to miss. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious – it will keep you wanting to come back for more. Plan your visit during major festivals, like Chinese New Year, and you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.

Bangkok Old City (Rattanakosin) 
Straddling the Chao Phraya River and situated just north of Chinatown, the Old City (Rattanakosin) is where you'll find Bangkok's most spectacular and revered historical attractions. Not only part of the Kingdom's rich past, but intrinsic to it, with shimmering, spire-shaped eye-candy on nearly every corner. Sights include the regal majesty of the Grand Palace, the awe-inspiring beauty of Wat Phra Kaew, and the traditional learning centres Wat Pho and Wat Mahathat, the latter widely considered one of Thailand's first universities and a centre for meditation. Sanam Luang, a historic park next to the Grand Palace traditionally used for important Royal or Buddhist ceremonies, and the National Gallery can also be found here.

Pratunam Bangkok 
Pratunam is an easy district to find no matter where you are in Bangkok thanks to its domineering icon, the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. Rising an impressive 88 storeys high, it is Thailand's tallest building. The most distinctive feature of Bangkok's skyline, it also marks the spot for one of the city's all-time, favourite pursuits: Shopping! A scandalous variety of goods are on offer, with something for everyone - no matter how deep or shallow your pocket may be. Pratunam is one of Bangkok's most colourful and chaotic areas, and famous for its fashion factory outlets, street markets, bazaars and armies of local vendors. Pratunam offers bargain prices for all kinds of clothing, apparel, fashion accessories, shoes, watches, jewellery, belts, luggage and then some. 

Chidlom and Ploenchit Bangkok 
Ploenchit and Chidlom is the area of downtown Bangkok all urbanites aspire to be. If the Riverside traces Bangkok's rich historical roots, Ploenchit Road, Chitlom, Ratchadamri, Lang Suan and Wireless Road represent the new face of Bangkok. Shaped by high rise offices, upscale apartments, embassies, expensive shopping malls and luxury hotels, the area is low on traditional tourist attractions (other than several popular shrines), but high on chic and prestige. During the day, it's mostly about shopping of the designer, status-symbol variety. Food courts adjoining these ritzy malls and a slew of quality restaurants, also do a brisk trade. 

Sathorn Bangkok 
Stretching from Lumpini Park south to the river, Sathorn contains some of Bangkok's trendiest hotels like the Metropolitan, the Sukhothai and Banyan Tree. The area also boasts many upmarket serviced apartments and a variety of fine restaurants serving up excellent local and international cuisine. The Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)  runs along most part of this road with stations at Surasak and Saphan Taksin. Sathorn is one of Bangkok's 'newest' areas and has seen phenomenal growth over recent years, mostly as a result of its outstanding location close to prime areas like Silom, Siam, the riverside and Sukhumvit Road. It's particularly popular too with an ever-increasing expat community, long-stay visitors and business travellers. 

Bangkok Shopping
Many tourists are drawn to Bangkok for its relatively cheap silk, gems, and tailor-made clothes. But there are many other goods worth seeking out: quality silverware, fine porcelain, and handmade leather goods—all at prices well below those in western shops. The already reduced prices can often be haggled down even further—haggling is mainly reserved for markets, but shopkeepers will let you know if they're willing to discount, especially if you start walking away.
Don't be fooled by a tuk-tuk driver offering to take you to a shop. Shop owners pay drivers a commission to lure in unsuspecting tourists. Patronizing reputable dealers will help you avoid getting scammed on big-ticket items like jewelry .

Thai antiques and old images of the Buddha require a special export license; check out the Thai Board of Investment's Web site at www.boi.go.th/english for rules on exporting and applications to do so.

The city's most popular shopping areas are along Silom Road and Surawong Road, where you can find quality silk; Sukhumvit Road, which is rich in leather goods; Yaowarat Road in Chinatown, where gold trinkets abound; and along Oriental Lane and Charoen Krung (New Road), where there are many antiques shops. The shops around Siam Square and at the World Trade Center attract both Thais and foreigners. Peninsula Plaza, across from the Anantara Siam Bangkok hotel in the embassy district, has upscale shops. If you're knowledgeable about fabric, you can find bargains at the textile merchants who compete along Pahuraht Road in Chinatown and Pratunam Road off Phetchaburi Road. You can even take the raw material to a tailor and have something made.


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