Bangkok, Thailand: the exotic city in five days

by Patalane

What to see in Bangkok? - a mesmerising selection in a short space of time. This guide may help you decide on the best places to visit during your short stay

A visit to Bangkok in Thailand is a mystical and enlightening experience and should not be left out of any holiday itinerary.

I would suggest around five days to see the main sites of Bangkok. En-route to beach resorts in Thailand, it is an ideal chance to take a stopover and enjoy what Bangkok has to offer. Visit the exotic temples (wats), enjoy shopping in areas such as Sukhumvit Road and, when the day is over, there are plenty of bars and clubs waiting to entertain you, but if the nightlife is too much, there are many restaurants with dishes to stir your taste buds. The green or red curry is a well known dish but it is an experience to sample some of the freshly prepared cuisine like pad thai noodles and chicken satay.

Transport within Bangkok

The Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and the ferries that ply the river are a good cheap way of travelling. This is an enlightening experience on your first trip as the ferries pull into the side of the bank for you to jump on and hold tight before they quickly depart to their next destination. Dependent on the journey the charge is approximately 6 bahts to travel up and down the river and 3 bahts to travel across the river.

Another convenient and easy way to travel is on the Sky Train, which is quick and efficient and travels to quite a few areas within Bangkok. There are special offers available, but the price for a day pass is 120 bahts (www.bts.co.th/en/index.asp). There are also the tuk tuks, which are a fun way to travel or if you prefer a more leisurely drive, there are plenty of taxis available.

Hints and tips

The ferries are very busy so beware of pickpockets.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

A place you shouldn’t miss when visiting Bangkok is the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew (Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha), which is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. You will be mesmerised by the glistening of the mirrored temples and images that await you when you enter the grounds.

The ideal way to reach the Grand Palace is by ferry to Tha Chang pier, through the market area to the entrance area in Na Phra Lan Road. The palace is open daily 8.30am – 3.30pm for a fee of 350 bahts. This interactive guide - www.palaces.thai.net/ - has information on the Grand Palace and other Palaces of The King. The Grand Palace was established in 1782 and houses the Royal Residence, Throne Halls, Government Offices, Library of Buddhist literature, the Golden Prah Siratana Chedi, a model of Angkor Wat and the Wat Prah Kaew and covers an area of 218,000 square metres.

Hints and tips –

The palace may be closed on certain days, if there is a conference or state visit. 

Make sure you are correctly dressed, no bare legs, arms or feet for men or women. If you are incorrectly dressed there is a clothing hut, where you can hire suitable attire for 200 bahts, which is refundable.

You may be informed that the Grand Palace is closed; it is just a ploy by the locals to entice you to a store.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun, the Temple of the dawn, is beautifully decorated with china and sea shells. The temple is on the other side of the river to the Grand Palace, so you will need to take a cross-river ferry at Tha Tien Pier on Thai Wang Road. The temple is open 9am - 5pm and the admission fee is 50 bahts. The area also has the Buddha’s footprint niche which contains a carved replica of the Buddha’s footprint.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The giant Buddha is 46m long and 15m high and the huge feet are embedded with 108 characters of Buddha in mother of pearl. Wat Pho is on Chetuphon Road/Sanam Chai Road and is open daily with an entrance fee which varies but is approximately 50 bahts.

Jim Thompson’s House

If you want a rest from the culture, temples and Bangkok hustle, try Jim Thompson’s House, a traditional Thai house and museum, in tranquil surroundings, where you can read the story of Jim Thompson who rejuvenated the silk industry and then mysteriously disappeared. Jim Thompson House (www.jimthompsonhouse.com) is located on Soi Kasemsan 2 opposite the National Stadium and can be reached by Sky Train. The opening hours are 9am to 5pm, admission is 100 bahts and there is a compulsory guided tour around the house.

Royal Barge Museum

We had difficulty reaching the museum by boat, so we took a taxi from the river to a Thai village; we then walked over boardwalks via the Thai houses to The Royal Barge Museum (http://bangkoksite.com/RoyalBarges/index.htm). The museum is a huge boathouse housing eight ornamental barges which are used for state ceremonies. The king's barge is the most impressive and was built in 1911. It resembles a mythical swan and is carved from one single tree. The museum is off Arun Amarin Road and admission to the museum is 30 baht per person plus an additional fee of 100 baht for a camera. The museum is open 9am to 4.30pm but is closed on certain days during the year.

Rest and relaxation

After a hectic day walking and sightseeing, you will need a good place to lay your head and we have not been disappointed with the Holiday Inn (Silom) with prices in April/May starting at 2,075 baht per night for a double room. The hotel offers excellent facilities including a restaurant called Tandoor, serving very good Indian food.

For a cheaper eating and drinking option, within walking distance, visit Silom Village (www.silomvillage.co.th/home.php), but if you want something special for your evening meal, a short stroll will take you to the river.

Some of the larger more expensive hotels can be found here and a visit to the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok (89 Soi Wat Suan Plu New Road), will not disappoint. The restaurant called the Salathip Restaurant is in a setting right on the river front. Walk through the garden to a boarded area with Thai style house structures and enjoy your meal inside a Thai house or have a table outside overlooking the river. We chose to eat out at night and watch the disco cruisers and ferries travelling to and fro up the Chao Phraya River. You may be lucky and catch the Thai dancers whilst you are enjoying your outdoor dining experience but twice we went to watch the dancers and enjoyed our food and view so much that we missed them as they danced behind our table.

Hints and tips -

If you walk from the Holiday Inn Hotel, in fact most places in Bangkok, be careful, as it is a busy city and difficult to cross the roads.

You may get slight pestering by traders trying to take you to their stores, but this is all part of the fun of Bangkok, so just a polite no and you can continue on your way.

Patalane

I have travelled to many different countries and love the experience of every place I have visited. It is so difficult to choose my favourite place but South Africa, stays in my memory as being possibly one of the best holidays on the both occasions I have been. My husband and I stayed in a rented lodge on a golf course, which had its own Hippo Pond, near to the Kruger National Park. We had a weekly pass which enabled us to drive into Kruger Park on our own every day. It was such an experience to see the many animals roaming free, but the most memorable was seeing the female lions walking along the road and literally walking in front of our car unperturbed by us, as they were just intent on finding their next meal. The one occasion a rhino decided to charge towards us, we quickly put the car in gear and made a hasty exit, I certainly didn’t like the look of him. Hermanus was also another South African experience that I wouldn’t have missed, as you can view the whales as they come near the shoreline with their young to frolic and play. The first time we saw a whale perform by leaping out the water was really unbelievable and you just couldn’t capture it on a photo. I love everything about travelling; the culture, the food, the different sights and smells. I also love the sun, so a bit of sunbathing is always on the agenda, although I have also experienced some really cold weather and if my memory serves me right, New York at New Year was the coldest I have experienced.