Bangkok, situated on the banks of one of Thailand’s main rivers, has a strategic location that has been known for hundreds of years. Since at least 1500 AD, Thai kings have ruled from this area or had major military outposts here. When Thailand (then called Siam) began to modernize in the late 19th century, the process of modernization was led by the city of Bangkok, which introduced modern conveniences such as transportation long before the rest of the country.
There are two main airports that flights to Bangkok may use: Suvarnabhumi Airport, a highly modern and sleek-looking airport; and Don Muang Airport, a slightly older option. Both airports are about 20 miles from downtown Bangkok. It is fairly easy to get from either airport into the city, as both airports have train and bus services.
The main thing to remember when getting around Bangkok is that the city is extremely densely populated, and therefore the roads are highly congested. There are two train systems within the city, a SkyTrain and a newer Metro system, but neither serves the whole city. For getting around central Bangkok they work quite well, but there are many areas of the city where you will need to use a taxi, car, or bus. Bangkok also has the world-famous tuk-tuk, but unfortunately many of these are operated by scam artists who will not offer you a fair rate.
The main attraction in Bangkok is the Grand Palace, an enormous building and garden that you could easily spend a whole day exploring. The palace also houses the most sacred Buddhist site in Thailand.
For more culture and architecture, visit some of Bangkok’s many Buddhist temples: a few that are especially worth seeing include Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.
A great attraction for those who want something a little out of the ordinary is the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm, which houses many snakes of different varieties and is open to visitors throughout the year.
Bicycle tours are a great way to see the city without dealing with traffic on the main roads. Renting a bicycle is also an ideal way to get out into the countryside.
Thai food is some of the most delicious in the world, and Bangkok is a great place to get it. Even if you are on a tight budget, it’s no problem to get authentic delicacies – many visitors will say that the roadside stands and small restaurants have better food than the upscale eateries that cater to tourists. Street vendors have familiar dishes that you may have sampled at a Thai restaurant – such as pad thai and satay – but they also have more exotic fare ranging from extremely spicy tom yam kung to deep-fried crickets!
Tips for Travelers
Be prepared for the weather. Bangkok is squarely situated in the tropics of the Southeast Asian rainforest, and it can get very hot and humid during the summer months.
Be aware of the swiftly-changing nature of Thai politics. Although the city is safe for tourists, you should still be aware of any ongoing protests or demonstrations. Try to avoid them, as they can sometimes become violent.