Bangkok, a city of more than 12 million people is amazing and must be seen to be believed. There is no aggression or road rage in spite of the daily gridlock which ties up the entire downtown core.
There is also the sound of the three-wheeled taxis (tuk-tuks) that get their name from the often deafening purr of their two-stroke engines. While walking in the street one has no more than two inches of personal space, but people somehow manage to be respectful of others while spending the least possible amount of time in the inevitable clouds of diesel exhaust. You can barely breathe the air and you certainly cannot drink the water. Since 2004 Bangkok has a rapid transit system (MRT.) It is a very good, clean and safe way to get around town.
Even in the luxury hotel district, step out the door and you are in traditional Asia. The streets are filled with stalls and hawkers. Every breath holds the mingled scent of spice and sewage. All around us is the sound of Buddhist monks chanting alternating with Muslim calls to the faithful for prayers.
There are many beautiful hotels and serviced apartments in the downtown area called Silom, two minutes from the sky train. It is a major shopping district, as well as a short walk from the famous Oriental Hotel. This is a perfect place for lunch at the Veranda… people watching and the best Thai massage.
Another area that is wonderful to stay is on the river side of the Chao Praya. Each hotel has a nice small ferry boat that goes back and forth to the sky train. It is lovely to be on them for sightseeing. The ride is short but long enough to watch children swim in the water and to observe the different housing filled with traditional home and modern complexes.
The Anantara River Side Resort is special. They also offer a fabulous two day cruise on the river Praya to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital.
TRAVEL IN FORMATION
Diethelm Travel office in Bangkok can assist with information or reservations for all Myanmar and Asians tours. Kian Gwan Building ll,14Fâ€“140 Wireless Road Lumpini, Patumwan Bangkok 10330. Tel:66 2 660 7000, fax 66 2 7020-21. www.diethelmtravel.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Pink Rose Holiday asssociated with the two major airlines, can help with private tours in Indochina. 1111 Ploenchit Rd, Lumpini, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330. Tel: 66 2 255 8966 fax: 66 2 255 8969. www.pinkroseholidays.com email@example.com
PLACES TO SEE
The National Museum is a must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of Buddhist art. There are several excellent collections with a timeline spanning prehistoric to antique works.
The sprawling and ornate Wat Pho is home to Thailand’s largest reclining image of the Buddha. It is plated in delicately carved gold with elaborate mother-of-pearl feet. Wat Pho is also home to the most prominent school of Thai massage in the country, which was founded with the temple itself in the mid-18th century.
Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn is another masterpiece of devotional art, highly ornate and decorated with pieces of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China.
The Grand Palace is a sprawling fortress complex spans roughly one mile in each direction. A collection of elaborate palatial structures, the Grand Palace also houses Wat Phra Kaew the Emerald Buddha and is an architectural and decorative masterpiece. The Emerald Buddha was carved from a single block of jade and is viewed as a spiritual guardian for the entire country.
Visit the Suan Pakkad Palace Museum in the heart of Bangkok to get a good sense of authentic, traditional Thai architecture and decorative arts. This was originally the residence of Princess Chumbhot, who was a well-known art collector and devoted herself to honoring the artistic and architectural heritage of her country rather than ascending to the throne when Thailand’s government shifted from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy.
The Golden Mount at the top of Wat Saket in Banglamphu is an important landmark as it houses the sacred ashes of Gautama Buddha, which were brought to Thailand from India in 1899. It also offers a panoramic view of the city at the top of its 318 steps.
Wat Benchamabopit, the Marble Temple has a wide and varied collection of Buddha images from all over Asia. The main building was constructed from white marble and is intricately decorated with gold and lacquer details.
The Erawan Shrine is a sublime golden statue of the Lord Brahma, perpetually draped in jasmine and roses as it is the focus of prayers and offerings all day and night by devotees who make merit in the hope that their wishes will be granted.
The Vimarnek Museum, or Golden Teak Palace is the world’s largest teak wood building, four storeys tall and intricately decorated. Built by King Rama V beside a tranquil lake, the museum boasts impressive collections of jewelry, paintings and other artwork. Visitors are asked to dress suitably.
The Jim Thompson’s House is a tasteful collection of rare Asian art. Jim Thompson was an American expatriate who moved to Thailand after the Second World War and was a prominent distributor and promoter of the Thai silk industry before his mysterious disappearance in Malaysia in the 1960s.
The Royal Barge Museum has a fantastic collection of royal barges as long as 50 meters. The best way to see them in action is on the Chao Praya in rare ceremonial processions.
The Flower and Fish markets are a must. Go early to capture the people at work the buyers, the sellers, negotiating a better deal. Bring your camera.
Rethink your life and spend time meditating under the guidance of a monk.
PLACES TO STAY
Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok, 89 Soi Wat Suan Piu, Bangkok Tel: 66 2 236 7777. www.shangri.la.com/Bangkok
The Sukhothai Hotel, 13/3 South Sathorn Rd, BangKok. Tel: 66 2 344 8888. www.sukhothai.com
Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, 257/1-3 Charoennakorn Rd,Tel: 66 2 476 0022. www.Anantara.com
They also have serviced apartments in another location near Lumpini Park, Anantara Baan Rajprasong
The Peninsula Bangkok, is ideal for special occasions with high end service, 333 Charoennakorn Rd, Klongsan, Tel: 66 2 861 2888 www.peninsula.com/Bangkok
The Center Point Hotel Silom, is a serviced apartment in the heart of Bangrak, Tel: 66 2 266 0521 www.centerpoint.com
Rang Mahal, Rooftop Indian Restaurant, Rembrandt Hotel, 19 Sukhumvit Soi 18, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 261 7100.
