Explore Bangkok, Thailand
Explore Bangkok the capital of Thailand whose official name is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, and with a population of over eleven million inhabitants, by far its largest city. Explore Bangkok with its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife which may not immediately give you the best impression — but don’t let that mislead you. It is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders but they did not take over Ayutthaya. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
From the moment you arrive, Bangkok is an invigorating assault on the senses. The heat, the noise, and the smells will leave you reeling if you’re not used to the insanity of Asia’s mega cities. It certainly is not a destination that many people will forget in a hurry.
Bangkok is a tropical metropolis and one of the most traveler-friendly cities in Asia. Furious assaults on the senses, visitors are immediately confronted by the heat, the pollution, the flamboyant culture and the irrepressible smiles that accompany many Thais. Despite sensationalized international news reports and first impressions, the city is surprisingly safe (except from some petty crimes), more organized than it initially appears, and full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The high relative humidity and warm temperature favor the growth of tropical plants. You’ll find orchids and delicious fruit everywhere. Bougainvillea and frangipani bloom practically all over the city. Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, spicy, varied, and affordable. Bangkok for many represents the quintessential Asian capital. Saffron-robed monks, garish neon signs, graceful Thai architecture, spicy dishes, colorful markets, traffic jams and the tropical climate come together in a happy coincidence. It is difficult to leave with lukewarm impressions of the city.
“Bangkok” originally was a small village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. After the fall of Ayutthaya in the late 18th century, King Taksin the Great turned that village into Siam’s new capital and renamed it Thonburi. In 1782, King Rama I moved the capital to the eastern bank of the river at Rattanakosin; originally the site of a Chinese community, who were moved outside of the new city walls to Yaowarat. King Rama I named the city Krung Thep, as it is now known to Thais and which in English is translates as the “City of Angels”.
The full name of the city is listed as the world’s longest location name by the Guinness Book of Records.
Whatever season you’re visiting, don’t take the weather lightly — temple-tramping in the scorching afternoon sun can be a challenge, so come well-prepared. Dress lightly for the weather, but keep in mind that some palaces and all temples (notably the Grand Palace) have a strict dress code. Also be sure, and this cannot be said enough, drink enough fluids! You don’t have a reason not to, as 7-Elevens and other convenience stores are abundant in Bangkok and they sell cooled beverages. Locals get their water from “reverse osmosis” purified water machines.
Best top attractions in Bangkok Thailand
What to do in Bangkok, Thailand
Chinese New Year Festival. January or February. The obvious place to visit is Yaowarat, the Chinese district of Bangkok. Yaowarat Road is closed to cars and many stores and food stands crowd the road, with grandiose and colorful Chinese lion and dragon processions.
Songkran Festival. 14-16 Apr. The traditional Thai New Year is an occasion for merriment all over the city, but most notably at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, where the revered Phra Phuttha Sihing image is displayed and bathed by devotees. In the Wisut Kasat area, a Miss Songkran beauty contest is held and accompanied by merit-making and entertainment. Don’t think it is particularly peaceful festival though; Khao San Road degenerates into a war zone as farangs and locals soak each other with super soakers.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony. May. Farmers believe that an ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, is able to forecast whether the coming growing season will be bountiful or not. The event dates back to the Sukhothai Kingdom. This ceremony was re-introduced in 1960 by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered the official commencement of the rice-growing season (and the rainy season). Nowadays, the ceremony is conducted by Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Loi Krathong. November. Loi Krathong is the Festival of Lights, and takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.
Trooping of the Colors. December. Their majesties the King and Queen preside over this impressive annual event, held in the Royal Plaza near the equestrian statue of King Rama V in Dusit. Dressed in colorful uniforms, amid much pomp and ceremony, members of the elite Royal Guards swear allegiance to the King and march past members of the Royal Family.
HM The King’s Birthday Celebrations. December 5. On this day, Ratchadamri Road and the Grand Palace are elaborately decorated and illuminated. In the evening, hundred thousands of locals line the route from Sanam Luang to the Chitralada Palace to get a glimpse of the King when he is slowly chauffeur-driven past.
New Year Countdown Celebrations. December 31. The most well-known and biggest countdown festival in Bangkok is held at Central World square in front of Central World. There are spectacular shows and live-on-stage concerts by popular singers and celebrities. After midnight, they celebrate with spectacular dazzling and colorful fireworks.
What to drink
Bangkok’s nightlife is infamously wild, but it’s not quite what it used to be: due to recent social order campaigns. Most restaurants, bars and clubs are now supposed to close at 02:00 AM, although quite a few stay open till much later. Informal roadside bars do stay open all night, particularly in Sukhumvit and Khao San Road. You must carry your passport for ID checks and police occasionally raid bars and clubs, subjecting all customers to drug tests and searches, though these mostly occur at places that cater for high society Thais rather than foreigners.
