- Cityscape Mega-malls and bustling bazaars
- City life Riverside and rooftop thrills
Sultry and engaging, Thailand's capital is a warm whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. This Venice of the East is criss-crossed with canals, thronging with traffic and brimming with temples, palaces, markets and malls.
Whatever you do, don’t be put off by Bangkok’s travails: no other city on earth offers such a staggering array of affordable pleasures (and we don’t mean in the notorious red-light district). From sumptuous day spas and exquisite dining to on-the-hoof street snacks or boutique browsing, gratification is never more than a moment away. Bangkok may have become a byword for exoticism, but the only word that matters in the City of Angels is sanook – a Thai term that translates to ‘easygoing fun’.
Do go/Don’t go
Temperatures are on the cooler side of roasting from November to February, but between April and July, the mercury can shoot up to 40ºC. The rainy season runs May to October.
Planes The international and domestic hub is Suvarnabhumi Airport (www.bangkokairportonline.com), 25km east of the city centre. Metered taxis will take you into town for about THB250–300, plus the THB50 airport surcharge and road tolls. The official AOT (Airports of Thailand) limo service costs THB1,000 – watch out for touts.T (Airports of Thailand) limo service – watch out for touts.
Boats Bangkok’s express boat taxi service is a cheap, efficient and excellent way of avoiding traffic (www.chaophrayaboat.co.th). Our tip: skip the dedicated tourist boats and hop on the public express boat to see more of the city and its people.
Trains Bangkok’s main station runs efficient servicesto all areas of the country (www.railway.co.th), as well as to Singapore and Malaysia. Two urban rail systems operate within Bangkok: the sleek Skytrain (BTS) serves 25 stations on two lines; the Metro (MRT) visits 18 stations. Tickets are dirt-cheap, but not transferable.
Automobiles Unless you plan on spending your time here frustrated and/or bored, do not rent a car. Bangkok is renowned for its marathon traffic jams.
- Taxis The open-sided, three-wheel auto rickshaws known as tuk tuks look fun but are best avoided. Take a metered taxi instead: there’s a flat hire rate of THB35 with fares usually rounded up to the nearest THB5. Most taxi drivers won’t speak English, so have directions in Thai to hand.