Bangkok, Thai Krung Thep, city, capital, and chief port of Thailand. It is the only cosmopolitan city in a country of small towns and villages and is Thailand’s cultural and commercial centre.
Bangkok is located on the delta of the Chao Phraya River, about 25 miles (40 km) from the Gulf of Thailand. It was formerly divided into two municipalities—Krung Thep on the east bank and Thon Buri on the west—connected by several bridges. In 1971 the two were united as a city-province with a single municipal government. In 1972 the city and the two surrounding provinces were merged into one province, called Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok Metropolis). The metropolis is a bustling, crowded city, with temples, factories, shops, and homes juxtaposed along its roads and canals. It is also a major tourist destination, noted for bountiful cultural attractions and a nightlife that includes a flourishing sex trade.
The name Bangkok, used commonly by foreigners, is, according to one interpretation, derived from a name that dates to the time before the city was built—the village or district (bang) of wild plums (makok). The Thai call their capital Krung Thep, which is the first part of its mellifluous and lengthy official name meaning “the City of Gods, the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the Grand Capital of the World Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, the Happy City Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces Which Resemble the Heavenly Abode Wherein Dwell the Reincarnated Gods, a City Given by Indra and Built by Vishnukarm.” The abbreviated name Krung Thep is often translated as “City of Angels.” Area Bangkok Metropolis, 604 square miles (1,565 square km). Pop. (2000) 6,355,144; (2010) 8,305,218.
The climate of Bangkok is hot throughout the year, ranging from 77 °F (25 °C) in the “cold” season in December to 86 °F (30 °C) at the height of the hot season in April. The mean annual rainfall totals 60 inches (1,500 mm), four-fifths of which falls in brief torrential downpours during the late afternoons of the rainy season, which lasts from mid-May through September; the dry season lasts from December to February. Mean monthly relative humidity varies from a low of 60 percent in the cold season to more than 80 percent during the rainy season.
The city layout
Modern Bangkok has undergone explosive growth, which the authorities have attempted to direct by means of a series of master plans since the 1960s. The city centre, formerly enclosed by a wall, has long been densely developed. Later expansion has sprawled outward well beyond the administrative boundaries into the surrounding agricultural areas. Some districts have evolved into functional units as the inner city has become more institutional and commercial and the outer city more residential and industrial. Throughout the city, walled Buddhist temples and monasteries called wats, often sumptuously ornamented, serve as focal points for religious, cultural, and even commercial life.
The governmental and commercial districts of the city occupy traditional sites. Government offices were originally housed in the walled compound of the 18th-century Grand Palace, but by the late 19th century they occupied surrounding palaces and mansions. The bureaucracy then spread outward into nearby colonial-style or Thai-style office buildings and homes along Ratchadamnoen Road. Multistoried buildings have been erected to meet the ever-increasing demand for space, and the traditional government compounds have become overbuilt. A number of large camps around and north of the National Assembly Hall constitute the military area.
When Bangkok became the national capital in the 18th century and its citadel was moved to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, Chinese merchants and tradesmen occupying the site moved a short distance southward to the area now known as Sam Peng. Business was at first carried on in one-story wood and thatch houses. By the early 1900s a number of streets had been lined with two-story masonry shop-houses. This ever-expanding district now contains rows of shop-houses that are sometimes five or more stories high. Warehouses line both banks of the river just south of Sam Peng, while industry is concentrated at Sam Rong, south of the port. Nightlife flourishes on Pat Pong Road. The financial district straddles Silom Road.
In the Floating Market a variety of foods and merchandise are sold daily from boats on the canals near Wat Sai. Formerly several such markets and innumerable door-to-door floating vendors served the daily needs of the city’s residents.
Homes generally consist of small, detached one- or two-story wooden houses or row houses. Most of these are overcrowded because there are far too few of them to house the expanding population. Government programs alone are insufficient to meet the housing shortage, and funds from the World Bank have been used to build low-income housing, such as the Din Daeng and Hua Mak developments. The government allows squatters to occupy unused public land. The number of squatters is small, and most of them are concentrated in the Khlong Toei area near the port.
Beginning in the 1960s, housing developed rapidly in the city. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s more than 100,000 new units were built. There was also an emphasis on renewal in inner-city areas. Private real-estate developers provide homes for middle-income groups, and many government agencies provide homes for their employees. Homes may be crowded onto small lots with rudimentary sanitation facilities. These developments have spread out haphazardly on the periphery of the city.
Luxury housing, mostly for the wealthy foreign community, usually takes the form of large, modern, two-story masonry structures set in private compounds and equipped with separate servants’ quarters and kitchens. Bang Kapi is perhaps the most affluent neighbourhood. High-rise offices, hotels, and condominiums are increasingly common.
The population’s outstanding demographic characteristics—its youth and the low proportion of non-Thais—are explained by the high rate of natural increase and by the restrictive foreign immigration quotas adopted after World War II. Roughly two-fifths of the residents are under 20 years of age. The birth rate has declined since the introduction of a birth control program. At the same time, the net in-migration of young adults, particularly females, has increased greatly, so that more than a quarter of the resident population of the city is made up of migrant Thais from all parts of the country.
Most of the city’s population are ethnic Thais. The Chinese are by far the largest minority, but there are sizable communities of other Asians, North Americans, and Europeans. Despite their small size, the foreign communities tend to live in certain areas. The Chinese concentrate in the commercial area of Sam Peng, Indians gather around mosques in the Wang Burapha section, and the Western and Japanese communities reside in the affluent, modern eastern section of the city.
Of the foreign groups, the Chinese enter the most intimately into city life. They appear to assimilate readily, and intermarriage is frequent. Their offspring are Thai citizens, and many Chinese families take Thai surnames and are naturalized.
There are many factories in the metropolitan area, but most operate on a small scale. Larger plants are located in the vicinity of the port, near the warehouses that store imported materials. Manufacturing is chiefly confined to food processing, textiles, the assembly of electronic equipment, and the production of building materials. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the government emphasized reducing congestion in the city and placed a high priority on locating industrial parks on the fringes of Bangkok. Roughly one-third of the country’s output is produced in the city, and nearly half of all firms are located in the metropolitan area. Tourism has increased greatly and is now a major source of revenue in Bangkok.
Bangkok houses about one-third of the country’s banking units, holding three-fourths of all deposits. The Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand, the Board of Investment, and the Securities Exchange of Thailand are also located in the city.
Bangkok’s transportation system was originally based on water travel. The city’s maze of canals connected with the river earned it the name “Venice of the East.” The advent of the automobile, however, brought drastic changes. The number of vehicles in the city (including three-wheeled taxis, private cars, and buses—colour-coded according to the region of service) increased, and a shortage of road space developed. The problem was met first by filling in most of the smaller and a number of the larger canals. This proved to be more than an aesthetic loss, however, because the waterway system had served to drain the waterlogged delta; flooding of the lower-lying parts of the city thus became increasingly frequent. Furthermore, the measure did not solve the problem of lack of space. Traffic became so congested that movement was increasingly difficult. To help ameliorate these problems, an authority was established in the 1970s to oversee bus transportation in the city, and in 1999 the city opened Skytrain, an elevated rail system.
Lines of communication radiate outward from the city. Roads run north to Laos and Chiang Mai, east to Kampuchea, and south to Malaysia. Railways run to the borders of Laos and Malaysia, to Chiang Mai in the north, and to Ubon Ratchathani and the Kampuchean border in the east. Bangkok International Airport is one of the busiest in Southeast Asia.
The port of Bangkok, located on the Chao Phraya River at Khlong Toei, is connected to the sea by a channel dug through the sandbar at the river mouth some 17 twisting miles (27 km) downstream. The port handles nearly all the nation’s imports and exports.
The government of Bangkok Metropolis is administered by a governor and deputies. Developmental responsibilities rest with a large number of governmental agencies. Bangkok houses the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). In addition, the city houses various other UN agencies, including branch offices of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).
Most of the city’s water supply comes from purification plants; it is drawn from the Chao Phraya and from deep wells. The pumping of water from wells has caused subsidence in parts of the city, which has increased flooding. Many people obtain water from polluted waterways. Sanitation facilities include sewers, storm drains, and the canals; some large buildings are equipped with septic tanks.
Bangkok consumes more than half of the country’s electric power.
Bangkok has most of the country’s hospitals and clinics. Special services are offered for patients with tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, and there are government homes for the indigent, handicapped, and aged. The Pasteur Institute and WHO supply vaccines. Family-planning clinics have proliferated in recent years. In the 1990s cases of AIDS increased among Bangkok’s prostitutes and drug users. The government has established special wards in hospitals to treat patients afflicted with the disease and has taken other measures to prevent the spread of HIV infection.
Because of its high proportion of school-age citizens, Bangkok’s educational facilities are overburdened. There are too few schools, and the standard of instruction varies. Literacy is extremely high, however. Many of the government-built preprimary and primary schools are located on monastery grounds. Private primary and secondary schools run by foreign religious missions train the children of the elite. There are many private Chinese primary schools and night schools. The city has several universities. Wat Pho, long a traditional centre of learning, has often been considered the city’s first university; it is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok.
The most important cultural feature of Bangkok is the wat. There are more than 300 such temples, representing classic examples of Thai architecture. Most are enclosed by walls. Many wats have leased a portion of their grounds for residential or commercial use.
