The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

Guide to Bangkok 

Bangkok: The capitol and largest city in Thailand and the port of entry for most who travel to Thailand through Bangkok International Airport. This opens a perfect opportunity to explore some of the city has to offer before (or after) heading to other locations.
Bangkok is a big city and with that comes pollution. Some visitors of Bangkok are bothered by this, but for most that is a minor problem, at least for a few days.

 

Adult Entertainment Districts: Bangkok has four main adult entertainment areas, however, there are bars and massage parlors to be found throughout.

Patpong: Two parallel Sois of Silom Road, located in the heart of Bangkok Patpong is the most well known P4P area catering primarily to western tourists. As a red-light district it is the oldest of such kind, but today far from the most active. There has been many reporting of serious scams from some of the bars and Go-Go's in Patpong, but most of these reports involve establishments not at street level.
One of Patpong's claim to fame is the outdoor night market that offers just about anything a tourist may be wanting to buy, including anything that can be made counterfeit.

Nana/Lower Sukhumvit: Nana Entertainment Plaza (NEP) and surrounding lower section of Sukhumvit Road is one of the two most active P4P areas catering to westerners in Bangkok. NEP is a four-story complex featuring several Go-Go's at each floor. Over the years NEP has had its ups and downs with various stages of vacancies along with rumors of being subject for demolishment, but despite that it is still going strong. Relative to other entertainment areas NEP has a reputation for being more on the expensive side.
Across from NEP is the famous Nana Car-park at Nana Hotel, a prime location for late night freelancers.
NEP is on Sukhumvit Soi 4. The Sois from 2 - 10 comprises the main part of Lower Sukhumvit with lots of beer bars and ST bars throughout the Sois. There are also a couple of soapy massages to be found. Further this area has lots and lots of hotels from inexpensive 2-star to high end 5-star. Many consider this the best area to stay in Bangkok.

Soi Cowboy/Upper Sukhumvit: Less than a mile or one stop using the sky train (BTS) from Nana is Soi Cowboy, the second of the two most active P4P areas catering to westerners in Bangkok. Soi Cowboy, a block off Sukhumvit near Soi 23, marks the beginning of the Upper Sukhumvit area. Soi Cowboy is by many considered the more laid back of the two and also somewhat less expensive. Some bars in the Soi have over the last few years shifted focus to cater more to Asian tourists. The concentration of bars and other entertainment venues in Upper Sukhumvit is less that the lower part, but further up at Soi 33 are some more trendy bars, which are also the favorites of many resident westerners in the area.

Ratchadapisek: Ratchadapisek is often considered a bit out of the way relative to where most western tourists and some would say that it mainly caters to Asians. The entertainment area of Ratchadapisek Road is a short taxi ride from Sukhumvit Road (<100 baht) or a few stations north using MRT (subway). This is where you will find the highest concentration of soapy massage parlors, most of which caters to westerners just as well as Asians. Most of the local bars in this area does, however, are primarily frequented by Asians.

 

Local Transportation:

Taxi: Taxi's are plentiful in Bangkok and relatively cheap. A short ride is generally between 40 and 100 baht, but even a ride to and from the airports are 250 baht (or less) plus toll and applicable airport pick-up fees.

BTS (Sky-train): The BTS is probably the most common, quickest and cheapest transportation option in Bangkok. There are two main lines plus the airport line which offers an express train to Bangkok International airport.

MRT (subway): The MRT is also a fast and convenient for of transportation in Bangkok. The distance between station is a bit greater than on the BTS routes, but the trains are air-conditioned.

River Boats: Few westerners think of river boars as a transportation option, however, in Bangkok it is a convenient, fast and cheap plus it provides a great opportunity for taking photos from the water side, or simply enjoying the views.

Mass Transportation Map: For a map of all mass transportation in Bangkok Click Here.

Tuk-tuk: The classic Tuk-tuk is also available in Bangkok and while the price (for tourists) is generally more than a taxi it may be a novelty ride for most newbie’s. Before hiring a Tuk-tuk do take a look at Tuk-tuk scams in the Scam Section.

 

For more general transportation information, including air, bus, train and rentals see the Transportation Section.

 

What to See and Do in Bangkok: Bangkok has countless attractions and to stay within the scope of this guide only some of the most common visited by first time tourists will be covered. In addition a simple Google search for Things to Do/See in Bangkok might yield many more topics of interest.

Wat Pho / Wat Phra Kaew (Grand Palace): Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are two attraction adjacent to each other and are often toured together.
The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings in Bangkok. It served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand. Also on the grounds of the Grand Palace is The Wat Phra Kaew which is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand.
Wat Pho is known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the largest and most famous temple ground in Bangkok. Wat Pho is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage originating from the it previously being the center of education for traditional Thai medicine. To this day the most prestigious school for traditional Thai massage is at Wat Pho and massage sessions are available to the public.

Other Temples:

Wat Arun: Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, is one of Bangkok's best know landmark. It stands on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thon Buri. Wat Arun is best seen from the opposite bank of the river; it glistens in the sunlight during the day and stands dark and noble at dawn or dusk. A visit to the beautiful, peaceful monastery complex surrounding the familiar towers is very worth-while. These towers, the "Phra Prang," although best known, the only part of Wat Arun. It also contains narrow lanes; elegant, old white buildings; shrines, pools of turtles; and two fine giants, " Yuk Wat Jaeng," mortal enemies of the " Yuk Wat Po" across the river.

Wat Benjamabophit: Wat Benjamabophit (also spelled Wat Benchamabophit) is called the Marble Temple because of the white Carrara marble of which it is constructed. The Marble Temple is the most modern and one of the most beautiful of Bangkok's royal wats. The Marble Temple was built in 1899 by Prince Narai, the half brother of Rama V. Thailand's present king spent his days as a monk here before his coronation. Today, Marble Temple is not only a magnificent Thai temple, but a seat of learning that appeals to Buddhist monks with intellectual yearnings.

Wat Intharawihan: Wat Intharawihan Or Wat Inn. One of the main features is a 32-metre high and 10-meter wide standing Buddha is create by Somdej Phra Phuthtajarn Toh Promarangsi or Somdej Toh. It took over 60 years to complete and is decorated in glass mosaics and 24-carat gold. At the topknot of the Buddha image contains a relic of Lord Buddha brought from Sri Lanka. Also a very unique style of mural painting in the Wihan.

Chatuchak Weekend Market: The largest outdoor market in Thailand, covering 27 acres it is also one of the largest in the world.
It is organized into sections with several 100's of stall selling any and all that one may want to buy in Thailand. This includes shoes, clothing, glass/ceramic wares, craft, souvenirs, artifacts, pictures, antique wood carvings, furniture, etc.
As the name implies it is open Saturday & Sunday, and it is recommended that you arrive early to avoid some of the heat and some of the crowd.

Snake Farm: The Snake Farm at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is located on the corner of Rama IV and Henry Dunant Road, west of Chulalongkorn Hospital belongs to Thai Red Cross. They do cholera, smallpox and typhoid inoculations as well as rabies treatment there, none of which may qualify as tourist attraction. However, the institute has become a popular tourist attraction because of its large collection of live poisonous snakes. The Snake Farm at the Thai Red Cross Society is one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist destinations. It is visited by scientists, students, and anyone else who has an interest in snakes, snake ecology, or the medical importance of Thailand’s venomous snakes. The Snake Farm serves three purposes: (1) To extract venom from snakes for the production of anti-venom. (2) To educate the public about snakes and their ecology. (3) To breed snakes for service and research purposes and to maintain endangered species, such as the King Cobra and the Rat Snake.

Floating Market: There are countless floating markets throughout the country, many within a couple of hours’ of the capital. The colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddle along congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruit and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. There is lots of chatter and activity – bargaining is common – that’s all part of the fun -- but don’t expect to get the price down more than a few baht. The most famous of the floating markets is Damnoen Saduak, about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. Our tour further includes a visit to Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakorn Pathom, supposedly the largest pagoda in Southeast Asia. There are several tour companies providing daily tours to the Damnoen Saduak floating market.
 

Jim Thompson House: The Jim Thompson House is a museum in Bangkok. It is a complex of various old Thai structures that the American businessman Jim Thompson collected in from all parts of Thailand in the 1950s and 60s. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand.
As Thompson was building his silk company, he also became a major collector of Southeast Asian art, which at the time was not well-known internationally. He built a large collection of Buddhist and secular art not only from Thailand but from Burma, Cambodia and Laos, frequently travelling to those countries on buying trips.
In 1958 he began what was to be the pinnacle of his architectural achievement, a new home to showcase his art collection. Formed from parts of six antique Thai houses, his home (completed in 1959) sits on a klong (canal) across from Bangkrua, where his weavers were then located. Most of the 19th century houses were dismantled and moved from Ayutthaya, but the largest - a weaver's house (now the living room) - came from Bangkrua.

Royal Barge Museum: This shed where several royal barges are displayed is located on Klong Bangkok Noi off the Chao Phaya River not far from Phra Pinklao Bridge. It is towards the North of the Grand Palace. The Shed houses gilded vessels once used for war and currently used by the King for ceremonies of religious importance. Similar to ancient Viking boats but more ornate, these royal yachts are a spectacle even on land. Klong (canal) tours often stop there. The unique design and decorative details of each barge should be of great interest to all visitors.
Royal Barges are fantastically ornamented boats used in ceremonial processions on the river. The largest is fifty meters long and required a rowing crew of fifty, plus seven men, tow navigators, a flagman, a rhythm-keeper and chanter.
The most beautiful and well-known barge is Suphamahong, King's personal barge, used by the King only when he made his royal river procession for the Kathin ceremony - a Buddhist tradition of offering robes to monks, usually during October or November. Each barge has a unique design with its special decorative details.

The number of excursions and non-P4P entertainment options in Bangkok are countless and the above are just snippets of what may await you. For more details and options try this Google Search.

The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand

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