Destination Profile: Bangkok
The capital of Thailand has many monikers, "the Big Mango, "City of Angels" or "Krung Thep" as it is known to the locals.
It currently holds the record for the world's longest place name. So, I shall give it ts full dignified title..........
"Krungthep Maha Nakorn Amorn Ratanakosindra Mahindrayudhya, Mahadilokpop Noparatana Rajthani Burirom Udom Rajnivet Mahastan Amorn Pimarn Avatarn Satit Sakkatuttiya Vishnukarm Prasit".
Wow, what a tongue-twister, I think even most native Thai speakers would struggle with that!!!
Better still, try saying it after a couple of Johnnie Walkers!!!!
Bangkok is often described as a city of contrasts. This is reflected both in the cityscape, with the juxtaposition of centuries-old temples and gleaming 21st century skyscrapers and in society itself, with beggars sharing pavement space with the Gucci-wearing members of Thailand's high-society!!!!
The city has a plethora of eye-catching cultural landmarks and together with its infamous adult nightlife, balmy climate and delicious food, means the city is synonymous with fun, exoticism and pleasure.
But beneath this facade of enjoyment lurks a more dangerous, seedy and visceral Bangkok. With scammers around every corner, a changing politcal atmosphere, increasing numbers of undesirables arriving on a daily basis and the fall-out from the global economic crisis, I am of the opinion that travellers are more more likely to encounter problems than they were 5 or 6 years ago when I first visited Bangkok!!!
The pace of life in Bangkok is frenetic, so if you're looking for a quiet, relaxing getaway then Bangers is certainly NOT the place for you.....But if you're looking for fun, adventure and excitement then you've hit the proverbial jackpot.
I know this may sound stupid and I'm sure this is what most people do. But, because Bangkok is a large, sprawling city and the places of interest are spread out, it helps to be fairly close to where you want to go.
Nevertheless, travelling around Bangkok is not difficult, even though public transport is not as good as you find in the West. However, the transport system has improved enormously over the years with the introduction of the Skytrain (BTS) and the underground (MRT). Taxis meters are readily available and offer very good value for money but journey's can take a long time due to the large volume of traffic. River taxis and express boats are cheap and convenient and there are many bus networks cris-crossing the city. Tuk Tuk's are also an option for short journey's but they rarely charge less than 100 baht and many will try to take you tailors or gem shops and I try to avoid them if at all possible.
The riverside area of Bangkok is a haven for photographers and gives tourists the chance to exeperience some of Thailand's most famous monuments and attractions. The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Keaw (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Arun (The Dawn Temple) and Wat Pho, are just a few of the delights that are located along the banks of the Chao Phraya river.
The Chao Phraya or "River of Kings" is integral to daily-life in Bangok. Water taxis can be seen ferrying commuters to their places of work, long-tailed boats whizz along taking wide-eyed tourists on voyages of discovery and old fashioned rice barges chug slowly along to deliver their of exotic cargos. It is also a focal point in the city during important events like "Loy Kratong" and the New Year "Songkran" festival. Despite it's history and old-world charm it is home to many of the city's swankiest 5-star hotels such as the Peninsula, Sheraton, Hilton and Shangri-La.
Each lane or "soi" adjacent to the main road, has its own unique personality and you can while away many an hour exploring them all. You will stumble across hidden treasures like the beautiful "Benjasiri Park", an oasis of calm in a chaotic city, which was created to celebrate Queen Sirikit's 60th birthday, or the delightful "Kamthieng House", a stilted rice farmer's dwelling, typical of the 19th century and built entirely of teak wood. Those with families will also enjoy the "Science Museum & Planetarium".
Despite being rather light on the more traditional tourist attractions, visitors are drawn to Sukhumvit by the trendy shopping malls, boutiques and good quality restaurants. There are also plenty of accommodation options from 5 star to budget.
But in my humble opinion, Sukhumvit's greatest asset is its fantastic nightlife. You can find upmarket nightclubs, European style bars & bistros together with the red-light districts of Nana Plaza (Soi 4), Soi Cowboy (between Soi 21 and Soi 23) and the "artists Bars" of Soi 33.
But, by night the area puts on its flares and dancing shoes and the infamous "Patpong" comes alive. It is a small area of 2 adjacent sois and best known for its night market and "adult themed entertainment".
There are a broad range of hotels to suit all budgets and tastes in this area but cultural attractions are few and far between. However, a popular spot is Wat Khaek Silom better known as the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple.
It is one of Bangok's busiest and most colourful districts and is full of street markets, stalls and bazaars.
If you are considering a trip to the market then the only advice I can offer is to arrive early, as you will beat the crowds and not have to struggle through the heat of the day!!!! The market runs from approxiately 8:00 am to 6pm every Saturday and Sunday.