bangkok skyline

Bangkok is a huge city of some 10,000,000 people. It can be a little overwhelming for first timers but once you know it, you have to love it. It is one of the most vibrant, happening cities in Asia. Well known for having a 24 hour traffic jam, things are improving with many new expressways and an overhead train system. The city is called Krungthep by the locals which is short for the real name whichcan be translated into English as follows – “A great city of angels, the supreme repository of divine jewels, the great land unconquerable, the grand and prominent realm, the royal and delightful capital city full of nine noble gems, the highest royal dwelling and grand palace, the divine shelter and living place of the reincarnated spirits.”

Airport
You will arrive at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. This is a modern well run airport approximately 20 kilometers or 12 miles from the center of town. It can take up to an hour to clear immigration and customs depending on how busy things are. As you emerge from customs you will be in a large hall with many exchange booths, tourist operators, car rental places (with and without driver), bus companies and cafeterias. The exchange booths offer the same rate you will get in town.

The quickest way to town is a taxi and the price is reasonable. Outside the terminal you will find a taxi booth where an English speaking person will take the details of where you want to go and enter them on a slip in Thai. You pass this on to the driver. All taxis have a sign on the roof saying taxi-meter. Do not take an unmarked taxi, unless you book a limousine inside the terminal. Unmarked taxis are illegal at the airport and can be dangerous. Taxi fare to Sukhumvit Rd in the center of town is around 200 baht (US$5). It will be quicker if you take the toll road but you will have to pay the toll yourself. Usually 40 baht.

 

Street Addresses
In Bangkok there are a number of major roads. Sukhumvit Rd, Rama 4 Rd, Petchaburi Rd etc. Off these major roads you will find many small lanes known as sois. Some sois have names but all have numbers. If you walk from the beginning of Sukhumvit Rd you will see each soi is numbered, with odd numbered sois on the left and even on the right. As you walk down the right side the first soi will be number 2, the second number 4 etc. If you are looking for Sukhumvit Soi 4 then this is the street you want.

 

Where to stay.
I recommend the Sukhumvit Rd area. This is where most tourists stay. It’s close to great shopping, eating and accommodation choices and has convenient public transport available. There are thousands of hotels in Bangkok – here are my recommendations.

Omni Tower Serviced Apartments, Sukhumvit, Soi 4, Phone 656-8300, Fax 656-8333
Four star accommodation at 2 star prices. You should be able to negotiate a 40 sq meter (big) room with kitchenette bath room with tub and shower for 1,700 baht and a one bedroom suite for 2,000 baht..

Dynasty Inn, Sukhumvit Soi 4, Ph 252-4522, Fax 656-8107
Good clean basic hotel with restaurant. Nice large air-conditioned rooms available from 1000 baht. Very close to Nana Plaza.

Majestic Suites, Sukhumvit Rd. (Actually on Sukhumvit, just past Soi 4)
Good rooms close to the shopping and nightlife. Can be a little noisy as it’s on the main road. Rooms from 1,000 baht.

Grand President Serviced Apartments, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Ph 651-1200, Fax 651-1260
Similar style and price to Omni Tower. When booking ask for the TSM discount and they will give you 20%. Some prefer the location to Omni Tower but I feel Omni is better value.

Marriott Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 2
International 5 star hotel. Beautifully appointed with all the amenities you would expect. If you must stay in the lap of luxury, book here via Planet Holiday (see the links section on this site) for a great deal.

If you are on a tight budget or like to hang out with back packers, head to Koh San Rd. Here you will find many cheap guest houses (200 baht up) and a whole different scene going on. Not really Thailand but part of the international backpacker thing.

kohsanrd
Koh San Rd – Backpacker Heaven.

Shopping (All close to Sukhumvit Rd except Weekend Market)
There are stalls all along Sukhumvit Rd selling the usual cheap T-shirts, knock off watches and cheap handcrafts.

The World Trade Center. Very large shopping mall. Expensive but some good stuff to be found.

Pantip Plaza on Petchaburi Rd. Computer hardware and five floors of pirated software.

Pratunam Market. On Petchaburi Road. Cheap clothing and copies of international brand name items.

Central Department Store. On Chit Lom Rd. Has everything!

The Weekend Market. For anything and everything. Huge, sprawling, stiflingly hot and fascinating. Take the train to Mo Chit Station and you’ll see it easily on the left. Only open weekends.
TRANSPORT
Taxi Meter cost 35 baht when you get in and a couple of baht per kilometer. Cheap and convenient, there are thousands in Bangkok. Make sure the driver turns on the meter. Traffic can be horrendous though and most drivers speak rudimentary English (to be polite). See Thai Taxi Instructions in this section.

Sky Train. Cheap, quick and convenient around the inner city areas. See Skytrain Map link in this section.

Tuk Tuk. Three wheeled suicide vehicle. Not worth the hassle and danger unless you want to try the experience. You have to negotiate the fare and the driver will probably take you to a shop or massage parlor where he gets a kick back regardless of where you actually want to go. More expensive than a Taxi Meter.

Motor Bike Taxi. You’ll get there quicker and maybe in one piece. If you have to be somewhere NOW, its the quickest and most dangerous way to get around. Negotiate your fare first and expect to pay 20 baht for a short trip and fifty baht for a longer one.

NIGHT LIFE
Nana Plaza, Sukhumvit Soi 4. Three floors of bars and Go Gos.

Patpong, in the Silom Rd area. Overpriced bars with very pushy bar girls. PattayaWorld famous so it’s where all the newbies go to be ripped off. The night market is busy and if you want touristy stuff its reasonable.

Soi Cowboy. Small street off Asok (Sukhumvit Soi 21). GoGo bars and beer bars. Favored hangout for expats.

Siam Square. Big shopping and nightlife area with Hard Rock Cafe and CM2 Nightclub in the Novatel hotel.

Thermae Coffee Shop on Sukhumvit, just before Soi 17. Its in the basement of a hotel. Often likened to the bar in the original Star Wars episode, it’s a must see.

Getting to Pattaya
A standard taxi you flag down on the street will usually take you for 1,000 or 1,200 baht. Thai Airways Limousines at the Airport have nice Mercedes Benz cars and you can negotiate the price for the trip to Pattaya for around 1500 baht. Every travel agent will suggest a mini bus. Usually around 350 baht they are cramped, often take hours to pick up all the customers and NOT recommended. Air Con busses from the Eastern Bus Terminal are 95 baht (Ekkamai Station on the Skytrain). Busses leave every 30 minutes 6am – 1am.

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