The National Museum houses prehistoric and Bronze Age art relics, as well as royal objects dating to the 6th century AD. The city also houses the National Library and the Thai National Documentation Department. Jim Thompson’s Thai House, named for a U.S. entrepreneur and devotee of Thai culture, is composed of several traditional Thai mansions; it contains the country’s largest collection of 17th-century Thai religious paintings. There are also collections of Dvaravati and Khmer sculpture, in addition to examples of Thai and Chinese pottery and porcelain. In 1987 the 200-acre (80-hectare) King Rama IX Royal Park with its extensive botanical gardens was opened to commemorate the king’s 60th birthday.
All of the country’s daily newspapers and most of its weeklies and monthlies are published in Bangkok. Newspapers are printed in Thai, English, and Chinese. Radio and television are controlled by government agencies and the military. Most of the nation’s radio stations and all of its television stations are located in or near Bangkok. Most programs are in Thai, but some special programs are in English and Chinese. Motion pictures are extremely popular. There is a thriving Thai cinema industry, but films are also imported.
Fairs, festivals, and “kite-fighting” contests are held in the parks. The Ratchadamnoen and Lumphini stadiums host professional boxing bouts featuring the highly ritualistic form of boxing known as Muai Thai. Silapakorn National Theatre presents dancing, drama, and music.
Bangkok became the capital of Siam (as Thailand was previously known) in 1782, when General Chao Phraya Chakkri, the founder of the ruling Chakkri dynasty, assumed the throne as Rama I and moved the court from the west to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. The move appears to have been dictated by strategic considerations: the wide westward bend in the river constituted a wide moat guarding the northern, western, and southern perimeters of the new site. To the east stretched a vast, swampy delta called the Sea of Mud, which could be traversed only with extreme difficulty. Rama I modeled the new city on the former capital, Ayutthaya, 40 miles (64 km) to the north. By the end of his reign the city was established. The walled Grand Palace complex and the temple Wat Pho were completed. A new city wall, perhaps the most imposing structure, skirted the river and Khlong Ong Ang to the east; it was 4.5 miles (7 km) long, 10 feet (3 metres) thick, and 13 feet (4 metres) high, and it had 63 gates and 15 forts. The area enclosed amounted to 1.5 square miles (4 square km).
More wats were built during the reigns of Rama II (1809–24) and Rama III (1824–51). They served as schools, libraries, hospitals, and recreation areas, as well as religious centres. During these years Wat Arun, noted for its tall spire, Wat Yan Nawa, and Wat Bowon Niwet were completed, Wat Pho was further enlarged, and Wat Sutat was begun. There were, however, few other substantial buildings and fewer paved streets; the river and the network of interconnected canals served as roadways.
Rama IV (1851–68) developed the city while continuing, at a reduced rate, the traditional building of wats. The Grand Palace was improved, a number of substantial dwellings were constructed for members of the royal family, several new streets were laid down, and a reduction was made in the large number of floating houses anchored along the riverfront. A new route, Charoen Krung (New Road), leading southward, was constructed, and a new city moat, Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, parallel to the city’s first canal, was dug and fortified; a long canal led from it to the present port area (Khlong Toei), thus allowing small boats to bypass the large bend in the river immediately south of the city. A pony path, now a major highway, was laid atop the mud heaped up beside this waterway.
During the long reign of Rama V, King Chulalongkorn (1868–1910), the city was transformed through a program of public works. The great triple-spired Chakkri Building in the Grand Palace was completed by 1880. The Dusit Palace and an ancillary garden city were later built beyond the wall, being connected to the Grand Palace by the European-inspired Ratchadamnoen Nok Road. A road- and bridge-building program was embarked on in earnest, because King Chulalongkorn, an early automobile enthusiast, foresaw the effect that the motor vehicle would have on city development. Most of the now obsolete city wall was pulled down to build the roads, but two forts, a large gate, and a section of the wall were preserved. The centenary of the city, in 1882, was marked by the inauguration of many social reforms, manifested in the public buildings used for their administration, as well as by the completion of the great royal temple, Wat Phra Kaeo, which housed the Emerald Buddha. A post and telegraph service was organized in the 1880s, an electric tram service was instituted on Charoen Krung in 1892, and the first line of the State Railway, running from Bangkok to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, opened in 1900. Nor were aesthetic considerations forgotten, for other new buildings included the marble temple of Wat Benchamabopit (1900), elegant bridges in the French style, and the Italian-inspired National Assembly Hall (Throne Hall).
Rama VI (1910–25) continued the program of public works. He established Chulalongkorn University in 1916, built a system of locks to control the level of waterways throughout the city, and gave the public its first and largest recreational area—Lumphini Park. During Rama VII’s reign (1925–35) municipal areas were delimited as part of a general administrative reorganization aimed at decentralization. In 1937 Bangkok was formally divided into the municipalities of Krung Thep and Thon Buri. At the time of their establishment, the two municipalities, approximately equal in area, together covered about 37 square miles (96 square km); about four-fifths of the city’s population lived in Krung Thep.
Since World War II Bangkok has grown with unprecedented rapidity, which caused problems with transportation, communication, housing, water supply, drainage, and pollution. Tourism rose in importance during the Vietnam War, when the city became a popular destination for U.S. military personnel. By the 1980s, nightclubs and the tourist sex trade—as well as crime and sexually transmitted diseases—were flourishing. Although prostitution is formally illegal and the number of prostitutes per capita is lower in Thailand than in some other Asian countries, the city’s commercial sex industry employs an estimated 100,000 people and is popular among foreign tourists. However, the vast majority of clients are Thai nationals. To combat abuses, notably underage prostitution, the government stiffened penalties for both patrons and brothel operators during the 1990s. That those responsible for modernizing the metropolis are coping with these problems suggests the appropriateness of its official emblem: the God Indra seated atop a sacred white elephant, the four tusks of which denote its celestial status and its ability to accomplish the impossible. Throughout the 1980s the city experienced an economic boom, which was blunted by an economic crisis that hit Asia in the late 1990s. However, the city continued its role as one of Asia’s most important tourist, financial, and commercial centres. The city’s uniquely Thai character, while perhaps diminishing, provides a vibrant backdrop for Bangkok’s cosmopolitan image.
The best things to do in Bangkok tell the story of this fascinating city, which began as a small trading centre and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago. Today, while the city is up to speed with modern times, the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past still prevail. Be it dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market or colourful Chinatown, each of these famous Bangkok places has an intriguing story to tell.
Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw Old Town
The Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew command respect from all who have walked in their sacred grounds. Built in 1782, and served as the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court for 150 years, The Grand Palace continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail. Wat Pra Kaew enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), a sacred Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of emerald.
Location: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Open: Daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 623 5500
Wat Pho Old Town
There’s more to Wat Pho than its gigantic reclining Buddha and traditional Thai massage. This iconic temple harbours a fascinating collection of murals, inscriptions and sculptures that delve into various subjects, from warfare to astronomy to archaeology. The vast temple complex also contains a landscaped garden with stone sculptures, stupas adorned with glazed porcelain, a souvenir shop, and the College of Traditional Medicine.
Location: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Open: Daily from 8am to 6.30pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 226 0335
Chinatown (Yaowarat) Chinatown
Bangkok's Chinatown is a colourful, exotic and pleasingly chaotic area, packed with market stalls and probably the highest concentration of gold shops in the city. During major festivities like Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival, the dynamism and spirit of celebration spread across town like wildfire, and if you happen to be around, don’t miss an opportunity to witness Chinatown Bangkok at its best.
Location: Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Sky Bar Bangkok
Sky Bar boasts sweeping views from the top of State Tower, one of Bangkok's tallest buildings. With its highly visible golden dome, the bar is tucked away in a corner of the award-winning, open-air Sirocco restaurant on the 64th floor. Sky Bar's counter is illuminated and changes colour every few minutes.
Sky Bar is where you'd find some of the best live jazz in Bangkok. Also located at the Dome is Distil, another place where everyone likes to be seen. Part DJ bar, part smoking lounge, and part restaurant, Distil serves fine single-malt Scotches like Macallan and Glenmorangie, accompanied by a small carafe of genuine Scottish water.
Location: Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Si Lom, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Open: Daily from 4pm to 1am
Phone: +66 (0)2 624 9555
Chatuchak Weekend Market Chatuchak
Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees. The market is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer.
Location: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Open: Friday from 6pm to midnight, Saturday–Sunday from 9am to 6pm
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) Riverside
The impressive silhouette of Wat Arun’s towering spires is one of the most recognised in Southeast Asia. Constructed during the first half of the 19th century in the ancient Khmer style, the stupa showcasing ornate floral pattern is decked out in glazed porcelain. It's especially stunning up close. Apart from its beauty, Wat Arun symbolises the birth of the Rattanakosin Period and the founding of the new capital after the fall of Ayutthaya.
Location: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 891 2185
Damnoen Saduak floating market Damnoen Saduak
The pioneer of Bangkok floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience despite its increasingly touristy atmosphere. Imagine dozens of wooden row boats floating by, each laden to the brim with farm-fresh fruits, vegetables or flowers. Food vendors fill their vessels with cauldrons and charcoal grills, ready to whip up a bowl of ‘boat noodle’ or seafood skewers upon request. The market is around 100 km southwest of Bangkok.