One of Bangkok’s main party districts is Silom, home not only to perhaps the world’s most famous go-go bar strip Patpong, but plenty of more legitimate establishments catering to all tastes. For a drink with a view, the open-air rooftop bars of Vertigo and Sirocco are particularly impressive. A large number of superhip and more expensive bars and nightclubs can be found in the higher sois of Sukhumvit, as well as the hip area of Thong Lo.
Hippie hangout Khao San Road is also slowly gentrifying and a score of young artsy Thai teenagers have also made their mark there. Going out in Khao San Road is mostly casual, sitting at a roadside bar watching people pass by, but the Gazebo Club is a nightclub that stays open till the sun gets up. Most of the younger Thais prefer to congregate around Ratchadaphisek, home to the Royal City Avenue strip of nightclubs.
Smoking is forbidden in all restaurants, bars and nightclubs, whether air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned. Remarkably for Thailand, this rule is not strictly enforced.
Go-go and beer bars
The go-go bar is an institution of Bangkok’s “naughty nightlife”. In a typical go-go, several dozen dancers in bikinis (or less) crowd the stage, shuffling back and forth to loud music and trying to catch the eye of punters in the audience. Some (but not all) also put on shows where girls perform on stage, but these are generally tamer than you’d expect — nudity, for example, is technically forbidden. In a beer bar, there are no stages and the girls are wearing street clothes.
If this sounds like a thinly veiled veneer for prostitution, it is. Although some point to the large number of American GIs during the Vietnam War as the point of origin of the Thai sex trade, others have claimed that current Thai attitudes towards sexuality have deeper roots in Thai history. Both go-go and beer bars are squarely aimed at the foreign tourists and it’s fairly safe to assume that most if not all Thais in them are on the take. That said, it’s perfectly OK to check out these shows without actually partaking, and there are more and more curious couples and even the occasional tour group attending. The main area is around Patpong in Silom, but similar bars to the ones at Patpong can be found in Sukhumvit. Soi 33 is packed with hostess bars, which are more upscale and do not feature go-go dancing.
As go-go bars close around 01:00, there are so-called after-hour clubs that stay open till the sun gets up. They are not hard to find — just hop in a taxi. Taxi drivers are eager to drive you there, as they get a hefty commission from club owners to bring you to them — you might even get the ride for free. These clubs generally feel grim and edgy, and there are so-called “freelancers” among the girls.
Bangkok is known for its go-go bars and the prostitution that comes along with it. Technically, some aspects of prostitution are illegal (eg. soliciting, pimping), but enforcement is rare, and brothels are common. It’s not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a “bar fine” (a fee the bar collects if you want to take an employee away).
The age of consent in Thailand is 15, but a higher minimum age of 18 applies in the case of prostitutes. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh.
Food and water
As elsewhere in Thailand, be careful with what you eat. Outside of major tourist hotels and resorts, stay away from raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise, unpackaged ice cream and minced meat as hot weather tends to make food go bad faster. In short, stick to boiled, baked, fried or peeled food.
Tap water in Bangkok is said to be safe when it comes out the plant, but unfortunately the plumbing along the way often is not, so it’s wise to avoid drinking the stuff, even in hotels. Any water served to you in good restaurants will at least be boiled, but it’s better to order sealed bottles instead, which are available everywhere at low prices.
In some areas, like the smaller sois surrounding Khao San Road, there are coin-operated filtration machines, allowing you to refill your drink bottles with safe water. These vending machines are often seen being used by locals, so they should be relatively safe.
Day trips from Bangkok
- Lam Phaya Floating Market- 30-minute ride from Bangkok
- Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
- Amphawa — interesting floating markets popular with the locals
- Ayutthaya — ancient capital showcasing its many ruins, 1.5 hours away by bus or train
- Bang Pa-In — its magnificent Summer Palace makes for a pleasant day trip
- Damnoen Saduak — picture-perfect floating market on tourist steroids
- Hua Hin — beach resort town with nearby waterfalls and national parks
- Kanchanaburi — the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, the Erawan Falls and Hellfire Pass
- Ko Kret — rustic little island to the north of Bangkok reknowned for its potteries, a pleasant day trip out of the concrete jungle
- Nakhon Pathom — Thailand’s oldest city and site of the world’s largest stupa
- Phetchaburi — relaxed historic town with the Khao Wang mountain, colorful temples and delicious desserts
- Chiang Mai — the gateway to the north and the heart of Lanna culture
- Khao Yai National Park — stunning mountainous scenery and some of Thailand’s fledgling vineyards
- Ko Chang — large relatively unspoiled tropical island
- Ko Samet — the closest beach island to Bangkok with white sand beaches
- Krabi Province — the beautiful beaches and islands of Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta
- Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) — main city in the Isaan region
- Phuket — the original Thai paradise island, now very developed but still with some beautiful beaches
- Sukhothai — the ruins of the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom
- Surat Thani — home of the former Srivijaya Empire, gateway to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao
- Koh Samui — an island of natural beauty and charm
Official tourism websites of Bangkok, Thailand
For more information please visit the official government website: