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Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is Thailand’s bustling capital city. The city is commonly called Krungthep in Thai, whilst the full name; Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit has earnt the city a place in The Guinness Book of Records. In English, the name translates as; The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam.

Bangkok is perhaps one of the most spectacular capital cities in Southeast Asia, if not the world. There is no limit to what can be seen, done and experienced in this immense city of colourful contradictions where gentle traditional beliefs meet the fast pace of capitalism and everything is tempered by the uniquely Thai sense of style and priority.

Many first time visitors to Bangkok find it overwhelming as there is simply so much to see and do and every area offers a new and interesting aspect of this city, which somehow manages to be simultaneously vast and quite compact.

A great way to get to know the city is the take a ferry along the Chao Phraya River. The river stops at many different piers and there are a whole host of famous sites right on the river bank, which can be explored or simply viewed from the ferry. Look out for the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, whilst China Town and Khaosan Road are just a short walk from their piers.

The central pier connects with the Skytrain or BTS, and this is another great way to see the city. The Skytrain soars over Lumpini Park and stops at Siam, where you can find the large shiny shopping centres of MBK, Siam Paragon and The Discovery Center.

If you are interested in shopping, make sure you pay a visit to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, while the Night Bazaar at Sanam Luang is a great place to pick up a bargain whilst avoiding the heat of the day.

Bangkok is well known for its rich and varied nightlife, which covers just about every possible style and trend. For those interested in go-go bars head to areas such as Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza or witness an eyebrow raising show in Patpong. There are plenty of stylish clubs, and the area known as RCA contains dozens of different clubs catering for every style of music. Along the banks of the

river you will find dozens of bars in which to enjoy a cold drink and look at the stars, while in Sukhumvit you will find a number of Western-style theme pubs.

If the pace and pollution of the city get a bit much, there are plenty of city parks to get away from the traffic and relax for a while. Among the best are the enormous centrally located Lumpini Park, Chatuchak Park and Suan Rot Fai (Railway Park), where you can hire a bicycle or watch the butterflies in the insectarium.

Bangkok Skytrain – BTS

Bangkok Skytrain BTS
Bangkok Skytrain BTS
Bangkok Skytrain BTS

It’s no secret that Bangkok has a traffic problem, and traveling between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. can be frustrating and time consuming as you become lost in a series of traffic jams. However, there is an alternative that can make traveling through the city easy and enjoyable.
The Bangkok Mass Transport System – usually called the BTS or Skytrain – began operation on December 5, 1999. It is an elevated metro, consisting of two lines and 23 stations. For people wishing to explore the center of Bangkok, the Skytrain offers a fast, pollution-free service and a different vantage point.

The average journey costs 10-30 baht, much cheaper than a taxi or tuk-tuk. The automatic ticket machines only take 5 and 10 baht coins, so take plenty of change if you want to avoid queuing at the change counter. You can also purchase a day ticket, which offers unlimited trips for just 120 baht.

Called Rot Fai Fah in Thai – car with fire up in the air – the Skytrain connects with areas such as Siam, Sukhumvit and Silom. The best way to experience the Skytrain from Khaosan Road is to take the ferry from pier 13 to Saphan Taksin, which connects with the last stop on the Silom line. It is good to note that the stations on the Skytrain use a slightly different phonetic spelling to usually seen on maps and signs around Bangkok. Try saying the words aloud and if they sound similar then you’re on the right track.

Here’s a break down of what you can find at each stop:

Silom Line

Saphan Taksin: Journey starts here. Follow the signs from the river up the steps and purchase your ticket.

Surasak: Not much here, but there are some good, cheap restaurants.

Chong Nonsi: Close to the Thai Immigration Bureau on Soi Suan Phlu (Sathorn soi 3).

Sala Daeng: (Interchange with MRT). This is the stop for Patpong, where you can barter in the market or slip into one of the bars for livelier entertainment. Stop here for Convent Road.

Ratchadamri: Stop here for elevated views of the horse racing track, or some of the swankier hotels such as the Regent Hotel.

Siam (Central Station): Bangkok’s main shopping district. Siam Square, Siam Centre, Discovery Center, Paragon and MBK are all close by.

National Stadium: End of the Silom Line. Jim Thompson’s House is a short walk from here.

Wongwian Yai: Gets you over the river and closer to some of the main tourism sites.

Sukhumvit Line

Mo Chit (Morchit): A good way to get to Chatuchak park and market. Suan Rot fai, the park behind Chatuchak, is also worth exploring. Connects with the North-East Bus Terminal and MRT.

Saphan Khwai: Stop here for Thai-style bars and go-go bars.

