The Bangkok spell…But what makes Bangkok bewitched every visitor once they stepped on this iconic city?
Bangkok, consenting to the common view as the orient’s most exotic capital is, indeed, an electrifying city – in all sense of the word. This great city has had an incredible success in merging the ancient and the modern world, a cool mix of modernity and tradition. Bangkok the throbbing metropolis is a city of contrast and diversity from the serenity of the exquisitely ornate golden temples to the vibrant night life. .
Bangkok is a kaleidoscope of colors, crowds and characteristics and not many cities in the world can equal Bangkok’s sheer liveliness that makes it an ultimate travel destination. Bangkok has undoubtedly embraced westernization and modernization, you only need to look a little under the surface to see that it remains undeniably a Thai place at heart. In between the skyscrapers and sophisticated shopping centers there’s still the remarkable Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Dawn and many more. Traditions live on too: don’t be surprised, for example, to find a large dedicated spirit house built for good luck alongside almost every major building, or to see files of Buddhist monks making their early morning alms round – and it’s surely one of the only major cities in the world where seeing an elephant paraded round the streets hardly even ranks as being unusual.
Traveling around Thailand’s capital can be challenging but everything is accessible from one point of destination to another and with its new Bangkok Transit System (BST) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway, traveling makes it more convenient to locals and visitors alike.
Bangkok has an excellent range of hotels and guesthouses that caters to every taste and budget of the traveler. One can indulge on the 6 star hotels to the moderate priced guesthouses. In fact, Khao San Road is the epicenter for backpackers.
One would never leave Bangkok or Thailand per se without engaging with their robust cuisine that would make every taste bud tap dancing with sheer satisfaction. There are numerous restaurants in Bangkok offering you everything from the traditional Thai foods, to Indian, Chinese, Italian, Korean and American dishes.
Bangkok is a city with multitude of layers if painstakingly discovered, offers surprises at every twist and turn, you’ll be amazed at past glories, amuse in present opportunities and love every minute of it, Bangkok is, indeed the most compelling city in Asia and without doubt, a tourist Mecca to behold!
For the record:
The official Thai name of Bangkok is in the Guiness Book of Records as the longest place name in the world. If you want to impress your friends, try memorizing this: Krungthep Mahanakorn Boworn Rattanakosin Mahintharayuttha Mahadilokpop Noparatratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniveymahasathan Amornpiman Avatransathit Sakkathattiay-avisnukarmprasit.
A tropical city known for its hot climate and plentiful sunny weather, temperatures in Bangkok regularly stay well above 30°C / 86°F all through the year. Bangkok is at its driest between November and February and consequently at its busiest, when many tourists choose to visit the city. The humidity levels also increase during this dry period, being especially sticky in April and May.
The climate in Bangkok is at its hottest from March to August, while the rainy season tends to fall between June and October. At this time of the year you can expect short spells of rainy weather, with frequent afternoon showers, monsoons and spells of thunder at times, although on some days, the rainy weather may last all day. Around 90 percent of the rain falls at this time of the year, although even during Bangkok’s rainiest weather, there is still usually plenty of sunshine to go around.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced “Su Wan Na Poom”) is the main airport in Bangkok that handles all international and domestic flights. Located in Racha Thewa in the Bang Phil district of Samut Prakan province, the airport is about 30km east of Bangkok’s city center
There are several ways of getting around from the airport into the city:
Limousines and Car Rentals are located at level 2 of the airport. Car Rental rates start from about USD$50.00 a day. Given Bangkok’s ever ongoing traffic jams, it is recommended you either get a limousine with a driver, or hire a taxi for the whole day if you are going to a couple of places. To get a limousine contact the “Limousine Service Counter” at the Arrivals level (2nd floor). Limousine pick up area is at the Arrivals Level (outer curb).
