GMT +7 hours
One of the world’s great cities and an exciting experience not to be missed
An intoxicating blend of high culture, superb shopping and hedonistic entertainment, Bangkok is one of the most exciting and enthralling cities in the world. It's a popular stop-over point but it's well worth spending time here – cruise the Chao Phraya River, dine on top of a skyscraper and peruse the endless malls and markets.
Best time to visit
November to March.
As one of Asia’s great gateway cities, no holiday to Thailand is complete without a few days soaking up the atmosphere in Bangkok, and this ever changing metropolis has a personality to suit every taste.
Busy is perhaps a word to best sum up Bangkok. But it is this constant bustle that gives the city its energy. The streets hum with activity, with street vendors hawking aromatic cuisine, knock-offs and regional souvenirs whilst competing with the glamour of high end shopping malls selling the real deal just down the road.
Even getting around is an adventure, whether its plucking from the ceaseless parade of brightly lit taxi cabs to the waspish rasp and derring-do attitude of the city’s signature tuk-tuks. All the while, the silky new sky train glides quietly above; noiseless, detached, air-cooled and a welcome refuge from the heat and congestion as well as a convenient medium from A to B.
Like every great city, Bangkok has its river and waterfront. The Chao Phraya is the city’s lifeblood – explore the city on a guided river cruise, or explore independently on board one of the city’s river taxis or the noisy – but exciting – longtail boats.
The city’s most iconic landmark is the spectacular Grand palace complex. Official residence of the King of Thailand for 150 years until 1925, and continuously in use for important national ceremonies and events, the complex is fabulously preserved and host to a collection of spectacular, traditional buildings and temples. Perhaps the most famous being the beautiful ‘Temple of the Emerald Buddha’ whose superbly colourful and intricate exteriors are a joy to behold and a must-see attraction when visiting the city.
For an experience of days gone by, rise early and visit the city’s famous floating markets at Damnoen Saduak. The city is also host to an array of outdoor markets at which you can haggle and negotiate your way to a bargain, whether its for some handicrafts from the north, arts and novelty souvenirs or the obligatory Singha beer T-shirt, you will find what you are looking for as well as a hundred things you weren’t.
For high end souvenirs, western fashions and cinema, and a more restrained dining experience, visit one of the major malls of Siam, Central World being a popular destination. A curious compromise of street market meeting upscale mall, the iconic multi-storey MBK indoor market is a great place to spend the day. You might not plan on spending the whole day there, but you probably will – no doubt distracted by floor upon floor of Asian curiosity as well as one of the best food courts you will ever find. MBK is also a great place for a cheap massages, manicures and pedicures, hair dressing and even to see a dentist or optician. You really can spend all day in there.
Take in the nightlife on famous streets such as Khao San Road and Patpong – this entertainment can often be bawdy and even liable to offend – local sensibilities are somewhat liberal by most western standards to say the least. But aside from the sleazier side of Bangkok’s nightlife, there is also an abundance of fun and lively bars and nightclubs – many spilling out into the open air and pumping to the sounds of live music and disco beats.
Home to one of Asia’s glitziest, luxury hotel scenes, Bangkok will also certainly not disappoint those discerning travellers keen to experience the city at its higher end. Sophisticated towers of refinement climb up to the sky, grand and opulent and satisfying in every way, yet always subtly infused with the signature Thai ethics of style and service. The gorgeous Banyan Tree Bangkok, whilst particularly famed for its excellent rooftop ‘Vertigo and Moon Bar' restaurant, also deliciously enriches your mood with its delightfully subtle ‘scent of the day’, which gently but evocatively wafts through the hotel’s lobbies, rooms and corridors.
Recommended Bangkok Hotels
Suggested Bangkok Cruises
This alfresco restaurant is a must on any visit to Bangkok. We started with a cocktail at the Moon Bar then took our table to sample exceptional cuisine and service while gazing out at the breathtaking view. You’ll have to book in advance for weekends – plus ask for a table on the same side as the stairs entrance for the best views."