Bangkok, various questions.

Old Jun 12th, 2015, 08:31 AM
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Bangkok, various questions.

I've been to Bangkok eons ago and remember it vaguely. I'm treating Bangkok as a new destination for me when planning my upcoming stay there. I have travelled in hot climates, and I'm aware what it's like to be on the go in a hot climate.

I have some questions on the city.....

Which is the best area to stay in to be centrally located to the main sights?

I would like to see the following sights, but really not sure how to group them so that I'm not wasting time backtracking.


Wat Arun
Wat Pho
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Tramit
Wat Saket
The Grand Palace
Jim Thompson House
Floating Market, not sure which one
A cruise on the river
Anamata Samakhon Throne Hall and Old Customs House (not sure if I can enter either)
Terminal 21 - not for shopping, just want to see the decor of the mall
Night Market - not sure which one
Kao Shan Road
Phra Athit Road
Chatuchak Flower Market
Clongs
The National Museum - only if time permits

Which sights should I group together? Can these sights be visited using public transport, I'd rather not take a tour than or a car and driver for sightseeing within the city.

Which floating market(s) and night market(s) are best to visit?

Which cruise company offers the best river cruise?

Realistically, how many days will I need in Bangkok to cover these sights?

I'm also interested in two day tours, one to the Bridge over the River Kwai and one to Ayutthaya. I'm a solo traveller and would rather a group tour from these sights as the cost of hiring a private guide is expensive when travelling solo. Are there any reputable tour companies that people can recommend?

Any information on Bangkok will be appreciated. Thank you.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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One of the major considerations when choosing a location to stay in Bangkok is the infamous traffic. So being where you have ready access to public transport is important.

Staying along the river is lovely. You can watch the endlessly fascinating river traffic, and being on the river means it is slightly cooler than in the canyons of downtown and the air is a cleaner as well. Also, many of the major wats are located near the river so you can take the water taxis to get there. In general, I don't recommend a river "cruise" but the public water taxis instead. All of the riverside hotels have shuttles to the central pier and the skytrain above. You can arrange a klong tour from the Central Pier.

Do you have a copy of the Nancy Chandler Map? Do get one. While it is not to scale, it will give you a good sense of where things are.

Wat Phra Kaew is on the grounds of the Grand Palace, and Wat Po is in the next block. Wat Arun is right across the river (you have to take a tiny foot ferry). These can all be accomplished in one morning if you get to the Grand Palace as it opens at 8:30. You'll want to take the water taxi to these. The Throne Hall is on the grounds of the Grand Palace.

Wat Tramit is located in Chinatown, and is walkable from the water taxi stop. Also, I'd recommend the flower market in Chinatown over the flower market at Chatuchak unless you are going the Chatuchak for other things.

The Jim Thompson House is across the city, away from the river. You can take the skytrain close to JT, but depending on where you are staying, you might just take a taxi.

I'm not a fan of the floating markets - any of them - they seem like tourist traps to me. Likewise, the night markets are full of tourist geegaws - not for me. Some people, especially those who haven't traveled before in SE Asia find these markets endlessly fascinating. If it sounds like something you'd enjoy, try one out.

KSR is the backpacker area of Bangkok, and Phra Athit Road is located nearby. These are areas best reached by the water taxis.

All of the big shopping malls are easily accessible via the skytrain.

The two day tours you mention are full days. For Ayutthaya, you can sometimes get a tour that includes one way transport on the river, the other way via bus. Book one of these if you can, as the river "cruise" is well worth it.

How much time for all of this? At least a week. You want time to wander and enjoy the wonderful Thai food.

I use public transport in Bangkok and use a car and driver only for out of town trips. I've never used a guide in Bangkok, but if you want one, say, at the Grand Palace, there are official guides there for a very small fee.

I'm sure I didn't cover all of your questions, but ask if there is more you need to know.

Bangkok is my favorite city in the world and I have visited there more than two dozen times since the mid-1980s.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 10:41 AM
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Thank you for your detailed reply, Kathie.

I was looking at hotel options and thought that the area near KSR might be a good option. As I prefer to stay in the thick of it.

Do you know the whereabouts of this hotel and if it's a suitable base for sightseeing:- Paragon One Residence, Dinsoo Rd, Bangkok. Is this a good location for public transportation?