Thanying Genuine Royal Thai Cuisine, At Silom, 10 Pramuan Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 236 4361, 235 0371.
The Seafood Market, 98 Sukhumvit Rd. Tel: 66 2 661 1252.
China House, The Oriental Hotel, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok.
Benihana, Anantara Resort 257/1 Charoen Nakorn Road, Thonburi. Tel: 66 2 476 0021 Japanese Steak House.
Reflexions, Plaza Athenee, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 650 8800, East-West fusion.
Blue Elephant, Thai cooking school and restaurant 223 Sathorn Rd. Tel: 66 2 212 6401.
Baan Klang Nam, Soi 14 Rama III Road, south of Montien Riverside Hotel. Tel: 66 2 292 0175.
Celadon Restaurant, is in the Sukhothai Hotel, 13/3 South Sathorn Road, along embassy row. Tel: 66 2 287 0222.
Baan Khanitha, Thai food, 49 Soi Ruam Rudee 2 Ploenjit Road. Tel: 66 2 253 4638.
Suan Thip, Chaengwattana Pakkret 3 Road, Nonthaburi. Thai restaurant and pavilions in a garden setting on the river bank. Tel: 66 02 583 3748.
Cabbages and Condoms, named for its unusual approach to sexual education and AIDS awareness. A portion of the restaurant’s profit goes to AIDS programs in Bangkok. 10 Sukhimvit Soi 12. Tel: 66 2 229 4610.
Lemon Grass, Cozy and comfortable in an old Thai house. 5/1 Sukhumvit Rd., Soi 24. Tel: 66 2 258 8637.
Eat Me, 1/6 Phiphat Soi2, Convent Road, 66 2 238 0931.Fusion food, Australian chef.
The Spice Market Restaurant, Located at the Four Seasons Hotel. It is a Traditional Thai food restaurant where the spices can be adjusted to the level of your choice, nice atmosphere.155 Rajadamri Rd. Tel: 66 2 126 8866
PLACES TO SHOP
Lotus Arts de Vivre, 32/9-10 Soi Veeratos, Sukhumvit 21 Rd., Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Tel: 66 2 258 0470, 258 3668-9. firstname.lastname@example.org
Beethoven Suit, 698 Sukhumvit 26, Klongton, Bangkok. Well-known and talented tailors used by one of Bangkok’s hippest film companies. Tel: 66 02 258 6805.
Pierre Tailor, suits for men and women- great fabrics to choose from. Located in the Asia Building (shopping arcade) 66 2 215 9092 and at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel 66 2 254 6346. Blog: pierretailorbangkok.wordpress.com
Peng Seng Antiques Ltd, 942/1-4 Rama Road 9, Corner of Suriwongse Road, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 236 8435, 66 2 236 8010-1.
Lek Galleries Art, 1275 – 1277 New Road, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 233 8298, 66 2235 35 0109, email@example.com
Shinawatra Thai Silk, is another good Thai silk store and a real bargain for jewelry. 21/190 Moo 3 Sukhumvit 62 Rd. Bangyak,Prakanong Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 331 0220. www.shinawatrathaisilk.co.th The Factory is in Chiang Mai.
Lambert Holding Co., for jeweley and gemstones, 807-809 Silom Shanghai Building, 4th floor, Soi 17Silom Rd Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 236 4343-4349. www.lambertgems.com
Uthai’s Gems, Quality gems 28/7 Soi Ruam Rudi, Ploenchit Rd, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 253 8582.
Venus Jewelry, 167/ 1-2 Withayu Rd. Lumphini,Patumwan Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 252 6468 66 2 253 9559 www.venus-thailand.com
Naga House, for Asian artifacts and textile. 315 Soi Ongkarak, Samsen Rd 28, Dusit, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 669 3416/8. firstname.lastname@example.org
Gaysorn Plaza, upscale home decor& shopping mall. 999 Ploenchit Rd., Lumphini, Phatumvan, Bangkok Tel: 66 2 656 1177 www.gaysorn.com
Earth & Fire Co. Ltd., for flatware, bamboo & household products. 19, Rama 9 Rd, Kwang Suang Luang, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 300 5131-4 email@example.com
Khomapastr Ltd., Home decor and clothing accessories. 56-58 Nares Rd., Siphaya, Bangrak, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 266 8415 Main showroom. www.khomapastrfabrics.com
Pataya Furniture Collection, for bamboo and rattan, 753-755 Sukhumvit Rd, North-Klongton, Wattana, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 258 7280.
Paya Handwoven Fabrics and Accessories for the Home, Ikat a must, 203 Soi Thong Lo 10, Sukhumvit Soi 55, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 711 4457 www.payashop.net
Sop Moei Arts, for housewares, wall hangings, silk bedspreads made by the Karen Tribes. Bangkok Showroom: Sukhumvit Soi 49 Soi Promsri / Soi Klang Racket Club Compound Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 712 8039. www.sopmoeiarts.com (See Chiang Mai for showroom details).
Thaipatana Furniture, modern – upper hand, 761 Sukhumvit Rd Near Soi 41-43, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 258 4724.
Yothaka Int’l Co. Ltd., uses water hyacinth in manufacturing furniture., 3rd Floor, 1028/5 Rama 4 Rd., Thungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok. Tel: 66 2 679 8631/ 66 2 679 8632 www.yothaka.thailand.com
Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company, 9 Surawong Rd. Tel: 1-800-262-0336. A very good place to shop for high end silk and home decor. www.jimthompson.com