Attractions and Temples in Bangkok
So, what attractions are in Bangkok that can fill your days? Perhaps it is best to begin with what is probably regarded as the number one attraction and the cities most renowned landmark, the Grand Palace. In the immense grounds of the Palace is “Wat Phra Kaew”, Thailand’s most-sacred Buddhist temple. Unusually for Thailand, it is not a single building and the monks do not reside there. Located in one of the collection of buildings here, is the “Emerald Buddha”. As far as Buddha figures go, it is the most sacred in Thailand. There is a dress code, and a strict one at that and you will be requested to respect this. You should expose no body parts other than your head and hands (men & women). An additional code for women is to not wear clothing that is see-through. Socks must be worn if you are wearing flip-flops or sandals.
Most hotels, if they do not already do so, will happily arrange a tour for you, typically providing an air-conditioned mini bus or taxi with a driver. In many cases you are also likely to be provided with a tour guide that can normally speak some English, making the experience even better as you are given the history of the Palace and temples as you tour them. The tour will normally occupy half a day and is conducted at a leisurely pace.
Bangkok has of course, many temples (Wats) but there are 3 that truly stand out from the others and are normally included in a guided tour, Wat Pho, Wat Traimit and Wat Benchamabophit. Wat Traimit hosts a gleaming, solid gold, Golden Buddha that is some 3m tall and weighs in at around 5-ton. Thailand has a host of reclining Buddha figures and you will see the largest of them at Wat Pho and is well worth a visit just to see this figure. This temple also hosts Bangkok’s largest and oldest temple, the “Chedi of the Kings”. Wat Benchamabophit, is a modern Thai-style temple made with “white Carrara” marble and features ornate crossbeams that are decorated with gold and lacquer.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is likely to be included in most tours and is perhaps the most recognizable temples in Asia. Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River and accessible by ferry from the east side, this temple is a sight to behold at sunset and when it is illuminated at night.
A more leisurely way to see part of the city is by taking one of the Canal tours. Bangkok is sometimes referred to as the” Venice of the East” and these canals are home to many a water taxi. By using this method of transport you will get a very different perspective of the city and enjoy a relaxing time in the process. While the river itself does not look especially inviting, do not let this detract you from enjoying a tour.
Shopping and Markets
As with most other holidays, shopping normally features on the agenda. Khao San Road is a good starting point. While it does not offer the large chain-store type of establishments there is a wealth and variety of shopping available that will keep you busy for many hours. Siam Square is also a great venue to head for with its shopping and entertainment complex. This is where you will find the big retail stores. Of course Bangkok also has its share of markets and perhaps to outstanding market from the visitors perspective is the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is north of the city centre off Phahonyothin Road and Kamphaeng Road 2. It boasts 8,000+ stalls and attracts in excess of 200,000 visitors every weekend it is open (which is most, if not all, weekends). One of the most visited shopping centers in Bangkok is the famous MBK, which attracts many thousand tourists every week.
The attractions available to the visitor do not end here, there are countless adventures you can have simply by looking around you as you walk through the city. There are of course museums, culture centres, parks, massage parlours (where you can get a Thai Massage – beware, it might hurt a little) and of course do not forget the famous Bangkok Katoey (Lady-boy) shows! These shows are hugely entertaining, glamorous and tasteful. There are 3 well known locations where you can take in a show:
• Calypso Cabaret - in the “Asia Hotel” and can easily be access by the Rajchathewi sky train station.
• Golden Dome Cabaret – Located on the Sutthisan Road
• Mambo Cabaret - near the Central department store on Sathupradit-Rama III Road
Wherever you are in Bangkok, and just about any time of the day or night, food is available nearby. In addition to countless restaurants (approximately 50,000 of them, mostly Thai) there are food stalls that can set up practically anywhere. The best restaurants are probably in the Sukhumvit are of the city although prices are a little higher If you find Thai food does not appeal then there are also some very familiar “fast food” chains available in addition to restaurants that cater for western tastes. Many visitors tend to stay to experience Bangkok for 3 or 4 days and typically move on to another area of the country and in fairness you can quite easily see all the main attractions in this time.
The final piece of this article goes in to some depth about the “nightlife” that Bangkok is well renowned for. Not all tourists go to Bangkok for the nightlife scene but many do. For those who do not, please read the next few lines before deciding not to at least take the time to have a look, even for the sake of curiosity.
The 3 areas that are described below are generally inactive before 4pm, so if you wish to visit these areas you can do so before that time without witnessing anything you may find distasteful or unsavoury. However, if you visiting these areas later in the evening and do not wish to participate, there is no obligation to do so, a simple and polite refusal is generally accepted. For those that are still not interested in this aspect of Bangkok, there are many bars and clubs that are far more low-key and suitable for a quieter night out for a few drinks. Those that are interested in the raunchy “nightlife” – read on.
