Thursday, May 1, 2008

Visiting Bangkok In 10 Easy Steps

One Night in Bangkok…as the famous song goes, but there’s much more to this city, including fantastic culture, great value shopping, exciting entertainment and plenty of sights to point a camera at. With only a few days in the Thai capital, here are ten things you really must see or do.


Whether you hot-foot it around Bangkok’s latest glitzy addition to its long list of shopping malls – Siam Paragon, or you spend hours sifting through the bargains at Pratunam Market, shopaholics will not be disappointed with Bangkok’s offerings. Ranking as one of Asia’s top shopping hubs, it is no wonder that shopping is a favourite pastime of the Thais. With all of the main centres within walking distance of one another, you can start at Siam Discover Centre; pass through Siam Square on your way to MBK, then hit your final destination, the World Trade Centre. The biggest problem will not be finding what you want; it will be getting it back home.

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

The royal residence known as the Grand Palace sits adjacent to Thailand’s most famous temple complex, Wat Phra Kaew. Home of the Emerald Buddha statue, made of jade contrary to what the name suggests; this is one of the most revered religious sites in Thailand and the location of many prestigious ceremonies. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing if you want to visit these must-see landmarks.

Wat Arun

You can catch a glimpse of this important Buddhist temple on the back of a 10 baht coin if you want a taste of what to expect. Nestled between Chinese-style pavilions on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the highlight of Wat Arun is its Khmer-style tower. At the base of the tower is a sculpture of the Hindu god Indra and depictions of Chinese soldiers and animals, while the tower itself is intricately decorated with seashells and small pieces of porcelain. Once the home of the Emerald Buddha during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, this temple remains one of the most important religious sites in the country.

Lumpini Park

Sit back and relax in the shade of palm trees or rent a peddle boat and explore the lake and its canals, Lumpini Park is a haven of tranquility, ideal for those in need of a rest from the urban jungle. Interesting features include the Thai Lanna and Chinese pavilions, while there is also a pretty Chinese-style clock tower. In addition to some impressive sculptures, there is a children’s play park and a new pavilion designed as a rest area. And if you miss the buzz of the city, the park is right in the heart.

Chatuchak Market

If you want something specific but you’re not sure where to find it, this is the place. Chatuchak weekend market has vendors selling literally everything, from books to kittens. Busy all year round, expect to be pushed, shoved and pulled at as you wind your way through the narrow alleys. But don’t worry; there are plenty of places to stop for a rest and eat some delicious, inexpensive food. It’s a good idea to decide on a landmark before you begin to explore as the size and crowds here make it easy to loose your hopping companions. A bargain lover’s hunting ground; this is a shopping experience you will not want to miss.

Jim Thompson’s House

Thompson was responsible for rebuilding the Thai silk industry, for which he gained recognition as making an outstanding contribution to Thailand. Before his mysterious disappearance in 1967 on a vacation to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, Thompson built this impressive Thai-style teak house, which became the talk of the town. Now a museum, visitors can explore the building and gain insight into this colourful characters life.

Not all stomach-churning rides, this popular adventure theme park has dozens of attractions including gardens, miniature replicas of seven wonders of the world, live shows and performances, a cable car and even a snow field where you can sling snow balls at your friends. A lively alternative to Bangkok’s traditional sightseeing attractions, the park is easily accessible by train, bus or car.

Khao San Road

If you don’t fancy staying in among hundreds of backpackers, this travellers’ mecca is still worth a look, if just for its cheap pirate CDs. Renowned as a party street, things are unusually quiet until street vendors set up shop in the afternoon. By nightfall, the street is unrecognisable as it fills with throngs of youngsters dining, drinking and watching football. A great place to meet people and make friends, this is also the spot to get cheap travel deals to onward destinations.

Muay Thai Boxing

Only football inspires as much passion as boxing in Thailand, with the latter being considerably more violent. Even if you are a bit reluctant to spend your money on watching men sling punches and lethal kicks, it is surprising how the electric crowd can soon have you up there cheering with the rest of them. Fights are held almost nightly at Lumphini and Ratchadamnoen stadiums, with tickets sol in three tiers, depending on how close you want to be to the action.

By: Andy Burrows

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