Take a Tour of Bangkok’s Buddhist Temples and Grand Palace
Whether you book a private tour with a guide or decide to go it alone you simply must visit the city’s most famous landmarks. Ideally you should start at the Grand Palace at opening time (8.30am) so as to avoid the worst of the crowds. Within its grounds you will visit the sacred Wat Phra Kaew which is home to the Emerald Buddha. Next you can walk to the neighbouring Wat Pho which is the city’s oldest temple and home to an enormous reclining Buddha which is one of Bangkok’s most Instagrammed sights.
Now it’s time to cross the river and visit Wat Arun by ferry boat. More commonly known as the Temple of Dawn this iconic landmark frequently appears on the cover of Thailand tourism brochures. Visitors can walk to the top of the temple’s spire to see fabulous views over the Chao Praya River. Now back on the east bank there are two other temples which are frequently included in organised tours of the main cultural attractions. These are the ornate Wat Benchamabophit which is also known as the marble temple and Wat Traimit which houses an amazing gold, seated Buddha which is almost 5-metres tall.
Take a Romantic Dinner Cruise Along the River of Kings
The stretch of the Riverside area which runs from Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) to the Phra Sumeru Fortress is one of the busiest sections of the Chao Phraya River in central Bangkok. As well as commercial traffic, longboats and water-taxis there all kinds of vessels offering tourists the chance to see some of the city’s famous landmarks from this section of the river. Whilst short day trips along the river are very popular, it is the night cruises which are really special. Numerous companies offer these evening river cruises but the one that stands out for the sheer class of its service is the Apsara Dinner Cruise which is operated by the luxury Banyan Tree Hotel. Unlike many other river cruise vessels which serve buffet food and are packed with large groups of rowdy tourists, the Apsara is a vintage rice-barge which only caters for 64 people. Free transport is provided from city hotels to the River City Pier (next to the Si Phraya Pier) from where the two hour cruise departs daily at 8.00pm. Passengers are treated to a sumptuous, five course Thai dinner with impeccable service whilst stopping to see illuminated riverside attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and the Golden Rama VIII Bridge en route.
Book a Traditional Thai Massage at Wat Pho
The origins of Thai massage have been traced back to the temple of Wat Pho whose origins can be traced back to the 16th century. Within its walls are many inscriptions which provide guidelines on Thai massage pressure points and energy flows. In addition there are inscriptions relating to medicine, science and history which explain why the temple is considered by Thai people as the country’s first public university. Today there is a massage school which offers a range of courses lasting from just a few days to as long as a year. For most visitors, however, it’s enough to enjoy a Thai massage in the air-conditioned surroundings of the massage pavilion. In peak season it’s worth asking your hotel receptionist to pre-book an appointment for your massage. Prices at Wat Pho are considerably higher than the typical rates you’ll find at countless venues around the city. However, you’re paying a premium here for the location and its prestige in the world of Thai massage.
Visit The House of the Mysterious Jim Thompson
Thailand has a lot to thank Jim Thompson for … After the Second World War he settled in the country and dedicated much of the next 30 years to reviving the country’s silk industry which was on the verge of extinction. Whilst in Thailand he amassed an extraordinary collection of antiques which he displayed in a magnificent teakwood mansion which he constructed on the banks of the Saen Saeb Canal. In 1967 the enigmatic American went missing whilst hiking in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands and was never heard of again. The mystery of what happened to him continues to this day. The Jim Thompson House is now a museum which is open to the public. To get there just take the BTS Skytrain to the National Stadium station then take a short walk along Soi Kasemsan 2.
Visit the Famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
For many tourists heading for South-East Asia a visit to one of the region’s floating markets often features high on the ‘to-do list’. The most famous of these markets in the Bangkok region is Damnoen Saduak which is located some 100km west of the city. Half-day tours offered online and through many local agencies allow visitors to not only observe and soak up the atmosphere of the floating market but also get a sight of the Thai countryside once the urban sprawl of Greater Bangkok has been left behind. With so many tour groups heading for this market there is an inevitable lack of authenticity about it. If you’d prefer to visit other floating markets which are still popular with tourists but have more of a local feel about them you should plan a trip to Amphawa, Tha Kha or Taling Chan.
Traveller Tip: Whether you’re travelling to Thailand for business or pleasure it’s well worth booking a private transfer from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Your professional driver will be waiting for you on arrival and will safely transfer you to any hotel or other accommodation in the city.
