Bangkok is considered to to be the most cosmopolitan city in Asia along with being one of the top tourist destination in Asia, may it be for the Westerners or for the Asians. The palaces and temples of Bangkok along with the various museums gives you a glimpse of its rich historical era. While the dynamic nightlife along with the street food and shopping options enamor every traveller to the city. Also is well known for the illegal sex tourism that seems to be rampant throughout Thailand.
Bangkok being the capital city of Thailand, it is a city of concrete jungle however there seems to be an order even within this chaos. The broad roads with walking pathways, the multi layered freeways, vehicles following the lane rules, the pedestrian skywalks connecting various buildings or just as road crossings does portray some level of planning in the city. We did not face too many traffic jams as we traversed the city.
Getting Around : Bangkok being the capital city of Thailand is where most travellers end up flying into and as a start point to exploring Thailand. It has two airports, Suvarnabhumi International airport being the main airport and Don Mueang International airport catering to low cost carrier. Both the airports are well connected to the city center by taxis, buses and the metro/skytrain railway lines. Though we intended to start out by taking the bus from the airport we flagged down a taxi from the bus stop and I realised that the metered taxi rates were pretty reasonable. In fact taking a metered taxi works out to be a better option to haggling with the tuk-tuk guys especially if the distance is more than a few kilometers. However if you are taking any tolled roads the tolls have to be paid by you.
Local buses are plenty with both A/C and normal buses and frequency too seemed good. Tuk-tuks of course can be flagged down from most anywhere, however the prices have to be haggled at and agreed upon before alighting one. Another way of getting around could also be the motorcycle taxis seen almost everywhere and seemed to be used by many locals. For the tourist sights near the riverside one could also use the boat which makes stops from pier to pier on either side of the river.
We got about a day and a halfs time to visit the city and so hit the must do sights first.
Grand Palace : This is a huge complex also housing the famous Emerald Buddha. You can easily spend anywhere from 2-5hrs admiring the richly and beautifully decorated buildings. The ticket costs 500tbh and is open till 4:30pm. There is an option to hire an English speaking audio recorder for 200tbh but do note that you need to return this within 1.5hrs otherwise you are charged 200tbh again. We realised we could have got away without this too as they were distributing free booklets which had the various buildings numbered and a short write-up about them.
I was simply awestruck by the splendour and colorful glass mosaic patterns on the structures of the complex. Literally for the first 10-15 minutes I walked around in a daze looking at the sheer beauty of the colorful roofs, the glittering walls and the unique style of the old thai architecture.
The most important buildings here are
1. Wat Phra Kaew, Emerald Buddha temple, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The day we visited the temple was something to do with the princess and was closed for visit with just the main doors open. So we could just see the statue from afar and admire the beautiful outer walls decorated with gilt and colour glass mosaics.
2. Phra Siratana Chedi, the golden stupa in the Ceylonese style. Outer covering is made of golden tile mosaic.
3. Phra Mondop, the library a building in green mosaic tiles and gilt work.
4. The Royal Pantheon, a pavilion in the Thai-Khmer style. This was built to house the emerald Buddha, however was found to be small.
5. The eight Maha chedis to the East of the temple each of different colour dedicated to certain Buddha concept.
The eight Demon guardians, impressive model of Angkor Wat, various other buildings around the ones mentioned above, the Belfry tower, gallery of murals depicting the story of Ramayana surrounding the inner wall of the main compound wall all these make the inner complex a visual treat to the eye.
As you walk out the main complex you pass through the currently used chapels and palaces in the old Thai architecture which are not allowed entrance to tourist.
Wat Arun : The temple of dawn is on the other side of the river to the grand palace. Taking a boat to the opposite pier is the easiest way to get here. The entrance fee is 100tbh and is open till 5:30pm. The Central Prang a stupa like Pagoda in the Khmer style in white, with colorful porcelain patterns is a beautiful structure. The top part was under restortaion and so we could climb up only the two levels. The ordination hall and other smaller stupas around the main prang makes this temple another must do.
Wat Pho : The temple of the Reclining Buddha was an unexpected delight to visit. I had seen earlier photos of the reclining Buddha, so after visiting this we were just walking around the complex and were surprised with the colorful beautifully decorated huge chedis. Along with the halls having the numerous Buddha images and several smaller chedis around the complex this temple is very beautiful. The temple is open till 6:30pm and costs 100 tbh as entrance fee.
Wat Saket : The Golden Mount temple was near the place we stayed and hence we were able to have a quick visit to the temple. Nothing significant about the temple, and also the views from it were nothing great.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market : A trip to this market which is around 90kms from the old town area can be booked at your place of stay, preferable to head out early so that you can have some time of the visit not being too crowded. The trip we booked costed us 500 tbh each and they picked us from the hotel, a person was at the market to direct us as to what to do and then later around 11am a trip round the canals in the long boat for about 20 mins was part of the package. You can hire a trip on the boat for 150 tbh which will slowly row by the busy areas of the canal where food, fruits, spices and souvenirs are sold in boats. It’s very touristy but still an experience to be had, with the women wearing traditional clothes and selling various delights on the boats.
Jim Thompsons House : We had some free time before the evening theater show that we had planned for and hence decided to visit this museum. Jim Thompson was an American architect and businessman who established the Thai Silk Company and architected his house in the traditional Thai style to house his immense collection of Thai artifacts. This is now run as a museum, entrance fee of 200 tbh which also includes a guided tour. It was worth the time we spent here as you get to know many of the Thai culture facets as you are taken across the premises.
Siam Niramit Show : Another touristy activity. Show costs 1200 tbh and starts at 7:30pm. If you opt for their buffet option you need to be at the premises earlier. The sets in the show were great also the various acts that they put out. Performed in a professional way it’s a good show for an evenings entertainment.
Nightlife in Bangkok is a big thing and various venues for the same. We spent a night at Kaosan Road trying out the street food offering, got hooked on to Banana pancakes, tried Durian too. The next day we were at Chinatown.
And that was my 2 days at Bangkok. Next morning we were heading out towards the east, Pattaya and Kho Chang island.