Bangkok is a steamy melting pot of chaotic city, historic elegance, concrete, canals and classic Thai culture. As with many capitals, the growing population has given rise to a centre characterised by skyscrapers, smog and functionality, but the addition of colourful water taxis, tuctucs, markets and food stands mean that Bangkok’s unique and at times hectic character is ever present. Don’t be put off by an impression of the city’s enormity upon arrival. Once settled down in your hotel and armed with good maps and guidebooks you will soon get your bearings.
In terms of climate, November to January encompasses the cool dry winter. The hot season is February to May, and May to June is the humid rainy season. The festival schedule moves outdoor and indoor with the weather, a scattering of massive festivals taking place throughout the calendar. Chinese New Year (23rd January) is one of the most awe inspiring, when Chinatown is bedecked in red, gold, dragons and fireworks. Folk fairs at temples also occur around this date. Other diverse festivals include international fashion weeks, the king and queens birthdays and several music and dance weekends.
A great way to introduce yourself to the city is on a longboat canal. It is best to spend at least half a day exploring the network of ‘klongs’ on a tour or private boat, as you will then get a feel for the different areas of Bangkok from the inner city to the traditional outskirts. You will pass countless Buddhist temples, floating markets and tumbledown residential streets, giving you a true flavour of the city and an idea of what you might like to explore next.
Buddhist temples (wats) are a common aspect of Bangkok, and a beautifully tranquil retreat from the city’s streets. Although there are many, some stand out as specifically impressive. Wat Kalayanamit stands on the banks of the river and houses Thailand’s largest indoor sitting Buddha, which is 15 meters high. Very early in the morning (around 4am), monks emerge from the temples in their saffron robes for prayers and duties.
For shopping and eating, markets and roving carts sell everything from spices and Chinese medicine to furniture and animals. Chatuchak Weekend market is a great example which sells pretty much everything. Eating Thai is one of the best experiences on a trip to Bangkok. Visit authentic local restaurants off the tourist trail for a taste of true Thai cuisine. Upmarket restaurants can be relatively cheap but the quality and refinement of the food is really noticeable. Markets are intriguing places to explore with all sorts of weird and wonderful foods. Vendors in Chinatown serve generous portions, and the atmosphere on the streets makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
Dance-drama entertainment is a great way to experience Thai culture past and present, with masks, elaborate costumes, legend and comedy fuse together. Cabaret is a less traditional but equally ‘Thai’ form of evening entertainment. Try venues like Mambo or Calypso for the less seedy examples. Alternatively, there are countless music venues across the city playing everything from Thailand’s upbeat folk music to heavy metal.
Last Edit by sophie mcgovern on 22/11/2011 EDIT NOW >>