Bangkok, Thailand, one of the most vibrant cities in South East Asia. A city that never sleeps and always fascinates. Hospitable people, glittering temples, colourful markets, great shopping and exotic nightlife. Bangkok is an intoxicating mixture of aromas, sights and visual delights.
Bangkok’s dazzling temples are a unique part of the capital’s heart and soul. The temples (or “Wats”) are not just tourist attractions but also play an important part in Buddhist traditions. Monks live in the temple complexes, get up around 4 am, attend to prayers and duties and then collect food and necessities from ordinary people on the streets.
The Kingdom of Thailand lies in Southeast Asia, with Laos and Cambodia to its east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to its south, and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar to its west. Thailand exports over $105 billion worth of products annually. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually.
What to see in Bangkok
There is so much to see in Bangkok that any list has to be just a few suggestions, almost picked at random. Temples: there are 31,000 temples in Thailand! Three to see in Bangkok are Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in the city and features the gold reclining Buddha; the largest Buddha in Thailand at 45 metres (150 ft), it requires some skill and patience to photograph it. Take the ferry from Tha Tien Pier near Wat Pho across the river to Wat Arun to see the temple of the God of Dawn, with its 80 metre high “prang” or tower decorated with coloured fragments of china and ceramic tiles. The best view of Wat Arun is from the opposite side of the river at sunset, when its magnificent tower is silhouetted against the sky. Wat Phra Kaeo is situated in the Grand Palace complex and contains the famous 14th century Emerald Buddha.
Chatuchak Weekend Market (Saturday and Sunday only) takes a whole day to see properly: it has 15,000 stalls divided into 27 sections and claims to be one of the largest markets in the world, but you can get food and drink there while choosing Thai souvenirs to take home. (Take the MRT to Chatuchak Park Station or the SkyTrain to Mochit Station.) When the noise and bustle of Bangkok gets too much for you, retire to Dusit Park for some peace and relative quiet. This is a royal garden so you are expected not to show your legs or bare arms, out of respect. Also peaceful and yet in the city centre is Lumpini Park in Rama IV Road, the oldest and largest park in Bangkok, where you can walk, jog, or just sit around.
For lively nightlife, head for Khao San Road, the backpacking and young traveller area, where you will find numerous bars and restaurants. There are budget hostels here too, but expect noise, drinking and hassle from street sellers.
Where to stay: the 5 star Mandarin Oriental on the bank of the Chao Phraya River will insulate you from the pressures of the city, with a large swimming pool, air conditioned rooms with beautiful views, and an Oriental Spa providing massage and various treatments. Much cheaper and handy for Suvarnbhumi Airport, the 3 star Silver Gold Garden near Huatakhe Market is clean and comfortable, with good service. HQ Hostel in Silom Soi 3 provides backpackers’ accommodation in the city centre, with a restaurant, free wifi and a fitness centre. The hostel has dormitories and private rooms, and is clean and modern. It is a good alternative to Khao San Road, and most attractions are within walking distance.