With its 20 million tourists a year, Bangkok, capital of Thailand, is one of the biggest cities in the world and by far the most visited. The major urban developments of recent decades have significantly increased the size of this metropolis, transforming it into an ultramodern city full of skyscrapers and shopping malls, as well as boundless entertainment and excess. On first impact the tangle of roads, always heavily congested with all kinds of transport, the crowds that fill the pavements at all hours of the day and night, and the procession of next-generation buildings intermingled with wonderful Buddhist temples and large traditional markets have a disorienting effect on the visitor but a few days is all it takes to get to grips with Bangkok, to get into its spirit, to embrace its contradictions and to learn to love this city without equals.
Getting round the cityAlthough an exciting experience, walking from one side of Bangkok to the other, particularly during the rush hour when the pavements are filled with people and the roads gridlocked with hundreds of cars, bicycles and scooters, requires energy, time and above all lots of patience. It therefore makes sense to use the city’s efficient public transport system.
As well as the two metro lines, the numerous buses and taxis, you can also get around using the Express Boats or the typical wooden long tail boats which navigate the dense network of canals and the Chao Phraya river.
As an alternative to these classic forms of transport, the main attractions can also be reached quickly with the characteristic tuk tuk, motorised 3-wheel rickshaws available all over the city, or by taking the modern and panoramic Skytrain which crosses the city from west to south and from north to east, allowing you to discover it from another perspective.
The many representations of BuddhaThere are around 40,000 wat (Buddhist temples) across Thailand which, as well as their pagoda roofs and numerous decorations, are also distinctive for having 1 or 2 statues of Buddha, the country’s main sacred symbol, depicted in various forms and poses (standing, walking, sitting or lying).
Bangkok is home to some of the most important of these temples, which in many cases also form part of equally famous architectural complexes.One example is the Grand Palace in the central district of Phra Nakhon, the old residence of the kings of Thailand, built in the second half of the 18th century. Inside is the Wat Phra Kaew pagoda, which is embellished with coloured enamels and frescoes, statues, spires and gold decorations, and the Emerald Buddha, a statue carved from a single block of jade and dating to the 15th century.
Behind the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, the biggest and oldest religious site in the city, which in turn looks over the reclining Buddha statue, entirely gilded in gold with mother of pearl decorations.
Continuing along the western bank of Chao Phraya, you get to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), one of the most visited temples in Thailand, a huge construction dominated by a Khmer-style tower (Prang) which houses another large statue of Buddha (Sleeping Buddha).
Finally, Wat Traimit, or the Temple of the Golden Buddha, located in Chinatown, is famous for housing the largest gold statue in the world.
Thai architecture of the museumsBangkok is full of very old architectural complexes that have been transformed into museums, worth visiting not only for their fine collections but also because they are excellent examples of typical Thai architecture.
On Si Ayutthaya Road, a few minutes from the crossroads with Phaya Thai, is Suan Pakkad Palace, composed of a block of houses in Thai teak connected by corridors. The Palace’s most interesting building is the Lacquer Pavilion, dating to over four centuries ago, with carved wood walls and finely decorated interiors, which houses an interesting collection of art objects and antiques (musical instruments, bronze objects, coloured ceramics, antique Thai furniture, statues, fans etc.) from all over Asia.
Continuing along the same street you get to the district of Pathum Wan where Jim Thompson House is located, a house museum consisting of various old Thai-style homes that are now filled with art collections (statues, paintings, porcelain, crafts etc.) from South-East Asia belonging to an American collector and entrepreneur, but also a peaceful haven situated opposite a canal and immersed in a verdant tropical garden.
Finally, you can go as far as Dusit Park to see Vimanmek Mansion, a royal residence until the 19th century built from golden teak and a fine example of traditional Thai architecture, which boasts a rich collection of objects that belonged to the royal family (antique furniture, photographs, works of art and porcelain) and where you can also watch Thai dance performances.
Traditional marketsFor a slice of real everyday Thai life there is nothing better than visiting one of the city’s big markets.
With its thousands of stalls selling goods from all over Thailand (clothes, jewellery and souvenirs, but also plants, exotic animals, pearls and precious stones), Chatuchak Market is the biggest open-air market in all of South-East Asia.
Not far from the Grand Palace, on Chak Phet Road, is Pak Khlong Talat, a large fruit, vegetable and flower market where it is easy to get lost, day and night, among the scents and the colours of chrysanthemums, orchids, jasmine and a myriad of different spices.
