Bangkok, the City of Angels by its official name, is one of the most fascinating and vibrant, yet friendly big cities I have encountered and it easily won my heart for many return visits. From the proud history to the countless malls, there are plenty of reasons to visit the City of Angels. Read on, why you should make the trip to the City of Angels…
Most people today come to Bangkok on business, to go shopping or enjoy the nightlife or just as a stop over on a trip somewhere else in South East Asia. And City of Angels might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you make your way through the crazy traffic or busy malls, but it is the official name (translated from the Thai name Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) Well, that is – and I’m not kidding – the short version. The full name, if you must know, is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. I will spare you the translation. Because that would never fly in a tourism brochure, so we’ll just stick with Bangkok.
The name really is the first insight into the fascinating history of Bangkok and the many proud stories you can find. Some of the most amazing historic sights for visitors, like the Grand Palace or the countless wats date from the founding as the capital of Siam in 1782. With many of the sights located along the River Chao Phraya, they should be on the to-do list for every first time visitor and make for a pleasant day trip. They will also give you a glimpse at why the Thai are so proud of their country and the royal family!
The second big attraction for repeat visitors is the shopping – from open-air markets like Chatuchak with plenty of products
copied from inspired by famous brands or touristy markets like Asiatique to markets-cum-malls like MBK to luxury malls like Paragon – there is something for everybody! Bangkok is one of the few places in the world where you can come home with a taxi full of bags – and only have spent $100. Or where the sales staff at Paragon can upsell you along the lines of “would you like a Ferrari to go with your new Prada outfit?” Conveniently, a lot of the malls are along Sukhumvit road, easily accesible by Skytrain, so the travel time doesn’t cut into your shopping time!
After all that sight-seeing and shopping, you deserve a break – a spa break! On my first trip to Bangkok, I was a little hesitant to enter a massage shop offering 1h massages for $8, but after taking a massage class myself in Chiang Mai, I was sold! At $8, there is not really a bad massage and Traditional Thai massage is a mixture of pressure and reverse yoga, focusing on your legs and feet, so perfect after all that walking. Sure, if you want a little more luxury than the regular neighborhood massage shops offer, they come at all price levels up to luxury spas – as with all things in Thailand, it’s “up to you”!
Now, that you are attending to the needs of your body, food should be on next on your list! There is always food around in Bangkok and you should not miss out on it – it’s another reason for many repeat visits! From a fruit snack along the road (or chicken or things I have no idea what they are, up to you!) to small, local restaurants serving Thai food that is as simple as it is delicious, to five-star meals at luxurious restaurants, the choices are endless. You will find that Thai’s love to snack, having multiple small meals a day! So, go ahead and indulge, you can try lots of different things without being weighed down by US size portions. Before you go, here is some advice on Thai-style dining – it’s all family style, regardless of price category. That means the dishes are meant to be shared by all around the table. Some of the consequences for the uninitiated visitor are that for one, the dishes will arrive in random order through the course of the meal. Appetizers and main courses are crazy concepts of farang, so the staff will be polite enough to ignore your foolish ideas of the order of dishes, and deliver the food whenever it’s ready. Embrace it, order whatever you like and eat when it shows up. If you wait to start eating till everybody has “their” dish, some of them will inevitably be cold. Also, when dining with locals, they will likely share your meal, whether you intended to or not, so relax, those hands reaching out for “your” food are a sign of family and friendship 😉
If you have any energy left at the end of the day, you can explore the nightlife Bangkok has to offer – and that’s better than pretty much anywhere else in Asia! You can find whatever you imagine – and some things you probably would never have imagined! A good start whatever you are looking for, are some drinks at one of the roof top bars. After a day on the busy streets of Bangkok, you will be amazed how beautiful the city is from a high-rise, roof-top bar, at night with lights twinkling! After that, you are on your own – the nightlife of Bangkok is far beyond the scope of this blog, but a Google search is your friend!
You might think that all of this doesn’t sound so different from other large cities around the world, but there is one thing that keeps millions of visitors coming back that infuses all of Thai life and makes it one of the most appealing cities on Earth: the concept of “sanuk”, often translated as just “having fun”, but really the idea of finding pleasure in whatever you do (or have) and making the most out of any situation. Thai’s are very gracious hosts and many will make sure that you enjoy your visit and they will go out of their way to take care of you! While in the more touristy areas that unfortunately sometimes goes hand-in-hand with extracting money from your pocket, evidenced by scams for overpriced tuk-tuks or gems and “special” prices for trinkets, the further you get away from the touristy areas (and that’s often just a few blocks down the street in Bangkok), the more you discover the genuine, Thai welcome that is so enticing! More often than in any other country I have traveled to, I had random strangers go out of their way to help me with something I needed. From somebody taking me by the hand (literally) to cross a busy street (and, no I’m not THAT old nor was it a boy/girl scout) to a family offering me a ride on the back of a pick-up truck, going way out of their way to get me to my destination, I found so much compassion without anything asked for in return, other than a smile, a thank you and the hope I’d do the same in return to somebody else in the future…. Chances are, you will have fun in Bangkok…
Now, if you are ready to have fun in Bangkok, but it’s a little scary to plan a trip, check out my “Travel Made Easy” posts for Bangkok:
TME – Getting There & Around
TME – Where to Stay
TME – Things to See & Do