Watch the Sunset from One of Bangkok’s Rooftop Cocktail Bars
High-rise cities all over the world boast of their rooftop bars yet few can compete with Bangkok in terms of the sheer number of such places. One of the most popular rooftop bars is the Sky Bar which stands on the rooftop of the Lebua State Tower. Standing on the 63rd floor of the building this venue offers stunning panoramic views over the city and is a perfect spot from which to watch the sunset over the Chao Phraya river. To get there just take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station then take a short walk towards the huge building ahead of you with the gold dome on top of it. Since the bar appeared on the 2011 film ‘Hangover II’ its popularity has soared which can mean it gets very crowded at sunset. There are plenty other rooftop bars scattered around Bangkok which are often attached to one of the city’s luxury hotels. Popular ones include the 360 bar at the Millennium Hilton, the Zoom Bar at the Anantara Sathorn Hotel and the Vertigo Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel.
“One Night in Bangkok” – Experience the Infamous Nightlife
Bangkok’s long standing reputation as ‘Sin City’ is based on its liberal approach to prostitution and its red light districts which are filled with Go-Go bars and clubs offering all kinds of adult entertainment.The three main red-light districts are as follows:
Soi Cowboy: This is just one street filled with bars and flashing signs promoting all kinds of sex shows. It is a safe enough place to visit which is mainly frequented by Western and Asian tourists as well as local ex-pats.
Nana Plaza: is a building containing three floors of bars and ‘adult entertainment’. It too is packed with foreign tourists, some just ‘browsing’ and others looking for a ‘date’ with a Thai girl or ladyboy.
Patpong: is the original and best-known red-light district which is home to hundreds of ‘girlie bars’ and sex-show venues. However, this is the best place for curious tourists who simply want to have a beer and see what the fuss is all about. Patpong also hosts a popular night market where you can stock up on all kinds of fake branded clothes and bags, etc.
Take in the Sights and Tastes of Bangkok’s Chinatown
Bangkok’s Chinatown once stood on the banks of the Chao Phraya River but the community moved to the current site along Yaowarat Road some 200 years ago to make way for the construction of the Grand Palace. This is a great place to visit in the evening when food stalls appear in the ‘sois’ (side-streets) of Chinatown serving a magnificent selection of Chinese and Thai street food at incredibly cheap prices.. Popular choices include Pad Thai noodles, honey roast duck and chicken satay on a stick. The city’s finest Chinese restaurants are also located in this neighbourhood. The best time to visit Chinatown is during one of its major festivals such as Chinese New Year in January/February or the Vegetarian Festival which takes place every October. Lovers of Indian cuisine can wander to the nearby Phahurat which is better known as ‘Little India’.
Attend a Ladyboy Cabaret Show
Ladyboys generally undergo hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery which transforms them into the world’s most convincing transgender women. Many of these ‘katoeys’ are extremely beautiful and impossible to identify as former-males, especially after having their Adam’s apple reduced in size. They are often considered to be a 3rd sex in Thailand. Many find work in the world of hospitality and entertainment whilst others earn a handsome living as upmarket escorts. They are generally accepted and well integrated into Thai society.
Provided you select a reputable venue there is nothing sleazy about a ladyboy cabaret which provides elaborate entertainment for the whole family. Highly recommended is the Playhouse Cabaret Shanghai Mansion in Chinatown which has a cast filled with many talented performers. The focus of the show is very much on song and dance routines rather than anything anything overtly sexual. There are performances at 8pm and 9.30pm every evening from Monday to Friday.
Learn to Prepare Classic Thai Dishes at a Local Cookery School
Thai cuisine is popular the world over but who has ever tried to cook traditional staples such as pad thai, tom yum soup, spicy papaya salad or green curry? A niche market has emerged in Bangkok with small cookery schools offering half-day Thai cookery classes to visiting foodies. Typically classes begin with a short trip to a local market by tuk-tuk to buy fresh ingredients. Then back at the school the instructor will prepare the chosen dishes before giving you a chance to create these Thai classics before retiring to the dining room where you can enjoy your creations. Popular classes include Maliwan Thai Cooking Class (9 Sipsamhang Road), Chef LeeZ Thai Cooking Class (4/1206 Soi 57) and the House of Taste Thai Cooking School (318/32, Soi Sukhumvit 22) but there are many more around the city.
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