Location: Damnoen Saduak, Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi 70130, Thailand
Open: Daily from 7am to 5pm
Jim Thompson’s House Siam
Jim Thompson’s 3 decades of dedication to the revival of Thai silk, then a dying art, changed the industry forever. After he mysteriously disappeared into the jungles of Malaysia, he left a legacy behind, which is reflected through his vast collections of Thai art and antiques now on display at the Jim Thompson’s House and Museum. It's a lovely complex of 6 Thai-style teakwood houses that are preserved in their original glory.
Location: 6 Rama I Rd, Wang Mai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 216 7368
Asiatique: The Riverfront
Asiatique: The Riverfront is a successful combination of 2 of Bangkok’s most popular shopping experiences: a night bazaar and a mall. You can find it 10 minutes downriver from the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station. Once a bustling international trade port, it has been transformed with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed inside a huge replica warehouse complex.
An evening here presents you with good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself. Shows are performed nightly – you can expect the Calypso ladyboy cabaret, as well as a Muay Thai show and a classic Thai puppets performance.
Location: 2194 Charoenkrung Road, Wat Phraya Krai, Bang Kho Laem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Open: Daily from 4pm to midnight
Phone: +66 (0)92 246 0812
Vertigo at Banyan Tree
Vertigo at Banyan Tree is an open-air bar and restaurant located 61 floors above the bustling streets of Bangkok. Indulge in some of the world's finest champagne, exotic cocktails, wine-by-the-glass or non-alcoholic beverages in the bar area, or go all the way for a memorable dinner of seafood.
Stylish, sophisticated, romantic, the magical atmosphere makes for a memorable evening, weather permitting. A telescope is available for star-gazing, and on most nights there is live jazz too. Due to its popularity, reservations are required for the restaurant.
Location: 61st Floor, Banyan Tree Bangkok, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Open: Daily from 5pm to 1am (dinner from 6pm to 10pm)
Phone: +66 (0)2 679 1200
Khao San Road Old Town
If Bangkok is a city where East greets West, then Khao San Road is the scene of their collision. With travellers from every corner of the modern world, sleek clubs playing sophisticated sounds, eclectic market stalls, converted VW cocktail bars, and foods tamed to suit the Western palate, this area is extremely popular with the backpacker crowd who use Bangkok as a hub to explore all of Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Location: Khao San, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Soi Cowboy Sukhumvit (Asoke)
Soi Cowboy was named after the cowboy hat-wearing African-American who opened the first bar here in the early 1970s. This adult-themed district has a more laid-back, carnival-like feel to it than Patpong or Nana Plaza. Flashing neon lights up a colourful streetscape comprised mainly of middle-aged expats, Japanese and western tourists.
Location: Soi Cowboy, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Chao Phraya river & waterways Riverside
One of the most scenic areas, the Chao Phraya riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night: water-taxis and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury hotels. The areas from Wat Arun to Phra Sumeru Fortress are home to some of the oldest settlements in Bangkok, particularly Bangkok Noi and its charming ambience of stilt houses flanking the complex waterways.
Bangkok floating markets
The floating markets of Bangkok are must-visits on any visit to the Thai capital. Among the few is Amphawa, one of the most popular floating market near Bangkok. It may not be as large as Damnoen Saduak, but it’s more authentic. It’s become such a magnet for Thai weekenders that food stalls have grown from the riverbanks and stretched far into the surrounding streets.
The main draw is, of course, eating seafood grilled precariously on wooden boats moored around the famous central bridge, serving an appetising array of huge prawns, shellfish and squid. The smell is simply irresistible and customers flock to each side of the river from noon until late in the evening.
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is the centrepiece of Bangkok's own Champs D'Elysee. This impressive 2-storey white marble palace sits at the end of Dusit's long, wide Royal Plaza, a leafy ceremonial boulevard that's often the focus of regal pomp and ceremony during royal celebrations.
Ordered by King Rama V in 1907 and finished in the reign of King Rama VI, the neo-classical Renaissance architecture of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall – particularly its central dome – dominate the scene just as Italian architects Mario Tamango and Annibale Rigotti intended.
Location: Royal Plaza, 71 Uthong Nai Alley, Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10am to 3.30pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 283 9411
Soi Rambuttri is Khao San's more attractive, well-behaved brother. This street gives you a taste of how Bangkok used to look before all the skyscrapers arrived. Leafy banyan trees shade the pavements and the vibe sways more towards local than backpacker despite a number of them now choosing to stay here rather than on the infamous Khao San Road.
Soi Rambuttri has a great mix of guesthouses, restaurants, bars and street food stalls. Most of the shops are similar to those you find anywhere in the area selling the usual T-shirts, DVDs and other tourist trinkets. You can explore the entire horseshoe-shaped road on foot within 30 minutes.
Location: Soi Rambuttri, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Cooking classes in Bangkok are great for budding cooks interested in Thai culinary arts. Learn directly from professional Thai cooks who’ll teach you about the flavours, ingredients and techniques in cooking. At the end of your class, you'll get an apron and certificate to take home with you.
Most cooking classes include a market visit, so you can see where the ingredients come from. Others will combine some classroom learning with time in the kitchen, putting your new knowledge to good use. Whichever Bangkok cooking class you choose, your friends and family will be happy to test your new skills once you return home.
Lumpini Park, after the birthplace of the Lord Buddha in Nepal, is one of the largest parks in downtown Bangkok. It's as big as 93 football fields, housing numerous benches, walking paths, and picnic spots as well as various flora and fauna.
Lumpini Park appeals to just about everyone – you'll often find the elderly practising tai chi and couples lounging by the lakeside, along with 9-to-5 workers relaxing on benches or exercising in the evenings. This green space is often populated by families, especially on weekends.
Location: Rama IV Rd, Lumphini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Open: Daily from 4.30am to 9pm
Bangkok museums are among the city’s finest cultural venues, where you can admire centuries-old artefacts of historical significance, Buddhist relics, and modern art pieces. Some are housed in buildings just as interesting as their contents. Bangkok’s many museums exhibit some of the most sublime and strangest collections of relics you can imagine, giving you a wonderful insight into Thailand's colourful culture and unique heritage.
SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World
SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World is a large aquarium that is 3 storeys underneath the glitzy Siam Paragon shopping mall. It’s an aquatic wonderland the size of 3 Olympic swimming pools – the underground aquarium is one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
The aquarium will dazzle you with innovative world-class exhibits and over 30,000 curious-looking creatures from various depths and aquatic regions across the globe. To get there, take Exit 5 from the Siam BTS Skytrain Station, which provides direct access to Siam Paragon.
Location: B1-B2 Floor, Siam Paragon Building, 991 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Open: Daily from 10am to 9pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 687 2000
You can find Bangkok temples spread throughout the city. The 3 most famous ones are Wat Pra Kaew, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho. Once you’ve seen them all, there are still many other temples worth visiting.
Fortunately, many of the most famous temples in Bangkok are located near the Grand Palace, excellent for a day of fun exploration. With any temple visit, remember to not only to bring your camera but also to wear appropriate temple attire: long pants and clothing that covers your shoulders and proper shoes (no flip-flops).
Calypso Cabaret in Bangkok is an entertaining show that takes place every night at Asiatique: The Riverfront. Thailand's katoeys (ladyboys) are some of the most beautiful (and convincing) transvestites in the world, mostly accepted and embraced by a highly tolerant Thai society.
The ladyboy cabaret show takes place within Warehouse 3, near Asiatique’s town square. Decorated with rainbow neon lights, the auditorium can accommodate up to 350 people per show. Tickets come with a free drink and it's possible to purchase a dinner and show package.
Location: Asiatique The Riverfront (Warehouse 3), 2194 Charoenkrung 72-76 Rd, Prayakrai, Bangkorlaem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Open: Daily from 7.30pm to 8.40pm and from 9pm to 10.10pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 688 1415
Assumption Cathedral is Bangkok's principal Roman Catholic cathedral and the main church of the Archdiocese of Bangkok, which dates back to 1662. Located in Bang Rak, the church was built between 1910 and 1918 to replace an earlier church on the same spot and was repaired after sustaining severe damage during World War II. Pope John Paul II visited the church during his trip in 1984. To get to the church, you can either take a taxi or embark on the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Oriental Pier (N1).
Location: 23 Soi Charoenkrung 40, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Open: Monday and Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, Saturday–Sunday from 8.30am to 12pm (closed from Tuesdays to Thursdays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 234 8556
Phra Sumen Fort
14 forts were built during the reign of King Rama I to protect the borders of the Old City, but most have disappeared over the years. Only Phra Sumen Fort and Mahakhan Fort have managed to remain in Bangkok.
This pale white concrete fort with battlements is nestled in the quiet Suan Santichaiparkran Park, which straddles the banks of the Chao Phraya River. You can get there by taxi or the Chao Phraya Express Boat (disembark at Phra Athit Pier).
Location: Phra Athit Rd, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Bangkok markets offer unique shopping experiences compared to the air-conditioned megamalls of the city. You’ll explore mazes with alleys after alleys of shops selling everything from one-off fashion accessories to knock-off and kitschy items. There are also markets dedicated to farm-fresh flowers and agricultural products like Pak Klong Talad, the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok.
In all, they offer excellent bargains as well as a glimpse into the local life. For foodies, it’s a great opportunity to sample dishes you won't find in most restaurants. Must-visit markets in Bangkok include the Chatuchak Weekend Market, while the Patpong, Khlong Thom and Saphan Phut markets offer exciting shopping experiences after dark.
