Bangkok

Oct 28th, 2000, 01:41 AM
  #1  
dan
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Bangkok

There are many good hotels to stay in Bangkok. check out the ones on www.planetholiday.com and with your travel agent to find which offers the best price. The above web page does offer pictures of the hotel rooms and the location in the city. Try to stay near Siam or Chidlom Skytrain Stations since they are located in nice areas.

Shopping...The are some markets where you can shop but the quality is not that great and most of it's junk. I recommend people to shop at Central department store(Chidlom skytrain station--1 stop from Siam or their other store on Silom not too far from the Dusit hotel).

Central will be cheaper than what you can get back home and the quality is very good. Central is Thailand's best department store. The one near Chidlom Skytrain station has a Starbucks coffee shop on the first floor--Starbucks is popping up at various locations in Bangkok.

I think 3 days maximum in Bankok is necessary for shopping and sightseeing. Go to the Grand Palace (Wat Phra kaew) and make sure that you don't wear shorts, sleveless shirts and open toed sandles. These are prohibited. If you do not wear something appropriate you'll have to borrow some clothing( that's provided) once you get onto the grounds. Getting there: take a taxi from Siam or National Stadium skytrain stations---make sure that the driver puts on the meter!!! Avoid Tuk Tuks (3 wheel taxi) as they tend to overcharge foreigners too much.

The Grand Palace will be the best you've ever seen and nothing else in Bangkok comes close. Even if you see this only--that's enough.

Stay away from tours as much as possible since you're not getting what you've paid for. Tours in Thailand are over priced!! If you can do it by yourself then do it by yourself.

Just a note of interest....Average salaries for working in offices is at an average of 10,000 baht a month or roughly $230. Other workers make much less than this. Now look at a tour and figure out what the percentage is out of 10,000 Baht including the number of people in your tour. If you go to one temple or two and a tour guide charges you 750 baht per person with two people in the tour that's 1,500 baht. Now imagine that's out of your pocket and you make only 10,000 baht a month---that's 15% of your salary. Generally these tours are short and are not worthy of the price. Think before you book. For example, you can get to the Grand Palace and see it by yourself for a fraction of the price of a tour. Furthermore, you get an English brochure explaining about the temple once you get in.

BARGAINING

If you do go to the markets to bargin you should offer 50% of what they quote. Being a foreigner you'll be overcharged no matter what. If you increase your original offer you shouldn't by too much or you'll really be paying to much! A lot of markets offer junky goods that don't last long...think before you buy if you really need it. As mentioned above I recommend Central department store for buying clothes since the quality is good and when there's a sale you're doing okay by shopping there.


BEST Things to do outside of Bangkok

Go to the north Chiang Mai in particular...Really nice....You can fly Thai Airways from Bangkok at good prices...Also, consider Mae Hon Song....See what I wrote about Northern Thailand.

For a beach resort not too far from Bangkok see Beaches--Hua-Hin....One of the better beach resorts in Thailand.


 
Oct 29th, 2000, 04:03 AM
  #2  
Roger
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Dan is not an adventurous person it seems. He travels 12,000 miles to shop in a Department Store (Macy's is nice)and drink coffee at Starbucks. Three days in Bangkok like Washington D.C. and you've not even scratched the surface. He's dead on about the Grand Palace it is a MUST for any world traveler or adventurer. BUT, DO NOT try to walk through on your own, even with a tour book. Hire a guide just inside the main gate (Legal ones have a license and wear it around their neck in plain sight. They charge about US$15
(650 Baht) for the group or just one, but NOT per person - a tour lasts about 90 minutes. Bargaining - There are FOUR prices in Thailand. The one the Thais pay; the one a foreigner who speaks the language pay, the one most tourists pay; and the one Japanese tourists pay. Bargaining in a market is an art and should start at 33% of the asking price and end at 40%. Shop where the Thais do - Weekend Market (Chatuchak Market) with over 8600 stalls and anything you want to buy and good prices, and affordable shopping at Mahboonkrong (MBK) Shopping Center near Siam Square - NOTE: Try the great Food Court on the top floor.
 
