on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, a few
kilometers upstream from its outflow into
the Gulf of Siam, Bangkok sprawls across a flat
alluvial plain. It is the capital in every
sense of the word.
It is where the Royal family resides, it is the
seat of government and administration, and it
is the focal point for virtually all major
industrial, commercial and financial activity. It
is the country's main port and home to one tenth
of the Kingdom's population.
Bangkok has a big international airport many
tourist stay in this city for a short time. This
first thing you have to know, that 3-5 days in
Bangkok is not enough to feel and see the real
Bangkok. So keep in mind, unless you stay one
month in bangkok, the impression you get is not of
the real city.
believe people who tell you that Bangkok is noisy,
stinky, crowded etc.Those people probably have
been 3-4 days in Bangkok. It's true, the North is
nicer, but if you know where to go, and you have
enough time, Bangkok is a great city.
Bangkok can soothe or ruffle, depending upon your
circumstances. If you're contemplating the sunrise
at Wat Arun temple along the Chao Phraya River,
you'll marvel at what peace can be found in the
midst of such a chaotic metropolis. But if you're
stuck in a typically nasty traffic jam, you'll
wonder if any magnificent sight or the warmth of
Thai people could possibly be worth the
frustration of trying to get from one place to the
Thailand's major gateway, casts an irresistible
spell of enchantment. To the Thais it is Krung
Thep, "City of Angels", and you'll
find it truly a magic place, one that captivates
to be the capital with the longest name ........
Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat
Bangkok is the Orient's most cosmopolitan city and
has attractions to stimulate even the most jaded
travellers. Created as the Thai capital in 1782 by
the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty,
Bangkok is a national treasure house and
Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political,
commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
than anywhere else in the country, Bangkok
expresses Thailand's uncanny ability to blend the
old with the new. This lends a thrilling sense of
discovery to one's sightseeing and adds an element
of surprise when exploring what is the Orient's
most fabled city.
exuberant, Bangkok embraces modern development and
presents an initial picture of thrusting office
towers; of world-class hotels offering deluxe
comforts; of glittering shopping plazas packed
with treasures of the East such as silks and
gemstones; of restaurants serving Thailand's
acclaimed spicy specialities and virtually every
other national cuisine worthy of the name; of
neon-lit entertainment spots where the fare ranges
from classical dance to laser disco.
"City of Angels" is, indeed, a magic
place where possibilities are limited only by the
imagination. You'll marvel at past glories,
delight in present opportunities and love every
minute of it.
Bangkok serves as illustration of the fortunes
befalling the Asian Tigers -- countries whose
economies emerged from the shadows of the Third
World and grew by leaps and bounds. Most of
Bangkok's deluxe hotels and gleaming skyscrapers
have sprung up just since 1987. Thailand had for a
decade one of the fastest-growing economies in the
world, fueled by Japanese investment. But in mid
1997, gross economic mismanagement, corruption and
reckless borrowing culminated in a major crash.
Ultimately, the baht, its currency, lost half its
has been called a city of villages, and its
various districts range from near old time squalor
to high-tech gleam. The one constant is the
terrible traffic, which almost everyone predicts
will get worse before it gets better. Fifty years
ago, when Bangkok still had hundreds of canals (klongs),
it was called the Venice of the East. Today, most
of the canals have been filled in and paved over,
adding more congested roads.
businesses and hotels are located in the city
center, east/southeast of Old Bangkok in the Silom
and Sukhumvit areas. The Sukhumvit Road district
is the tourist heart of the city, with many fine
restaurants and high-rise hotels. The Soi Cowboy
and Nana Plaza nightlife areas thrive there, as
well as tailors, antique dealers and movie
The infamous red-light district, Patpong Road, is
located in the Silom area. Around Ploenchit Road-Rama
I Road (at Phyathi Road) is Bangkok's major
shopping hub with blocks upon blocks of shops.
the river is Thonburi, the former capital of
Thailand and now a part of Greater Bangkok. North
of the city is the busy Din Daeng/Lat Phrao
commercial district. Farther north still is Don
Muang, site of the international airport.
In reading an address, be aware that the
number following the street name is a soi number.
A soi is a small side street or alley. In an
address, the first numbers usually indicate a
building, followed by a street name and then a soi
number. Example: 21/3 Sukhumvit 11 would mean that
the building 21/3 is off Sukhumvit Road and down
your preferences, you'll discover Bangkok makes
sure there's never a dull moment. With many
interesting attractions and places of interest in
and around Bangkok, visitors can have a variety of
" do-it-yourself " day trips to keep
your holidays fun-filled and enjoyable.
