From time to time I feature a major city on this blog. Today I welcome you to a city I have visited many times - BANGKOK, THAILAND. Bangkok is the capital, and the most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep. Over the years I have watched professional kick-boxing tournaments at Lumpini Stadium, listened to Irish folk singers in pubs, eaten food in an array of restaurants and walked countless miles with a camera dangling from my neck.
Bangkok is as intoxicating as it is diverse; a melting pot of exotic aromas, interesting sights and visual delights. It's a city with infinite layers which you need to explore to reveal its hidden secrets. If you're planning a trip to Bangkok, make sure to allow enough time to see some of the treasures that has given this city iconic status - at least three to five days.
Bangkok began as a small trading centre and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago. Today, while the city is up to speed with modern times, the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past still prevails. Be it dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market or colourful Chinatown, each of these famous places has an intriguing story to tell. Here are a few suggestions ...
Wat Arun is almost directly opposite Wat Pho, so it is very easy to get to. From Sapphan Taksin boat pier you can take a river boat that stops at pier 8. From here a small shuttle boat takes you from one side of the river to the other for only 3 baht. Entry to the temple is 100 baht. The temple is open daily from 08:30 to 17:30.
It is a magnificent edifice to photograph at sunrise and sunset.
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
To enjoy the atmosphere without haggling over prices, try relaxing on a guided boat tour of Damnoen Saduak market. Floating markets are Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market, Tha Kha, and Damnoen Saduak.
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.
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It's one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s an easy ten minute walk between here and the Grand Palace, and I recommend coming to Wat Pho second, because even though the golden Buddha is just as popular, many people don’t take the time to wander around the rest of the complex so the experience tends to be far more relaxing. This is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho is often considered the leading school of massage in Thailand, so you really are in good hands here. Since December 2012, entrance to the temple costs 100 baht and you can visit any time between 08:00 and 17:00.
CHAO PHRAYA RIVER AND KHLONGS (WATERWAYS)
The 'Venice of the East' nickname in fact predates Besso's scribblings by hundreds of years. However, though it is unclear when exactly the phrase was born, it is clear that no tourist guide since (book, person or website) has been able to resist this captivating cliche. Like Burma's 'Mandalay', it evokes the romance of the Orient, only Bangkok-style: of languid sampans drifting down tree-lined canals, of stoic locals living next to them in floating wooden shophouses, of city life before the advent of tuk-tuks and traffic jams.
CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET
The 35-acre (68-rai) area of Chatuchak is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer. Veteran shoppers would agree that just about everything is on sale here, although not all at the best bargain rates. But if you have one weekend in Bangkok, squeeze in a day trip to Chatuchak Weekend Market and you will not be disappointed.
KHAO SAN ROAD
If Bangkok is a city where East greets West, then Khao San Road is the scene of their collision, the place where they jostle for superiority and poke one another in the eye. With travellers from every corner of the modern world, sleek clubs playing sophisticated sounds, eclectic market stalls, converted VW cocktail bars, and foods tamed to suit the Western palate, it may seem clear who won the fight. However, whether you're a hard-up farang (foreigner) or open-minded Thai, its irrepressible energy and carefree vibe makes it well worth a visit.
Soi Cowboy is just next to Terminal 21, a very popular new shopping mall. So just head cross the street and see it for yourself... or use Terminal 21 as an excuse to have some fun time! Remember, you might not see this again anywhere else in the world!
Clancy's comment: One amazing city and certainly full of lovely and generous people with smiles.
Think about this!