If you’ve come to Bangkok looking for unique and exoitc cultural experiences, take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. Go on, we’ll wait. Yes the city may be jam packed, polluted, blazingly hot and contain some of the seediest nightlife you’ve ever experienced, but by and large it’s a safe and truly one of a kind destination that offers tons to explore and plenty of warm smiles for wayward travelers. So go ahead and get yourself settled in for a quick taste of what’s in store in this cultural gem of Southeast Asia.
Let’s start with transportation, shall we? After all Bangkok is huge, and full of distinctive ways of getting around. Of course there are taxis, buses and a fairly well developed Metro (MRT) and Skytrain (BTS) system, but what would a visit to the Thai capital be without a ride in one of the myriad tuk-tuks that cover the roadways? Noisy, uncomfortable and generally less expensive than taxis, as long as you’re absolutely insistent on where you’re going and how much you’ll pay these three-wheeled chauffeurs are a great thing to try at least once. And while you’re at it, you’ll probably want to check out a ride along the Chao Phraya River during your stay, as much for transportation as for the riverside experience. Your best bet will be the Express Boat, cheaply hauling locals and travelers up and down the muddy waters, while a long-tail taxi boat offers more flexibility but can be significantly more expensive. Time to put on the ol’ haggling hat.
But what about the good stuff? Well, this being a Buddhist country, you can expect plenty of opportunities to bask in the ornate beauty of Thai “wats” like Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Benchamabophitr and the magnificent Wat Phra Kaew located within the equally stunning Grand Palace. There are over 400 here, so pace yourself lest you encounter the ever-present threat of “temple fatigue.” For more modern cultural insight, scooch on over to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) for free modern art exhibitions, or strain your neck to take in some of the city’s important skyscrapers like the Baiyoke, South River and soon-to-be-opened ultra-modern Mahanakorn Towers. There are natural escapes like Lumpini and Rama IX Parks for a respite from the surrounding urban mayhem, as well as tourist havens like bustling Khao San Road that is an experience all to itself. And we haven’t even gotten to the food or the party scene yet (see our cuisine and nightlife write-ups). With so much to explore, it’s best to take a few ideas, get your bearings, then set yourself adrift along the tumultuous current that is daily living in Bangkok, Thailand. Enjoy the ride, world traveler.