City of Bangkok: 626 sq mi/1,622 sq km. Bangkok is
the largest city in the country and more than 10
times larger than the second-largest city.
Bangkok is its own province. There are 38
districts in Bangkok Province.
climate with little variation in temperature. High
temperatures combine with humidity May-October.
Heaviest rain in September and October.
For further Bangkok weather information check Thailand
loose cotton clothing is best. Nylon should be
avoided. Sweaters are needed during cool season
evenings or if visiting mountainous areas or
national parks. Jackets and ties
are required in a very few restaurants and night
clubs. Neat clothes are required for entering
temples or palaces.
9:30 am-3:30 pm. Banks do not close for lunch.
baht used to be a very stable currency. From
1987-1997 it was pegged to a U.S. dollar-weighted
basket of currencies, hovering around 25 baht to
the US dollar. No longer. If Thailand continues to
follow the regime prescribed by the International
Monetary Fund, analysts forecast that by the end
of 1998 the baht will settle somewhere between 38
and 42 baht to the dollar. Tourists need to check
the rate daily and change money when their
currency is on the upswing. Keep receipts of all
and currency exchanges can be found in all major
tourist areas, as can automated teller machines
(ATMs). Most ATMs accept such international
connecting systems as Cirrus, Plus and NYCE.
Rather than carry large amounts of cash or
traveler's checks, you may withdraw between 20,000
baht and 40,000 baht per day using these cards.
While ATMs at some of the major banks have
24-hour service, many shut down after 9 or 10 pm.
Express offers a full range of services.
Monday-Friday 8:30 am-5:30 pm. For stolen or lost
cards, call 273-0044, 24 hours a day. You can
report thefts, renew a card, replace damaged
checks and get travel advice. You cannot, however,
secure traveler's checks or cash them. Offices are
in the north part of town, past the Victory
Monument, 399 Phaholyothin Rd., phone (24 hours)
273-0033, 236-0376 or 235-0990.
banks and currency exchange booths will issue cash
advances on your Visa or MasterCard. (Given the
prevalence and variety of credit card fraud, it's
probably a safer bet to interact with a person
than with an ATM.) If carbon paper is used in the
transaction, be sure to take the paper with you.
Most kiosks are open 9:30 am-7 or 8 pm, and are
closed on many holidays. (However, the booths on
Kaosan Road -- the Banglampoo area -- are open
until 9 pm and also on holidays.) Hotels will
change money around the clock, but the rates won't
be as advantageous.
new Don Muang Airport international terminal,
adjacent to what is now the domestic terminal, has
relieved congestion and handles international
passengers with modern efficiency. As you leave
customs, you'll find an array of desks where you
can arrange for taxis into Bangkok and transport
to other destinations; a reservation desk for
Bangkok hotels (no fee); and a TAT desk with free
brochures and maps (tel. 02/523-8972). Both
terminals have luggage-checking facilities (tel.
is a tax of B500 for international departures and
B30 for domestic departures.
word of caution: The airport has more than
its share of hustlers out to make a quick baht,
who often wear uniforms and tags that make them
seem official. They will try to get you to change
your hotel to one that pays them a large
commission, perhaps claiming your intended hotel
is overbooked. They will hustle you into
overpriced taxis or limousines. Do not get taken
the Airport and Town
Airport buses busying between the Don Mueang
Airport and the major downtown destinations are a
bit of ripoff with their 70 Baht fare, but
avoiding a likely trip around Bangkok by taxi
(with the fare clocking up all the way on the
taximetre), it's still a bargain. There are 3
routes of the Airport Bus:
goes to the Silom Road business district via
Pratunam and Rajdamri Road, stoppping at big
hotels like Indra Regent, Grand Hyatt Erawan,
Regent Bangkok and Dusit Thani.
goes to Sanam Luang via Phayathai Road, Lan Luang
Road, Rajdamnoen Klang Road and Tanao Road; comes
in hady for those travelling to the Siam Square ir
goes to the Phrakanong district via Sukhumwit
can also catch local air-conditioned buses on the
main road that passes the airport. Bus 4 goes to
the Rama Garden Hotel, Indra Regent, Erawan,
Hyatt, and Dusit Thani hotels, and down Silom Road
(last bus at 8 PM). Bus 10 goes to the Rama Garden
Hotel, the Northern Bus Terminal, the Victory
Monument, and the Southern Bus Terminal (last bus
at 8:30 PM). Bus 13 goes to the Northern Bus
Terminal, Victory Monument, and down Sukhumvit
Road to the Eastern Bus Terminal (last bus at 8
PM). Bus 29 goes to the Northern Bus Terminal,
Victory Monument, Siam Square, and Bangkok's main
railway station, Hualamphong (last bus at 8:30
PM). Cost: B15.