Khlongs of Thonburi
Thonburi is the old Bangkok capital situated on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River. Having stayed an independent province until it was merged into Bangkok in 1972, Thonburi has avoided much of the modern development seen elsewhere. Its manmade network of khlongs (canals), including Khlong Mon and Khlong Bangkok Noi, retains much of its ramshackle charm.
Location: Thonburi, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
The Snake Farm was set up to produce antivenom serums for snakebite victims nationwide, but it’s also an attraction in Bangkok. It’s the place to see poisonous snakes that range from cobras, Malayan pit vipers and king cobras to banded kraits and Russell’s vipers.
All snakes are 'milked' (their venom extracted) and there’s lots of information and close-up encounters with these slithery animals. You can also watch a live show about the history and function of the snake farm. You can find it at the corner of Henry Dunant and Rama IV Roads, on the grounds of Chulalongkorn University.
Location: Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, 1871 Thanon Rama IV, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Open: Monday–Friday from 9.30am to 3.30pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9.30am to 1pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 252 0167
Bangkok has a collection of beautiful parks where you can briefly escape from the big city’s skyscrapers, malls and traffic. Parks in Bangkok provide its residents with fresh air and lots of healthy outdoor activities in lush, landscaped areas.
Some offer picturesque views of the downtown Bangkok skyline, with swathes of green and expansive lakes and with dedicated bicycle and jogging tracks. Most Bangkok parks come with additional sports facilities such as tennis courts, swimming pools and football fields. Bangkok’s most popular parks are usually close to a BTS Skytrain or MRT station, making them convenient spots for relaxation during your holiday.
Baiyoke Tower II
At 304 metres tall, Baiyoke Tower II is one of Bangkok's (and Thailand's) tallest buildings. The 88-storey building has a public observatory deck on the 77th floor, while the top floor is an open-air, 360-degree revolving roof deck (an admission applies). Both venues offer a bird's-eye view of the sprawling Thai capital. Baiyoke Sky Hotel covers from the 22nd to the 74th floor.
Taking in the Bangkok skyline from your hotel window is one thing, but watching it from the 84th-floor outdoor revolving deck is another experience entirely. Up at the top, the excitement, open space and the sense that you’re on top of one of Thailand’s tallest buildings make all the difference.
Location: Soi Ratchaprarob 3, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Open: Skywalk and observation deck: daily from 10am to 10.30pm
Bangkok spas and massages
A rejuvenating spa treatment in one of Bangkok's luxurious spas or a famous traditional Thai massage can be the antidote after a long day of walking, shopping and sightseeing. Despite being a thriving and bustling metropolis, Bangkok is also a haven for relaxation, rejuvenation and regeneration.
There are several ways you can enjoy a massage in Bangkok. Soothing treatments range from an aromatherapy and oil massage to facial massages that will make your skin glow radiantly.
Siam Niramit Show
Siam Niramit is a spectacular show in Bangkok. With its rich history that reads like an epic novel, Thailand is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing Asian nations, replete with over 700 years of captivating culture, customs and traditions. But just how Thailand's spawning seven centuries are brilliantly captured into a 90-minute production, Siam Niramit has the answer.
Location: 19 Thiam Ruam Mit Road, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 649 9222
Bang Pa-In Royal Palace
Bang Pa-In Royal Palace was used as a summer dwelling by the Siamese royalty and their consorts. It is about 60 km north of Bangkok and within easy reach of Ayutthaya. Also called Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, the complex comprises several iconic buildings all around a large park. Renting an electric cart is a good way to go around, especially on hot days.
Coming all the way from Bangkok just for the palace might not be worth the trip, but it is a great stop on the way to Ayutthaya. Proper attire is required similar to visiting the Grand Palace, meaning no short skirts, sleeveless shirts, and shorts.
Location: Tambon Ban Len, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, Chang Wat Phra Nakhon, Ayutthaya 13160, Thailand
Open: Daily from 8.30am to 5pm
Unusual sights in Bangkok
Bangkok has a host of unusual sights that are simply must-sees which also offer you a good break from the shopping malls, skyscrapers and hotels. Some are the result of centuries-old Buddhist culture being pushed into the 21st century – take the so-called ‘David Beckham Temple’ (Wat Pariwat) as an example. The back corner of its main altar has a Garuda that’s been replaced by the English football legend!
There are museums inside massive, pure copper statues or those that present a dedicated collection of morbid exhibits of human body parts. Some of Bangkok’s buildings are designed with outright quirky architecture – like the one in Chatuchak that resembles an elephant, or the one in Sathorn shaped like a robot!
Bangkok Butterfly Garden & Insectarium
Bangkok Butterfly Garden & Insectarium is where you can take the family for a day out admiring nature’s artistry in Chatuchak. You enter the huge and lofty enclosure of the conservatory with rockeries, shady ferns, wildflowers and a cooling waterfall – all the elements that make up the insects' natural habitat.
Unfortunately, only a few species of beautiful winged creatures hide within the dome. So, if you’re quiet and still, you may be able to lure 1 out of hiding. Combine your visit with a tour of Queen Sirikit Gardens, which lies between here and the Children's Discovery Museum.
Location: Kamphaengpet 3 Road, Lad Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 8.30am to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 272 4359
Circled by perpetual swarms of traffic, the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Road is a large western-style symbol of Thailand's adoption of democracy and liberty. Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram commissioned it to commemorate the June 1932 military coup that led to the country's first democratic constitution in place of absolute rule.
Location: Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Flight Experience Bangkok
Flight Experience Bangkok is a flight simulator that's great for anyone wanting to know how it feels like flying a jumbo jet. It's an extra-special gift for everyone, from young children who dream of being pilots to those who have a passion for planes. According to research, it can even help alleviate the fear of flying. Flight Experience Bangkok feels so realistic that its cockpit has even been used in local films and TV shows.
Location: Gateway Ekamai Shopping Mall, 2nd Floor, 22 Sukhumvit Road, Khlong Toei, Phra Khanong, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Open: Daily from 10am to 9pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 048 9922
Holy Rosary Church
The Holy Rosary Church was originally built on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in 1768, following a land grant by King Rama I. The Portuguese Catholic church that you can see near the Bangkok riverside today is the result of rebuilding work between 1891 and 1898.
This restoration lent it its neo-gothic style, showcasing an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary, towering central spire, marigold facade, curving gilded stucco ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows, depicting stories from the Old and New Testament. The easiest way to get there is by taking the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Si Phraya Pier.
Location: 987 Soi Wanit 2, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 266 4849
Papaya Studio is like no other vintage shop you may have seen before. Trying to list the amazing objects, items, figures, toys, household objects and furniture tightly packed next to each other would be impossible, but you can’t help but notice the pinball machines, Vespas, and full-sized comic book characters. It’s so bizarre that some of the genuine vintage items on display aren't even for sale. Go there if you’re a vintage lover and dive into a world of fantasy and fun memories... it's like a free museum!
Location: 306/1 Soi Lat Phrao 55/2 Lat Phrao Rd, Phlabphla, Wang Thonglang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 6.30pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 539 8220
Built in 1909 during King Rama V’s reign as a temporary royal residence, Phyathai Palace comprises 5 buildings all constructed in a combination of neo-gothic and Romanesque styles. The interiors showcase a rococo influence, complete with beautiful ceiling frescos, gilded Corinthian columns, and elaborately carved fretworks.
Guided tours are often available on Saturdays at 9.30am and 1.30pm. Otherwise, you are usually free to walk around the palace grounds.
Location: 315 Ratchawithi Rd, Thung Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Open: Saturday–Sunday from 9.30am to 11.30am and from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 1pm to 3pm (closed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 354 7987
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman. It was built by Tamil immigrants in the 1860s, featuring a riotous blend of rich colours and ornate decoration that makes for rather unexpected sight in Silom. It’s a great site for a little taste of Indian architecture right in the heart of Bangkok.
The tall central structure is plastered full of detailed, entwining Hindu deities. The shrines inside the temple are dedicated to both Shiva's consort and the elephant-headed Ganesha, with others paying homage to Vishnu and Krishna.
Location: 2 Pan Rd, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 238 4007
Bangkok art galleries
Bangkok art galleries offer glimpses into the Thai capital’s vibrant contemporary art scene. Most of the city's small private or commercial galleries promote Thai and regional artists. Through a day of gallery-hopping, you’ll discover that the city's art galleries and museums are pretty much scattered all over town.
Several large art complexes in the city centre offer an all-integrated art experience. Those like the Queen's Gallery promote the works of both established and up-and-coming Thai artists. The Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC) offers a wide range of contemporary art, design, music, theatre and film. Bangkok National Gallery displays work by Thai artists from the 17th century onwards, as well as permanent exhibitions of works by King Rama VI and King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Sanam Chandra Palace
Sanam Chandra Palace is set in a beautiful park full of giant trees and perfectly manicured lawns winding around ponds and lakes. In the middle of this garden stands a very unlikely building: a yellow castle worthy of a Cinderella fairytale.
Located 50 km west of Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom was built in 1907 in the small town of Nakhon Pathom. It's well-known for housing the world's tallest stupa called Phra Pathom Chedi. Despite being located only 1 km from it, this unusual royal palace sees very few local visitors.
Location: Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
Open: Daily from 5am to 9am and from 4pm to 8pm
Santa Cruz Church
Santa Cruz Church is a Roman Catholic church in Thonburi that offers an impressive sight with its imposing neoclassical architecture. The Portuguese have allied with Thailand since 1516 when they began supplying the country with arms and ammunitions to help ward off the Burmese aggression at the time.