I appreciate the suggestion for Nancy Chandler's map, I'll look into buying one online.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 01:43 PM
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The area in and around KSR is not a good location for public transport. Also the KSR area is full of Western backpackers, so doesn't feel very Thai to me. I guess it depends on what you want to be "in the thick" of.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 04:09 PM
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the hotel is near KSR.. to me this does not appeal, but if you are an extreme backer type, aged hippie or economy freak, it might work. I find the general area old and run down, plus KSR is too busy and full of drunk kids and bargain hunters.

what is your hotel budget??

like Kathie I prefer anything along the river, but there are no extreme budget places here.. the best you might do is Bossotel or Ibis.

unlike Kathie, I go almost everywhere by taxi and love arriving cool and calm... I allow extra time when going thru certain areas: silom/sathorn.. sukhumvit.

Imo, T21 is not worth any effort..

jim Thompson house is a 5-8 min walk from the skytrain national stadium stop

clongs=Klongs... the best place for a boat is at the dock under the taskin skytrain stop--mid-day... or an internal klong ride just in back of jim Thompson house..
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 06:14 PM
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Thank you for the feedback on the area around KSR. I get the impression that the area around KSR is very similar to Thamel in Kathmandu. Based on the comments from rhkkmk I get the impression that the area isn't for me.

I'd looked at the Ibis but felt it was on the 'wrong' side of the river.

I've not decided on a hotel budget, Bangkok is part of a long trip. Because of this I'm looking for hotels that aren't too costly.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 09:23 PM
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Coincidentally, I took day trips to both Kanchanaburi (Bridge over the River Kwai) and Ayutthaya, but I went on my own easily and cheaply. Based on your Laos post, you seem like an adventurous, experienced traveler that would prefer going on your own as well.

In both cases, I took a bus, but the buses headed for Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya are located at different stations at opposite corners of Bangkok. The buses are nice, and they leave a couple of times an hour. There is even a "flight attendant" dressed in a suit and clicky high heels on the bus that collects tickets.

In Ayutthaya, I walked to the area where there were several temples, and I also saw a cool outdoor reclining Buddha. I found an outdoor shack where I had a tasty lunch, and then I walked back to catch the bus.

In Kanchanaburi, the sites are spread out, so I hired a taxi for four hours, and he drove me around for a flat fee, which was less than $40. The bridge is actually reconstructed, but the scenery in the area is beautiful.

In Bangkok, I stayed at the Majestic Suites, which I found to be decent (clean rooms, near BTS), because my son had stayed there a few months prior and I trusted his judgement. The ladies at the front desk are not very helpful with tourist information, but they did allow me to say in my room until 3 PM for free on my last day. I paid less than $50 per night, including breakfast. Not fancy, but good value.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 10:46 PM
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There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Khao San Area, and there's certainly no need to stay on the Road.

We stay on Phra Athit, which is sat right by the river in Banglamphu. There's two excellent mid-range hotels along there, New Siam Riverside, and the Navalai River Resort. We've stayed at both, and will stay again without hesitation. The former is less expensive, includes a great buffet breakfast, has a swimming pool and restaurant right by the river, and the standard rooms are perfectly adequate.

The Chao Phraya river is the heartbeat of Bangkok, and you can never tire of all activity both on and off the water.

There are loads and loads of places to eat and drink in the area. Khao San is less than 10 minutes on foot.

Pier 13 for the Public River Ferries is right by the Navalai River Resort. The ferry is cheap, and will get you to Central Pier in 15 minutes, where you can catch the Skytrain into the glitzy [boring imo] parts of Bangkok. Travelling in the opposite direction will get you to a place Nonthaburi, famous for the durian fruit, and it's also where you'll find the infamous Bangkok Hilton Prison...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bang_Kwang_Central_Prison

Phra Athit is part of Banglamphu, and is a really interesting place to safely wander round.

Ayutthaya is best to do over 2 days. A great way to get there is by 3rd Class train from Hualamphong train station. Here's our experience of the train trip...

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTop..._Province.html

The Kanchanaburi area is steeped in WWII history, and is one of my favourite places on earth. Rather than waffle on about it, this a great link...

http://www.seat61.com/Bridge-on-the-...m#.VXvOzvlViko

Don't try and do Kanchanaburi as a day trip, it's too long, and an organised tour will just keep shifting you along at their pace. Far better to allow at least 2 nights, so you can loiter when you feel like it and soak up the atmosphere. It's very easy to do a self-guided trip to the area. As well as the history it's also a very beautiful part of Thailand.
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Old Jun 12th, 2015, 11:12 PM
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>>

A vague similarity, and like Thamel it's a must-see, and has got a great vibe. More relaxed by day.

There might be a lot of backpackers in the area, but it also attracts a good x-section of visitors to Bangkok.

Unlike places like Sukhumvit or Soi Cowboy, there's no sleeze or fat bellied red faced westerners enjoying the attention of bored Thai girls intent in ripping them off.

The area (Banglamphu) is part of old Bangkok, and is very Thai. All you need to do is explore a little to discover it all.