Aree: Villa Market Complex can provide food for homesick palets, as can the range of restaurants and cafes.

Sanam Pao: Means ‘Shooting Field’ in Thai.

Victory Monument: Stop here for live music at the Saxophone Pub, or explore the stalls dotted around this area.

Phaya Thai: Here you will find some restaurants offering delicious Isaan food. Look out for ‘Tee Sud Isaan Inter Restaurant’.

Ratchathewi: This is the stop for Panthip Plaza and the Pratunam Shopping Center, which has a good international food court.

Siam (Central Station): Change for the Silom line to go back to Khaosan Road.

Chit Lom: Stop here for up market shopping centers such as Amarin Plaza, Gaysorn Plaza and Central World Plaza.

Ploen Chi: There is a sky bridge connecting to the pedestrian bridge next to the British Embassy.

Nana: Home of Nana Plaza, and the main soi with its inviting neon-clad bars as well as Nana Hotel and Landmark Hotel.

Asok (Asoke): Interchange with MRT. Stop here for Soi Cowboy.

Phrom Phong: The Emporium is here and you can also explore The Queen’s Park (Benja Siri Park).

Tong Lo (Tong Lor): Soi Tong Lo (Sukhumvit 55) has a wide range of bars just waiting to be explored. Check out The Robin Hood Pub, Wiches Tavern and Coliseum Brew Arena.

Ekkamai: Connects with the Eastern Bus Terminal. The Science Museum here is worth visiting.

Phra Khanong: Get off here for the Hua Mark Stadium.

Om Nut: Closest stop to Suvarnapoomi airport – for now, at least.

See the BTS website

Crosstown Traffic

Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, BTS in Bangkok, Thailands
Cross Town Traffic, BTS in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, MRT in Bangkok, Thailand
Cross Town Traffic, MRT in Bangkok, Thailand

“Don’t s**t yourself that’s the secret,” I’d never been on a motorbike taxi before and they were the words of advice my mate Chris had given me about riding on one. He said, “Most accidents happen when farangs get on the back and don’t know what’s going on. They panic and try to jump off when it gets a bit scary.”

At the time I was trying my best not to s**t myself. We were going the wrong way down a one way lane and a bus was coming towards us. The sheer terror was incalculable, I’m struggling for metaphors, it was like being on a motorbike heading straight for an oncoming bus. I covered my face with my hands, a few seconds later I uncovered my eyes and saw that we were ten feet (that’s about 3 meters for those of you from mainland Europe) away from colliding head on with the bus.
I made the sign of the cross and wondered weather to jump or not but the driver glided deftly to his left and slid through a gap about two feet wide (that’s about an inch and a half wider than your humble narrator for those of you from mainland Europe). The slipstream of the bus to my right and of the taxi to my left made the hairs on my arms face the wrong way.
When we got to my destination I paid the driver the prearranged sum of sixty baht although I genuinely felt like “tolchocking the brazny vesch in the litso real horrorshow for making me kaki my breshies which at the time were the heigth of fashion” (if you don’t understand that last little phrase try reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess although the diction gets the general sentiment across).
I’d always sworn never to get on a motorbike taxi, but that day matters were quite urgent, I had 20 minutes to get from Sukumvit to Thai Air’s offices on Silom to get my flight changed or loose it altogether. Once the panic was over and everything was sorted out I heaved a sigh of relief, reflected on the journey and thought how convenient that particular option had actually been.
The return journey to my hotel wasn’t that urgent, but I weighed up the other modes of transport available and actually opted for a motorbike again. This time, as I was relieved and happy to be staying in the kingdom for another week and not so petrified of the consequences having managed a successful maiden voyage, I actually enjoyed it. I sat back on the seat, lit a cigarette at some traffic lights, waved flirtatiously at a young lady in a taxi and regretted not having brought anything to read with me.
When I got back to base camp I pondered for a while over another facet of Bangkok that makes it so enchanting, there are just so many ways to get around in this great city. Here’s an outline of some of the different options available.


If you smell some nice food being cooked you can stop and try some.


Within a hundred yards you’ll have sweat accumulating in every nook and cranny of your body and within two or three you’ll need a change of clothes.


Wear something light and loose fitting.


Bother unless it’s journeys of less than a couple hundred yards or so.

Motorbike Taxi


They’re a very quick efficient way of getting from A to B, especially in heavy traffic. Can be exhilarating. Cons You may need a change of underwear. If you have back problems repeated motorbike journeys can aggravate them.


Agree on a price before setting off, and get the driver to come down 10 to 20% on his opening price. Insist on wearing a helmet. Keep your knees tucked in.


Panic or wobble about.