After the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, and with it the Catholic church there, King Taksin granted permission for them to build another one in the new capital Thonburi, a gift in recognition of their vital services. The church and the surrounding area are a good starting point for discovering the traces of Portugal in the Thai capital.
Location: 112 Soi Kudeejeen, Wat Kanlaya, Thon Buri, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 472 0154
Flow House Bangkok
Flow House Bangkok has an artificial wave machine as its centrepiece. It provides a great way for the whole family to have fun, keep fit and cool off – all while learning a new sport. Flowriding is basically an amalgamation of surfing and wakeboarding on an inflatable ramp, which has a thin sheet of water pumped up and over it to simulate a perpetual breaking wave.
Experienced boarders of any variety will soon pick it up and enjoy practising flicks and grabs, while children can jump straight into it – literally – with a bodyboard. Staff are on hand to guide you with a rope at first, and continually offer you advice, correct your posture, and generally give encouragement.
Location: 120/1 A-Square, Soi Sukhumvit 26, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Open: Daily from 11am to 10pm
Phone: +66 (0)99 083 8787
Suan Pakkad Palace
Suan Pakkad Palace is a place to find visions of Thailand you thought long since vanished in Bangkok. Its name means 'cabbage patch', referring to times when the land was nothing more than just that. Today, however, it's a well-tended tropical garden with serene ponds surrounding 8 traditional Thai houses, each of which brims with fine arts, antiques and oddities belonging to Prince and Princess Chumbhot.
Location: 352-354 Si Ayutthaya Road, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 4pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 245 4934
You’ll come across a variety of impressive shrines on your stroll around Bangkok. Some are unique and quirky – others are hidden among the skyscrapers while a few are laid out in bare sight. There’s even a shrine that’s famous for lovelorn singles! Shrines are places of worship honouring sacred religious icons who’d grant you love, happiness, good fortune, success, luck or even fertility.
An easy one to get to is Erawan Shrine, which attracts more visitors than many of the city's temples. A very interesting shrine requiring a little more effort to find is the Tubtim Shrine dedicated to a fertility goddess. It’s adorned with literally hundreds of phalluses – from small wooden carvings to big stone sculptures standing 10 feet tall and decorated with ribbons!
Christ Church Bangkok
Christ Church Bangkok is an Anglican church that continues to be a popular place of worship among Bangkok expatriates. After an influx of protestant missionaries between the early and mid-19th century, King Rama IV granted land for a church to be built to serve them in Charoenkrung Road.
It wasn't long until the English Church (as it was then known due to its mainly English congregation) was overstretched. In 1904, King Rama V granted permission for a bigger and more centrally located church to be built. As an attraction on its own, the clean-white simple Gothic church is a sight to behold.
Location: 11 Convent Rd, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Open: Monday–Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, Sunday from 7.30am to 8.30am and from 10am to 11.30am (closed on Saturdays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 234 3634
King Rama I Monument
The monument of King Rama I, otherwise known as King Puttayodfa, is a double lifesize monument to the Thai royal that was built to mark the city's 150th anniversary in 1932. It was built along with the Puttayodfa Memorial Bridge next to which it sits.
The monument was designed by HRH Prince Naris, and architect Silpa Bhirasri sculpted it in bronze. Born on March 20, 1736, King Rama I was the first king in the Chakri Dynasty which continues to this day. He ascended to the throne on April 6, 1782, and died 27 years later.
Location: Prachathipok Rd, Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Wangderm Palace, also called Phra Racha Wang Derm, was built to mark the establishment of the new capital in Thonburi. After liberating Siam from the Burmese in 1767, a general and provincial governor named Taksin was crowned King. He built this palace on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River near Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn).
The Thonburi palace occupies a site once of great strategic importance, behind the Wichayen Fort and other fortifications that guarded access to the Kingdom's port. Visits are by appointment and limited to only 2 groups of 5 or more.
Location: 1 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Open: Monday–Friday from 9.30am to 11.30am and from 1pm to 4pm (closed on Saturdays and Sundays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 475 4117
Although mainly a popular sojourn for those looking to pick up Thai silk, antiques, jewellery, carpets and art, OP Place is also something of a destination in itself. Built in 1908 and constructed in an elegant neo-classical style, this impressive white-stone shopping centre, originally known as the Falck & Beidek Store, exudes an atmosphere reminiscent of old Bangkok.
Location: 10500 Charoen Krung 38 Alley, Charter Bank, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Open: Daily from 11am to 7pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 266 0186
Victory Monument in Bangkok marks a brief and relatively bloodless war that led to Thailand regaining disputed land on its borders with Indochina. It was built to commemorate the country's victory over French colonialists in Indochina. If you travel by Skytrain to Mo Chit (en route to Chatuchak Weekend Market), you'll catch the best view possible of this large military monument.
Location: Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, also known as Wat Leng Noei Yi, is a temple that’s nestled in the heart of Chinatown. The temple is the hub of activities during festivals like Chinese New Year. It’s often referred to as one of Bangkok's most important and largest Chinese-Buddhist temples.
The temple contains spectacular Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian shrines and dates back to 1872 when it was called Wat Leng Nui Yee. King Rama V then changed its name to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (which means Dragon Lotus Temple).
Location: 423 Charoen Krung Rd, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 222 3975
Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Temple
Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha is a Sikh temple in Pahurat, on the edge of Chinatown. This area is the heart of Bangkok's small but lively Sikh community. The white, 6-storey temple is topped with a golden dome. It was built in 1932 and is the second largest of its kind outside India.
You’ll find the congregation hall on the 4th floor, and an international school on the 5th floor of Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Temple. The top floor is the main prayer area, with a copy of Sikhism's holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, interned on a flower-filled altar.
Location: 571 Chakkraphet Rd, Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 221 1011
Zanook Wake Park Bangkok
Zanook Wake Park is one of Bangkok's busiest wakeboarding lake, with the fun addition of a floating, inflatable playground in the centre of the lake. Whether this is your first time trying to wakeboard or you are an experienced rider, Zanook Bangkok is where you can strap on a board and carve up the water close to the city centre. It’s close to the Bang Wa BTS Skytrain Station on the Silom Line.
Location: 77 Thanon Bang Bon 3, Bang Bon, Bangkok 10150, Thailand
Open: Monday–Friday from 11.30am to 9.30pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9am to 9.30pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 104 9053
Cycling in Bangkok
Cycling in Bangkok takes you pedalling off the well-beaten tourist track and beyond. It also offers you an immediate connection to your surroundings, something you won't experience with other modes of transport. Head out of the city on 2 wheels and you'll quickly discover places of hidden interest and unsung beauty like lush fruit orchards, quaint country villages, and ancient temples.
Take a Saturday night tour around the historic heart of Bangkok – Rattanakosin Island, Wat Pho, Wat Suthat and Khao San Road, or a Sunday morning cycle tour along the Thonburi khlongs (canals) to discover a different side of Thai life. Some tours involve taking a ferry and/or a train to the starting point.
Golfing in Bangkok
Bangkok golf courses offer great value for money with many excellent golf clubs offering a high level of service and very competitive prices. Golf tours and holidays have grown rapidly across Thailand, particularly in Bangkok where there are scores of great golf courses and clubs within easy reach of the city centre. Most of them have been renovated and developed to world-class standards.
While golfing in Bangkok, you can enjoy a great round while experiencing the beauty of manicured links and fairways. Many golfers in Bangkok prefer setting off in the early mornings to avoid Thailand’s intense midday sun – the cool breeze through the palms and the orange sun hanging low adds up to a memorable experience.
Ice skating in Bangkok
Ice-skating rinks in Bangkok help you beat the heat of the city and stage your holiday on the ice. They can be an ideal way to spend time with your family, as ice-skating offers plenty of fun for both kids and parents. Remember to wear something warm and comfortable, such as long, thick socks, jeans, and gloves to help cushion you against unexpected falls.
Many Bangkok ice rinks are within the city’s famous shopping malls, so you can easily enjoy some shopping and dining after some rounds. One rink is even Olympic-sized. If you're a bit wobbly on skates, sign up for a lesson. If you can glide on the ice like a pro, you're in for great winter-style fun in the hot Thai capital!
Bangkok Science Museum and Planetarium
The Bangkok Science Museum and Planetarium is an interactive museum and planetarium in Sukhumvit. Also known as the National Science Center for Education, it's designed to educate the youth and general public about science and astronomy. There are interesting activities, exhibits, models, multimedia presentations and real objects.
The museum occupies 4 main buildings – the Planetarium, the Natural Science building, the Science Museum and the Aquatic Life building. The semi-dome planetarium (the oldest in Thailand) is probably its most popular permanent fixture.
Location: 928 Sukhumvit Rd, Phra Khanong, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 8.30am to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 392 1773
Muay Thai in Bangkok
Although Muay Thai seems like a violent sport, learning it properly can be a fun and worthwhile experience. One of the best places to go (if you want a comprehensive learning experience) is Muay Thai Institute in Rangsit, just 12 km northeast of Don Mueang International Airport. Even so, there are many Muay Thai gyms in central Bangkok if you just want to enjoy a few rounds of Thai kickboxing with an experienced coach.
Bowling in Bangkok
Bowling in Bangkok can be a great time for family fun. It’s a good way to stay active and light-hearted and can be a great way to spend a rainy day or evening out. Cinemas, bowling alleys, and karaoke usually go hand-in-hand in most Bangkok malls, so teens can hang out in a fun environment while their parents enjoy some shopping.