Airways has a minibus service between the airport
and major hotels. They depart when they are full.
Cost: B100. Complimentary orchid nosegay included.
bus-and-boat service leaves every 30 minutes, 6
AM-9 PM. This service is really for the benefit of
guests at the Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton, and
Shangri-La hotels, but others can use it if
there's space. The bus takes you from the airport
to the river, where you transfer to a boat for the
half-hour run to the hotels. Fare is $28 (B700);
overall time is under an hour
Mueang is 25 km (15 mi) from the city center. The
road is often congested with traffic. Be prepared
for a 90-minute journey by taxi, though there are
times when it can take less than 40 minutes.
obtain a reservation and prepay the fare at the
counter (at either terminal), and a driver will
lead you to the taxi. The fare to downtown Bangkok
depends on the exact location and, to some extent,
the time of day. Count on B300-B350 from the
international terminal and B250 from the domestic.
Taxis to the airport from downtown Bangkok are
approximately B130. Use a metered taxi and agree
to pay for the toll road, an extra B50.
upon arrival you may want to procede upstairs, to
the Departure Hall and catch a taxi that has just
dropped the passengers. Insist on charging by the
metre, it's the buyers' market in Bangkok now. It
will hardly ever be more than 250 Baht when
travelling within the city limits.
Airport Express trains make the 35-minute run
every 90 minutes from 8 AM to 7 PM. Check the
schedule at the tourist booth in the arrival hall.
Fare: B100. You can also take regular trains from
5:30 AM to 9 PM. The fare is B5 for a local train,
B13 for an express.
limit on the major highways is 50 mph/80 kph.
Because Bangkok is the center of the country
politically, economically and geographically, all
major roads pass through it. Highway 1 goes north
to Chiang Rai, Highway 3 goes southeast to Pattaya
and Rayong, and Highway 4 goes south to the
Malaysian border. Unfortunately, there's no easy
way to bypass the city. The elevated toll road,
the Bangklo-Jangwatana Expressway, is an attempt
to alleviate traffic problems, but often you can
look down and see street traffic moving faster.
Toll for the expressway is 30 baht-40 baht,
depending on which exit you take. The Don Muang
Tollway can cut the trip to and from the airport
by at least 20 minutes. It costs 20 baht-40 baht
in Bangkok seem to be constantly in a state of
repair. Sukhumvit Road, the main street of
Bangkok, always seems to be torn up in one
location or another. Even without construction,
traffic is horrible. Our strong recommendation:
Leave the driving to someone else.
main train station in Bangkok is Hua Lampong
Terminal. Information and advanced booking: Rama
IV Road, phone 223-0341. The Chiang Mai Express
from the north arrives daily at Hua Lampong
Terminal at 6 am and 9:40 am. The Hat Yai Express
from the south arrives at the terminal daily at
9:30 am and 10:35 am.
taste of former glory, the Oriental Express
travels in luxury from Singapore to Bangkok and
back with stops in Sukothai, Chiang Mai, Kuala
Lumpur and Hua Hin, Wang Po and Kanchanaburi. The
trip takes three days each way. Prices start at
around 25,000 baht. Call the Oriental Hotel,
236-0400, or E&O Services (in Singapore),
65-227-2068, for more information.
has four major bus terminals, one for each
direction of travel outside the city. It's nearly
impossible for a non-Thai-speaking person to make
reservations by phone. Use one of the many local
travel agents in town.
one where you'd most likely arrive (or depart
from) is the Southern Air-Conditioned Terminal on
Charansantiwong Road (it's actually due west of
Old Bangkok). This station is the jumping-off
point for the Rose Garden, Demnoen Saduak Floating
Market, the River Kwai Memorial, Phuket and other
places west and south. These air-conditioned buses
are clean and comfortable. The VIP buses that
travel overnight even have reclining seats. It's
possible to buy tickets weeks in advance, but you
must get them at the station (or a hotel staffer
or a travel agent will do so for a small fee of 50
or 100 baht.