Taxi are located at level 1 and are mostly metered and there is an additional 50Baht service fee for departure from the airport. Follow the “public taxi” signs that lead to the outside of the airport premises, queue up and state your destination at the desk, and you’ll get a slip with your destination written in Thai on it. If you are going through the various highways to get into the city area, be prepared to shell out toll booth money as well. A taxi ride will cost around 350Baht and take about 30-45 minutes pending traffic jams.
The Airport Express Shuttle Bus runs from the airport to various first class hotels. The Airport Express operates 4 routes to downtown. The fare is 150 Baht for the entire route and will take about an hour or more due to its frequent stops at various hotels. The Airport Express Shuttle Bus operates from 5.00am to midnight.
Public bus is a 24 hour service provided from the Bus Terminal at the Transport Center. You will need to take the free airport shuttle bus to the Bus Terminal before boarding the 35 Baht Public Bus to various parts of Bangkok. For a list of the various routes, visit: http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/node/56
The Airport Rail Link is already operational. It gives passengers a cheap and fast option into the heart of Bangkok. There are two services: SA Express Line and the SA City Line. The Express is a non-stop train from the airport to Makkasan Station where you can link up with the MRT and BTS. The ride costs 30 Baht and takes 15 minutes only.
The BTS Skytrain was built in a desperate effort to ease Bangkok’s insane traffic and pollution. The Skytrain covers most of downtown and is especially convenient for visiting Siam Square.
There are two lines:
- The light green Sukhumvit Line travels along Sukhumvit Road, Siam Square and then follows Phahonyothin Road up north, where it terminates near at Mo Chit (N8), near the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
- The dark green Silom Line starts in Thonburi, passes the Express Boat pier near Saphan Taksin (S6), goes through the Silom area and ends at National Stadium (W1), right next to MBK Center. Both lines come together at Siam (CEN), where you can interchange between them. Unfortunately, there is no station near Khao San Road, but you can take the Express Boat from nearby Phra Athit pier to Sathon (Taksin) pier, where you can switch onto the Skytrain.
You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets fromvending machines. Fares range from 15 to 40 baht depending upon how many zones you are traveling. Consult the map (in English) near each ticket machine. If you do not have coins, queue for change from the staff at the booth. If you are in town for several days (or going to make several visits during the next 30 days), weigh your options and consider a rechargeable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30 baht refundable deposit and a 30 baht non-refundable card cost), a “ride all you like” tourist pass (from 120 baht per day) or a multiple ride pass of 20 trips or more to any zone (15 trips cost 345 baht, 25 trips cost 550 baht; plus a 30 baht refundable deposit for a rechargeable card that is valid for 5 years). Check for information with the English speaking staff.
The MRT finally opened in July 2004. For now there is only one line, the Blue Line that connects the central Hualamphong Train Station (1) to the northern Bang Sue Train Station (18), running through Silom, Sukhumvit, Ratchadaphisek and area around Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. There are interchanges to the Skytrain at Si Lom (3), Sukhumvit (7) and Chatuchak Park (16) stations.
Tourists do not use the metro as much as the Skytrain, but there are some useful stops. The terminus at Hua Lamphong (1) provides a good access to Yaowarat. If you’re going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, don’t get out at Chatuchak Park, but go one stop further to Kamphaeng Phet (17) as it drops you right inside the market.
Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides start from 15 baht and are based on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used. It is electronic: simply wave it by the scanner to enter; deposit it in a slot by the exit gate leave.
To get a more local feel, try the Tuk Tuk, a 3-wheeler that sits 2-3 people and is more adept at zipping around in peak traffic conditions. Fares have to be pre-negotiated and bargained.
Song Thaews are a larger version of tuk tuks but run based on a fixed fare (usually 20-25 Baht). You tell the driver where you’re headed and you’ll get there eventually, after picking up various other passengers along the way.
Cyclos are motorcycles that sit one person and is the fastest mode of transportation in peak traffic conditions. Do note that it is not for the faint hearted
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