Thailand – Getting to know Bangkok

We don’t approve of clichés when it comes to travel, but we have to make an exception when describing Bangkok – a city that really does offer something for just about everyone! Quite simply, it’s one of the world’s great cities. A visit to the Thai capital offers an exhilarating blend of the traditional and the modern – this is a city where gleaming royal palaces, sacred temples and an ingrained appreciation of tradition mixes with prestigious accommodation, world class shopping and superb dining. It’s unquestionably an essential part of any trip to Thailand.

If you want to explore a modern capital that hasn’t sacrificed tradition, and explore public buildings that are frequently jaw-dropping in scale and grandeur, this is the place to do it. If you enjoy staying in hotels that ooze luxury, or like the idea of sipping cocktails from spectacular (and seriously stylish) roof-top watering holes, then the Thai capital won’t disappoint.

And that’s before we even mention the family-friendly excursions, the shopping that spans from futuristic malls to colourful night markets, the wonderful spas, the restaurants with standards that most definitely wouldn’t be upstaged by London, Paris or New York, or the historic neighbourhoods where everyday life appears to have been captured in time.

Although Bangkok is a sprawling, frenetic city (which is what, in our opinion, makes it so exciting), the modern Skytrain makes getting around easier, while the Chao Phraya River – often said to be Bangkok’s beating heart – provides a great way to connect a number of the sights you simply can’t leave off any ‘to do’ list.

What to do in Bangkok

Spend a morning exploring the spectacular Grand Palace and, while in the area, take in other attractions such as Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) and Wat Pho. If time allows, drop in at the stunning Vimanmek Mansion – the world’s largest teakwood structure, set in beautiful gardens.

You’ll find great eating all over the city, from chi-chi places talked about by locals and in-the-know ex-pats, to the food stalls around the Sukhumvit and Khao San road areas.

For a sense of the city’s scale, head up to the 61st floor Vertigo and Moon Bar, or the Sky Bar (suspended on a precipice more than 820 feet in the air), sit back and enjoy a sundowner as the City of Angels sparkles below.

Top tip

Carry a hotel card with the address and directions in Thai; when you see the word ‘soi’ as part of an address, it simply refers to a road or lane off another road. Taxis are metered, but always check it’s on, and make friends with the Skytrain – it’s a great way to get around.

Around Bangkok

If you want a real taste of authentic everyday life outside the city, take a trip to the Samut Songkhram or Maeklong markets where, aboard a local train, you’ll journey along narrow rails seemingly squeezed between stalls bursting with fruit, vegetables and other produce.

    Heading further afield, it’s possible to visit both Ayutthaya and the River Kwai. The first was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1350 until 1767 and today makes for a spectacular, UNESCO listed site packed with Buddhist temples, monasteries, statues and monuments. 

The River Kwai is, of course, synonymous with World War II and the construction, by Allied prisoners of war and other ill-treated labourers, of what became known as the Death Railway. Visitors are rewarded with a fascinating day away from the excitement of Bangkok.

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Photos of Bangkok

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    • James
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    • Thailand and Asia Specialist
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