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Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok Thailand,
city of angels!? Well there is truth to that, no matter what your reasons for visiting.

Bangkok is just one of those places. A sprawling, busy metropolis, with crawling traffic problems and packed "Mass Transport Systems". Yet fast, often near empty expressways, and one of the most modern, efficient (raised) railway systems in the world; The Sky Train or BTS. Why are the buses and service roads packed while the newer alternatives so comparatively "under-used"? Because they cost a lot more!

Then there are the shopping areas, the palaces and temples, the food (oh, the food!), the river system that feeds Bangkok (Chao Phraya River and tributaries), the tourist attractions (designed especially for tourists - how lucky for them!), and the sex trade that still prevails in parts of Bangkok (despite the emergence of Pattaya), as it will probably always do courtesy, unfortunately, of Thai culture itself.

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Your first "taste" of Bangkok will probably be the busy Bangkok / BKK Airport (see the flights page to find out what to expect), and then your hotel. If you want to get from one to the other in real style, we suggest you try the Image Limousine Company. You may have endured a long flight, but you really should try and get some authentic Thai cuisine into you as soon as possible. After all, that is arguably the greatest joy of Thailand. They even have a search engine just for restaurants in Bangkok - Try it here! Or, if it's music / night life you are after, then a great site with all the evening's venues is Bangkok Gig Guide.

SkyTrain / BTSWhat you do and when / how, may well depend on where your hotel is. You can find an excellent Bangkok Map, right here! The river is probably the most evocative public transport system to use, and perhaps the most efficient still, to this day. This Thai Students site has a superb guide to the routes and fares. Also, if you are near a SkyTrain / BTS Station, you will only be a few stops away from a river ferry boat stop and also the renowned Siam Square shopping area. Unfortunately, the SkyTrain does not go near the Royal Palace or some other central areas of Bangkok, but the river does.

Bangkok Traffic
If you would like to take a bus (or have to), you can find all the bus routes here. You might want to think twice about using surface streets though, due to the excessive traffic and smoky vehicles (take a look at this Bangkok Traffic Webcam!). Taxis are generally more comfortable (with air conditioning), but liable to the same traffic problem (some taxi advice here). Of course, there is the famous, or infamous "Tuk Tuk" 3 wheeler taxi. These things dive in and out of the other traffic and, although only powered by 50cc motor bike engines, can really move. Of course, the disadvantages of racing around larger vehicles in an open (polluted) air shopping basket (with all the protection that provides), may rightly put you off. But if it does not (after all, you "have" to try them at least once), here is an article on their history.

Royal Palace GroundsGolden Buddha
The main traditional tourist attractions are definitely the Royal Palace (well worth seeing and getting there early to avoid the crush), the Wats (temples) - Bangkok has more then an inquisitive man with a serious stammer!, Chinatown (this author's favorite - an experience / walk and a half) Ps there are always two prices shown in Chinatown, retail (1-5 items) and wholesale (6+ items), Chatuchak Weekend Market (a HUGE affair), and Damneon Saduak Floating Market. But let us give some advice on these.

ChinatownFirst, if you make your own way to these sites, you will encounter a whole host of especially friendly people. They just come right up to you and say "Hello, where are you from?". Quickly followed by the more important question (to them) "Where are you going?". The moment you divulge this gem of information, they will either try to get you to take them as your guide / driver. Or, if your destination is nearby. They will tell you it is closed, or that Thais only can go there at that time of day (Of course, they will offer you an alternative, which will bring you back nicely for when you can enter your original attraction).

Reclining BuddhaIf you get "clever" and tell them you do not know where you are going, they will produce lots (and we mean lots) of photos and offers of help in that area. What is more, they will make sure you stop at their favorite shops (they tell you they are the best), where they earn commission from anything you buy! So absolutely the best answer to give (thus beating them to the punch), is that you are a budget traveler who likes to walk and look around as transport is too expensive!

Damneon Saduak Floating MarketIf you are considering an organized tour. Our general advise is don't. Organized tours tend to take you via shops and "sites" on the way there, where the tour guides earn commissions. The same again on the way back. And what you actually get (within the terms of what you thought you paid for), is to arrive at the same time as hundreds of other tourists to an eagerly awaiting local community of sales people. Damneon Saduak Floating Market is the perfect example of this. Our advise is to hire a car / driver (there is a large car park right there at the market - despite what the tour guides warn you), set off at 7:00 am to arrive at 8:30 (long before the tour buses). Then you will see the floating market that the locals use / see. And please, avoid the river boat around the market touts. They will charge you much, and take you to their favorite places / stalls to buy things. It is much nicer (and you get to see much more) by walking around the market.

But please, the idea of this is not to portray the Thais as a mercenary, merciless people. For they are not. But this is business - remember that! If you get approached by someone who talks in any way shape or form about Gem Stones, run a mile. The normal con starts "I am going to a wholesaler to buy my gems for export. Would you like to come?" Even experts can be initially fooled by low grade stones that have been heated to improve their exterior finish (only ever shop for gems at shops who are members of the Thai Gem & Jewelry Traders Association). If you want real bargains, head for Chinatown. Here you can probably buy the lowest cost, high grade gold in the world (all the jewelry is sold by weight). Also "Nielloware", a silver and black mello alloy is outstanding value (possibly Thailand's best). Both Chinatown and neighboring Indiatown are also great places to buy the best Thai silk / fabrics. The Weekend Market and other popular tourist areas like Banglamphu are worth visiting, but definitely more expensive. And of course there are hundreds of shopping malls for International products.

Specially designed tourist attractions and places like the zoo - Well, we will leave you to make your own mind up about them! If you would like a really detailed map / guide to Bangkok's more interesting sites / areas, we can really recommend Groovy Map (they have one map for day time, and another for night!) and Nancy Chandlers Map & Guide To Bangkok. Also, if you are spending a week or more centered in Bangkok. And if you are active going around the main worthwhile attractions in the first few days. You really should think about taking a trip by plane, train or even road to another area for a few days, if only to escape the traffic fumes. If you are going on to a beach resort or the north later, we can really recommend a 2 or 3 night break to either Kanchanaburi (River Kwai), but especially to the cradle of Thailand's culture and past, Sukhothai & Pitsanuloke.

Finally, a word and link we suppose should exist for the seedier side of Bangkok, and the reason for many a man's travels to this city. The sex trade. What most westerners do not understand, is this business is part of Thai culture. Although you will not see the western style go go bars (with girls for nightly rent) in, say, Chiang Mai. The "problem" is still there, but for local men, as it has been for a long time. In Bangkok, the main areas for this (and to avoid if that is the last reason for your trip) is Patpong (of which 50% of bar "girls" are the famous transvestites known as "lady boys") around eastern Silom Road. Soi Cowboy, around Soi 23 off Sukhumvit Road. And Nana Plaza, on Soi 4, Sukhumvit. A site dedicated to this aspect of Bangkok can be Found Here. It has links to many associated sites including message boards (Please Note - Our message / forum board here ABSOLUTELY may NOT be used to discuss this subject.

We would also like to point out, that the practice of people renting their bodies to others, and being a customer thereof, is illegal throughout Thailand. It is our sincere wish, that anyone who breaks the law in Thailand, will be caught and punished to the full extent of the law. What many people do not know, or forget is that these unfortunate people are just that. And availing yourself of their services just adds to the problem. Many come from abusive / broken homes. Most are people who have have lost their dreams. The people that (ab)use them lose the humanity.

Other Useful Bangkok Links;

New International Boutique House : Ladies & Gents Custom Tailor

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