- There are three types of public buses. By
far the most comfortable are the privately owned,
air-conditioned gray-and-red microbuses. All of
them charge 25 baht. Place your money in the
box near the driver. No change is given. Once all
seats are filled, no other passengers are allowed
on board (a point definitely in the company's
favor). However, there's no route map, and routes
change often. Stops listed on the side of the bus
are written only in Thai. Best way to utilize this
inexpensive, comfortable mode of transport: Have
someone write down your destination in Thai, then
hand it to the driver, or to the people at the bus
stop. Microbus owners are discussing the
possibility of a bilingual route map.
city operates both "regular" and
air-conditioned buses. Fare on the
"regular" ones is generally 3.50 baht,
on the air-conditioned ones 6 baht. Most run 5
am-11 pm. The problems presented to visitors by
these buses include the absence of a bus map, the
frequent adding of new routes or changing of old
ones and the difficulty of communicating in the
Thai language. Carbon monoxide fumes may cause
faintness. The buses are dangerously crowded.
(Novices will find it especially chaotic traveling
during rush periods, 7-9 am and 4-9 pm.) Because
it's so difficult to get on and off, children
should not be brought onto a crowded bus.
- Although it's possible to hail a taxi on the
street just about anywhere, you can easily order
one, in English, by phone for a 20-baht surcharge:
Call 319-8911. All taxis plying the street are now
metered. Make sure the meter is on. Flagfall is 35
baht, with the fare increasing by an additional 6
baht for each kilometer beyond two kilometers.
When the taxi is stopped in traffic, the meter
switches to a clock, and the fare goes up 2 baht
for every minute the speed is below 6 kph. Four
passengers maximum; no additional charges per
person. Tips are not required, but are often well
deserved. Few drivers know much English, although
they like to practice. It's always a good idea to
have the hotel clerk write down your destination
in both Thai and English.
taxis - These really should be called
"water buses," since these boats ply
regular routes -- the Chao Phraya River and the
city's canals (klongs). They're cheap and
relatively efficient, because there's less
congestion on the waterway. Fares start at 5 baht
on the Chao Phraya Express River Taxi. This is the
preferred mode of transport if the pickup and
drop-off points are convenient. Boats will not
stop if no one asks, so tell the conductor your
Your destination may not always be at a
regular stop on the water-taxi route. If you wish
to visit, say, Wat Arun on the Thonburi side of
the river, get off at the dock most directly
across the river (in this case, Tha Tien). From
there you can catch a small ferry that crosses the
river for 1 or 2 baht. Pick up a copy of Nancy
Chandler's famous Map of Bangkok from any
bookstore for river taxi pickup points.
principal klong (canal) taxis run along Klong
Saen Saep, beginning close to Wat Saket and the
Golden Mount and continuing eastward as far as
Klongtan. Jim Thompson's House (the Phyathai),
Ratchadamri Road and Soi Asoke are a few of the
stops. These motorized longtails are much smaller
and less stable than the river boats. You must be
agile to jump on and off them. Using a klong taxi
provides a fascinating glimpse of the city's
backside, but the water is black and malodorous.
waterway options - They include river jets
(used as hotel and airport shuttles and for
sightseeing -- any travel agent or the Oriental
Hotel can hook you up), as well as long-tailed
boats (for trips up smaller canals).
- These are three-wheeled contraptions that
are half motorcycle and half golf cart. They offer
exciting and unsafe-at-any-speed transportation.
They're more expensive than taxis, and since
there's no meter, you must bargain with the driver
on price. Tuk-tuk drivers are sharp bargainers,
and you could go broke using them exclusively.
taxis - You'll know them by the young men in
fluorescent vests who hang around intersections
and the driveways of hotels and shopping centers.
They offer a viable, though dangerous way of
getting around. In a city where traffic often sits
for half an hour before creeping up a few inches,
motorcycle drivers can get you to your destination
in good time. However, drivers defy traffic laws,
good sense and even the laws of gravity. You must
bargain the fare, which won't be cheaper than a
taxi. Hire only the driver who lends you a helmet.
(Check the neck of your motorcycle driver for a
blue line and triangle peeking out above his
collar. If you spot these tatoos, choose another
driver. Many young Thai men go to occult shamans
who ceremonially tattoo their backs, chests and
necks with protective symbols that, the young men
believe, make them immune to danger.)
- This can be a good way to get around, and
it's always an adventure. But don't expect Thais
who are driving to give right-of-way to
pedestrians. Even if they see you, that doesn't
mean they'll slow down or stop. When you're not
scanning for traffic, keep your eyes glued to the
ground ahead of you: Uneven sidewalks, open
trenches and exposed sewer drains have been known
to incapacitate more than the occasional
pedestrian. Keep in mind, too, that in the tropics
where heat and humidity are usually high, a midday
jaunt of more than 15 or 20 minutes will leave you
looking and feeling more than a bit soggy and
following hospitals provide 24-hour service. All
have some English-speaking staff. They'll accept
credit cards and fill out insurance forms. In
terms of equipment and sanitation, Bamrungrad and
Samitivej look the most like Western hospitals.