There are 3 significant areas that make up the Bangkok sex scene;
• Nana Plaza – On Sukhumvit Soi 4, opposite the Nana hotel. Nana sky train station is a short walk away to the east.
• Soi Cowboy – On Sukhumvit Road, between Asoke Road and Sukhumvit Soi 23. Asoke sky train station is a short walk away as is Sukhumvit Metro station (Underground)
• Patpong - Between Surawong Road and Silom Road. Sala Daeng sky train station is close by.
All 3 areas offer just about the same entertainment and it can be a real eye opener for the “first-timer”. To understand a little more it should be pointed out that in Thailand, prostitution is illegal. So why does the country have one of (if not the biggest)”sex tourist” industries in the world? The answer to that is quite simply really. The girls that work at the bars and go-go clubs are “entertainers”. People go to visit these establishments to be “entertained” either by watching the girls dancing on podiums or simply to talk to a “special” girl. If you wish to leave the bar with one of the “entertainers” you will be requested to pay a “bar fine” for taking an “entertainer” away, it is basically a form of compensation. What you do after that is your business, the girl you walk away with is a friend or girlfriend that is willing to have sex with you (for a small gratuity of course).
Go-Go bars have become one of Bangkok’s nightlife institutions in these areas, where the girls take turns dancing on a podium or stage for the “punters” viewing pleasure. The music is typically loud and adds to the already pleasant atmosphere and it is impossible not to notice music is playing as you watch the girls “strutting their stuff”. Public nudity is also forbidden in Thailand, however it is not uncommon for the girls to dance topless. In the main, these shows are quite tame but they can be hugely entertaining. If you would like to talk to one of the dancers, approach the “Mama-san” (it is normally a lady that looks after the girls and drinks) and tell her the number of the girl you would like to talk to. All the girls will have a small badge/label pinned to their clothing with a number on it.
The “standard” bars are simply that – bars. They are typically open sided with a central bar where patrons sit on bar stools surrounding it. Some bars may have a pole or small stage (often both) where some of the girls are more than happy to dance and provide entertainment until someone whisks them away. Quite a number of bard have “live music” where Thai bands will pump out well, known British and American songs from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s.
When you enter a bar you may get one of the girls approach you immediately although most prefer to “hold back” for a few minutes while you buy a drink for yourself. Both alcoholic and soft drinks are available in all bars and clubs of course and if you decide to talk “one to one” with a girl it is customary to purchase a “lady-drink”. If you are not there to “walk out” with a girl, tell her early in the conversation, she will not mind as long as she has a drink in her hand. At some point, depending on how busy the bar is, she will want to get back to “entertaining” (her main source of income) so do not be offended if she wants to walk away from you once her glass is empty. If you do intend to take the girl away from the bar then just try to hold a “normal” conversation and give yourself some time to be sure. Most girls can speak some English, some better than others, but may encounter a few that have a very limited vocabulary.
Most of girls are in the 18-30 age range and attractive and it can be hard to resist a young beauty when she is insistent that you are “handsome man”, regardless of who you are, but it can be fun to talk to other “entertainers” (perhaps not in the same bar) and weigh up your options. As conversation can, at times, be difficult most bars have simple games, such as “connect 4” available and the girls love to play these games (probably for a small wager of ฿5) and it does help to break the ice a little. If you do choose to have the pleasure of a girls company for the night but do not want to take her to your hotel, do not worry as she will know plenty of alternatives.
Bars and go-go bars generally close by 1am (by law) but if you are looking for more, it is available in the form of “After hour clubs” and easy enough to find. Most of the taxi drivers will know of them and typically get a commission from the club proprietors. These clubs are perhaps not as well presented as the go-go bars but worth a look all the same, even just for the experience. Well known clubs include:
• Bossy Club – Located in Pratunam to the east of Siam Square.
• Spicy Club – Off Rong Mueang, adjacent to the 2nd state expressway.
• Thermae – Located in the basement of the Ruamchit Hotel (a well-known “short-time” hotel) between soi 17 and soi 15 off the Sukhumvit Road
Damnoen Saduak - floating market
Around 100 km south-west of Bangkok and approximately 2 km from the city Damnoen Saduak, You will find one of the few really authentic floating markets in Thailand. Where many of the floating markets in Bangkok, now a days, are only set up as tourist attractions, the Damnoen Saduak market is still quite unspoiled.
Here You can experience the small boats, mainly operated by females and packed with every kind of goods for sale. Among other things You can buy fresh fruits, vegetables and all kinds of different spices for fantastic food making.
The best way of experiencing the Damnoen Saduak floating market is off course by hiring one of the many "taxi" boats, and go sailing on the "klongs" on Your own. Between 7 and 9 a.m. the market is on its peak..