EasyKart Bangkok go-karting
You can enjoy go-karting in Bangkok at EasyKart Bangkok at Royal City Avenue (RCA). It’s an exhilarating experience that can be enjoyed by everyone and in any weather. You can find a range of karts catering to different age groups and levels of experience.
For those with a competitive spirit, lap times are recorded electronically and displayed on an overhead screen, and a print out of your lap times are also given to racers afterwards. EasyKart Bangkok even has a viewing deck above the long straight for cheering on your friends or family.
Location: 31/11 RCA Plaza, 2nd Floor, Rama 9 Road, Bangkapi, Huaykwang, Bangkok 10320, Thailand
Open: Daily from 1pm to midnight
Phone: +66 (0)2 203 1205 ext. 24
Baan Bat is perhaps the last existing place in Bangkok that still hammers out – by hand – the brass bowl that Buddhist monks carry with them during the morning alms round. Its name literally means ‘house of monk’s alms bowl’. The community has been producing monk’s alms bowls since the late 18th Century, but today less than 5 households continue to make a living selling their craft here.
You can find Baan Bat in a narrow backstreet just south of Wat Saket (The Golden Mount Temple). The common view here is stacks of unfinished brass bowls lying about, as well as constant banging noise echoing from all the forging.
Location: 55 Boriphat Road, Baan Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Haroon Mosque is one of the busiest and oldest mosques in Bangkok. The original 1-storey wooden structure was replaced by brick-coloured concrete after it crumbled down beyond repair. Inside, the mosque showcases intricately carved Arabic script and can hold up to 500 people at a time. You can find the mosque amid a web of alleyways near the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok's Riverside area.
Location: 25 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)81 488 8154
Pridi Banomyong Institute
Pridi Banomyong Institute is a tree-shrouded building complex dedicated to the important historical Thai figure, Pridi Banomyong. It's a venue for promoting Thai arts and culture and hosts monthly art movies, stage performances by aspiring artists as well as cultural seminars and workshops. If you go on a non-event day, you’ll find it quite deserted. Walk to the open courtyard in the back, passing through a wooden walkway.
Location: 65/1 55 Sukhumvit Rd, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 5.30pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 381 3860
Wat Pathum Khongkha - the first execution chamber
Chinatown's Wat Pathum Khongkha is a pretty temple dating back to the Ayutthaya period, but once served an extraordinary, rather grisly purpose. It was used as an execution site for members of the Royal Family in the early Rattanakosin period. Several members from the first and third reigns were disposed of on the temple's execution stone.
Location: 1620 Song Wat Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Open: Daily from 5am to 9pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 639 1952
Saphanthawong Museum is a community museum in Bangkok Chinatown. It presents exhibits on the city's early Chinese immigrants. Set within the same compound as Wat Traimit, it's worth checking out if you’re eager to learn more about the history of the place while exploring the culturally vibrant neighbourhood.
Several exhibition rooms tell of the history of Chinatown through old photographs. There’s one that features the earliest shops in the neighbourhood, some of which you can still find today. After browsing through the museum, you can continue your walk through Chinatown with a better sense of history.
Location: 1620/1 Song Wat Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm
Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm
Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm is home to over 60,000 crocodiles, making it one of the largest in the world. You can take your family for a visit to this farm that’s around 30 km from central Bangkok and be thrilled by exciting crocodile shows and demonstrations. This old-school Thai attraction also has other wild animals, including tigers and bears.
Location: 555 Thanon Thai Ban, Pak Nam, Samut Prakan 10270, Thailand
Open: Daily from 8am to 6pm
Phone: +66 (0)2 703 4891
Bangkok and Chiang Mai are the country’s big culinary centres, boasting the cream of gourmet Thai restaurants and the best international cuisines. The rest of the country is by no means a gastronomic wasteland, however, and you can eat well and cheaply in even the smallest provincial towns, many of which offer the additional attraction of regional specialities. In fact you could eat more than adequately without ever entering a restaurant, as itinerant food vendors hawking hot and cold snacks materialize in even the most remote spots, as well as on trains and buses – and night markets often serve customers from dusk until dawn.
Hygiene is a consideration when eating anywhere in Thailand, but being too cautious means you’ll end up spending a lot of money and missing out on some real local treats. Wean your stomach gently by avoiding excessive amounts of chillies and too much fresh fruit in the first few days.
You can be pretty sure that any noodle stall or curry shop that’s permanently packed with customers is a safe bet. Furthermore, because most Thai dishes can be cooked in under five minutes, you’ll rarely have to contend with stuff that’s been left to smoulder and stew. Foods that are generally considered high risk include salads, ice cream, shellfish and raw or undercooked meat, fish or eggs. If you’re really concerned about health standards you could stick to restaurants and food stalls displaying a “Clean Food Good Taste” sign, part of a food sanitation project set up by the Ministry of Public Health, TAT and the Ministry of the Interior.
Most restaurants in Thailand are open every day for lunch and dinner; we’ve given full opening hours throughout the Guide. In a few of the country’s most expensive restaurants, mostly in Bangkok, a ten percent service charge and possibly even seven percent VAT may be added to your bill.
For those interested in learning Thai cookery, short courses designed for visitors are held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and dozens of other tourist centres around the country.
Where to eat
A lot of tourists eschew the huge range of Thai places to eat, despite their obvious attractions, and opt instead for the much “safer” restaurants in guesthouses and hotels. Almost all tourist accommodation has a kitchen, and while some are excellent, the vast majority serve up bland imitations of Western fare alongside equally pale versions of common Thai dishes. Having said that, it can be a relief to get your teeth into a processed-cheese sandwich after five days’ trekking in the jungle, and guesthouses do serve comfortingly familiar Western breakfasts.
Throughout the country most inexpensive Thai restaurants and cafés specialize in one general food type or preparation method, charging around B40–50 a dish – a “noodle shop”, for example, will do fried noodles and/or noodle soups, plus maybe a basic fried rice, but they won’t have curries or meat or fish dishes. Similarly, a restaurant displaying whole roast chickens and ducks in its window will offer these sliced, usually with chillies and sauces and served over rice, but their menu probably won’t extend to noodles or fish, while in “curry shops” your options are limited to the vats of curries stewing away in the hot cabinet.
To get a wider array of low-cost food, it’s sometimes best to head for the local night market (talaat yen), a term for the gatherings of open-air night-time kitchens found in every town. Sometimes operating from 6pm to 6am, they are typically to be found on permanent patches close to the fruit and vegetable market or the bus station, and as often as not they’re the best and most entertaining places to eat, not to mention the least expensive – after a lip-smacking feast of savoury dishes, a fruit drink and a dessert you’ll come away no more than B150 poorer.
A typical night market has maybe thirty-odd “specialist” pushcart kitchens (rot khen) jumbled together, each fronted by several sets of tables and stools. Noodle and fried-rice vendors always feature prominently, as do sweets stalls, heaped high with sticky rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves or thick with bags of tiny sweetcorn pancakes hot from the griddle – and no night market is complete without its fruit-drink stall, offering banana shakes and freshly squeezed orange, lemon and tomato juices. In the best setups you’ll find a lot more besides: curries, barbecued sweetcorn, satay sticks of pork and chicken, deep-fried insects, fresh pineapple, watermelon and mango and – if the town’s by a river or near the sea – heaps of fresh fish. Having decided what you want, you order from the cook (or the cook’s dogsbody) and sit down at the nearest table; there is no territorialism about night markets, so it’s normal to eat several dishes from separate stalls and rely on the nearest cook to sort out the bill.
Some large markets, particularly in Bangkok, have separate food court areas where you buy coupons first and select food and drink to their value at the stalls of your choice. This is also usually the modus operandi in the food courts found in department stores and shopping centres across the country.
For a more relaxing ambience, Bangkok and the larger towns have a range of upmarket restaurants, some specializing in “royal” Thai cuisine, which is differentiated mainly by the quality of the ingredients, the complexity of preparation and the way the food is presented. Great care is taken over how individual dishes look: they are served in small portions and decorated with carved fruit and vegetables in a way that used to be the prerogative of royal cooks, but has now filtered down to the common folk. The cost of such delights is not prohibitive, either – a meal in one of these places is unlikely to cost more than B500 per person.
How to eat
Thai food is eaten with a fork (left hand) and a spoon (right hand); there is no need for a knife as food is served in bite-sized chunks, which are forked onto the spoon and fed into the mouth. Cutlery is often delivered to the table wrapped in a perplexingly tiny pink napkin: Thais use this, not for their lap, but to give their fork, spoon and plate an extra wipe-down before they eat. Steamed rice (khao) is served with most meals, and indeed the most commonly heard phrase for “to eat” is kin khao (literally, “eat rice”). Chopsticks are provided only for noodle dishes, and northeastern sticky-rice dishes are always eaten with the fingers of your right hand. Never eat with the fingers of your left hand, which is used for washing after going to the toilet.
So that complementary taste combinations can be enjoyed, the dishes in a Thai meal are served all at once, even the soup, and shared communally. The more people, the more taste and texture sensations; if there are only two of you, it’s normal to order three dishes, plus your own individual plates of steamed rice, while three diners would order four dishes, and so on. Only put a serving of one dish on your rice plate each time, and then only one or two spoonfuls.