Oct 29th, 2000, 08:03 PM
  #3  
dan
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Roger brought up a good point. MBK shopping center is not a bad place to visit. It's not wonderful, but not bad.

My advice at the beginning of this page is based on living experience in Bangkok. I've been in Bangkok for about 1 1/2 years and have noted above some good insight.

Roger mentioned Chatuchak market which many Thais go to. Yes the market is gigantic and also an experience. There are other markets in Bangkok that are smaller and better. Why? Prices are noted and are very low. You don't have to bargain because you are paying the same Thai prices as the Thais are. The problem is the distance from Siam. If you are really content of getting to such a market it is located next to Bangkapi Mall (beside Makro supermarket). Take bus #93 at Siam beside MBK. Travel time: approx. 50 minutes.
 
Nov 4th, 2000, 11:12 AM
  #4  
Pas
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Hi there,

A lot depends on what type of tourist one is and what type of experience one is seeking.

Getting Around:
The average foreign visitor finds Bangkok hot, humid and polluted, the combined effect resulting in tiring easily.Bangkok is also not a city designed for comfortable walking, as the pavements are cracked and full of obstacles - twisted ankles and other injuries being quite common among foreign visitors.

Therefore, for getting around one is much better advised to use metered taxis and the skytrain and save one's energy for walking around the sites that you wish to see.

Shopping:
If shopping for original brand name articles do not expect great bargains in Bangkok. While some items may be cheaper, a lot of items are of similar price or higer than in the US. However, if this is what one seeks, then the major department stores such as Central are good places to look.

If shopping for Thai handicrafts (do not expect genuine undiscovered antiques) one can reasonably expect to find these at the giant Chatuchak weekend market or more comfortaby (albeit at a slightly higher price) in the government operated handicraft shop Narayan Phand (opposite the World Trade Center), which has a very comprehensive range of good quality items at reasonable prices.

For counterfeit items (clothing etc.), some of which can be of fairly good quality and may even be surplus items produced by factories supplying the major international brand names (in which case there will be no label) Patpong Night market and Pratunum market are good value - but bargaining is required (start by suggesting a price one third that requested and trying a few stands to determine where their break-even point is).
 
Nov 4th, 2000, 11:15 AM
  #5  
Pas
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Sightseeing
This is very much a matter of personal preference. For some, every temple has its own individual history, yet for the majority of visitors, having seen a couple of temples it must be said that interest in temple viewing fades quickly and adding more temples to their schedule is not useful.
Certainly one should begin by seeing the major sites, considering perhaps:

- the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the complex representing the entire official architectural history of Bangkok over the past 220 years.

- Wat Pho, Bangkok's oldest temple, just behind the Grand Palace and site both of the Reclining Buddha and the School of Traditional Thai Medicine and Thai massage (bangkok's cheapest and most professional traditional massage place)

- Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) on the other sside of the river from teh Grand Palace is one of Thailands most famous monuments and is constucted in a modified Khmer style.

- Pahk Klong Dtalaat (the Central Flower Market of Bangkok) is a colorful place for seeing flowers from all over over Thailand and viewing normal market life. Although open all day, it reaches its peak from around 11pm to 4am, when many of the flower sellers from smaller markets come to buy their flowers. It is a fascinating an colorful insight into normal Thai life.

Wimmanmaek (The Teak Palace)
In addition to being the largest golden teak house in the world, and being quite beutiful, having served previously as a royal residence, one can view a cultural performance of several Thai artistic skills there each afternoon.

The River
Most of the historic sites of Bangkok are based around the Chao Phraya River, which is where the city began. The river is also one of the few places one can escape some of the heat and dust of the city as there is usually a refreshing breeze wafting along its course. Undoubtedly it is the most beautiful area of Bangkok and so it is well worth paying attention to it.

The best way of getting around is by river expressboat, hoping on and off at the various historical sites that attracts ones attention. It is not advised for people who are infirm as a certain agility is required to successfully hop on and off the boats.

