Bangkok

Ah, Bangkok a city of culture and pollution.  So much to see and do and experience but where to start?

Getting Around

Taxis

So long as traffic isn’t bad, taxis are a plentiful and efficent mode of transportation.  Beware though, sometimes in downtown or other touisty places the taxi driver wont want to use the meter since he thinks you are a gullible and ignorant farang (foreigner) and maybe you are, but now you can insist that he use the meter.  If he still tells you no close the door and look for another taxi that will do meter.  You’ll be able to find one.  Also know that in Bangkok the starting fee for a taxi is 35 Baht, if you are in a large van taxi the starting fee is more but I can’t remember exactly how much.

BTS (Skytrain)

As the name suggests this is an elevated train system that travels through basically the center of downtown to Mo Chit (where Chatuchak Market is) on one end and and On Nut on the other.  That is the primary line.  There is also another route that travels from Wongwan Yai which is just across the river to National Stadium near the MBK shopping center.  You can switch lines at the Siam stop.  The price for the BTS varies depending on the stop you get off at.  The most common route I take is Mo Chit to Siam and the cost is 35 Baht.

MRT (subway)

This train system crosses some of the same points as the BTS but also goes to many other areas the BTS does not.  It also starts near the Mo Chit (Chatuchak) area but goes around the city to Ladprao, Ekamai, Lumphini and then back into the Siam area.  The cost is about the same as the BTS.

River Taxi

This is my favorite mode of transportation.  Although many times it is not as fast as taking a taxi it is more relaxing and enjoyable.  If you want to visit touristy places such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun or China Town I recommend taking the river taxi.  The boats travel from downtown Siam to Nonthaburi (that is where I live and there’s not much to see so I don’t recommend riding the boat all the way there unless you have a reason).  Boats with orange flags are the regular express boats and boats with yellow flags are super express boats.  Be sure to check the map for which stop each boat stops at.  The yellow boat stops at less stops than the orange.  At many larger stops small boats ferry people across the river.  The price for the orange boat is 14 Baht and for the yellow boat I believe is 20 Baht.  The small boats that go across the river I believe are 2.5 Baht.

What to do

Bangkok is a city filled with oppotunities.  From shopping, to temple exploring and Muay Thai or movie watching there’s something for everyone.

Seeing the sights

Know that modest dress is always appreciated and on occasion required (at temples and at the Grand Palace).  Make sure your shoulders are covered, and that you aren’t wearing shorts.

The Grand Palace:  Just north of Downtown, the Grand Palace is easy to get to by Taxi and even easier to get to by the river Taxi.  The compound itself contains 2 areas, Wat Phra Keow, which is home to the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailands most sacred sights, and then the palace area. I recommend taking your time walking around the Wat and truely taking in the minute details of each building.  The Palace side of the compound is less spectacular but it’s fun to get your picture taken with the Thai royal Guards, who, like the British guards have to stand there stone faced as you make silly faces at them.

Wat Pho:  This temple sits right next to the grand palace and is most famous for it’s Giant, golden reclinging Buddha.  The rest of the compound is beautiful as well.  I reccomend walking around to look at the colorful stupas.  When I was there young monks were also having a class in the main temple hall which made for a perfect photo opportunity.

Wat Arun:  Located just across the river from the Grand Palace, the giant stupa of Wat Arun can be seen for many miles.  From a distance it’s surface appears to be grey but when you get closer you see that the surface is really decorated with thousands of colorful tiny ceramic pieces arranged into flowers and designs.  If you climb to the top (up a VERY steep set of stairs) you’ll be able to get a great view of the surrounding area as well.

One site that is listed in many guidebooks but really not that interesting is the Giant Swing.  While it might make a cool picture today it sits in the middle of an intersection with no other activities around it.

If you head about an hour out of the city you can reach a few other cool sights:

Ayuthaya was an ancient capital of Siam.  Today you can explore the ruins and take elephant rides in the area.

The Floating Market was probably once quite an amazing thing to see.  Today you can clearly see the effects of tourism as you consistently refuse to buy elephant place mats from every rickety canal side stand.  There was one point where it began to resemble a real market, with boats full of fruit, but overall it was a bunch of junky souvenirs.  All that said I think it is still a unique experience and would be worth a visit.

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