Finally, a highly evocative experience, with guaranteed visual impact, is an excursion to the famous floating market of Damnoen Saduak, around two hours south-west of Bangkok, which is visited on the characteristic long tail boats following the maze of narrow canals in which the market is based. Alternatively, there are other closer but less spectacular floating markets like Taling Chan Floating Market (around 10 km away), Ban Nam Phueng (approx. 20 km from the centre) and Amphawa market (60 km away) in the province of Samut Songkhram.
Classic Thai dishesThai food, one of the richest and most elaborate cuisines in the world, stands out for its variety of dishes, its interesting flavour combinations and its abundant use of spices and sauces.
Many of the most popular dishes among the Thai people are rice-based (served with vegetables, eggs, meat or fish) and flavoured with soy sauce, spices and herbs (curry, ginger, chilli, mint, red basil etc.). Another staple is noodle soup, which also comes in different variants.
Also worth trying are fried fish meatballs, tasty and very spicy, beef fillets in a Thai marinade, chicken sautéed with basil leaves and green papaya salad, a sweet and sour dish prepared with prawns, peanuts, fish sauce, baby tomatoes and various other ingredients.
Just as vast is the variety of fruit (papaya, mango, coconut, lychees, pineapple, bananas, melon) with which people often finish their meals.
In Bangkok in particular there is no shortage of places to try the local specialities, whether in the form of street food in lively Khao San Road or in the many restaurants of Sukhumvit or along the banks of the Chao Phraya.
Finally, those looking for something more exclusive can go to Sirocco Sky Bar, a luxury fine dining restaurant on the 63rd floor of Lebua State Tower which offers a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
From shopping to the heaving nightlifeBangkok offers plenty of opportunities to combine the pleasure of shopping with fun and leisure. In fact, there are many districts in the city where you can dedicate the day to making purchases and the evening to the exciting nightlife.
Siam Square, the retail heart of the city, is one of the most popular areas with both tourists and locals. During the day the area offers modern shopping malls with international fashion labels, restaurants and bars (like CentralWorld, MBK and Siam Paragon), exclusive boutiques and hip stores where you can discover the latest Thai fashions, but in the evening it transforms completely to become the preferred destination for young adults in search of pubs and bars.
Similarly, during the day Silom Road is best known for its outdoor market, open every day until midnight, and for its shops which sell all kinds of products (including silver and precious stones), but it is in the evening that the road and the entire surrounding area really come alive, particularly Silom Soi 4 which is packed with bars, pubs and disco-pubs.
Even more suitable for a full immersion in the Thai atmosphere is the famous Khao San Road, whose pavements are lined with a multitude of market stalls piled high with all kinds of items, from bronze objects to bags, clothes and jewellery, as well as packed night-time bars of all kinds
The district of Sukhumvit, meanwhile, is one of the most modern in the capital and is packed with shops, wellness centres, pubs, hotels, bars and restaurants.
Finally, as well as its characteristic night market, the old neighbourhood of Pat Pong is known for being the focal point of Bangkok’s nightlife and also has a red light district.
To enter Thailand you need a passport with at least six months of validity and at least two free pages for the entry visa stamp, which is issued directly in the airport and allows you to stay for up to 30 days.
For longer tourist visas or other types of visas (study, work etc.) contact the Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country.
Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world and temperatures rarely fall below 28°C throughout the year. The most torrid month is April, which as a result is also the worst time to visit the city. The monsoon season, during which rainfall becomes more intense, generally begins in July and ends in October. The dry season, which is also the coolest period of the year, goes from November to February and is therefore the best time for a trip to Bangkok.
TipsOf the biggest events on Bangkok’s calendar the most important is the Songkran Festival, which takes place in mid-April and celebrates Thai New Year with parades of floats and an enjoyable water fight that involves the entire city.
Also very popular is Loy Karthong (November), during which Bangkok is coloured with lights and the river fills with little lotus flower-shaped boats that transport flower arrangements, candles and incense.
Wat Saket Festival, the ceremony for the annual adoration of the relics of Buddha, takes place during the same period while on 5 December Thailand celebrates the King’s Birthday with fireworks and parades.
Of the more recent events, September sees the Bangkok International Film Festival, the biggest festival of its kind in South-East Asia, and Bangkok's International Festival of Dance & Music, with traditional and contemporary music concerts and dance performances by artists from all over the world.