When people describe the area as old and run-down, I think, well that's what 'real' Bangkok is like, that's where the real locals live, work, and spend the majority of the lives.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 05:10 AM
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When I looked at your list of places you want to go ,I thought of the Renaissance hotel . While not budget, you may be able to get a deal thru one of the budget sites...agoda, etc. It is on the BTS sky train line that goes to many of the sights you mentioned, or easy to get to others from there.

I find the KSR area too crowded and hot. Not sure what kind of river cruise you are thinking of, but you could combine that with a day cruise to Ayutthaya. We have not been on one of those cruises, and I am sure you would not be going for the food, but the scenery would be interesting, and a way to get to see the ruins. The summer palace is another place to see from a all day river cruise.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 10:57 AM
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thamel is much nicer than KSR IMO
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 12:27 PM
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Why?

After the earthquake, and with the onset of the monsoon season weakening already weakened poorly built tall buildings, I think Thamel should be an area to avoid.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 12:43 PM
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We all have different likes and dislikes. So read these responses as a way to inform your decision, but not with the idea that one of us can tell you what is right for you.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 06:53 PM
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Thank you all for the helpful replies.

Reading the comments on KSR I'm convinced the area is not for me. I will look at the hotels suggested on this thread.

Love the suggestion to skip the group tours and venture to Ayutthaya and the Bridge over the River Kwai independently.
Will definitely opt for a group tour to the bridge. Definitely want to visit both sights as day trips only and I'm not considering an overnight stay at Ayutthaya. If I find a tour to Ayutthaya that has a river cruise I'd do this otherwise, I'll travel there independently.

Which are the best floating markets to visit?

Which are the best night markets to visit? I've been to tons of night markets in Asia, not interested in shopping for junk. I enjoy strolling around and go for the atmosphere more than anything else.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 07:15 PM
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We have stayed in a variety of hotels all over the city over the city from most of the five star places to small hostels. If there is one thing I have learned over the year, it is that there are no right or wrong solutions as to which is the "best " location


The river is good if you are happy paying the premium. The Anantara is a great hotel and regularly has some great deals on their website - Circa $90. It has a shuttle to Saphin Taksin, as do most of the riverside hotels. From there you can get public boats to many of the main locations or BTS to elswhwere in the city.

We stayed at the Ibis a couple of months ago. It is on the river and fantastic value for what you get. The downside is that they don't have a hotel boat to cross the river so we had to either walk to the BTS 10 mins or get a public boat ( a bit of a wait) or walk across the bridge to Saphin Taksin 15-20 mins).

New Road Guest House is close to the Oriental a worth a look. Unless you are going for the "hotel experience" then you can get somewhere perfectly acceptable for
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Old Jun 14th, 2015, 10:53 AM
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the best floating market is the very touristic, but worthwhile Damen ______ Market, about 1.5 to 2 hrs from bkk
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Old Jun 14th, 2015, 11:20 AM
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Planning, you say, "I've been to tons of night markets in Asia, not interested in shopping for junk." In that case I'd suggest you skip the floating market (I found it intolerably touristy when I visited in the 1980s) and skip the night markets. If you love markets, you might want to go to the weekend market, Chatuchak.
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Old Jun 14th, 2015, 03:00 PM
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the sales part is junky, but riding amongst the small boats and buying food is fun, imo
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Old Jun 14th, 2015, 06:22 PM
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Amphawa is one of the less touristy floating markets but it can take awhile to get there. Probably best to overnight or maybe imcorporate it into your onward travels
http://www.travelfish.org/location/t...ngkram/amphawa

Damnoen Saduak is purely for tourists but can be very photogenic especially if you arrive in the early morning. A few years ago we stayed there overnight before driving back to Bangkok to return our car. There were hardly any other tourists around at dawn.
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Old Jun 15th, 2015, 03:12 AM
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Weekeand market tips- take the metro it will put you right into the market. Take a carry on luggage type bag with you as you will find many things to buy. Bargain for everything, you will get a better deal if you buy more than one of any item. Bring a calculator and use it to bargain. let's say you find an item and ask how much, they say 100 Baht. Ok you select 5 of the items and on your calculator you punch in the price you want for 5 let's say 400 Baht. You then show it to the salesperson. They will show you their price on their calculator, or they may just agree on your price.
Why this approach? It keeps the transaction silent so as not to alert other shoppers and as such the seller is more inclined to go along with your deal. of course it may go back and forth a bit until you both agree. I find that I can get about 15 to 20 percent off, perhaps more on the more expensive items. Keep it friendly, I find they will bargain with you. As this is a very crowded market keep your money well protected and if carrying a backpack keep it in front not on your back. Go as early as you can as it gets very hot there.
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