Tuk Tuk


They’re a quaint entertaining way of travelling. They can cut through traffic, but not as well as motorbikes. They carry more than one passenger.


The drivers tend to have commission deals set up with tailors shops, bars, massage parlours, jewellery stores etc. and will constantly bother you to take a visit at no extra charge.


Knock them down on their asking price.


Believe they can take everywhere in Bangkok for only 20 Baht!



Taxi’s can be a nice comfortable way of getting around town. They’ve got aircon, are amply protected from the rain and have plenty of storage space for luggage and shopping. If three or four of you share the fare it can actually work out cheaper than the other modes of transport.


They sometimes have the aircon on too high and aren’t too good at cutting through traffic. The drivers have a habit of talking complete nonsense about how bad the traffic is, how little money they earn. If they hear you mention an English Premiership Football team they will furnish you with their intimate knowledge of the side ad nauseum. If they hear you speak even a single word of Thai they assume that you’re fluent and will speak freely and openly to you in their dialect despite your protestations that you only speak a little bit.


Wear a seatbelt. Insist on them using the meter instead of letting them quote you a price.


Mention a Premiership Football team, especially one that’s doing well, or they will bore your socks off.



I’ll put my hand on my heart and admit to it I know next to nothing about the buses in Bangkok, so if you don’t like me personally their main “pro” is that you can be 100 % certain never to run into me on one of them, although apparently they’re very cheap. From what I can work out they are either air conditioned or non air conditioned and those who use them tell me they’re a good way of getting about and cover virtually the entire city. Cons They go head on at you when you’re on to the Thai airways office on Silom on a motorbike in an emergency and make you soil your breeches.


Expect to be one of too many people jammed onto them and have to listen to very disconcerting engine noises. Find out from somebody how to go about using them.


Expect any help from me!

River Boats


Bangkok’s River Boats or River Taxis a very very cool way of getting about. They’re fast, cheap, exciting and offer some outstanding views of the city. Bangkok was known as the “Venice of Asia” because as recently as the 1980’s the best way to commute was by canal although recently most of them have been closed off because they became polluted although a couple of the main routes (Chao Prahaya and Klong Saem (sic)) are still used. A lot of people visiting Thailand form the west want to see the old Thai culture and travelling my river boat will give you that on old charming creaky timbered boats. The Chao Prahaya boat is pretty easy to use and is quite tourist friendly and there’s a pier at Banglampu near Khao Sarn Road and near Wat Po, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.


The routes they travel are a bit limited and there is little tourist information on them, so unless you’re on the Cha Prahaya one ask somebody who knows, if you use them it may take a while before you know your way around. You might get a bit of water splashed on your face and have a bit of a nerve jangle getting on and off them but it’s part of the fun. If you don’t like me you’ve got the chance of running into me on one of them.


Give them a whirl. Don’ts Fall into the river, or expect it to go without hitch, but you’re on holiday so what does it matter ?



The Skytrain or BTS was opened on the Kings Birthday on December 1999 and was a real milestone in the development of Bangkok as a modern city. There are two lines which cross the majority of the city and intersect near Siam Square. It’s a fast, safe efficient way of crossing the city and can offer some pretty good cityscapes from above ground level. If you’re in a hurry through the business districts of town it can be the best way to travel.


It can be a bit overcrowded at time so expect the odd game of sardines and it can be a bit disorientating at times, a lot of people when they first start to use it have to ponder about which exit they take so expect a few wrong turns during your visit but it’s still a good way of getting about, oh and I got my pocket picked on there once but don’t let that put you off, everybody who knows me will tell you how unlucky I am.


Give it a try, enjoy the views and zip through the congestion.


Get aggravated like I sometimes do at the dumb visitors who can’t work the ticket machines or the barriers.

Subway (MRT)


The Subway/MRT or “Mass Rapid Transport” system is the latest weapon in Bangkok’s artillery as it prepares to do battle for the title of number one 21st Century city. It opened in around 2003 and after a couple of false starts and hiccups it now runs quickly and efficiently across the city from Hua Lamphong (the Central Railway Station) to Chatuchak Market in the North and intersects at two or three places with the Skytrain.


The aircon is sometimes set a little bit too high so when it isn’t rush hour you can feel the cold and a lot of its stops are non tourist destinations. The map and ticketing systems at the stations are a little bit on the vague side if you don’t know your way round Bangkok.


Give it a try.


Worry about it if you don’t give it a whirl, the views aren’t that spectacular with it being underground and anyway it’ll still be there when you come back.

Don’t fotget there’s no a Railway Link (Airport Link or SRT) that’s a good way to get around Bangkok.