Bland food is anathema to Thais, and restaurant tables everywhere come decked out with condiment sets featuring the four basic flavours (salty, sour, sweet and spicy): usually fish sauce with chopped chillies; vinegar with chopped chillies; sugar; and dried chillies – and often extra bowls of ground peanuts and a bottle of chilli ketchup as well. Similarly, many individual Thai dishes are served with their own specific, usually spicy, condiment dip (nam jim). If you do bite into a chilli, the way to combat the searing heat is to take a mouthful of plain rice and/or beer: swigging water just exacerbates the sensation.
What to eat
Five fundamental tastes are identified in Thai cuisine – spiciness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and sweetness – and diners aim to share a variety of dishes that impart a balance of these flavours, along with complementary textures. Lemon grass, basil, coriander, galangal, chilli, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk and fermented fish sauce are just some of the distinctive components that bring these tastes to life. A detailed food and drink glossary can be found at the end of “Contexts”.
Curries and soups
Thai curries (kaeng) have a variety of curry pastes as their foundation: elaborate blends of herbs, spices, garlic, shallots and chilli peppers ground together with pestle and mortar. The use of some of these spices, as well as coconut cream, was imported from India long ago; curries that don’t use coconut cream are naturally less sweet and thinner, with the consistency of soups. While some curries, such as kaeng karii (mild and yellow) and kaeng matsaman (“Muslim curry”, with potatoes, peanuts and usually beef), still show their roots, others have been adapted into quintessentially Thai dishes, notably kaeng khiaw wan (sweet and green), kaeng phet (red and hot) and kaeng phanaeng (thick and savoury, with peanuts). Kaeng som generally contains fish and takes its distinctive sourness from the addition of tamarind or, in the northeast, okra leaves. Traditionally eaten during the cool season, kaeng liang uses up bland vegetables, but is made aromatic with hot peppercorns.
Eaten simultaneously with other dishes, not as a starter, Thai soups often have the tang of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, and are sometimes made extremely spicy with chillies. Two favourites are tom kha kai, a creamy coconut chicken soup; and tom yam kung, a hot and sour prawn soup without coconut milk. Khao tom, a starchy rice soup that’s generally eaten for breakfast, meets the approval of few Westerners, except as a traditional hangover cure.
One of the lesser-known delights of Thai cuisine is the yam or salad, which imparts most of the fundamental flavours in an unusual and refreshing harmony. Yam come in many permutations – with noodles, meat, seafood or vegetables – but at the heart of every variety is a liberal squirt of lime juice and a fiery sprinkling of chillies. Salads to look out for include yam som oh (pomelo), yam hua plee (banana flowers) and yam plaa duk foo (fluffy deep-fried catfish).
Noodle and rice dishes
Sold on street stalls everywhere, noodles come in assorted varieties – including kway tiaw (made with rice flour) and ba mii (egg noodles) – and get boiled up as soups (nam), doused in gravy (rat na) or stir-fried (haeng, “dry”, or phat, “fried”). Most famous of all is phat thai (“Thai fry-up”), a delicious combination of noodles (usually kway tiaw), egg, tofu and spring onions, sprinkled with ground peanuts and lime, and often spiked with tiny dried shrimps. Other faithful standbys include fried rice (khao phat) and cheap, one-dish meals served on a bed of steamed rice, notably khao kaeng (with curry).
Many of the specialities of northern Thailand originated in Burma, including khao soi, featuring both boiled and crispy egg noodles plus beef, chicken or pork in a curried coconut soup; and kaeng hang lay, a pork curry with ginger, turmeric and tamarind. Also look out for spicy dipping sauces such as nam phrik ong, made with minced pork, roast tomatoes and lemon grass, and served with crisp cucumber slices.
The crop most suited to the infertile lands of Isaan is sticky rice (khao niaw), which replaces the standard grain as the staple for northeasterners. Served in a rattan basket, it’s usually eaten with the fingers, rolled up into small balls and dipped into chilli sauces. It’s perfect with such spicy local delicacies as som tam, a green-papaya salad with raw chillies, green beans, tomatoes, peanuts and dried shrimps (or fresh crab). Although you’ll find basted barbecued chicken on a stick (kai yaang) all over Thailand, it originated in Isaan and is especially tasty in its home region. Raw minced pork, beef or chicken is the basis of another popular Isaan and northern dish, laap, a salad that’s subtly flavoured with mint and lime. A similar northeastern salad is nam tok, featuring grilled beef or pork and roasted rice powder, which takes its name, “waterfall”, from its refreshing blend of complex tastes.
Aside from putting a greater emphasis on seafood, southern Thai cuisine displays a marked Malaysian and Muslim aspect as you near the border, notably in khao mok kai, the local version of a biryani: chicken and rice cooked with turmeric and other Indian spices, and served with chicken soup. Southern markets often serve khao yam for breakfast or lunch, a delicious salad of dried cooked rice, dried shrimp and grated coconut served with a sweet sauce. You’ll also find many types of roti, a flatbread sold from pushcart griddles and, in its plain form, rolled with condensed milk. Other versions include savoury mataba, with minced chicken or beef, and roti kaeng, served with curry sauce for breakfast. A huge variety of curries are also dished up in the south, many substituting shrimp paste for fish sauce. Two of the most distinctive are kaeng luang, “yellow curry”, featuring fish, turmeric, pineapple, squash, beans and green papaya; and kaeng tai plaa, a powerful combination of fish stomach with potatoes, beans, pickled bamboo shoots and turmeric.
Desserts (khanom) don’t really figure on most restaurant menus, but a few places offer bowls of luk taan cheum, a jellied concoction of lotus or palm seeds floating in a syrup scented with jasmine or other aromatic flowers. Coconut milk is a feature of most other desserts, notably delicious coconut ice cream, khao niaw mamuang (sticky rice with mango), and a royal Thai cuisine special of coconut custard (sangkhayaa) cooked inside a small pumpkin, whose flesh you can also eat.
Thais don’t drink water straight from the tap, and nor should you; plastic bottles of drinking water (nam plao) are sold countrywide, in even the smallest villages, for around B10 and should be used even when brushing your teeth. Cheap restaurants and hotels generally serve free jugs of boiled water, which should be fine to drink, though they are not as foolproof as the bottles. In some large towns, notably Chiang Mai, you’ll come across blue-and-white roadside machines that dispense purified water for B1 for 1–2 litres (bring your own bottle).
Night markets, guesthouses and restaurants do a good line in freshly squeezed fruit juices such as lime (nam manao) and orange (nam som), which often come with salt and sugar already added, particularly upcountry. The same places will usually do fruit shakes as well, blending bananas (nam kluay), papayas (nam malakaw), pineapples (nam sapparot) and others with liquid sugar or condensed milk (or yoghurt, to make lassi). Fresh coconut water (nam maprao) is another great thirst-quencher – you buy the whole fruit dehusked, decapitated and chilled – as is pandanus-leaf juice (bai toey); Thais are also very partial to freshly squeezed sugar-cane juice (nam awy), which is sickeningly sweet.
Bottled and canned brand-name soft drinks are sold all over the place, with a particularly wide range in the ubiquitous 7-Eleven chain stores. Glass soft-drink bottles are returnable, so some shops and drink stalls have a system of pouring the contents into a small plastic bag (fastened with an elastic band and with a straw inserted) rather than charging you the extra for taking away the bottle. The larger restaurants keep their soft drinks refrigerated, but smaller cafés and shops add ice (nam khaeng) to glasses and bags. Most ice is produced commercially under hygienic conditions, but it might become less pure in transit so be wary (ice cubes are generally a better bet than shaved ice) – and don’t take ice if you have diarrhoea. For those travelling with children, or just partial themselves to dairy products, UHT-preserved milk and chilled yoghurt drinks are widely available (especially at 7-Eleven stores), as are a variety of soya drinks.
Weak Chinese tea (nam chaa) makes a refreshing alternative to water and often gets served in Chinese restaurants and roadside cafés, while posher restaurants keep stronger Chinese and Western-style teas. Instant Nescafé is usually the coffee (kaafae) offered to farangs, even if freshly ground Thai-grown coffee – notably several excellent kinds of coffee from the mountains of the north – is available. If you would like to try traditional Thai coffee, most commonly found at Chinese-style cafés in the south of the country or at outdoor markets, and prepared through filtering the grounds through a cloth, ask for kaafae thung (literally, “bag coffee”; sometimes known as kaafae boran – “traditional coffee” – or kopii), normally served very bitter with sugar as well as sweetened condensed milk alongside a glass of black or Chinese tea to wash it down with. Fresh Western-style coffee (kaafae sot) in the form of Italian espresso, cappuccino and other derivatives has recently become popular among Thais, so you’ll now come across espresso machines in large towns all over the country (though some of these new coffee bars, frustratingly, don’t open for breakfast, as locals tend to get their fix later in the day).
The two most famous local beers (bia) are Singha (ask for “bia sing”) and Chang, though many travellers find Singha’s weaker brew, Leo, more palatable than either. In shops you can expect to pay around B30 for a 330ml bottle of these beers, B50 for a 660ml bottle. All manner of slightly pricier foreign beers are now brewed in Thailand, including Heineken and Asahi, and in the most touristy areas you’ll find expensive imported bottles from all over the world.
Wine is now found on plenty of upmarket and tourist-oriented restaurant menus, but expect to be disappointed by both quality and price, which is jacked up by heavy taxation. Thai wine is now produced at several vineyards, including at Château de Loei near Phu Reua National Park in the northeast, which produces quite tasty reds, whites including a dessert wine, a rosé and brandy (see Nam Nao National Park).