All have dental clinics. If you're involved in a
traffic accident requiring hospitalization, you
are supposed to be taken to a "police
hospital," such as the one across from Erawan
Shrine. Insist on being taken instead to one of
these safe and clean hospitals:
International Medical Center (IMC)
in Bangkok General Hospital,
a department especially for foreigners.
They speak 18 languages here (also English,
German, Dutch, Japanese, French, etc.).
Telephone: 02 - 310 3101-2 or 3106
Louis Hospital, in the south part of the city,
215 Sathorn Tai Rd., phone 2100-3348; Bangkok
Christian Hospital, on the west side at 124 Silom
Rd., phone 233-6981; Bamrungrad Hospital, 33
Sukhumvit Rd., Soi 3, phone 253-0251; Bangkok
Adventist Hospital ("Mission Hospital"),
430 Phitsanuick, phone 281-1422 or 282-1100;
Samitivej Hospital, 133 Sukhumvit, Soi 49, phone
382-0010 or 392-0061.
hospitals listed above have 24-hour pharmacies.
Most other pharmacies close by 10 pm. Quality is
generally reliable, especially for drugs
manufactured in Thailand by Western companies.
Registered pharmacists can read English and speak
some English; if they're located near hotels and
tourist areas, they'll speak it better. The clerks
manning pharmaceutical counters in supermarkets
and department stores are not pharmacists.
East Pharmacy is a good and comprehensive pharmacy
in the tourist belt. The owner, Mr. Tong, is a
very pleasant man who speaks good English as well
as Mandarin Chinese and his native Thai. Open
daily until 10 pm. 207-9 Sukhumvit, Soi 15, phone
252-8241 or 250-0651. Also consider seeking out
the British Dispensary, Sukhumvit Road, between
Soi 5 and Soi 7, phone 252-8056; it's part of a
clinic staffed by British-trained doctors, and
English is understood and spoken well.
and Package Service
can be purchased at hotels. The main post office,
near the Oriental Hotel, is the only post office
that can clear international parcels. Packages
need to be open so that customs officials in the
post office can check the contents. There's a
24-hour telecom annex on the grounds providing the
highest-tech and probably cheapest international
service in Thailand, connecting you instantly with
a long-distance operator in Europe or Australia or
North America. Post office is open Monday-Friday 8
am-4 pm, Saturday 8 am-noon. 1156 Charoen Krung
Rd. (New Road), phone 233-1050.
Worldwide Express will deliver and pick up.
24-hour service. New Petchburi Road, in the Grand
Amarin Tower, 22nd Floor, phone 207-0600. Federal
Express provides door-to-door delivery of
documents, packages and freight. Phone 367-3222.
TNT Express Worldwide provides the same services.
599 Klong Chong Nan See Rd., phone 249-0242.
are three English-language newspapers: The Bangkok
Post and The Nation are general-interest dailies.
Business Day is a conservative business daily,
heavily subsidized by the Singapore Straits-Times.
Many hotels and outlets provide the International
Herald Tribune, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The
New York Times, the British International Express,
The Weekly Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald
and Weekend Australian.
beyond your hotel:
newsstands east and west of Villa Supermarket,
593/5 Sukhumvit Rd., corner of Soi 33, are rich
troves selling such specialties as Eastern
European, Indian, Russian and Taiwanese
newspapers. Asia Books, Bookazine and DK Books
sell imported English-language magazines at
stratospheric prices: Time, The Economist and
other newsweeklies, as well as computer magazines
and celebrity gossip rags.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is always a
good starting point, whether your question deals
with a festival date or a bus route.
Unfortunately, TAT phone numbers seem to change
very frequently. If those cited below don't work,
try dialing 13 for directory assistance:
For the TAT (Tourism Authority), call 694-1222,
extension 1000/20, Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30 pm. At
other times, try the new 24-hour hotline by simply
Main office of the Tourism Authority is at 202 Le
Concorde Building, Ratchadapisek Road. One branch
office is at 4 Ratchadamnoen Nok Ave., open
weekdays 8:30 am-4:30 pm, phone 282-9773. If
you're not too jetlagged, collect brochures at the
airport branch, phone 523-8972. It's open daily
8:30 am-6 pm. (The booth on Na Phra Lan Road, near
the Grand Palace, has closed.)
The Tourist Assistance Center at TAT's 4
Ratchadamnoen Nok branch mediates conflicts
between tourists and shopkeepers, scamming gem
dealers and the like. Their phone number is
282-8129 or 281-5050. The Tourist Police also have
an office at this branch; they speak English and
are receptive to questions: Simply dial 1699 at