Cerebral Shangrila

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bangkok ( Thailand) - Travel Diary (Travelogue) - PART 1

Bangkok isn't a place that you will easily forget. They call it the City of Angels and the Venice of East . It is all that and much more. Bangkok is an amazing amalgam of Magnificent Wats ( Buddhist temples) , Winding Canals , Flashy nightlife and shopping paradise.

GETTING HERE : Most international airlines fly to Bangkok. The new airport is called the Suvarnabhumi ( The Golden Land) Airport and was unveiled in Sept'06. The airport is located 30kms to the east of Bangkok.

VISA DETAILS : Indian Tourists traveling for less than 14 days can obtain an on-arrival Visa for 1000 Thai Bahts (At the Airport). Do remember to carry a photograph along with you for the Visa application. However if one intends to stay for a longer time the visa needs to be obtained from the Country of residence.

WHEN TO GO : By far the best time to visit is from November to February when the weather is kind .The peak season incidentally is also from Nov- Feb.The Hotel rates tend to be quite high in this season. Mar-June is quite hot while Aug-Oct is very rainy. Bangkok is quite humid and hot and hence be prepared to take lot of Sun-block lotion.

CURRENCY : The Currency of Thailand is Thai Baht.One Thai Baht is approximately equivalent to One Rupee ( 1 THB = 1.2 INR). So its easier for Indians to measure the value of goods !

CULTURE : Religion and monarchy are the cornerstones of Thai culture.The Monarchy is revered in Thailand.95% of Thailand is Buddhist (Theravada).

LANGUAGE : Thai is the official and most spoken language. English is spoken only by the business people and hence language might be a challenge when commuting and at the tourist attractions.


Taxis & Tuk-Tuk : Bangkok offers a wide variety of commute options. Taxis are easily available. Called a Taxi-Meter , one has to Bargain in most cases before getting into them. Bangkok is quite notorious for its traffic jams and hence be mindful of that. Tuk-Tuks are like the Indian autos and are good for short distances ( If you can bear their pollution and noise).

Skytrain : The BTS Skytrain is an excellent option to explore the city. Offering wonderful views, the Skytrain runs in two different lines. The Silom line runs from Saphan Taksin to National Stadium while the Sukhumvit line runs from On Nut to Mo Chit. Free stations maps are available in almost all the stations. The trains are air-conditioned and beat the traffic by flying high. The only drawback is that they don't cover the entire city ( At least not yet).

MRTA (Subway) : The recently unveiled MRTA ( popularly called Subway) runs from Hualamphong Railway station to Bang Seu and runs underground. Riders of Delhi Metro would be surprised by the similarity. This is another excellent option.

Buses : BMTA website has info on all buses. Most buses are quite ordinary and have name boards only in Thai.The conductors speak very little English.Nevertheless, riding the buses can be fun and a great way to get to know the heart of the city. I have never seen more helpful co-passengers elsewhere.

Boats : The Chao Phraya Express Boat and other Canal taxis are good option to visit the Wats that lie close to the banks of the river. In fact this is the best option to visit the famous "Wat Arun" .

Car Rental : Not a preferred option given the legendary traffic of Bangkok. Avis,Hertz,Budget,National rentals are available at the Airport and 5 star hotels.

HEALTH: Be careful about the food that you eat and use mineral water ( Nestle, Coca-cola water is available in most places) wherever possible.

SCAMS : Bangkok is a very safe place ( Though there was a bombing incident on the new year's eve this time). But be careful about people who seem too friendly.They might fleece you by taking you to a expensive tailor or a gems shop and might coerce you into buying cheap stuff at high prices. Same is true for Taxis/tuk-tuks that offer to give a free ride in return for a visit to a local gems dealer/tailor. Never believe anyone who says that a tourist attraction is closed because of Holiday unless you have read it in Newspaper.

MONEY : There are currency converters everywhere and in most cases you get a better deal if you convert your foreign currency inside Bangkok ( than in your native country).Most shops accept credit cards.

TIMEZONE : Bangkok is GMT + 7 hours.

TRAVEL TIPS : Bangkok is very kids friendly and you will find that the Thais are very affectionate towards children and don't mind playing the Nanny role in restaurants / shopping malls.

The Lonely Planet Bangkok travel guide is one of the best books to carry for the trip.It has practically all the travel info that you might need.Carry plenty of Sun-block cream. Try to use the Public Transport as much as possible ( That is what I did) since its fast and inexpensive. Travel light and always carry plenty of water since its quite humid. Never be disrespectful of the Royalty and try to dress conservatively particularly when traveling to religious places ( No shorts/ sleeveless shirts when traveling to temples).


  • Ishu says...

    U never mentioned abt the shopping places there!!!Hehe

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:55 PM  

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