As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok serves as major economic and financial hub for the kingdom. Considered the prime travel and business gateway for the entire Southeast Asia region, Bangkok has shown considerable development and expansion over the years. The city offers an alluring mix of contrasting traditional and modern attractions with all the amenities and facilities one can expect in an international cosmopolitan city of its size.
With continuing expansion of a modern mass transit network, which includes an underground and elevated train system serving its centre and the recent completion of the high-tech Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok has gradually fulfilled its ambition to become a World class city, preferred travel destination and regional transit hub.
For accommodation see: Bangkok hotels
Bangkok at a Glance
Bangkok was established as the capital of Siam (which was the kingdom’s former name) by commoner turned King, Jao Taksin, in the 1760s after the fall of former Siamese capital, Ayudhya, to the invading Burmese forces. Initially, Bangkok was a small fishing village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river, central Siam’s prime water artery. By 1782, the first king of the Chakri dynasty, Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), relocated the city to the Eastern bank where the capital would rapidly expand into the bustling metropolitan area it is today.
Lying on both banks of the Chao Phraya river just north of the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok, or its official Thai name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, is comprised of 50 administrative districts, standing as Thailand’s 9th smallest province, with an area covering nearly 1600 square kilometers and a registered population exceeding seven million. The metropolis of Bangkok actually extends into the six surrounding provinces, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani, Nontaburi, Chacherngsao, and Nakhon Pathom, with a total population well over ten million.
What to See and Do
You could spend a lifetime in Bangkok and not run out of new things to do and see, let alone places to sleep, eat, drink and party. Whether you are seeking exclusive luxury or winging the city on a shoestring, Bangkok can accommodate all. There are two sides of Bangkok that visitors ought to consider before deciding on accommodations and activities: New Bangkok and Old Bangkok.
The area around Ratanakosin island is ideal for those wanting a unique Old Bangkok experience with access to the Chao Phraya river, famous temples such as Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), Wat Pra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Po. Other nearby attractions include the Grand Palace, Vimanmek Mansion, Suan Pakard palace-museum, the National Museum and China Town.
As a business and financial hub, modern Bangkok’s skyline is dotted with hundreds of residential and commercial high rises spreading towards the cities eastern and northern flanks, most notably around Sukhumwit-Phetchburi, Silom-Satorn, and Ractchada-Paholythin roads, Bangkok’s prime business sectors. Amidst all the skyscrapers and congested mazes are some of the region’s premiere hotels, shopping malls and entertainment districts.
If there’s anything that Bangkok has more than enough of, it is markets, shopping malls, stalls and department stores. Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise, everything is on offer, from the cheapest tacky souvenirs to the most luxurious brand name items.
The city’s main shopping districtis centred around Ratchadamri, Rama I and Ploenchit roads with several world class shopping complexes and plazas all within walking distance of each other including Gaysorn Plaza, Maboonkrong (MBK), Siam Square, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon, Central World, Platinum Fashion Mall and Pratunam Center. At Phrom Phong BTS skytrain station, at the heart of Sukhmwit road is the classy Emporium. Scattered all throughout the entire city, you’ll find many shopping malls and chains of department stores such as Central, The Mall, Robinsons, Tesco Lotus, Carrefour and Big C.
For the widest selection of gems and jewelery, check out the area around Central Department Store on the western end of Silom road (near Surasak road) as well as China Town nearby. For bargain fashion items head to the newly built Platinum mall and Pratunam center. For great deals on wholesale fabrics, garments and ready made items head to Sampaeng lane (in China town), Pratunam market (across from Pratunam center on Phetchburi road) and Bobae complex (on Krung Kasem road 5 minutes from Hua-lumpong train station).
No guide on shopping in Bangkok would be complete without a mention of the famous Chatuchak weekend market located at the end of the BTS skytrain’s northern route at Mochit Station or the MRTA subway’s Chatuchak Park Station. Chatuchak is a giant flea market with hundreds of vendors selling everything from pet and garden supplies to new and second hand clothes, crafts and home decor. Go early or late in the day to avoid the stifling heat.
For a less hectic market experience head to Suan Lum Night Bazaar located across the southeastern edge of Lumpini Park on Rama IV road. The Night Bazaar is a popular evening spot for shopping as well as enjoying a bite to eat and a beer or two. The Night Bazaar is located next to the MRTA subway’s Lumphini Station. Another popular night market is nearby at Patpong on Silom Road (Saladaeng BTS skytrain station).
While Bangkok’s red-light areas of Patpong, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza are famous (and infamous) the world over, Bangkok’s night scene caters to all types of evening owls, city slickers and hip party-goers. One of the most stylish dinner and dance clubs frequented by the trendy crowd is Bed Supperclub on Sukhumwit Soi 11. Also worth checking out are Thong Lor and Ekamai roads for a more local scene with renowned clubs like Escudo. Liberty Plaza, at the north end of Thong Lor near the Phetchburi intersection offers a handful of pub-clubs worth a bottle of spirits.
A less formal though increasingly popular mix of bars and clubs can be found on Khao Sarn Road (formerly better known as a backpacker hangout), and is usually packed on any given night with a good sample of western travellers, expats and local party animals. If in doubt of where to go, head to RCA, a popular entertainment street off Rama IX road. This street of bright lights and bumping speakers has several different bars and dance techs appealing to a lively crowd with establishments Route 66, Club Astra, and Fix & Slim reigning as the prime hot spots.
Bangkok offers something to appease all taste buds. From the endless supply of food stalls and mom & pop eateries to international restaurant chains and exquisite five star dining, the ability to satisfy ones gastronomic cravings is one of the city’s many highlights. Of course sampling authentic Thai cooking should be at the top of every visitors agenda, but as a truly international city there is a wealth of restaurants offering delectable cuisine from every corner of the globe.
Getting to Bangkok
Bangkok can be accessed from almost any international airport in the world, as well as train and bus from Malaysia and Singapore. Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s new airport, is used for all international flights and most domestic flights while the city’s old airport at Don Muang is still used by Thai Airways, Nok Air, and One 2 Go for non-connecting domestic flights.
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