Cheap Thai Travel

Bangkok Thailand Travel Guide

Thailand's Grand Palace GroundsBangkok is a city of contrast. The first impression for most visitors is one of complete chaos. The chaos is genuine. Gridlocked traffic shrouded in smog. Decaying buses belching black smoke in the humid, polluted air. Motorcycles speeding through the gaps and running the traffic lights. Crowded, uneven sidewalks clogged up with countless vendors selling just about anything and everything under the sun. Blind singers from the countryside with blaring, distorted amplifiers on their backs led slowly by barefoot children shaking plastic cups full of coins. Black and white clad university students hurry past construction workers in straw hats and rubber boots. On overhead freeways the never ending traffic glides past glittering skyscrapers fringed by slums and street markets. The pungent smell of chili mixed with tropical damp hangs in the stifling and fetid air. Great poverty sits alongside great wealth. An ancient past collides with an overcrowded present.

First impressions however only tell half the story. Down small alleys are glittering temples, gardens and traditional wooden houses in leafy courtyards. Canals dissect the city and in amongst the chaos one can often find calm. Add to this the sheer glossy luxury of many of the city's shopping malls, hotels and restaurants and you have a heady cocktail of extremes.
Bangkok is vast but for the visitor it is the central areas that will be of interest. Thailand's Grand PalaceThe oldest part of Bangkok is flanking the river in the north. This is where one finds most of the important palaces and temples. South of the old city is the commercial district of China town and as one follows the river one reaches the business and entertainments districts of Silom and Sathorn. Going east from Silom is the most modern area of Bangkok around Sukhumvit road. It is here that one finds many of the international hotels.
Bangkok is not short of things to see and do!
Wat Phra Kaew the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace are at the heart of old Bangkok. All in one complex these spectacular buildings are symbolic of the essence of Thai identity: Nation, Religion and King.
Consisting of over a hundred richly decorated buildings, golden spires and intricate mosaics it dates back to the founding of the city in 1782.
Wat Phra Kaew itself houses the tiny Emerald Buddha which is of enormous symbolic importance to the nation. The Grand Palace is, these days, largely ceremonial, used only for big state events. It is an interesting mixture of Thai and European designs. Make sure that your legs and arms are covered and you are not wearing open shoes or you will be refused entry.
Nearby is Wat Pho. This is both the oldest and the largest Wat in Bangkok. In the main hall is an enormous reclining golden Buddha image. Forty six meters long and fifteen meters high it is the largest in Thailand. Wat Pho is also home to Thailand's most important massage school so, if you have time, it's a good place to take a break from the hectic pace of the streets.
Also in the same area is the very informative National Museum, the largest of it's kind in South East Asia. It is a good place to learn about Thai culture and history.
Across the Chao Phraya River is Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. It consists of a 104 meter high, Khmer style Prang or tower covered in porcelain. It is actually best seen from across the river or from a boat on the river itself.
The Chao Praya River is an attraction on its own. A bustling thoroughfare where the traffic is nearly as chaotic as that on dry land. Commuter boats head in both directions at regular intervals. Getting on and off them is quite an art as they bounce against the pier throwing up spray whilst the conductor blows a whistle to direct the man at the wheel. Once aboard they are a great way to get a taste of the city.

Grand Palace GuardTransport in Bangkok is plentiful and cheap if sometimes slow. The three wheeled tuk tuk is often seen as a symbol, but unless you want to be suffocated by the smoke of buses at exhaust level you would be better off taking a metered taxi. They are everywhere and the drivers usually use their meters without question. There is also a brand new 'skytrain' system that takes you quickly and painlessly along many major routes and a recently opened subway that goes straight north to south through the center of the city. Both of these have changed Bangkok vastly for the better.

In terms of entertainment and nightlife Bangkok is rightly famous. Around Sukhumvit, Siam and Silom roads are any number of restaurants, rooftop cocktail bars, nightclubs, pubs and bars. Off Silom is Patpong road. Although still a famous red light district it is also now a busy night market bustling with tourists and spilling out onto the main road itself. The perfect place to buy a parting gift for relatives.
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