At about B80 for a hip-flask-sized 375ml bottle, the local whisky is a lot better value, and Thais think nothing of consuming a bottle a night, heavily diluted with ice and soda or Coke. The most palatable and widely available of these is Mekong, which is very pleasant once you’ve stopped expecting it to taste like Scotch; distilled from rice, Mekong is 35 percent proof, deep gold in colour and tastes slightly sweet. If that’s not to your taste, a pricier Thai rum is also available, Sang Som, made from sugar cane, and even stronger than the whisky at forty percent proof. Check the menu carefully when ordering a bottle of Mekong from a bar in a tourist area, as they often ask up to five times more than you’d pay in a guesthouse or shop. A hugely popular way to enjoy whisky or rum at beach resorts is to pick up a bucket, containing a quarter-bottle of spirit, a mixer, Red Bull, ice and several straws, for around B200: that way you get to share with your friends and build a sandcastle afterwards.
You can buy beer and whisky in food stores, guesthouses and most restaurants; bars aren’t strictly an indigenous feature as Thais traditionally don’t drink out without eating, but you’ll find plenty of Western-style drinking holes in Bangkok and larger centres elsewhere in the country, ranging from ultra-hip haunts in the capital to basic, open-to-the-elements “bar-beers”.
Vegetarian food in Thailand
Very few Thais are vegetarian (mangsawirat) but, if you can make yourself understood, you can often get a non-meat or fish alternative to what’s on the menu; simply ask the cook to exclude meat and fish: mai sai neua, mai sai plaa. You may end up eating a lot of unexciting vegetable fried rice and phat thai minus the shrimps, but in better restaurants you should be able to get veggie versions of most curries; the mushroom version of chicken and coconut soup is also a good standby: ask for tom kha hed. Browsing food stalls also expands your options, with barbecued sweetcorn, nuts, fruit and other non-meaty goodies all common. The two ingredients that you will have to consider compromising on are the fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste that are fundamental to most Thai dishes; only in the vegan Thai restaurants described below, and in tourist spots serving specially concocted Thai and Western veggie dishes, can you be sure of avoiding them.
If you’re vegan (jay, sometimes spelt “jeh”) you’ll need to stress when you order that you don’t want egg, as they get used a lot; cheese and other dairy produce, however, don’t feature at all in Thai cuisine. Many towns will have one or more vegan restaurants (raan ahaan jay), which are usually run by members of a temple or Buddhist sect and operate from unadorned premises off the main streets; because strict Buddhists prefer not to eat late in the day, most of the restaurants open early, at around 6 or 7am, and close by 2pm. Most of these places have a yellow and red sign, though few display an English-language name. Nor is there ever a menu: customers simply choose from the trays of veggie stir-fries and curries, nearly all of them made with soya products, that are laid out canteen-style. Most places charge around B40 for a couple of helpings served over a plate of brown rice.
Fruit in Thailand
You’ll find fruit (phonlamai) offered everywhere in Thailand – neatly sliced in glass boxes on hawker carts, blended into delicious shakes and served as a dessert in restaurants. The fruits described below can be found in all parts of Thailand, though some are seasonal. The country’s more familiar fruits include forty varieties of banana (kluay), dozens of different mangoes (mamuang), three types of pineapple (sapparot), coconuts (maprao), oranges (som), limes (manao) and watermelons (taeng moh). Thailand’s most prized and expensive fruit is the durian (thurian).
To avoid stomach trouble, peel all fruit before eating it, and use common sense if you’re tempted to buy it pre-peeled on the street, avoiding anything that looks fly-blown or seems to have been sitting in the sun for hours.
(soursop; noina; July–Sept). Inside the knobbly, muddy green skin is a creamy, almond-coloured blancmange-like flesh, with a strong flavour of strawberries and pears, and a hint of cinnamon, and many seeds.
(farang; year-round). The apple of the tropics has green textured skin and sweet, crisp pink or white flesh, studded with tiny edible seeds. Has five times the vitamin C content of an orange and is sometimes eaten cut into strips and sprinkled with sugar and chilli.
(khanun; year-round). This large, pear-shaped fruit can weigh up to 20kg and has a thick, bobbly, greeny-yellow shell protecting sweet yellow flesh. Green, unripe jackfruit is sometimes cooked as a vegetable in curries.
(lamyai; July–Oct). A close relative of the lychee, with succulent white flesh covered in thin, brittle skin.
(linjii; April–May). Under rough, reddish-brown skin, the lychee has sweet, richly flavoured white flesh, rose scented and with plenty of vitamin C.
(mangkut; April–Sept). The size of a small apple, with smooth, purple skin and a fleshy inside that divides into succulent white segments that are sweet though slightly acidic.
(paw-paw; malakaw; year-round). Looks like an elongated watermelon, with smooth green skin and yellowy-orange flesh that’s a rich source of vitamins A and C. It’s a favourite in fruit salads and shakes, and sometimes appears in its green, unripe form in salads, notably som tam.
(som oh; Oct–Dec). The largest of all the citrus fruits, it looks rather like a grapefruit, though it is slightly drier and has less flavour.
(ngaw; May–Sept). The bright red rambutan’s soft, spiny exterior has given it its name – rambut means “hair” in Malay. Usually about the size of a golf ball, it has a white, opaque flesh of delicate flavour, similar to a lychee.
(chomphuu; year-round). Linked in myth with the golden fruit of immortality; small and egg-shaped, with white, rose-scented flesh.
(sapota; lamut; Sept–Dec). These small, brown, rough-skinned ovals look a bit like kiwi fruit and conceal a grainy, yellowish pulp that tastes almost honey-sweet.
(makhaam; Dec–Jan). A Thai favourite and a pricey delicacy – carrying the seeds is said to make you safe from wounding by knives or bullets. Comes in rough, brown pods containing up to ten seeds, each surrounded by a sticky, dry pulp which has a sour, lemony taste.
Bangkok's nightlife experiences are some of the main reasons why so many people make the trip to this steamy metropolis year after year. From sky-high cocktails with sweeping views to basement clubbing and even high-kicking, gender-defying theatrical shows, nightlife in Bangkok is as varied as it is unforgettable.
We’ve compiled some of the very best experiences for what you can do with your long nights in Bangkok. This list is far from exhaustive, but if you’re looking for something exciting to do, we highly recommend any of these night-time activities.
Bangkok rooftop bars
Fancy touching the clouds while sipping a cocktail? The city’s handful of rooftop venues has elevated the Bangkok night-out to stratospheric heights. Breathtaking vistas merge with stunning crowds at this higher breed of open-air bars
Bangkok ladyboy shows
Nothing out-glams a Bangkok ladyboy show! The flamboyant costumes, spectacular sets and crazy musical tributes to the female form, will leave you dazzled by the performances, and most definitely smitten with the ‘girls’.
Dinner cruises on Chao Praya River
Thai history, culture and cuisine converge with a journey along Bangkok’s River of Kings. Aboard a luxury cruiser or teakwood rice barge, admire sparkling temples and the bustle of river life while enjoying a sumptuous meal. The sights and sensations along the riverbanks are spellbinding at night.
Bangkok go-go bars
For pole-swinging temptresses, exotic boy-meets-girl creations and notorious take-home pleasures, head for one of Bangkok’s lust-driven dens of sin. Patpong, Nana Plaza, or Soi Cowboy – take your pick
Bangkok night markets
If you’re not ready to hit the bars and clubs, scratch your shopping itch with some after-dark shopping at Bangkok's night markets. Khao San Road, with its carefree traveller attire, and the bootleg heaven that is Patpong Market, offer a wide range of inexpensive goods with prices that can go even lower if you know how to bargain.
At Bangkok's best nightclubs, find dancefloors packed with cute girls, whisky-sipping adolescents, and boozy expats. The soundtrack is usually a storm of dark, twisted beats, from EDM and hip hop to techno and house.
Siam Niramit cultural show and dinner
Siam Niramit packs all the majesty and splendour of the Land of Smiles into a spectacular 80-minute stage show. The first act describes how Siam became a crossroads where civilisations met, the second how karma binds the Thai people, the last how religious ceremony earns Thais merit in this life.
Location: 19 Thiam Ruam Mit Road, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0)2 649 9222
Bangkok live jazz bars
Bangkok’s got a fascinating lineup of cool and classy jazz bars ideal for whiling away the hours in style. Bangkok's top live music venues are the crème de la crème of the city's jazz bar scene, featuring some of the most talented local and international artists on a nightly basis.
Muay Thai Live show at Asiatique
Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives is an exciting theatrical show at Asiatique Bangkok. It combines entertaining performances with the ancient moves of Muay Thai kickboxing. Great for theatre enthusiasts, families or just anybody wanting to get an exhilarating insight into Thai culture, this 90-minute show might leave you eager to don your own skimpy shorts and get into the ring yourselves.
The hype surrounding Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives is there for a reason. This Bangkok show runs every day except Mondays from 8pm at The Stage, a modern 600-seater theatre within Asiatique The Riverfront night market.
Location: The Stage Theatre, Asiatique The Riverfront, 2194 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Kho Laem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 8pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +66 (0)2 108 5999
Often wild, never tame, Bangkok’s nightlife wears pink on its sleeve. Famed for its tolerance, Bangkok’s gay community has almost as many night-time choices as the straight crowd – there’s really no excuse to stay in the closet!