 
Nov 4th, 2000, 11:16 AM
  #6  
Pas
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Eating Out:
Bangkok offers a wide variety of dining experiences and cuisines.

Thai:
High Price
The Sala Rim Naam, of the Oriental Hotel - on the opposite side of the river from the hotel offers the pinnacle of Thai cuisine and service albeit at the international prices of a 5-star hotel.

Harmonique:
This is a very pleasant small family-run Thai restaurant with tasty and innovative cooking in a complex of town houses set around a courtyard. It is beside the General Post office on Charoen Krung Soi 34 just near the river and the major riverside hotels. I have writtena review of this restaurant in the restaurant section.

Loy Nava Dinner Cruises
This combines both first rate traditional Thai cuisine and service with the romantic experience of a cruise past all of the hostorical sites on a beautiful antique teakwood rice barge.
I have written about previously in this forum though it is not featured in the Fodor restaurant section and remains my favorite nighttime experience in Bangkok. They also have the advantage of having a website for reservations loynava.com.

Chinese Food
Bangkok is also an excellent place for having extremely good quality Chinese food. One has to be careful since some of the highest priced restaurant in the city are Chinese.

Yaoarat
Go along to Yaoarat Road in Chinatown and one can find lots of Chineese restaurants serving excellent food at very reasonable prices. Look for a restaurant that is not too ornate and well-frequented with Thai Chinese for the best food. The area is best reached by Expressboat.

Novotel Lotus
For those with neither the time nor the inclination to go to Chinatown, the best Dim Sum in Bangkok is to be found (surprisingly) at The Novotel Lotus Hotel on Sukhumvit 33. It is extremely good value and so popular among Thai-Chinese that lunchtime reservations are highly advisable.

French Food
While one may wonder why someone would come to Bangkok and then eat French food, it is a fact that many visitors need a break from Thai food from time to time. There are several good quality French restaurants to be found.

Oriental Normandie Grill
This is the flagship Oriental Hotel rooftop restaurant where one can find excellent French food with superlative service. It must be said that the experience is not the equivalent of eating ion a 3-starred Michelin restaurant but is probably closer to a fairly good 1-star. The restaurant currently has some good value lunchtime and dinner time(much more expensive) set menus. One word of caution, wines are expensive in Thailand as the import duty is 354%, and wines in the Oriental are particularly expensive. A single glass of a very modest French Chablis is 550 Baht. I would recommend the luchtime set menu.
 
Nov 4th, 2000, 11:16 AM
  #7  
Pas
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Tours:
While taking organized tours around the city is not for everyone, it has to be recognized that for many visitors it is the best method for them to see the sites and be informed about the history of the sites. Always chose a reputable tour company for this - among those with a long and good reputation are World Travel Service, Tour East and Turismo Thai - the tour desk of at least one of the companies being found in most of the major hotels.

Contrary to what has been asserted, by both international standards and the underlying costs of operating tours, tours are underpriced in Bangkok. In order to make any money many tour companies have no alternative but to include a trip to a jewelery shop on each tour. The cheaper the tour the more likely there is to be such a shopping interlude included in the tour.

Safety and Theft
Bangkok is one of the safest cities with little random violence. It is safe to go out at night, even for single ladies. Of course normal precautions should always be undertaken. Pick-pocketing is quite rare though does happen occasionally particularly around the tourist trap of Rivercity and on some of the crowded buses operating on Sukhumvit.

Safety counts for little in Thailand and safety precautions are almost non-existent. Never hesitate to tell a taxi driver to slow down if he is driving dangerously and if he will not do so, then get out of the taxi.

Be very careful on the river. The long-boats with large engines that attract a lot of tourists can be quite dangerous with accidents occurring on a regular basis and no life-jackets on most boats. In fact even on the larger dinner cruise boats there are only a handful, including the Loy Nava boat I mentioned earlier that have life-jackets for every person.

