Bangkok Mini Guide
The Gateway to Thailand
Most visitors to Thailand have their first impressions of the country in Bangkok as this is where the majority of international flights land. In a way this is unfair as it is so different to the rest of the country, it is such a massive city, bustling with noise and excitement 24 hours a day which is in direct contrast to the islands and coastal areas also popular with tourists.
One of the first things you will notice about the city is how the locals often wear face masks to prevent them breathing in the traffic fumes, particularly people like policemen on traffic duty.The high number of cars in the city centre and vast amount of pollution has led to to it having one of the best public transport systems in the world, one it's best features being the Skytrain, a monorail which covers almost everywhere a tourist would want to visit.
Your Time in the City
Most people are only in Bangkok for a short visit, either on an airline stopover or for a couple of days at the beginning or end of their holiday to another part of Thailand such as Phuket
and Koh Samui
. There is so much to see and do in Bangkok you really need far longer to cram it all in. The main attraction for tourists is the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew, the temple that houses the Emerald Buddha, this is one of hundreds of temples in Bangkok, but is definitely the most famous. The Chao Phraya river runs through the city and a trip on this will take you past the palace and also Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. Chinatown is also close by and an interesting experience in itself.
Getting Out and About
There are several places well worth visiting outside of Bangkok which are easily accessible, particularly if you hire a car, one of the main ones means a early start though, it's all over by 9.00am!! We're talking about the Floating Market at Damnoen Saduwak, this is definitely an experience not to be missed and well worth the early rise. There are other smaller floating markets in the centre of the city if you can't make this one, but they are nowhere near as memorable. Near to the market is the Rose Garden which is so much than just a garden full of roses, there are all sorts of attractions to be found there including elephant and Thai boxing shows.
The Bridge Over the River Kwai
This is in Kanchanaburi which is around 2 hours drive from Bangkok and most definitely worth the trip. Before visiting the river you can see how the Far East Prisoners of War lived in a small but very moving museum, dedicated to the memory of those who died. The bridge itself spans the river in a beautiful peaceful spot, so unlike any impression you may have had of it before visiting, it is still a railway bridge with a train to Bangkok running a few times a day and is a good photo opportunity. Whilst there try to make time to eat at the floating restaurant below the bridge.
Bangkok is a city that assaults your senses. The noise of humanity contrasts with the peacefulness of its Buddhist temples. In the market places, a riot of colour and pungent aromas of fruit and spice fill the air.
Hire a car to explore the outer reaches of the city or go by boat along the waterways to see how the people there live on land or on the water. A must-see is the former home of Jim Thompson, a CIA operative who loved the country and people so much, he set up a silk emporium to give them work.