However, do not let these minor problems alarm you. Bangkok overall is much safer than many western cities and you should have a very enjoyable stay.
 
Nov 6th, 2000, 05:49 AM
  #8  
James
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I'm a foreign resident of Bangkok and agree with some of what was said above.

Tours do over charge foreigners(buyer beware). As in the markets you'll be paying too much and the same is true with the tours. 650 baht for a tour of the Grand Palace is not worth it at all. Of course, if you convert that amount into dollars it's cheap but not for Bangkok. 650 Baht can get 3-4 people a good dinner here. Nevertheless I do see how some people like the ease of taking tours to sights that are hard to get to. The Grand Palace is not that hard by taxi from the major hotels.

There are a few tours that are reasonably priced but for the most part many take advantage of the foreigner's wallet. Some that are sponsored by the government are charging too much as well. Basically if you can do it by yourself then do it by yourself. The Grand Palace and others can be done by yourself---just read up on the palace before you get there to get an idea of the history and so on.

Wat Arun is a good place to visit as well...

Do not go to any jewelry stores at all. Some person may approach you on the street or a tour operator may insist taking you there. Don't bother! Gems and other kinds of jewelry is not what you think it is. Many foreigners fall for this old trick and pay what they seem to be "a good price" for gems. Later they realize that they were had and the gems are not valued even close to what they paid. In some cases a very friendly "new friend" has drugged victims while out on the town. At this time the jewelry scam is offered.

Some markets are alright. The biggest Chatuchak is big like a zoo. They have everything from clothing to dogs. Mind you there are no fitting rooms. Prices are to be bargained and believe me you'll pay too much. The market is hot and dirty yet it's an experience for most. If you go arrive no earlier than 3:30 pm since the market is very crowed and hot in the earlier part of the afternoon. Closes at 6 pm.

The street market on Sukhumvit Road is generally a tourist trap and charges foreigners accordingly--you don't see Thais shopping here! Silom road is much the same... Better markets are further away but are difficult to get to.

I do know Thais that buy jeans and other clothing at markets. But if you're not slender like the Thais you'll find it very difficult to get the size you need. Men's shirts are available --if you're a medium you'll need to get a large here.

Tipping at restaurants.
Some Thais tip and others do not. Tipping here doesn't have to be that much---pocket change is sufficient. A 100 Baht meal--a tip of 5 baht is okay. If a meal is 200-500 baht a tip of 20 baht is sufficient. Usually for a few hundred baht you'll see Thais tipping 20 baht...

Taxis and tipping---no need...

Bangkok is hot and dirty yet the city deserves a visit of 3 or 4 days. Some people love Bangkok because it is a different world.

When you come take it easy...the Thais do. You don't see Thais rushing--they take each day one day at a time(except when they drive!). Don't worry about seeing every temple just relax and take in a couple of interesting sites and go for some great Thai food. At least venture out of your hotel for dinner!!! If you can get out of the tourist areas for dinner try it and bring your Thai language handbook...You might have a bit of a hard time but a good English-Thai book will help you get a very interesting meal.
 
Nov 6th, 2000, 06:05 AM
  #9  
James
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A note about Central department store.

Foreign residents do come here often because of the quality. Good quality clothing which is made in Thailand is sold at good prices which are cheaper than in the States (you can find high quality Thai made clothing in the States). Yet designer clothes that are imported are expensive due to Thailand's high tariff rates.
Alterations on clothing is done in less than an hour and very good quality pants, for example, are sold at around 500-700 baht ($11.50-$16). If you're lucky they may have a sale on when you're in Bangkok. Basically Central sells everything...women's, men's and kids' wear plus everything else. Located near major hotels.
 
Nov 6th, 2000, 08:34 AM
  #10  
pat
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I would like to add that actually there is an official free guide inside the grand palace, they can explain you in quite well english. I let my friend follow the guide, and so did i.

There will be a festival at Wat Aroon from Nov9-15 at 5pm until 10pm, it will be about old time in the temple, with food stalls and plays. The ticket is going to be at 500 Bahts.
 

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